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24 Hour Count – by Mark Amerika and DJRABBI

Commissioned by the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, 24 Hour Count was developed to create a “multimedia blog band” whose members (Mark Amerika in collaboration with Rick Silva and Nathaniel Wojtalik) were distributed in three locations: Sydney, Boulder, and Scottsdale. The three band members contributed their “source material” to a common server for a one-time performance that took place over a 24-hour period in realtime from each of our respective locations across international time zones.

The performance attempted to re-tell (remix) within the 24-hour timeframe, the story narrated in 19th century proto-surrealist Count Lautréamont’s “Songs of Maldoror,” a major literary work that has itself been historically documented as a remixed or collaged rewriting of various cultural source material from his own time. Once the 24 Hour Count Internet performance ended, the website remained as a living archive documenting the event and was available for the duration of the exhibition.

In creating the live, distributed performance artwork, the artists used a variety of media including the Internet, mobile phones, digital video and photo cameras, mini-disk recorders, musical instruments, and many computer software programs. These media were then employed to improvisationally remix, interpret, and/or respond to current events while filtering their “digital readings” through the prism of Count Lautréamont’s “classic French 19th century text.

Of special interest to Amerika was the fact that the Surrealists adopted Lautréamont as the progenitor of their own significant 20th century movement. André Breton wrote that Maldoror is “the expression of a revelation so complete it seems to exceed human potential.” Little is known about Lautréamont aside from his real name (Isidore Ducasse), birth in Uruguay (1846), and early death in Paris (1870). It has been said that “Lautréamont’s writings bewildered his contemporaries but the Surrealists modeled their efforts after his lawless black humor and poetic leaps of logic,” exemplified by the oft-quoted slogan, “As beautiful as the chance meeting on a dissecting-table of a sewing-machine and an umbrella!” which has also been used as an album title by the underground UK band Nurse With Wound. Rumor has it that Maldoror’s shocked first publisher refused to bind the sheets of the original edition, all of which played right into the temporal experiments of this 21st century remix since all of the live data transmission took place over the net and contained links to whatever current events were developing during the duration of the performance.

The original work’s prefatory warning, that “[o]nly the few may relish this bitter fruit without danger,” set the tone for the texts, images, and sounds that the 24 Hour Count performance delivered. Processing all of their collectively accumulated creative data through a customized “Lautreamont Filter” that they created as a procedural composition device, the artists turned to “psychic automatism” and, eventually, sleep deprivation, to summon the spirit of Lautreamont as he himself unconditionally released his darkest data on to the empty white page. In this instance, the blank white page transformed into an electronic canvas, aka The 24 Hour Count blog website.

Tapping into the pure, psychic automatism of the collective unconscious as manifested over the World Wide Web at any given moment in time, the artists proposed to express, via spontaneous writing, video and still image manipulation, sound experimentation, and customized programming codes, the associative maneuverings of the mind as it engages with our contemporary “new media condition”. Impishly engaging with the latest multi-media mobile phone messaging systems of early 2006 enabled the artists to create their content wherever they happened to be located in the world. Along the way, the artists self-consciously attempted to capture a collaboratively-generated thought process modeled after the biting yet lyrical voice of the Count, one that playfully relished in maintaining its outsider status before all aesthetic preoccupation.

The distributed multi-media blog performance took place online and the artists were located in three different regions: Sydney, Australia, Boulder, Colorado, and Scottsdale, Arizona. For 24 hours straight, the three distributed artists remixed the same blogging website as the virtual location for their ongoing multi-media jam session. The performance coincided with the opening of the SOUTHWEST.net:Techno show at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Arand a living archive of the multi-media blog site itself remained online both in the gallery and on the web throughout the duration of the exhibition. Once the exhibition ended, the artist’s decided that the site would no longer be publicly accessible.

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