Ghost Factory

Title GHOST FACTORY: performative exhibition with humans and machines
Date 23-25 April, 2016

Curators Magda Tyżlik-Carver and Andrew Prior

Dark Sounds: Destructive Pop Conference, Falmouth University

Ghost Factory at Dark Sounds conference was a performative exhibition addressing the ambiguous character of participatory culture in digital and networked media. The audience was invited to experience divided appeal of technology in popular culture through Ghost Factory a performative installation of MaxMSP-based application Ghost Machine arranges people, machines, software, sound and text, in unknown combinations.

Pop music is defined as much by its mode of cultural consumption as it is by engrained musical qualities – its name refers not to a style, but a level of recognition: whatever is trending; a lightening quick flash in public consciousness before the dark creeps in. Here we propose a parallel production process, an audio-visual factory for the networked culture. If the economics of pop music have imploded with the likes of Spotify, it is because it conforms to the flows and conditions of disembodied information. Consumers and producers alike sit side by side in the digital factory.

What used to be called ‘artistic integrity’ and was traditionally confined to the creative powers of an artist genius is now arranged as a process, distributed and shared across human and non-human others. Creativity managed by technology is often considered to be a result of ‘empowering’ potential that technologies bring allowing masses to release their imagination. However it is also mundane and rigid, organising creativity through bureaucracy. This exhibition was an attempt to reveal many of the elements of such systems, the black, white and grey zones, the sleek machines and the DIY interfaces, the factory and playground of digital labour, and the cloud in which it is stored as a ghostly presence. We suggest that creativity is neither the exclusive realm of the artistic genius, nor encoded in prosumer software applications that over-determine our output. It is a ghost, a play of absence and presence woven into the factory as a playground. The posthuman character of contemporary pop is revealed in this exhibition as contingent gesture and a challenge. The exhibition produces ghosts that occupy forgotten depths of Internet. It creates zombies as the result of an experiment gone wrong. And it aims to open the posthuman experience to the willing participant. In any case, there is considerable doubt it will be of any use in this life or thereafter. Consider it a voluntary work experience.