Memetic Engines of Anticapitalism (2017-2018 Digital Humanities Undergrad Fellow)

By T.X. Watson

When I was interviewed for the Valley Advocate podcast, Gina Beavers asked me what my most comfortable medium was as an artist. Since I was on camera, I couldn’t just shrug and say “iunno,” so I put a little effort into coming up with an answer.

I wound up citing George Orwell’s essay “Why I Write,” which I cite pretty often because it works really well for me as an articulation of my motives as a writer.

The quote is,

Every line of serious work that I have written since 1936 has been written, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism and for democratic socialism, as I understand it. It seems to me nonsense, in a period like our own, to think that one can avoid writing of such subjects. […] And the more one is conscious of one’s political bias, the more chance one has of acting politically without sacrificing one’s aesthetic and intellectual integrity.

What I have most wanted to do throughout the past ten years is to make political writing into an art.

And my point in bringing it up was: the project starts with the politics. It has to. I start with the point I want to make, and usually also a little bit of a nugget of story. And I make the art so that it frames that story in a way that makes my point.

When I started this project, I vaguely figured it would go in a book. I started with the title—“Memetic Engines of Anticapitalism”—which is in itself the story and the politics. But at that time, “book” wasn’t really a format, it was “I’m going to do a bunch of work and then print it out so you can see that I did it.”

The form came when I was walking into the library. There’s a big wall in the gallery that’s pretty new, that a lot of people dislike. I like it a lot. It offers these big chunks of space that are clearly visible from several viewings around the library, outside the gallery.

I saw the title of my show, right up in the upper left corner of that wall, where everyone would see it coming in.

At that point, I started working towards arranging for my div to get a gallery show. And once I knew where I wanted to put the work, I started thinking about how to use that space so that it effectively communicated the message I wanted to present.

But the gallery show only lasts a few days. That’s not a very good memetic platform: it’s fleeting, it’s hard to replicate. But virtual spaces don’t have to be either of those things and besides, there are over a dozen projects in the gallery every semester, maybe some of those artists want to be able to archive their work?

I started working on a 3D model of the gallery, with the intention of reproducing my show in virtual space alongside the physical one. Due to health-related issues and some other complications (including but not limited to “I didn’t exactly know what I was doing”), that part of the project wasn’t done in time – in fact, it still isn’t done yet.

But the gallery model is online at http://a360.co/2H4aZmZ, and the content of the installation is up at http://memeticengines.net. That’s where the 3D installation is going to go when it’s ready – and I’m hoping to have a first approximation up inside the next week or two. The platform I’m planning to use – AltSpace – will even let me host events, so I can show up for an opening of the digital gallery and hang around to answer questions, just like I did with the physical one.

Image result for altspace

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