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apexart :: System Failure :: Harris Kornstein and Cara Rose DeFabio
apexart - San Francisco, United States
organized by
Harris Kornstein and Cara Rose DeFabio

May 4 - May 28, 2019

Minnesota Street Project
1275 Minnesota St, San Francisco, CA

Tuesday - Saturday, 11 - 6pm

Opening Reception:
Saturday, May 4, 5-8 pm

Featuring work by:
American Artist
Tega Brain & Surya Mattu
Demian DinéYazhi'
Robbie Barrat
Faith Holland
Xandra Ibarra
Jenny Odell
Mimi Onuoha
Caroline Sinders
Stephanie Syjuco

An Open Call exhibition.

Stephanie Syjuco, Spectral City, 2018, Digital video, 13 min (Detail)

press release pdf
original proposal pdf
"Fail fast! Fail often! Fail better!" These oft-quoted Silicon Valley mantras celebrate the high-octane risk taking that has been the hallmark of the tech world, but there are real ways in which technology fails us, both as tools and in society. SYSTEM FAILURE presents work from a diverse group of media artists who both critique ideologies of technological failure and also tactically engage breakdown itself by building tools that are never meant to function, hacking their way through loopholes in source code, and pushing systems further than they were meant to go.

Works include Jenny Odell's The Findings May Surprise You, which offers satirical digital collages of graphics found in publicly- available slide decks of failed startups, while Stephanie Syjuco's Spectral City remixes footage gleaned from Google Street View to reinterpret the Miles Brothers' "A Trip Down Market Street," calling attention to the communities displaced along the corridor as large tech companies move in. Tega Brain and Surya Mattu's sculptural Unfit Bits plays with the datafication of everyday movements by attaching health trackers to low-tech devices like a metronome, and Faith Holland's laser-cut prints highlight the gendered connections of plugs, fusing Queer Connections that may or may not "work." Mimi Onouha's interactive installation Us, Aggregated juxtaposes family photos with "similar" images returned by Google's reverse image search, drawing attention to racial and gendered assumptions in algorithmic classification. Finally, American Artist's Sandy Speaks chatbot reimagines the life and death of Sandra Bland—an African-American woman murdered by police&mdashgesturing toward the failures of body cams to record the whole truth as well as the shortcomings of witnessing injustices via social media.

Presented in San Francisco, a hub not only of tech and art, but also myriad interconnected social movements, SYSTEM FAILURE aims to celebrate the creative potential of failure while holding the tech industry accountable to the communities they call home.

Cara Rose DeFabio is an artist, writer, and cultural strategist who enjoys producing live events that examine the role technology plays in our lives. She has explored the intersection of social justice and technology at the Real Future Fair, examined a basic income at the CASH Conference, and regularly performs her own brand of tech-curious theater in her hometown of San Francisco. An avid internet ethnographer, her interests have led her to report on the international slime trend, display her emoji artwork at the first ever Emoji Art & Design Show, and share the stage with Alexa and her mechanical turk bae in her most recent work, Virtual Girlfriend.

Harris Kornstein is an artist, scholar, and activist whose work critiques digital culture and queer politics. He has exhibited internationally at ISEA, MIX NYC, Piksel and SOMArts, and as drag alter-ego Lil Miss Hot Mess, has performed at SFMOMA, OccupySF, and on Saturday Night Live. Harris's writing has appeared in Wired, The Guardian, and Salon, and his work with the #MyNameIs campaign and Drag Queen Story Hour has been covered by The New Yorker, The New York Times, Channel 4, and beyond. Harris holds an MFA from UC Santa Cruz and is pursuing a PhD in Media, Culture, and Communication at NYU.

apexart’s program supporters past and present include The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, The Buhl Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, The Greenwich Collection Ltd., William Talbott Hillman Foundation/Affirmation Arts Fund, the Milton and Sally Avery Arts Foundation, the Fifth Floor Foundation, the Consulate General of Israel in New York, the Kenneth A. Cowin Foundation, the Trust for Mutual Understanding, and public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.
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