Undoing the glossary (a future sample) Valia Papastamou, 2020
Undoing the glossary (a future sample) is a video/soundscape produced by Valia Papastamou at the CNMFPP. It proposes sound morphologies that attempt to corrode the regularities and literal formations of a glossary and its language. For this project,  Saidiya Hartman’s text “The plot of her undoing” is introduced in  an API (application programming interface) assistant for the linguistic analysis of affect. Undoing the glossary (a future sample), develops through various simulations of results produced from what seems to be a programmed language. It is the snapshot of a mechanism that functions as a larva. The mechanism of the “larval subject” guides its affect, resists digital data, begins to find errors in the code, and invites others to participate in it. Through this practice, the project questions the ‘knowledge’ introduced into programming models aiming to produce new linguistic data; the ways through which ‘training’ tactics are developed in order to derive desired results based on the criterion of ‘affect’.


Is everybody in, or Her Automaton

Beloved Sarah (Ahmed), dedicates her text, “Killjoy Feminists (And other willful subjects)” to all feminist killjoy. You know who you are! A killjoy when it comes to the question “Are we all in?” They would say “clearly we are not”, because they would think of all those who are excluded anyway. As for the new rituals that start in the pandemic situation, they would again respond with reservation. Who capitalizes, in this pandemic condition, on the endless teleworking hours, on the more than any other time legalized, cannonized recordings of our voices, distribution of our data and information about us? (and, speaking of the quick reflexes of capital, an internet search for a picture to go with the word “killjoy” brings up numerous, and almost exclusively, pictures of the popular Canadian science fiction, full of stereotypes, series of the same name).

Who are the new masters of these emerging ceremonies? How does the classical principle of accumulation work in the veneer democratic internet, digital and telework enclosure? The killjoy thinks something along those lines and thus, as Sarah says “for some bodies mere persistence, “to continue steadfastly,” requires great effort, an effort that might appear to others as stubbornness or obstinacy, as insistence on going against the flow. You have to become insistent to go against the flow; you are judged to be going against the flow because you are insistent”*. 

“A life paradox: you have to become what you are judged as being”*. Sarah, however, does not refer melancholically to lonely individuals who go against the social tide, of the new emerging rituals. The social can be lived as strength and the political expedience is collective, expedience is a common collectivity of those who fight for a different plane of existence. For that reason, Sarah considers a feminist queer politics, as a politics of tables: the tables support the gatherings and we need support when we live our lives in ways that others experience as stubborn or obstinate.

When, I curated the exhibition ‘The Collection as an Automaton’ my mind once again turned to technologies (and the role/part of art in them), which organize us in the flow, outside the flow, parallel to the flow, and so on.  My research and exhibition with reference to American College of Greece Art Collection, targeted the very systems (of knowledge, power) that transverse collecting, archiving, taxonomy, classifying and accumulating. Asking: What are the powers that are connected and played out when a collection is formed, distributed or redistributed? What are the powers associated with narrating history or creating value and surplus? Is it the history of patriarchy or a feminist history? Who holds the power amongst the involved individuals, the involved objects and the involved institutions? What power is intrinsic to a certain mode of categorization or taxonomy? These are questions that, in other words, affirm the political aspect of an institutional collection, because they interrogate the prospects and the limits of being public or private, accessible or restricted, transcended in physicality and virtuality, suspended between real and imaginary.

Today, I put affirmatively the article her before the word automaton.  Because the current circumstances remind us yet again and even more strongly that (technological and ceremonious) violence against her (the her refers to all the “rejected” bodies, as Sylvia Wynter puts it) is very persistent and deeply rooted. For that reason it is empowering to listen to their voices, which speak here in my writing today, the feminist writers, in their own name and in the names of many others, that the automaton is and should be attributed to her.  

Automata are a form of power and Judy (Wacjman) draws our attention to “male plans for technology”. Technology and automata do not a priori provide for the promotion of the most fundamental social tendencies and transformations.

Now, then, in the eye of the storm, of domino effect crises, under the burden of a physical radical evil, of a contemporary pestilence, technology is offered as the ultimate solution and we are entering deeper and deeper into an interconnected but increasingly uncertain world. Once again our processionals, free time, education, family and sexual relations, work relations, (re)productive forces and personal identities are being reshaped under the pressures of a new technological (pandemic) circumstance and under other intertwined pressures and deeply rooted establishments and rituals.

Thus, Her Automaton turns us insistently toward the political qualities of technology, ceremonies and rituals themselves, it focuses on that which escapes, on locating inequality, violence, oppression, on those things against which Her Automaton organize their change.   

Her Automaton is not permeated by the pessimism of technological determinism or by the optimism of naïve tehcnofilia, but by the sensitivity of a contradictory morality that searches the spectrum of all the things we tend to overlook.            

Nadia, let your ceremony and Her Automaton spin and weave (the feminist) net, let them set up our queer feminist table. A net of kins as Donna (Haraway) says, not blood relatives – with all the incest and adhesions that implies – but relatives in a deeper sense, of choices, assemblies, and care, where the unfamiliar and strange are part of them. At this table, we can, as Sarah says and induces us, “laugh in recognition of the familiarity of inhabiting that place, even if we do not inhabit the same place (and we do not). There can be joy in killing joy. Kill joy, we can and we do. Be willful, we will and we are”*.


*I am sharing with you material from the book we are preparing at the Center of New Media and Feminist Public Practices, “Aesthetic Practices, Feminist Theories and Globalized Technologies”. The voices of the kins I invited to our ceremony talk about all that in our book. While translating Ahmed’s text, we laughed a lot on and it gave us great pleasure, the literal translation of “killjoy” in greek (χαρασκωτόστρα), which, by the way, we have fully appropriated. The CNMFPP has received funding from the Hellenic Foundation for Research and Innovation (HFRI) and the General Secretariat for Research and Technology (GSRT), under grant agreement No 2284.


Elpida Karaba