It’s mind boggling how the ways in which we ingest data and the instruments and software that facilitate our consumption of media and news are revolutionizing how we inform ourselves.
Take for instance, education. Traditionally a kind of group project. Sure the professor is kind of the visionary, handing out a syllabus and announcing expectations. But ultimately in order to pass, it’s the students’ responsibility to use an understanding of what’s expected from them to impress the professor. Not necessarily mimic them. Something something something, Socrates. Oh, right. It’s called “learning.”
A new performance by A5, a Stockholm-based artist collective in collaboration with valeveil, a small, Swedish publishing house, Checks and Balances promises to disrupt our beliefs about knowledge and force us to think about how we learn and, as far as I can tell, how the internet is fucking everything everyone’s shit up.
I’d guess It’s probably going to be something like a mix between We Live in Public and this streaming broadcast of the “real life” Oregon Trail. But it makes me think, as I often do, about the twisted world of banal cranial exchange we’re approaching and how the Internet is either helping or hurting us in our individual and collected pursuit of knowledge. I got on the phone with Adam Grinovich, one of the founders of A5 to talk a little bit about what the hell Checks and Balances is.
Motherboard: Hey Adam, what the hell is Checks and Balances?
Adam: We were recently asked to give a lecture as a group about how we work collaboratively, so we decided to turn the lecture itself into an example of our work. We’re trying to use the lecture format to destabilize the audience in some way.
Right on. So it’s like you’re turning a lecture into a theatrical performance and then breaking the fourth wall or something? That sounds pretty crazy.
Yeah, but it doesn’t take much to make a crazy lecture. Lectures, by nature are boring.
So why are you streaming this thing? What does that have to do with the project?
The stage is a symbol. It’s a manifestation of something physically in front of the people and we’re playing with that very subtly. That, and how people perceive a stage and how people perceive an audience.
That’s the most interesting thing to us with this, but streaming it gives the performance another dimension. The idea of something live is somehow precious. That, and the fact that you can miss it is important, because everything is so available. We’re also able to play with the celebrity paradigm that YouTube has in a way invented. The audience becomes active and an inarguable layer in the performance almost out of necessity due in part to the streaming and the remote audience gets to be passive voyers—the role everyone seems to be jumping to get.
How do you feel the Internet has affected the way we learn?
The Internet has desensitized us all. When we see videos of horrible disasters we feel like we’re watching a “movie,” but we’re not. It’s all very subversive, but the tools we use to learn are owned and operated by someone else.
Right. On the one hand it’s not much different than a school cutting a deal with a text book publisher so that all the kids in the school are reading the same text books, which I’m only now realizing is kind of insane, and on the other hand, it’s like that multiplied by being home schooled or something. Does that make sense?
Yeah. Absolutely. Our brains are searching for these new angles to digest information, and yet it feels like we’re corralled into selecting from options that are all mostly the same with subtle differences, like with politics. It’s fucked in many ways. Everything we see on YouTube or read online has only to become a reference of something real, therein creating a synthetic product which is held as truth in the minds of our consistently shaky society whose standards for knowledge are conveniently being lowered.
You can watch this streaming video here on Motherboard, but if the code is messed up, just watch it here or here instead. You only get the once chance to watch it, that’s why I’m posting this at 4am. Don’t mess up.