Whatever Works, Whatever It Takes
Goethe-Institut China, Beijing
Jul 20 - Aug 18
My procedural whiteness simulator OK. is at the Grey Cube at Goethe-Institut China in Beijing’s 798 Art District, along with works by Carolyn Lazard, Ko Sin Tung, Mak Ying Tung, Monika Uchiyama, and Yibei Zhang. The exhibition concerns the “discrepancies and contingencies of our technological reality that is often presumed to be seamlessly and teleologically developed and operating“ and includes a symposium and an opening performance by Hera Chan and Xiaoshi Qin.
From the Whatever Works, Whatever It Takes curatorial statement by Zhihui Zhang and Junyuan Feng:
Ryan Kuo's dialogic software OK. (2018) that invites its users into loops of white-people argument blemishes the presumably sleek, transparent, and neutral software environment and clouds the logic of codes and rationality of the English language into nonsensical utterances. The idea of race here becomes a technology itself that not only reveals the opaqueness and biases of our daily software, but also muddles the order by which what can be sensible for whom, be it computers or racialized human beings.
For this exhibition, the OK. software box and cheat sheet were translated into Simplified Chinese and printed in a new edition of 50. I suggest that the pathological conditions, signs and symptoms of whiteness can travel across cultural operating systems. Many thanks to Zhihui Zhang for providing a thoughtful translation that both preserves and extends the meaning of the work.
Visiting Bard at Brooklyn Public Library
Thank you to Maryam Monalisa Gharavi for having me at Bard at Brooklyn Public Library, a Microcollege where tuition and books are covered. The class, Language Pieces, is about “language as material and matter”. During my visit we talked a lot about process, including ways that identity can be scripted and discarded. I rarely encounter this much sensitivity to my work and it felt very generous.
Interferences workshop at Knowlton School of Architecture
I was invited by Galo Cañizares to lead a Unity workshop at the Knowlton School of Architecture. He describes his work:
Digital Fabrications is ongoing research on the psychosocial effects of softwarization in design disciplines. Because software today plays a crucial role in the creative process, interfaces and applications should be scrutinized to expose their biases, intricacies, and oddities. This project attempts to confront the fictions often used to describe software’s passiveness and reveal the various ways it is actively affecting our consciousness.
I approached this as an “anti-worldbuilding” exercise, inverting how the game engine is typically used. Rather than explore geometries in space, students looked at how virtual cameras fabricate movement and vision. Interactivity was off-limits, so the students learned to automate Unity processes using built-in animation tools.
Using techniques gleaned from my studio practice, they trashed the usual 3D metaphors—space as environment, camera as eye, object as body—and ended up devising their own formal strategies and anti-worldviews. The results will be archived at the Interferences site.
Pioneer Works Technology Residency
I’m happy to be joining the Pioneer Works Technology Residency in April! Several project ideas are underway.
MIT final reviews
I returned to MIT as a visiting critic in today’s Art, Culture and Technology final reviews. Thank you to Renée Green for the invitation!
Yes, or else then
Art Contemporary Club
Dec 9 - Jan 31
My online exhibition Yes, or else then (curated by Marie-Charlotte Carrier) opens today at Art Contemporary Club, based in Montreal and on the internet. Many thanks to Juliette Marzano and Raphaëlle Cormier for building and providing the space. Can you believe the internet can be a cool and fun place?!
It seems targeted… familiar and agreeable, heimlich. The lure of a comforting sensory experience is palpable, yet is never actualised. Something is concealed and kept out of sight. We are compelled to endlessly search for some kind of resolution, an answer. But we are left with an empty stomach. One that induces nausea, or something like the heightened exhilaration felt after withholding our breath for too long. It’s the contradiction at the heart of punitive and intrusive “wellness”. This discomfort permeates the porous cavities of our skin.
The exhibition consists of a single new work, a lifestyle website populated by mirror images and a solipsistic chatbot.
Queens Museum w/ Nora Khan
I was in conversation with Nora Khan at Queens Museum today on how my work and interests informed my approach to building the exhibition website for Queens International 2018: Volumes.
The panel, titled “Rewriting the Narrative: Conversations on Exclusion, Censorship, and Space Making,” also included Aruna D’Souza, Janet Henry, Linda Goode Bryant, Christopher Myers, and Abena Hutchful and Nora Pelizzari of the National Coalition Against Censorship in wide-ranging conversations on “structural forces of omission, erasure, and negation in culture, literature, and on digital platforms.”
Queens International 2018 site update
To coincide with today’s catalogue launch for Queens International Volumes: 2018, the exhibition website has received a big update.
This update adds the installation photos of the works in the biennial (hint: click the GIFs) and the curatorial index developed for the printed catalogue. Each artist page is now annotated with a set of index terms that allows a visitor to cross-reference the QI 2018 artists and navigate the online catalogue in a new way.
Times Square Space w/ Luciana Solano
I participated in Living Content Live at Times Square Space, speaking with Luciana Solano about my work File: A Primer.
Also participating were Hayley Silverman, Shaun Motsi, Rina Banerjee, Courtney J. Martin, Michael Wang, Timur Si-Qin, and Jasper Spicero, with screenings by Ilana Harris-Babou, Darren Bader, and Liz Magic Laser.
A Non-thematic Just Celebrating Digital Diversity Online Exhibition.html
Oct 24 - Jan 24
Everything Is Dirty is part of an online show by the Shanghai-based contemporary art platform OUTPUT.
A Non-thematic Just Celebrating Digital Diversity Online Exhibition.html includes aaajiao, Adrián Regnier Chávez, Cheng Ran, Jeremy Couillard, Joey Holder, Esther Hunziker, Jess Johnson & Simon Ward, Ryan Kuo, Li Tingwei, Jan Robert Leegte, Sabrina Ratté, Nicolas Sassoon.
My work I Don’t See It is part of tonight’s Rhizome Members Party & Art Sale at Foxy Production. The work being offered is not the work, but a commissioned adaptation of the work to another office space.
Other participating artists are Harm van den Dorpel, Rachel Rossin, Jeffrey Alan Scudder, Lynn Hershman Leeson, and Bogosi Sekhukhuni.
Queens International 2018: Volumes
Oct 7 - Feb 24
Queens International 2018: Volumes opens today!
I’ve been awarded a Rhizome Microgrant to build a project that is undescribed (!) for now.
bitforms gallery w/ American Artist
American Artist and I had a conversation at bitforms gallery on our complementary approaches to the white screen.
In The Pointer, Kuo utilizes “well intentioned” white interfaces such as Keynote, the macOS UI, and first-person game space—seamless, easy to accept at face value—and folds them back on themselves in order to reveal the whiteness that drives these platforms and social production. Kuo compares his approach to a “model minority” identity politic, in which the tools are accepted as a given and either successfully made one’s own, or enforce further assimilation into whiteness.
Artist’s recent body of work titled Black Gooey Universe examines the history of the computer interface and the establishment of whiteness as a “neutral” blank canvas for virtual innovation. Artist’s sculptural works consider an alternative Black screened device that has yet to materialize, and references an Afro-pessimistic logic for engaging with an interface that positions itself as inherently white.
We called the event Black Stroke White Fill.
Queens International 2018: Volumes exhibition website
The exhibition website I built for Queens International 2018: Volumes has launched. I was honored to be invited by curator Sophia Marisa Lucas to collaborate, and have had the privilege of working with co-curator and artist Baseera Khan and the Queens Museum staff on this project. The website expresses and attempts to contain anxieties of being framed by institutions, and disregards many tropes of “catalogue” websites, while still cataloguing the many challenging artworks and ideas in the show.
The biennial was previewed at Artforum.
Designed by artist Ryan Kuo, who is known for addressing organizational hierarchies and information architecture in his works, the exhibition website will serve as a virtual 3-D model of the venue that is organized on a 2-D plane. The website is intended to serve simultaneously as an experiential tool and an extension of the ideas within the exhibition.
Click here to visit the Volumes website.
BOMB Magazine interview
An interview with Kent Szlauderbach is published on BOMB. The interview is sometimes fraught, and we have approached it in the spirit of collaboration and friendship.
The risk, I thought, might have to do with humor. OK. is easy to laugh at. The software box wryly advertises a cheatsheet inside. Is delight a built-in defense against the implication that I need my whiteness simulated for me? Does your good humor buttress my hold on the center?
The program was in fact designed for me, but I shouldn’t be struck that I’m answering questions about what my work does for you, a white. The work is named OK. for the resignation that our meanings are this easily co-opted, and claims on them this readily made. It’s not OK, and there’s no good humor in it.
OK. is now available online
An order for my procedural whiteness simulator OK. can now be placed on this site! Your copy can be picked up at bitforms gallery in NYC ($45) or shipped to your destination at a flat rate ($60 total).
This limited edition of 100 software boxes contains the Mac program and an accompanying cheat sheet. The software box and printed insert extrude the theme of ideological thinness into physical space, while the application’s egg icon refers to insulation, fragility, and the default Twitter avatar that once hid the collective identity of the world’s trolls.
* One (1) macOS application on USB drive
* One (1) signed/editioned software box printed on custom-cut, high-gloss 24-pt. cardstock
* One (1) cheat sheet detailing nine (9) shortcuts to pure whiteness
* One (1) bonus hi-res egg wallpaper bundled with the software
Software requires Mac OS X Tiger or higher
Family Maker screening in Berlin
Family Maker walkthrough screens today at Haus der Kulturen der Welt (Berlin) as part of Rencontres Internationales Paris/Berlin.
Jun 7 - Aug 5
My solo project The Pointer opens today at bitforms gallery.
bitforms gallery is pleased to present The Pointer, an exhibition by Ryan Kuo on the construct of whiteness and its involvement in technological aesthetics and productivity.
Kuo has developed three new software works for the bitforms gallery office, which for the first time will host a commissioned artist project. The Pointer is the illogical figure of whiteness, which American philosopher George Yancy describes as a “structural, ideological, embodied, epistemological and phenomenological mode of being.” Because its ascendancy is predicated on such notions as universality, neutrality, and purity, whiteness must isolate and obliterate barriers to its ideals while disavowing its own position. This also informs how software interfaces have come to be understood and used.
These interrelated works consider whiteness as an unremitting affective failure that erases bodies, including its own, in its search for a neutral point of origin. Rather than prescribe an answer, Kuo aims to materialize whiteness by redirecting its failure into recursive sequences, systems, and spaces.
File: A Primer is a kiosk animation created using Keynote’s built-in tools for automating digital presentations. In an austere looping sequence, boxes unfold from boxes as text annotations sift through the racialized messaging of white surfaces drawn against black. Taking inspiration from instructional manuals and online webinars, File: A Primer is a new manifestation of Kuo’s online work File, which documents processes by which the contemporary artist-worker is defined and redefined by abstract forces such as the user and the market.
OK. is a macOS application inspired by System Preferences and named for the “OK” button, ubiquitous in operating systems, that we click to repeatedly affirm our intent and deny interruptions to our usage. The application revolves around an interactive database of terms that outline a continuum between white innocence and white supremacy. While the user navigates these terms, popup windows materialize a body shifting to align with its thought patterns. On the occasion of its premiere at bitforms, a limited edition of software boxes containing the program and an accompanying cheat sheet will be available through the gallery. The software box and printed insert extrude the theme of ideological thinness into physical space, while the application’s egg icon refers to insulation, fragility, and the default Twitter avatar that once hid the collective identity of the world’s trolls.
I Don’t See It, a site-specific work continuously generated by a video-game engine, is displayed on the presentation monitor in the Director’s office. It houses a digital re-creation of the bitforms office in which multiple virtual cameras scan and roam the environment, interrupting and intensifying one another. The computer not only activates this self-surveilling network of eyes, but also includes the physical observer on the couch, whose viewing position is echoed on the television, and on the television in the television, tunneling ever inward and outward. The work’s endless seeking of a better view simulates the movements of the Pointer, who resembles a dog chasing its own tail.
These are not acts of resistance so much as renderings of the elaborate contortions needed to assimilate into whiteness. As such, they might be taken as an admission of the artist’s complicity.
Special thanks to Celine Katzman for organizing the show.
Small Data Industries on digital conservation
Lovely article from Small Data Industries on how they are approaching the conservation of my macOS application Family Maker. This archival work is being done in affiliation with the Current Museum, which acquired the piece earlier this year.
Family Maker screening in Paris
Family Maker screens tonight at Luminor Hôtel de Ville (Paris) as part of Rencontres Internationales Paris/Berlin. Since the work is not screenable, I recorded and narrated a video walkthrough of the piece in my studio.
The program is called Fiction Machines.
Family Maker is now available
Family Maker is officially released today at left gallery. I’m lucky to be working with this forward-thinking platform, which also provided the impetus to develop this new work last summer.
The work is available in an edition of 88 enabled by an Ethereum smart contract.
"family maker" is a new mac application developed by artist ryan kuo. it helps the user navigate family dynamics that may be familiar or unfamiliar. it has been conceived as a puzzle box to unlock and explore, and as a poetic support that can give form to the unnameable. you are welcome to multitask this application with other tasks, such as monitoring email and scanning for viruses. as the family is a process, updates may be distributed in the future.
this release marks the switch of left gallery towards using an ethereum smart contract. this custom smart contract (based on erc-721) supports storage of ownership and exchange of editions as non-fungible tokens, without relying on left gallery as third party.
purchase includes a multi-windowed desktop application for mac os
Current Museum Salon #1: Identity
Family Maker is part of the inaugural salon on Identity at the Current Museum. The selection was curated by Nora Khan, who provides the statement below.
"What do we talk about when we talk about identity? The word is its own double bind, used as a tool to be seen and a tool to objectify, depending on the hands deploying. It is charged and paralyzing, spurring blistering, inchoate debates in circles left, right, and center. As institutions and media and cultural producers mine the subject for content and social capital, and political movements based on identity divide the extremely online, “the conversation” only continues to intensify and fracture and fold in on itself. When there is stasis and silence and impasse, maybe how we approach the field might need a little rework, a strategic shift.
A compelling, useful bottleneck is how identity is, by definition, an elusive object, a changing position, the state of being in relation to. Fluid, and not-fixed, identity – manifested through experience, language, artistic expression and form - will always generate speculation, narrative, new anxieties. And it is this primary aspect of not-fixedness that a number of contemporary artists, working online and with looser digital materials and emerging visual languages, argue for and insist on.
Through experimental use of digital technology – through social media theater, simulation and model-building, VR and AR, bots and lesser AI-building - they explore “identity” through negative identity, by rejecting and playing with how others close the sentence, “You are ___.” Often drawing on their experience of the art world, a concentrated microcosm of inequities and violences in society at large, they use “identity issues” (class-based, cultural, racial, sexual) to sort through enormous philosophical and theoretical questions.
This panel will explore how these artists subvert, disassemble, and undo the standard language we have for identity, and in doing so, offer new paradigms for framing and exploring old questions. We take up identity as a point of access, identity as mode for collective meaning-making, and identity as the exquisite and universal search to mediate who we would like to be through how we wish to be seen.”
Participating artists include:
Jakob Kudusk Steensen
Snow Yunxue Fu
The discussion with invited panelists Pastiche Lumumba and Yasaman Sheri is recorded here.
Queens Museum Studio Program
I’m very grateful to begin a residency at the Queens Museum Studio Program, developed in affiliation with Residency Unlimited.
The Queens Museum and Residency Unlimited are pleased to welcome three new artists to the Queens Museum’s Studio Program for a period of six months. Selected jointly by Residency Unlimited and Queens Museum staff, they are Dakota Gearhart, Ryan Kuo, and Farideh Sakhaeifar, who recently participated in Residency Unlimited’s National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) grant program.