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Lara Joy Evans: 'Now the artist should be in the depths of the mud'

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Natalya Serkova: What I am particularly interested in with respect to your work, amongst other things, is the almost intimate, very personal relationship that you have with earth, or rather, mud. You wallow and move in it, completely covering your whole body and your face with this substance. It brings to mind the works of Anna Mendieta. However, the difference between her work and yours is very significant. Mendieta, who actively positioned herself within the feminist discourse of her time, eventually adopted a rather more passive attitude towards the earth. In a sense, she sought to merge with it, to become absorbed by it, to leave a trace, all kinds of indents of her frozen body on its surface, of the body rather dead than alive. Engulfing the artist, the mud lulled and pacified her, until she was rendered completely immobile. In your case the situation is reversed: the mud seems to activate you, to transform you from a human being into some kind of rabid homunculus, a golem with no clear purpose to its movements. What/who is that creature that mud turns you into? What does the mud add to you and what is the meaning and function of this substance for you?

Lara Joy Evans: Unlike Mendieta’s work, for me there is no morality or ethics to the mud, there is only the chemical interaction and reaction. A rabid primal urge, basic mechanisms, some kind of base to my being, feedback loops of complex automated responses, an unpredictable formula, a chemical reaction of a mixture of materials that have always been there, existing, some time before having lain dormant. As the preexisting mixture enters a new environment or possibly one of an ancient past it has long not seen, it becomes mixed, stirred, combined, heated, reheated. This is just a process of alchemy, a transmutation of materials, one species becoming the next, a transition into a new evolutionary stage.

You may see a female form in the mud, but this is not a feminist claim or any type of claim of righteousness, it is only the base tool I have to interact with my environment. The amoral mud cannot declare any type of principles, it is just the coming together of water and soil, with various outcomes depending on factors in the environment of the mud and the genes of the mud, it can be moist and soft or hardened over geological time, like you mentioned the homunculus or golem in ancient alchemical folklore, a human-like spine calcifying out of the malleable.

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Vitaly Bezpalov: You are saying that there is no morality and ethics to the mud, and this brings me to the idea that mud can be considered a technology. For example, modern weapons such as invisible bombers or drones, whose operators are sealed deep in the depths of secret military bases, seem to be such a form of exclusion and camouflage that exists somewhere outside the simple old-fashioned ethics "we stand for all things good and fight against all things bad”. What do you think, in turn, is hiding behind the mud? What can the activity of the artist-operator conceal, with no more ethics left to speak of?

Deep in the mud, from its core code, this machine reveals itself in various forms. At times, it was like I was looking in the mirror, staring back at myself. At other times it looked like it was taking the form of a body of a worker ant, but I could be wrong. Dedicated to the hive, the population of proletariat ants remains faithful to the next generation, yet they are unable to reproduce off-springs of their own. It appears the ants have free will, but who am I to claim a reality of a free agent or one of advanced computational responses? But these aspects of the operators concealed in the depths of the dark putrid mud I speak of are besides the point in telling this specific part of the story about these programs.

In the mud, there are no angles, ledges, or edges to grab onto, yet my form is completely enveloped. The water is murky, both sides of the argument appear valid, I cannot see, and unlike when I am above the mud, I do not pick a side. There inside lies what Rudy Rucker calls an “uncollapsable mixed state”, a production of simultaneous truths-and-falsehoods, “yes’s-and-no’s”. After uprooting myself yet again from my colony, a few months of extensive research in paradoxical thought, and attempts at showing the validity of both the “yes” and the “no” of situations or seemingly contradictory belief systems, I found myself not only split with coupling effects when bringing the mud above the ground and away from the swamp or the pit. Stumbling towards this split, I was in a similar position to Rucker, along with many others dealing with what conventional normative paranoids deemed to be mental gurus would diagnose as “schizophrenic tendencies”. Rucker worked with another physicist, Ion Stepanek, at the Physics Institute of the University of Heidelberg on a project titled “Mixed states as Bridges Between Parallel Universes”. He describes his six week mental institution vacation and vocation as follows: “It had been folly to shift my fellows over so abruptly from one belief system to another. I had neglected the bridge, the mixed state”.

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NS: You state that the mud is able to program the one who gets into it. At the same time, the mud is a region of constant entropy and mobility, it becomes the substance that glues together what we are already accustomed to and what we will soon have to get used to. I am going to say something that many people might find absurd, but I really like the times we live in. This is a period of transition and there is an urgent need to search for bridges between hardened and cracking conventional forms and something that, like mud itself, cannot be captured because of its constantly changing appearance, and yet is already able to program us for certain actions. These actions, in turn, may themselves seem absurd for those who still walk in the white clean clothes of yesterday, unlike those who are ready to get enveloped by the incomprehensible substances. Whether such substance is mud, shit or honey, becomes secondary. How do you imagine the future, when this technological entropy of the mud finds stable forms of some sort, and when the contradiction between equally valid “yes” and “no” is removed in favor of a new system of truth detection?

LJE: My father raised me with attempts at filtering out all means of possible tribal programming. No music, no TV, no team sports. Yet, the Gregorian chants of the hive crept into my larval stages even with constant childhood isolation. For example, in experiments I conducted using songbirds and an environment of complete starting-from-birth isolation from their parents, the birds were not taught songs. It took each collective four generations to redevelop a harmonious tune from a squawking shrill. The human based equivalent experiment produced the same results. The mud I forgot I was still sitting in was running its programs like usual, but several attempts at deciphering its language, only provided me with long scrolls of words that were, for the most part, incomprehensible and interpretable only as mad.

My programming language has been changing, and I have to tell you, I like the times we are in, too. With a new system of truth detection and a simultaneous ushering in of the second coming of the ethics and ideology of the Maybe, a yet-to-be-seen material has begun calcification. This calcification has led to difficulties in my abilities in compressing schizophrenic tendrils, which makes me think these schizoid splits and bifurcations have some kind of evolutionary purpose. What that is I do not know just yet, but possibilities of AI and neural network aided compression could provide ground for further processes of abstraction and alterations of communication and its conditioning techniques. You mentioned the white clean clothes of yesterday, which makes me think of Nicolai Gogol and his statement in 1842, that “the artist should be wearing white because the world is muddy”. (This 19th century part-time Russian writer and full-time dramatist believed heavily in the prophetic figure of the artist. His vow for the artist to induce de-muddification came around the onset of the industrial revolution and the first known clinical diagnosis of schizophrenia. The first schizoid appeared three years after his declared quest for clean clothes.) But as cyclical change is inevitable and this intense brightness, from above, that the termite colony pursuits to ascend to, in a mound of hardened dirt and dung and spit, has only made shotty attempts at revealing its crevices. Now the artist should be in the depths of the mud.

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VB: You are speaking about a termite colony, but as we all know it, termites do not have their own mind and an ability to will. In fact, they constitute a network structure, a natural Internet, in which everyone is connected to and dissolves into a certain collective consciousness. They can go and die for their colony by order of the central computer. As Carl Schmitt stated, every philosopher must determine the character of the future war, and nothing else really matters. Be it server valleys in California or data centers in India, it is not entirely clear who or what is that brain that gives orders and distributes the content of the collective consciousness among the people connected to the network. How would you define this "character of the future war" in the context of AI development, reconnection and reassembling of human hives and total production of content within networks?

The earliest recorded episode of the psychotic break occurred in the Cro-Magnon patient, who quickly after also made it their ontological quest to understand. These attempts lead to further long-drawn-out changes in the patient’s skull formation and intestine length. I speculate that the first of these psychotic episodes came much earlier than what was previously claimed, but the schizoid was apparently nowhere to be seen during the melancholy of the Elizabethan age, possibly an answer given by Foucault: at the time, the delusion that occurs on the exterior of the schizophrenic already was in a state of un-division. 

I remain hesitant to reveal everything because of possibilities of being deemed mad again, but it has been almost three years now since the particular episode I would like to reveal to you. Along with others, it has always been the most savagely free I have ever felt, but I cannot claim free will on behalf of the termite or that the parameters of the termite’s life have already been pre-programmed. This chaotic system, the termite, remained predictable for a while before it started to appear random. I continue to stay partly sane because of my pseudo-skepticism, and knowing characters like Deleuze fap away at schizo concepts only from afar. (neither Félix Guattari nor Gilles Deleuze have ever experienced a psychotic break, yet have coined terms and practices based on premises of the schizoid; schizoanalysis. It is believed  that Deleuze had phobic tendencies to the deranged: “I discuss psychosis and madness, but I do not know anything about it from the inside”.)

This particular hallucination ran a narrative of a near-future where the main mode of communication was a type of telepathy that was heavily dosed in facebook-esque design. The unfiltered state of this brain-to-brain or brain-to-computer communication revealed great insight into the character of this future war. (It is common that tech based narratives intervene into the schizoid vision of the mud, the termite colony, and the termite.) Without knowing at the time, I later found out Zuckerberg and Musk both began investing heavily into research on neuro-imaging technologies, neuralink, neural network, and electrophysiological data. Their research quests synchronized to when this delusional narrative began to set it. These self-anointed architects of future communication tech also test heavily on songbirds, claiming that there is no doubt that these are a “non-invasive neuroimaging technologies” and that these “realistic and immersive haptic techniques” will provide new ground for further mud mound development and re-circuiting of the termite colony. These hallucinations in 2015 revealed not only the terrain of its warfare tactics, but the difficulties that arise in adaptation to it. If an unfiltered mind is one that could be categorized as insane, this future where the main mode of communication is through brain-computer interfaces could be one further in some kind of state of incomprehensible madness.

Lara Joy Evans

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