Tag Archives: furtherfield

Angry Women: A Research Critique


Angry Women, the brainchild of Dutch artist Annie Abrahams, is a series consisting of five videos. The different videos are called ‘takes’.

In Takes 1 and 2, 12 women (24 in total) express their anger from home, in front of their webcams. Their feeds are combined into a single video projection. With no fixed duration for the performance, it went on until all the women had expressed their anger and there was a minute of silence. Not all of the women expressed their anger vocally – in Take 1, a woman in pink, in the middle, opted to stay silent, almost impassive, throughout the whole 5 and a half minutes.

In Takes 3 and 4, the sessions were timed to be exactly 12 minutes. Another way these takes differed from the previous was that the women used a single tongue in each performance (Take 3 in French and Take 4 in English). 8 women participated in Take 3, whilst 7 women participated in Take 4.

An aspect that was also noticeable was that there was a woman who was completely silent in Take 3 as well. Compared to the woman in Take 1 who didn’t make any outward expressions of emotion, she chose to express her anger in gestures such as biting her hands. This was in stark contrast to the rest of the women in the take who were outwardly vocal, their tone rising and falling in waves to the currents of their anger. Furthermore, in Take 4, there was a singular woman who was moaning and screaming whilst everyone else was talking in English. This created some auditory variety that was interesting as well.

Take 5 is also 12 minutes long, but has 9 women expressing their anger more outwardly on the interface. The section on the upper-left is totally black, so it may be slightly unclear as to whether there is a presence in that screen or not. Nevertheless, as 9 women are credited in the title screen, it can be taken that 9 women participated in the performance.

The piece was exhibited in two video projections on two perpendicular walls as part of Annie Abrahams’s show Training for a Better World at the CRAC in Sète, Southern France. It’s impact is undeniable, not just in scale, but all the more magnified by the repetition we observe in the the women’s faces.

Source: bram.org


“Abrahams’s networked performance pieces are commonplace, messy and malleable. They are about the ‘banal’ reality of everyday life, time passing by, two people temporarily crossing paths in fractured, desperate or indifferent, successful or futile attempts to communicate, to (be) together, to love – in shared presence, but also shared absence.” Source: http://www.digicult.it/digimag/article.asp?id=1793

This work, at first glance, seemed to comment on gender, simply because all the participants were women. I researched further about whether it actually could be by looking at some of the interviews Annie Abrahams has given. Maria Chatzichristodoulou asks if Annie Abrahams considered her work gendered in any way, to which she replied she didn’t know – she was more comfortable concentrating on issues of class as she’d come from a working class family.

“Class seemed easier to define, it seemed easier to identify class-related situations or occurrences that appeared problematic, and for me to actually do something about them.”, she says. Gender, then, became trickier, as it would entail conflict with her family’s heritage and the social norms in which it operated. Therefore, it would be a stretch to define Angry Women as being about gender – it would be more appropriate to classify it into the themes of exploring networked, interpersonal communication, which has always been a common theme in Annie Abraham’s work.

Angry Women undeniably works with, and in a sense, relies on, digital technology. For Annie Abrahams, the mediated intimacy – that is, intimacy that occurs through the use of machines – that occurs as a result, is “not the same as the intimacy that we experience in our flesh lives.” To her, it is neither better or worse than real life intimacy; it is just different. With her biologist background, Annie Abrahams then investigates this mediated intimacy because she is curious about the world around her, and conducts her works like experiments, setting hypotheses.

Now, a bit more on Annie Abraham’s background as a biologist, because I feel that it’s central to the way she plans and performs her work. As a farmer’s daughter, she was not allowed to study art as her parents thought that it couldn’t give her a career. Feeling that biology was most suited for her, as it was “a subject that allowed (her) to ask what was one’s position in society, and how did (she) want the world to be”, she went on to obtain a PhD in the subject. Then, having become interested in reading political literature (such as Dostoyevsky and Marx) and having her colleagues disapprove, she decided she wanted to break free of this context and pursue art. However, she did not at first, adopt the scientific methodologies we observe in her work today. Initially, she wanted to break free from everything scientific and logical, making Expressionistic paintings.

“Around 1993, I discovered complexity theory, and this was the first time that I considered certain scientific theories as relevant to my practice. I felt that complexity theory aimed to explore infinitely complex relations, rather than give finite, ‘closed’ answers to questions. But it was not until I became involved in performance practice that I realised that a lot of my work had already been using scientific methodologies in some ways.” – Annie Abrahams

So how does she employ these scientific methodologies exactly in her work?

“In fact, all of my work emanates from one big question: ‘How can we live in a world that we don’t understand?’”

Annie Abrahams acts like a scientist, asking a question, and then creating a situation with protocols and rules, like the steps to an experiment. It is important to note that she doesn’t have a preconceived notion of what the result could be like, but she does have a hypothesis that helps her define the protocols. “Once the performance begins, my role is to observe. I do not interfere in its development. Any outcome is good, because what is important to me is the experiment in itself.”, she says.

Moving on, I feel that the work can be discussed better when we understand what social broadcasting is, such that we can see how this work relates to the concept. According to Randall Packer, social broadcasting is when multiple people are broadcasting simultaneously. That is, when you have these people from remote locations come together in the same space – the Third Space. Facebook Live, for example, can be considered social broadcasting as there is a little bit of that social aspect.

Angry Women can be considered a good example of social broadcasting as it takes place in a networked, shared broadcast environment (The Third Space). The participants use this to their advantage, capitalizing on and collectivizing their anger in shared screams sometimes. This is vastly different compared to how we use social media in terms of the nature of the collective activity – screaming is not what we observe everyday on Facebook – but also similar to how we use social media in the sense the women sometimes vibe off one another, much like how comment threads and reply threads are formed.

To elaborate on how the shared networked emotion in Angry Women differ from ordinary group dynamics, we refer to the Networked Conversations between Randall Packer and Annie Abrahams. Annie Abrahams elaborates on this, saying how the women in Angry Women know that they are performing, as opposed to just being angry in real life. It’s also different as Annie Abrahams explained to them beforehand that she wanted the piece to be like an ‘Angry Choir’, rising up and down, leading to collaborative behavior. She describes this dynamic as being unique to Angry Women, as she has done other pieces such as Angry Men and a mixed gender piece as well. In Angry Men, for example, she describes how three men took up the entire soundspace and the others could not contribute. It’s a curious observation, and it becomes food for thought as to why women are more accommodating in the performance of this piece.

“So instead of dwelling on the frustrations of the network connection, she finds inspiration, and perhaps more importantly, she sets up compelling situations that allow her and others to make critical observations about connection and disconnection.” – Randall Packer

In reference to the above quote, Annie Abrahams also questions the quality of the networked connections they share. Due to the limits of streaming technology at that time, it was “necessary to conduct two distinct performances, separated, in fact, by an interval of two months”. As a result of this, the pieces had varying lengths, which had the synchronisation become imperfect. I felt that this aspect made the piece very self-aware of its limitations, which is something unique to it – usually, imperfections are smoothed over, but Annie Abrahams embraces them in her enquiry.

“In times when our technological environment uses all kinds of behavioural techniques to make us uncritical users of their interfaces, it’s important to become aware of our behaviour, to test and experiment with it.” – Interview with Marc Garrett and Ruth Cathlow

It certainly allowed me to see social media interactions in a new light – they’re usually so carefully controlled and curated. In this sense, Annie Abraham’s work points to a method where we could interact on social media in a more genuine manner. However, this world where interactions are so raw and unfiltered may not be one that I would necessarily like to inhabit. Interactions we see on the videos, such as women talking over one another, already manifest in less obvious ways in social media today where commenters could choose not to respond to certain ideas a previous commenter has said, instead choosing to emphasize their own viewpoints with capital letters, for example. While they are certainly engaging with their base desires of anger, I feel like the level of self-control we exhibit on social media today is needed for civil interaction, without which the online world could descend into anarchy, possibly, especially with the lack of gatekeeping. So while I maintain that genuine, less-glamorous feelings and interactions should be expressed on social media, maybe the Annie Abraham’s way of having a lot of people do it in one go may not be practical for the everyday user. Moreover, classifying status quo as being not genuine enough could also be a disservice to it, for people share as much as they are comfortable with, and imposing a standard of genuinity could not be viable for some users to reach.

It was strange considering this work from the context of Singapore. The women in this video seem to have a lot of pent-up anger, as if they’d been holding in this depth of emotion for an extended period of time. In Singapore, I feel that women are pretty vocal with their anger, although it may be expressed in more passive aggressive ways, or online, with websites such as http://stomp.straitstimes.com/. As a Singaporean who’s lived in Singapore for my whole life, drawing from my experiences, I feel that gender equality is at a good level here, and women aren’t labelled as b**ches when they are ticked off. As a result, women here aren’t really afraid to be angry.

Therefore, if I myself had to participate in this work, I would probably be like the woman in Take 1 who didn’t show any anger, because I don’t really feel angry at anything. I let my anger out as and when I feel it, so having to conjure up feelings of anger for the express purpose of conducting a performance piece would feel forced and weird to me.

However, this is not to say that I don’t feel that the work has value as a way for the women involved to vent their frustrations. It is evident that they found it therapeutic to air all of their anger out, at least for Takes 1 and 2 where there was no fixed duration. For Takes 3 and 4, where there was a fixed 12 minute duration, some of the women could still have had some venting to do left – while this certainly changed the group dynamic and altered the experiment, I found myself questioning whether this was beneficial to the women involved.

Nevertheless, I believe all five takes hold their innate value in the fact that they’re so unfiltered and raw. We’ve talked about Digital Identity and how we tend to cultivate distinct personas when we’re online, through selectively publishing the content we post or through editing our photos with applications. Here, the women are held in a situation of No Exit where they absolutely have to express their feelings in a primal, basic manner of communication. This, I feel, is what makes the work so expressive and atypical of how we interact with others and express ourselves online. Personally, I would be uncomfortable with having my relatives and friends see me in this manner because I’ve so carefully constructed my digital identity as one that does not care too strongly about things, as one that is free and easy-going. However, maybe partaking in an experiment such as this one may be precisely what myself, and others like me, may need, as sometimes we place a lot of importance on how others see us, to the extent that we might gloss over some of our own feelings as well.



DIWO: Maker Culture

DIWO and Artware

“As an artist-led group, Furtherfield has become progressively more interested in the cultural value of collaboratively developed visions as opposed to the supremacy of the vision of the individual artistic genius.”

During the lecture, Garrett makes an indirect reference to this quote when he brings up how maker culture pushes creatives out of their comfort zone. Painters need not just work with painters, or media artists with media artists. He supported this with the example of how Picasso and Braque founded Cubism by looking at each other’s work. Another example that I could think of would be how Matisse and Derain, together, formed the basis of Fauvism. He is very for the narrative that an artist cannot just be an isolated genius. As with these gigantuan founding artists of indisputably important art movements who have worked together, it is intriguing to think that DIWO does have historical roots in these movements. Today, DIWO has taken on a new life and meaning with the advancement of technology.

This technology, here, would refer to a unique creation by Furtherfield: “artware”, which are software platforms for developing art that “rely on the creative and collaborative engagement of its users”. Unique “artware” created by Furtherfield include FurtherStudio and VisitorsStudio. This essay goes on to discuss projects that have come to fruition with the agency this artware brings, and how they relate to the concept of DIWO.

Of course, artware need not be specifically limited to that which Furtherfield has created – another example that would fit the criteria of “artware” would be the website built specifically for Jenny Holzer’s Please Change Beliefs.

Please Change Beliefs had a specific software platform built especially for users to modify truisms creatively and vote on truisms they agree with; in doing so collaboratively, DIWO is also brought to mind.

DIWO and the Third Space

In March 2006, 150 (Furtherfield) media arts projects took place in over forty London locations, as well as online in the form of exhibitions, installations, software, participatory events, performance-based work, and many other self-defining forms (from page 24, Ruth Catlow and Marc Garrett “Do it With Others (DIWO): Participatory Media in the Furtherfield Neighborhood,” 2007)

Its structure was inspired to some extent by the scale-free networks of the Internet, which, the science of networks tells us, maintain high levels of connectivity regardless of size.

Image courtesy of Randall Packer

Link to post: https://oss.adm.ntu.edu.sg/bala0043/ei-tele-stroll-a-tale-of-two-cities/

Here, the importance of the Internet and all the connectivity it has brought to us cannot be overlooked in the benefits – specifically, convenience – it has brought to DIWO. For example, the use of the internet in the Tele-Stroll micro-project, as well as Telematic Embrace project, enabled us to Do It With Others – a partner for the former, and a much larger number of 18 people for the latter – and create beautiful and innovative outputs we could not have done alone.

DIWO and Ownership

“BritArt’s dominance of the 90s UK art world-its galleries, markets and press-with a small number of high profile artists, delighted nouveau toffs but disempowered the majority of artists.”

DIWO supports the theory that there are no “supreme” artists, ala BritArt. This ties in directly to Open Source Thinking, where peer production leads to a multitude of talents working on a project, such as Linux. (See here for technological manifestations of peer production in an earlier essay).

Marc Garrett mentioned a piece that was particularly relevant to this section. Plantoid is a renewable, blockchain-based lifeform.

After scanning QR codes with mobile phones, the plant is fed with digital currency. Upon massing enough, it “enters into the reproductive stage”, in which artists physically make a plant (with instructions given). What is interesting here is that the artist does not have full control over the work – he or she follows a “contract … that stipulates the rules”.  Another aspect of DIWO that we wean from this work is the concept of giving up ownership of the work.

Closer to home, we personally gave up ownership and collaborated with the Exquisite Glitch project.

In the same vein as its namesake, Exquisite Corpse, we continued glitching over an initial image consecutively in our groups. Here, no single person claims sole authorship over the final product; as a collaborative DIWO effort, all the group members claimed equal stake.

DIWO and the Collective Narrative

The collaboration we observe in Doing It With Others enables us to not only give up individual ownership. This collective ownership enables the co-curation of the artwork, breaking down the power relationships between artist and curators (to be discussed further in section below). What becomes a direct product of this is a collective narrative that could not have occurred with a singular person curating the work – the diversity that could not have come from one person’s thought process alone is what makes the collective narrative such a visual pleasure to look at.

The shift from material to immaterial culture, and the explosion in the rate of copying, duplicating and redistributing of cultural artefacts, means that this culture is now open to the influence of not just ‘professional’ cultural producers.

Another point that this quote brings up about the collective narrative is this narrative is now open to the vernacular as well. The Furtherfield work, Seeds from Elsewhere, is a prime illustration.

Source: http://www.theyarehere.net/ongoing/seeds-from-elsewhere/

In his lecture, Marc Garrett mentioned that the project arose out of the interest in understanding the cultures of refugees living in the park. What conversations could arise? The project formed a collective narrative in the various different plants and produce grown, “contributing to a horticultural portrait of the group”. As an organization interested in grassroot culture, this project was socially conscious in being decisively inclusive – which Garrett mentions being an important quality – and not just art for the market.

DIWO and the Power Relationships

Between Artist and Viewer

VisitorsStudio, created in parallel to FurtherStudio, “gave visitors an insight into some of the artistic processes and concerns of resident artists by creating a social space online where they could experiment and learn together using some very simple audio-visual media mixing tools.”

This breaks down the hierarchical relationship between the artist and the viewer, instead, placing the role of the artist as mediator so that both artist and viewer could DIWO. By providing a creative space that connected more experienced practitioners with novices, Furtherfield supports learning on both ends. Another example of this would be Cut Piece (see here for notes on Cut Piece and DIWO).

Between Artist and Curator

Maker Culture breaks down the power relationships between the artist and curator, as well. We see this exemplified in the collaborative exhibition put on by Gretta Louw and aboriginal artists from Australia, mentioned by Marc Garrett in his lecture.

Image courtesy of http://www.metamute.org

These Warlpiri artists could not get curators and galleries to show their work in the UK, but Furtherfield worked together with them to put on a media art exhibition, a first in the UK. Here, they took over a space that showed their own artwork on their own terms, and have come to exhibit in other countries like Germany and Spain.

We, as students, get a taste of this co-curation with the Collective Body project as well. Source: https://www.flickr.com/groups/2128661@N24

DIWO and the Open Source Thinking

The fact that Furtherfield’s core activities (“of review, criticism and discussion”) have been sustained by its team, and its international group of users, on a mainly voluntary basis, truly encompasses the spirit of the open source model that I have written about previously. Indeed, the strength of peer production lies in its matching of human capital to existing information such that new information can be produced – “(exploiting) human capital as opposed to monetary capital”.

Open source encourages the opposite of this, as discussed by Randall Packer. He has written that the open source way may be viewed as a quasi-utopian form of peer production  – it is amazing to realize that this utopia has actually manifested in such a tangible way in Furtherfield. It then becomes not such an unrecognizable ideal, but a reality that we are able to access.

It is even more impressive is that Furtherfield has grown from a humble network to even receiving regular core public funding for some of its work. Furtherfield holds agency, here, which is what creators (myself included, as an art student), aspire towards one day. Open source culture need not be one that is viewed as against status-quo (as it has been historically) and that status quo can even come to support it.

DIWO and the Future

It was fascinating to hear about how DIWO has been taken even further, and interpreted incredibly differently, in the Blockchain community. Marc Garrett mentions that after the major bank crash in 2008, people explored other means that were less dependent on specific economies.

A brief overview of Blockchain: Blockchain is a decentralized database secured by different servers. Now, it is used to make art as well. As a very young piece of technology  (around 10 years old), Blockchain is still a mystery to many people. For comparison, Marc Garrett specifies that the Internet has been around since the 60s, whilst the World Wide Web has been around since the mid 80s. Evidently, there is much potential in Blockchain, and artists have much to explore.

Back to Blockchain and DIWO, it is incredible to see how people have come together to create entire communities. Marc Garrett mentions that in Barcelona (and other countries), 600 people have created their own country, and alternative economy with their own currency, Faircoin. This very strongly reminds us of Linux and Open Source Thinking, where undoubtedly, a number of people would have collaborated to create an entire community on their own.


He also mentions that China is setting up workshops around blockchain because of what it can do for communities – in the future, this could definitely create real alternative physical communities. In this sense, blockchain is not just seen as new economies, but as an entire Renaissance occurring, even more so because these technological tools carry with them the possibility to make art, not just money.

Marc Garrett also mentions that Furtherfield is going to work with Fair Co-op, and is thinking about making a currency for Furtherfield called the Culture-coin, purely for interaction with one another as part of Furtherfield. This is a very DIWO concept – this is about pulling everybody up with one another and creating a fairer society, and art.

Word count: *sweats nervously*