How do we build personally and communally meaningful spaces out of the termite mounds of ephemeral trash, data, symbols and software that form the sometimes invisible, seemingly impenetrable walls of our world?

As an artist often working with computers, I think about how software can be both fluid and ossified, infinitely reproducible but rooted firmly in materiality, ephemeral and enduring, violently oppressive and empowering, a fount of information and of propaganda. It can hide power and it can expose it. Most of all, I think about how we act ‘within’ software. At the center of my understanding of software interactions is always the dance of play. I’ve been learning to build games as a place to deconstruct notions of software as barrier. Digital games for me are a way to retopologize software (to borrow a 3d modeling term)– to remap, to reskin, to overlay new rules and new meanings onto an otherwise unchanged structure– in order to serve goals other than productivity or compliance. Games can build space for co-creating meaning (for good or bad), for interacting with others, and for hiding memories (in the tradition of videogame Easter eggs). Software interactions (even ones with only one human participant) are social actions. Games and software are a way for me to create a process of granting trust and speaking to a person that I often cannot meet, in a world that I do not necessarily trust– a letterlocked note that unfolds with time and attention. The performances that happen in these new situated game spaces constitute collaborative, embodied ways of learning and making culture and self. They can either be imbued with meaning and spirit or they can be turned into a form of meaningless busywork in an imagined vacuum, in denial of their material roots and effects.

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