2 Words vs. 33,000
Over the course of the second book sprint we often paused to reflect on the fact that editing and altering an existing book (one originally written five months prior by a mostly different group of people) is a completely different challenge than the one tackled by the original sprinters. While the first author group began with nothing but two words -Collaborative Futures-, words that could not be changed but were chosen to inspire. This second time we started with 33,000 words that we needed to read, understand, interpret, position ourselves in relationship to, edit, transform, replace, expand upon, and refine.
Coming to a book that was already written, the second group's ability to intervene in the text was clearly constrained. The book had a logic of its own, one relatively foreign to the new authors. We grappled with it, argued with it, chipped at it, and then began to add bits of ourselves. On the first day the new authors spent hours conversing with some of the original team. This continued on the second day, with collaborators challenging the original text and arguing with the new contributions.
If this book is a conversation, then reading it could be described as entering a particular state of this exchange of thoughts and ideas. Audience might be a word, a possibility and potential to describe this reader-ship; an audience as in a performance setting where the script is rather loose and does not aim for a clear and definite ending. (It is open-ended by nature); an audience that shares a certain moment in the process from a variable distance. The actual book certainly indicates a precise moment, thereby it IS also a document, manifesting some kind of history in/of open source and counter-movements, media environments, active sites, less active sites, interpassivity (Robert Pfaller <www.psychomedia.it/jep/number16/pfaller.htm>), residues of thought, semi-public space; history of knowledge assemblages (writers talked about an endless stitching over…) and formations of conversations. The book as it is processed in a sprint, is a statement about and of time. The reader or audience will probably encounter the book not as a “speedy material”. Imaginary Readers, Imaginary Audience.
We came to recognize, however, that the point was not to change the book so that it reflected our personal perspectives (whoever we are), but to collaborate with people who each have their own site of practice, ideology, speech, tools, agency. In service of a larger aim, none of us deleted the original text and replaced it to reflect our distinct point of view. Instead, we came to conceive of Collaborative Futures as a conversation. Since the text is designed to be malleable and modifiable, it aims to be an ongoing one. That said, at some point this iteration of the conversation has to stop if a book is to be generated and printed. A book can contain a documented conversation, but can it be a dynamic conversation? Or does the form we have chosen demand it become static and monolithic?
In the end, despite our differences, we agreed to contribute to the common cause, to become part of the multi-headed author. Whether that is a challenge to the book or a surrendering to it, remains unclear.
The June 2010 sprint introduced three more core authors who worked in person and remotely with the January 2010 team:
Sissu Tarka is an artist and researcher based in London and Iceland. She currently works independently, exploring questions of the criticality of emerging practices, ethics and economies of art. Her particular focus is on non-linearity, modes of resistance, and articulations of the democratic, active work. Past investigations include micro-projects such as her text exchange with Heath Bunting during one of his border-performances, with the resulting essay BorderXing: Heath Bunting, Sissu Tarka, Afterall Online (2009); or an InviTe For mAking OrnAmentS, a workshop with Merce Rodrigo Garcia, on assemblages in architecture and technologically informed environments and networks, with a contribution by Japanese architects SANAA Kazuyo Sejima + Ryue Nishizawa, Serpentine Pavilion/Café, London (2009).
kanarinka, a.k.a. Catherine D’Ignazio (kanarinka.com), is an artist and educator. Her artwork is participatory and distributed—a single project might take place online, in the street and in a gallery, and involve multiple audiences participating in different ways for different reasons. Her practice is collaborative even when she says it's not. Her artwork has; been exhibited at the ICA Boston, Eyebeam, MASSMoCA, and the Western Front among other locations. She is Co-Director of the experimental curatorial group iKatun and a founding member of the Institute for Infinitely Small Things. After spending eight years in educational technology as a java programmer & technical project manager, she now teaches at RISD’s Digital Media Graduate Program. The former Director of Exhibitions at Art Interactive in Cambridge, MA, kanarinka maintains an experimental curatorial practice through her work with iKatun in organizing the occasional exhibition, festival or screening, and, more recently, the Platform2 event series. kanarinka has a BA in International Relations from Tufts University (Summa Cum Laude, Phi Beta Kappa) and an MFA in Studio Art from Maine College of Art. She has lived and worked in Paris, Buenos Aires, and Michigan, and currently resides in Boston, MA.
Astra Taylor (www.hiddendriver.com) is a writer and documentarian born in Winnipeg, Manitoba and raised in Athens, Georgia. She was named one of the 25 New Faces to Watch in independent cinema by Filmmaker Magazine in the summer of 2006. She co-directed “The Miracle Tree,” a short documentary about infant malnutrition in Senegal, and associate produced “Persons of Interest” (Sundance 2004), about the round up and detention of Muslims and Arabs in the aftermath of September 11th. Her first film, “Zizek!,” screened at festivals, in theaters, and on television around the world and was broadcast on the Sundance Channel. “Examined Life,” a series of excursions with contemporary thinkers, premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2008 before opening theatrically. A companion book is available from The New Press. Astra has also contributed to Monthly Review, Adbusters, Salon, Alternet, The Nation, Bomb Magazine and other outlets.