Author Archives: Robert Marcus

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 (, 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

Screen Shot 2017-05-08 at 6.24.49 PM Screen Shot 2017-05-08 at 6.24.45 PM Screen Shot 2017-05-08 at 6.24.38 PM 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.