Artist Profile: American Artist
I interviewed American Artist for Rhizome, continuing a conversation that began in 2018 at our talk Black Stroke, White Fill at Bitforms Gallery (a closing event for my show, The Pointer).
RK: What's unsaid but apparent in Sandy Speaks is that Sandra is speaking from someplace beyond the logical frameworks of AI and user interfaces, where cause and effect hold no water. In what ways are the incongruities between a work's format and premise, its reality and ours, instrumental to you?
AA: I’m trying to do a bit of alchemy, or make more than what appears, become present. The art object is something to hold onto, but there’s an additional thing that goes on inside you when you encounter the work. Sometimes to create that feeling, or to arouse that concept, the thing in front of your face has to be mostly unfamiliar.
It’s interesting that you bring up causal relationships, because they are so central to computer programming. I often teach Wendy Chun’s essay On Software, Or the Persistence of Visual Knowledge which draws a connection between programming and ideology. Part of what she describes is the way computer users believe that when they click their cursor on a folder, the folder will open. There is a causal expectation that each time you do an action there will be a specific outcome. The pleasure attached to that expectation is what makes people invested in using digital devices. But there’s actually no reason for us to have such an expectation with our actions on a computer. She equates it to pure faith.
I think there is a similar thing that goes on in society and politics. Many people believe if you follow the law, if you pray to God, if you do things in a particular way you will live a good life. But I think what comes out of Afropessimism is this particular contradiction, it reveals that that is not the case, you can do all those things and still be killed just because you’re Black. And for that reason I think many Black people don’t subscribe to that logical reasoning that you described.
Read the profile.