Author Archives: Robert Marcus

Cultural Hijack: A Tour of the Building

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Process:

I wanted to criticize space and my class challenged me on how self-righteous it came across. In frustration, I realized that what I wanted to do was explore Heimbold through my emotions and my memories. It is a micro-situation with thoughts and ideas from Vito Acconci Following Piece, The Art of the Question by Anonymous, and Tom Finkelpearl’s “Participatory Art”, as well as my own experience as a theater student. I initially wanted my project be more aggressive but I was convinced against it by my class. As I developed the places and spots to visit I made a few consistent spots to visit.

1. I started on the top floor and ended on the bottom floor of Heimbold.

2. During the show I entered bathrooms of all genders. I stuck my hand in the toilet.

3. I told different and often conflicting versions of the same story. The conflicting nature of it comes from conflicting natures on the same stories. For example I framed one tour as a descent into my feelings and chose not to in another.

4. I asked people questions about whatever story I told and asked them to do things. Including but limited to:

- sing a note

- look out a window

-sneak down the stairs

-play inside a rolling cart for film department

-reassure me that I am doing ok

-Stare at other students.

-Move chairs

4. Rely on my humorous personality to entertain even when I felt drained and unsatisfied.

What I feel about my piece and what I learned:

The first thing I noticed was the stress and lack of confidence from the first performance to the last. I became more emotionally drained from performance to performance. This led my tours from being confident and playful to (internally) more fearful and transgressive. What this meant  was that no two tours developed the same meaning. The same way that remembering alters the memory itself  over time, so did the descent from the top floor to the bottom. I felt that my piece became less about the construction of my Heimbold experiences to my failure to maintain the same thinking of it. I couldn’t remember the right questions or routines and would, with varying degrees of success, make up new ones. This in my mind is painful and yet in retrospect completely in line with the performance project as a whole. Because my relationship with my performance became strained and possibly unhinged so did my demonstration of the space. This meaning is of course very different for the audience, but their experience of the space was more of an amusing tour of memories, make believe, and activity that I would not experience at first.

One theme that sticks out in the retrospect is the transgression. Transgression here appeared in three forms: transgression of social mores, transgression of comfort level, and the failure to transgress against one authority instead of another. Let’s start in more of a note form of each kind and what that means about Heimbold.

-Social mores I would violate and ask the group to participate in include put my hand in a toilet, enter a gendered bathroom as a group, stare at a stranger walking by, play in a rolling cart, and stand on tables. What this did was provide a moment of playfulness but also give a eye on two elements of the space. The first is that there are things you can do that are fun that aren’t wrong or hurtful. The second, there is no true rebellion over the space. My playful attitude has zero effect on the architecture of the building beyond add a feeling onto it, like adding invisible graffiti onto the space.

-I never transgressed the comfort level of any of the participants. I did transgress my own comfort level when I initially put my hand in the toilet. By having my audience witness it I did unsettle the impossibility of the action. It’s small but it will be something remembered nonetheless.

-Finally I felt I pushed beyond my comfort zone in a positive way. I have touched on this early but I do feel that this performance has pushed me out of a certain comfort around my art making and I would like to further with it.

Space Hijack: Pop-Up Marat/Sade

I always felt in control of the performance although i let the failures of my technology or the lack of audience. This hijack I felt was successful and adding a bit of weirdness in Heimbold that wasn’t already there.

My piece consisted of two facets. My first facet projected the film Marat/Sade directed by Peter Brook upon a wall in the lobby of Heimbold. The second is my improvising and character I developed. My character was a senile old host of a movie, opera, or musical of a forgotten time and place. I go in with the intention of exploring the themes of memory and performance in relation to the film. I discarded upon the performance proper because I wanted my interactions with the guest to arrive organically. I spend my time asking people their names and what they think of the show but deliberately forgetting what they said. Doing so gave the audience moments to play make believe, thus destabilize the continuity of their identity to a certain extent. By asking them their understanding of the show (considering no one could hear them), I gave people an opportunity to explore the weirdness of the moment and give them space to perform if they wish.

The improv in the piece, I feel, did wonders to explore the themes I set out initially. Paralleling the project film Marat/Sade, I encouraged the audience to perform the memory of the piece’s moment. If memory is something communicate between people, how much of that communication is performed (read: manipulated)? The film and the play its based on revels in this mistrust of history to explore the question of Revolution, but with my performance I attempted with mixed and unknown results a micro-Revolution. This micro-Revolution was a space and time where identity, memory, etc. was always a choice and a not serious one as that. This is inspired by my love the carnivalesque works of Carnival-Protests of CIRCA and the theory of Carnival.

Cultural Hijack: What I Learned From my Failed Kekistan Hijack

For my hijack i attempted to subvert the 4chan meme, the Kekistan flag. The history of the meme can be found here (http://bit.ly/2xCg1Tg), but why I chose it as my target was because it used by contemporary white supremacist and new fascist movements, currently known as the “alt-right.” To rob the power of Kekistan, my hijack must undercut its replication. To do require two somewhat conflicting processes. First it would educate the vast public of its ideological associations as a dog whistle. Secondly the hijack would interfere with the meme’s replication so it would not be used again the same way a joke dies when it is told too many times badly. The latter intention was inspired by Dennet’s “Memes and the Exploitation of Imagination” and how they reproduce themselves.

The iteration I used to hijack explicitly references Nazi imagery such as the Iron Cross and the three lines. In my attempt I used learned how to Gimp, which I learned for this project, to alter the image in a variety of ways, including fusing the flag with the Nazi flag and incorporating Lisa Frank iconography into it.

Unfortunately I came across several problems in attempting to subvert it.

  • The meme is steeped in a history of shitposting, so my first attempt to subvert through exaggeration, such as adding “Nazism is My Passion.” This led to an unclear message in the image, only affirming and promoting neo-Nazi idea;s for those unfamiliar with the original’s associations to Nazism.
  • The next drafts reference Lisa Frank’s colorful designs and it’s image connections to Nazi flags in order to the achieve my goals. Unfortunately, it still did not achieve the critical tone that is needed to be a hijacked. Instead the image just seemed to be another reiteration of the meme.
From this experience I learned that in order to visual critique and hijack coded memes and racist imagery, it must not incorporate the images. In order to hijack the meme, I must create a counter meme that educates and exposes those who use it for malicious means or figure out another way to bring hijack a coded meme.  I also learned how to use Gimp for this project and have that skill under my belt. 

Blackspace: lttl mtch grl

I re-performed my analog system from earlier in the semester, lttl mtch grl.

The system had view to no revision with it. The only major change was adding matches to be lit in order to keep track of time. The performances went incredibly well overall. Each time I was able to get my audience to comfortably take part in a psychodrama-lite system.

Things I learned:


  • People want happy endings. The piece is meditational in many ways, so people want the sense of comfort to finish the piece. Although that is how the story itself functioned (the Little Match Girl has a happy ending), I did not find it satisfying. In more experiments I will explore this.


  • The movement space was much smaller, allowing a cramped feeling to appear and create more impact.


  • Generally, people feel weirdly nice about it, as if they awoke from a nice dream during a nap.

A Later System, princess_me.png

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princess_me.png is my attempt to make an infinite glitch system with a picture of a princess. Infinite in this case meant that the system doesn’t end. When trying to program the system, i kept getting this screen. I realize after several attempts that failed at making one, but inadvertently created another. Because the computer will try to execute the program regardless of the failure state, it had become infinite. My work feels connected to work done in class so far with Moyna’s “Astrophobia” and the other blackspace’s pieces. With the possible exception of one or two, they all felt infinitely repeatable regardless of the viewer’s presence. I feel this way because they will change regardless of a viewer’s presence: the piece living in the space of imagination and conjecture.

I would, retroactively, connect my work with Bas Jan and his relationship with the concept of artistic failure. Although I have been frustrated with feeling failure before, I am tempted to almost masochistically create more failure for myself.

An Early System: lttle match grl

IMG_2889 IMG_2890 IMG_2891  IMG_2893 lttle match grl is a performance piece in which the audience is faced with the elements of the Little Match Girl to explore performance and story telling as a system. The darkness was never a constraint for me but I an added element of the story telling experience. Because I focus on body movement and the voice, I gave the audience free range to develop the images of this world. I had planned to use matches. Unfortunately forgetting them, I quickly used pieces of paper. These surprisingly made my piece much stronger. The sound provided an extra layer of anxiety an mystery to the piece that I was incredibly surprised by. I started this project by looking into Quad and children’s games like Ring Around the Rosy. These games provide the basis for which I add questionaries to probe the performers throughout the experience. The intent was to blur the line of the audience as a collective entity with related thoughts and as individuals.   For example, i’d ask very private questions that must be answer with shouting. This shouting gave a strange and vaguely threatening tone to the piece, but the more private questions made the audience further interested into being engaged. I overall feel the piece needs more work. It felt intentional but unnecessarily obtuse at points for my own liking. I would describe it as a system because it evolved in relation to an audience. The audience themselves and their collective number are the uncontrolled variables that changes the piece continuously through the performance.