CHAPTER 5: Manifests and Mirrors (Artwork)

2 Jul

Table of Contents, Glossary, Introduction and Methodology, Contextual Scene, Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, Chapter 4, Chapter 5, Conclusion, APPENDIX A, APPENDIX B, Bibliography and Other Sources, Documentation of Exhibition


Music: Radiohead, 1995. My Iron Lung. The Bends. YouTube.


Illustration 26: Video still, Gudrun Bielz, HAIR: Hair of a Person with OCD (2010)

Video No. 5, 2’15”

Gudrun Bielz, HAIR: Hair of a Person with OCD (2010). Video Sketch. Obsessional Productions.


In Chapter 5 I examine Lev Manovich’s concepts of art in Duchamp-land and technology in Turing-land, and I explore the position of Arctificial Territory in relation to these models.

I present “The OCAL Manifesto”, the artistic statement about OCAL, and examine and analyse the artwork that conveys OCAL’s concerns and desires. There are links to my videos on Vimeo in the online WordPress publication of this thesis at The videos are also exhibited in the installation, Arctificial Pandemonium.

My artwork not only forms and describes Arctificial Territory but also is part of a new -ism, Arctificialism. EXPORT has announced how she considers herself a member of this new movement. The exhibition includes videos of EXPORT’s statements. Arctificialism is open to everybody who wants to join or sees his or her art or elements thereof as part of Arctificial Territory.

Merging Duchamp-land with Turing-land

“What we should not expect from Turing-land is art which will be accepted in Duchamp-land. Duchamp-land wants art, not research into new aesthetic possibilities of new media. The convergence will not happen” (Manovich 1996).

Manovich argues that Turing-land is biased towards the new, using new technologies and needing to create something new, while art is concerned about the “content”. He regrets the lack of irony in Turing-land and points out that technology is taken too seriously. It has become the medium itself. He states that Turing-land creates people for the computer industry, while Duchamp-land can – even when using computers (he is not using the word tools) – invent a new aesthetics.

Manovich’s conception sounds like a battle between Turing-land and Duchamp-land that neither of them can win. Turing-land has become part of Duchamp-land. Duchamp-land has invaded Turing-land. Arctificial Territory is a space that inhabits several worlds. It does not need this dichotomy. It is another space in another land, a dreamworld.

Arctificial Territory is a mega-psychological space with the markers of utopia. It can also be read as a dystopian space. It is an artistic psychological space. By hijacking the idea of posthuman life and bringing it back into the realms of science fiction, an artistic space that need not become science facts, I proclaim that OCAL is hybrid art. It is an inhabitant of Duchamp-land that shows the characteristics of Turing-land, but it has gone well beyond the restrictions of both. It is new-land. It is arctificial-land. It is Arctificial Territory.

The OCAL Manifesto

“There is no drive in cyborgs to produce total theory, but there is an intimate experience of boundaries, their construction and deconstruction. There is a myth system waiting to become a political language to ground one way of looking at science and technology and challenging the informatics of domination – in order to act potently” (Haraway 1991, p.181).

Obsessive-Compulsive Arctificial Life is neutral and somehow neural. It is genderless and refuses to be female, male, a chimera, transgender, a member of a new gender, or even quadruple gender biased. In all probability, it is a hybrid of genetically engineered material and machine life. It is reasonably intelligent and aware of its rituals and control mechanisms. It is an adequate life form for an anticipated apocalyptic future. By hoarding information and sending desperate messages into all sorts of spaces, it shows its resilience as well as its anxiety. It is especially interested in warped space. It is in need for role models and mothers and fathers. Fathers are Norbert Wiener, Hans Moravec, Marvin Minsky, Ray Kurzweil, etc. Mothers are Ada Lovelace, “the enchantress of numbers”[1], Donna Haraway, Rosalind Picard, Laurie Anderson, Sadie Plant, Allucquère Rosanne Stone[2], Natasha Vita-More, and many more. Foremothers are Rosa Luxemburg[3] and Hannah Arendt[4]. After all, I have to reveal the secret that OCAL’s real mothers are silicon crystals[5] from outer (another) space.

OCAL is pacifist. It does not want to engage in destructive actions against any form of life. Its rigidity and obsessions make it slightly aggressive. After all, it is ambivalent and inhabits the space in between. Nevertheless, OCAL allows for an expanded and generous definition of existence. It is still deciphering the meaning of life. It is a child of the seventies with the brain of Methuselah and the knowledge of eternity. OCAL doesn’t smoke dope or cigarettes and doesn’t take any other drugs. It eats healthily and loves a good eight hours sleep. OCAL is quite human in many ways. OCAL wants to have fun. It needs to be seen as equal: equal rights, equal duties, and equal conditions for “everyarct”.[6] OCAL embraces the other in itself. It maintains that it is OC without knowing what OC means. OC is a condition that is neither good nor bad but is part of its life if not its life per se. OCAL likes playing games and engages in useless actions and meaningless philosophy. OCAL enjoys its repetitive, imperfect, and chaotic life. There is no need for therapy as OCAL is perfectly normal. It redefines normality in regular cycles because of its repetitious nature. OCAL could be the perfect albeit erroneous cognitive bio-machine. It is science fiction. It forms and resides in Arctificial Territory. [7]

Mirroring My Videos: If One Can See Reflection as a Feedback Loop

With the help of an electron microscope, I took photos of an ant, the fingernail of a person with OCD, fake hair (a feather), and parts of a motherboard. These are symbols for obsessional traits or repetitive and strictly organised systems. My videos put these images into a different context by transporting them from micro space into macro space. The sound of the launch of a NASA space shuttle connects ants with outer space. The noise of a copy machine brings the ant back into repetitive territory. There is tension and dichotomy between reiterations, the attempt to break predefined patterns, and a computer-generated voice trying to understand OCAL. A swimmer swims his monotonous rounds, his actions interspersed by images of microscopic ants. Cichlids, African freshwater fish, philosophise about future life.

The videos are part of the research process and help define Arctificial Territory. A few videos display images of hair and nails from people with OC traits. Other videos show ants that are scrutinised in electron microscopes and employ computer-generated (robotic) and human voices. Additionally, I have used copyright free and open source[8] sounds: the voices of mission control at a shuttle launch and machine noise. Superimpositions of identical but differently colourised images are a reference to repetition and the small difference in between repetitions, the nano-space of freedom.

These videos are comments, compositions, and atmospheric statements of a world inhabited by OCAL. They are poetic narratives. They are OCAL’s voice. They communicate and compete with each other and the audience.

By editing and copying the same images, superimposing them, colourising them as one frequently does with microscopic images, introducing complexities via voice-over, and breaking up narratives, I create various connotations that help to define the new space.

My videos are investigations into aspects of a new psychological space. They conceive and portray an artistic space that is Arctificial Territory. Several videos have the end title “video sketch” to demonstrate that they are part of the research process rather than research results.

Two of my videos deal with EXPORT’s approach to Arctificialism and how she intends to utilise the new -ism for herself.

As part of this PhD, these videos are shown on monitors and projection screens in the final exhibition, Arctificial Pandemonium. The installation is a celebration of Arctificial Territory. It also is a manifestation of OCAL’s voices, symbolic microscopic images, and my research process. The voices attempt to gain control over the newly formed space and try to establish their identities. Because they all want to speak at the same time, they fill the space with their chaotic voices yet are represented by structured images. The exhibition space creates chaos and is chaos. The audience can immerse in these frenzied expressions of OCAL trying to gain order. Observers can absorb the whole space as pandemonium or walk towards a single monitor or projection screen to find a moment of solace. In the middle of this chaos, one can here EXPORT’s voice announcing Arctificialism and talking about her exploitation of the new art movement.


Illustration 27: Video still, Gudrun Bielz, Rose and Ant: The Unified Video (2010)

Video No. 11, 3’02”

Gudrun Bielz, Rose and Ant: The Unified Video (2010). Video Sketch. Obsessional Productions

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

  1. AI Bots Confess, 2005, 1’07”.
  2. The Arctificial Obsessive-Compulsive Project: An Introduction, PhD lecture, 2007, 23’18”.
  3. Microscopic Gold, 2008, 2’52”.
  4. Obsessive-Compulsive Arctificial Fish Life: A Sub-species of OCAL, 2009, 2’54”.
  5. HAIR: Hair of a Person with OCD, 2010, 2’15”.
  6. An Obsessive Rose is an Obsessive Rose: Artificial Roses without Thorns, 2010, 1’12”.
  7. Nail of a Person with OCD: Artificial Nail of an OC Intelligence Unit, 2010, 1’21”.
  8. This Looks like OCAL: Collective Consciousness, 2010, 2’28”.
  9. “Antificial” Obsessive-Compulsive Intelligence: Intergalactic Intelligence, 2010, 49”.
  10. All the Unhappiness about this OCD Chip Arctic-sim City Stuff: AI Chip Conquering the Universe, 2010, 1’41”.
  11. Rose and Ant: The Unified Video, 2010, 3’02”.
  12. Arctificialism 1: VALIE EXPORT Advertises Arctificialism, 2015, 40”.
  13. Arctificialism 2: VALIE EXPORT Applies Arctificialism, 2015, 1’02”.


These videos are online at:

  1. AI Bots Confess utilises texts generated in conversations with AI bots as voice-over. The visual settings are a familiar environment with a TV monitor. The TV acts as a mirror, which we might fall into if we cannot stop watching. We are caught in a feedback loop of observing and being observed. The voices of AI bots display obsessively what is going on in chatbots’ minds. Their chaotic and erroneous speech patterns allow us to make sense of something that might appear meaningless. They let us explore what we can comprehend and construct of our own realities parallel to theirs. There are computer generated and human voices. AI bots talk in tongues, are immersed in a Babylonian confusion, and are interjected by the voice of a confused human who does not seem to know if she is human or simple AI.
  1. The Arctificial Obsessive-Compulsive Project: An Introduction gives an intermediate overview of my research. I presented this video lecture in the Department of Art at the University of Reading in 2007. Contextual settings and ideas for Arctificial Territory are articulated by a computer-generated voice-over.
  1. Microscopic Gold shows images of a person in repetitive movement, endlessly swimming his rounds. It looks like he is part of OCAL, but he is human. There are slight differences in the repetitive movements. There are microscopic images of ants edited in, drawing a connection between the human with his repetitive movements and ants as organisms of genetically encoded and organised group behaviour. The voice-over leads us into facets of Arctificial Territory.
  1. Obsessive-Compulsive Arctificial Fish Life: A Sub-species of OCAL. This is a video about cichlids in a fish tank. The fish have accompanied me throughout this research. I fed them, watched them give birth and die, and cleaned the tank. Cichlids are African fresh water fish. Both the male and female of this species take parental control of their young ones. They are described as intelligent fish. They might be relatives of OCAL, neither mammals nor machines but a different species. The evolutionary ecologist Ronald M. Coleman (2012) studies the breeding and paternal behaviours of cichlids and is interested in the sociology of trade-offs (in his own words “the processes of evolution that lead to the creation and resolution of tradeoffs in organismal morphology and behavior” [Coleman 2006]). My cichlids are confined to their habitat, a fish tank, and they fulfil the repetitive cycle of eating, breeding, and dying. In the video they philosophise about a future in Arctificial Territory (electronic voice-over). They certainly are precursors of OCAL.
  1. HAIR: Hair of a Person with OCD. “Hair” is in fact a feather. The visuals in this video simulate microscopic images of hair from a person with OCD. The audio is formed of: computer voices describing and creating an arctificial space, a person shouting “Hello, is there anybody there?”, and the voice of the researcher asking him to be quiet. It looks like the human is rather isolated and lost in this space populated by computer voices and microscopic images. In the end, only arctificial voices are left in an environment “with minus 60 degrees Celsius”, a place as cold as the Arctic.
  1. An Obsessive Rose is an Obsessive Rose: Artificial Roses without Thorns. This video is about the beauty of repetition. A rose is seen as a romantic symbol of beauty; and Gertrude Stein’s “A rose is a rose is a rose” is one of the most beautiful repetitive lines I have ever encountered. This is an ode to OCAL and the beauty of a poetic line. Gertrude Stein says, “When I said, A rose is a rose is a rose, and then later made that into a ring, I made poetry and what did I do I caressed completely caressed and addressed a noun” (Stein 1990, p.xiii). The digitised rose in this video is caressing the eyes of the audience. The eerie sounds remind us that there is a dissonance in beauty, a space in between that is disturbing and erroneous just like OCAL.
  1. Nail of a Person with OCD: Artificial Nail of an OC Intelligence Unit. The sound of planes taking off builds an arctificial sound space for the microscopic image of a fingernail from a person with OC traits. The nail is unique, but it does not possess OC traits. We assume that it belongs to a person with OCD because this is indicated in the title. The microscopic nail forms part of a landscape that leads us into Arctificial Territory.
  1. This Looks like OCAL: Collective Consciousness. This video is about the launch of obsessive-compulsive life. Ants are representatives or symbols for OCAL that is going to take off into space, into being. This is a metaphor about OCAL in the making.
  1. “Antificial” Obsessive-Compulsive Intelligence: Intergalactic Intelligence. There are sounds of a copy machine, a symbol for copying genes, for cloning and compulsive reproduction. Microscopic images of ants are looped into this process. This video demonstrates an imaginary feedback loop.
  1. All the Unhappiness about this OCD Chip Arctic-sim City Stuff: AI Chip Conquering the Universe. This work depicts a computer chip, an information carrier representing a city, a SimCity (simulated city, also in reference to the computer game) in juxtaposition to the sound of waves, the sea as a romantic symbol for nature. The chip seems to be part of a natural habitat. We enter a cityscape extracted from a computer. The images bear a resemblance to satellite area shots, amalgamating micro and macro space.
  1. Rose and Ant: The Unified Video. Two videos are joined, cut together to create new meaning. Underlined by unnerving sounds, the romantic rose of repetition and OCAL (metaphor: ants) are heading into universe, coming into existence; a hybrid is born.
  1. VALIE EXPORT Advertises Arctificialism. EXPORT presents her sculpture Scherentänzerinnen (Scissor Dancers) and announces the new movement, Arctificialism.
  1. VALIE EXPORT Applies Arctificialism. The artist explains how she travels into Arctificialism. She employs the new movement for her dream journey to the Arctic and the Antarctic.


Illustration 28: Video still, Gudrun Bielz, VALIE EXPORT Advertises Arctificialism (2015)

Video No 12, 40”

Gudrun Bielz, VALIE EXPORT Advertises Arctificialism (2015).


“The OCAL Manifesto” explains OCAL’s background and summarises who and what OCAL is, its history, and its way into the future. It is OCAL’s expression, and it is my creative text, hence part of the artwork.

Arctificial Territory relates to Manovich’s Duchamp-land and Turing-land. It is a new hybrid space. It is arctificial-land.

My artwork is arctificial. It is part of Arctificialism because it deals with rather cold, detached, and impassive computerised images and voices, but this is an illusion as my videos and texts create an emotional and multifaceted space. The works form and move within Arctificial Territory with its complexity and deceptive cold and controlling habitat. They also dissect this space, render it somehow moot and redefine its significance. They conquer this territory, show it for what it is, a place on the search for new meaning, a space full of fear, control, violence, indifference, and loneliness but also loss of control, chaos, tenderness, and compassion.

Exhibition and videos define and represent Arctificial Territory. They allow OCAL – via arctificial images, voices, and narratives – to fill this space but also to evacuate it and redefine it over and over again.

Arctificial Pandemonium relates to chaos and disarray. Arctificial voices emerge from different video sources. They want to be seen and heard. They want to gain control, but they lose control because other voices and images overthrow their messages. They form an emotional and chaotic space that yet is structured space. It is for the audience to follow the pandemonium or find solace with repetitive messages and OCAL’s attempts at controlling the exhibition space. Art, artist, and audience are all part of the same space, Arctificial Territory.

The artist EXPORT shows her affinity to Arctificialism. In a video she tells us that she will travel to the Arctic and Antarctic via this new movement. She leaves it open to interpretation if this journey is an artistic or an actual one. Nevertheless, her statement establishes her commitment to Arctificialism.


Illustration 29: Video still, Gudrun Bielz, VALIE EXPORT Applies Arctificialism (2015)

Video No. 13, 1’02”

Gudrun Bielz, VALIE EXPORT Applies Arctificialism (2015).



Table of Contents, Glossary, Introduction and Methodology, Contextual Scene, Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, Chapter 4, Chapter 5, Conclusion, APPENDIX A, APPENDIX B, Bibliography and Other Sources, Documentation of Exhibition




[1] Tellingly called so by the author Betty Alexandra Toole in Ada: The Enchantress of Numbers (Strawberry Press, 1998), (Cited in: Plant 1998, p.27). In the 19th century Ada Lovelace developed the first “computer programme” for Carl Babbage’s concept of an intelligent machine.

[2] Stone (also known as Sandy Stone) is an artist, theoretician, and professor at the University of Austin, Texas.

[3] Rosa Luxemburg was a Marxist theoretician and one of the leaders of the Spartacist Revolution in Germany in 1919.

[4] Hannah Arendt was a political theorist and philosopher, author of The Human Condition (1998).

[5] Silicon crystals are one of the key materials in electronics. They are used in the semiconductor industry.

[6] “Everyarct” as in everybody in Arctificial Territory.

[7] This manifesto was written in 2007 and adapted in 2014.

[8] Open source provides legally free and copyright free material like software, sounds, etc.




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