Feeling Facts

Like certain courts and news outlets, Wikipedia rates the reliability of frequently used sources. Here are all of them, for your information, mapped according to some of the most popular cultural imagery for feeling facts. BITTER TRUTH = Generally reliable, UMAMI INDECISION = No consensus, SOUR SUSPICION = Generally unreliable, SWEET LIES = Deprecated, SALTY BLACKLIST = Blacklisted. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Reliable_sources/Perennial_sources

Higher than History

Public event and film, Gent, 2021. Produced by 019, stunt with FMX Forever, flag by Anthony Ngoya, texts by Lindah Leah Nyirenda and Harun Morrison, supported by SIGN Groningen, Young Friends of the S.M.A.K, Camuse, Citadel Park and the Flemish government.

For the figures in these statues, staying still is hard work.** These two naked white men were sculpted to hold a street light.** Electricity – power – was a symbol of socialism, ** and the sculptor, Julius-Pierre Van Biesbroeck made work for the socialist movement. ** When the sculpture was completed in 1902 Van Biesbroeck received a message:** A mistake had been made! A light post was infrastructure not art,** and was not eligible for the public funds for monuments.** Yet if it was holding a flag** he could be paid more than the regular cost of a lamp post.** Did the people behind the scenes conspire to replace a symbol of socialism with a symbol of colonialism. ** Julius-Pierre Van Biesbroeck was furious but said yes. ** He needed the money.** In 2009, the Standard Newspaper said the sculpture represented the planting of the Belgian flag in the Congo ** The two figures in this statue throw their weight in opposite directions.** If one of them were removed the statue might fly off sideways.** When we tell the next generation what the statue means maybe it’s better to lie?**

News

Elizabeth Costello

Here we find ourselves in the final chapter of J. M. Coetzee’s Elizabeth Costello, and the central character, Elizabeth Costello, is in something of a purgatory, an allegorical dreamworld she describes as irritatingly Kafkaesque, banal, administrative, self-referential, where to pass through a gate that leads to the next world to the next world, she must state her beliefs to a court and be judged. She can peek through to the other side of the gate, where it is luminous to a small extent, but in a disappointing and only sort-of-divine way, it may very well be just another world. There are many references in this chapter to the parable ‘Before the Law’ in Kafka’s novel the Trial, in which a man is kept waiting at the door of justice and continually told he can’t enter right now. And that a sequence of guards, each more fearsome than the last is guarding the rooms on the other side. The man, in Kafka’s parable, is told to wait, which he does until he is on his deathbed, when he sees the door being shut up and is told that the door was just for him and now it is being closed. So that’s the Kafka version, and in Coetzee’s version in order to pass through the gate the woman is interrogated by cartoonish Judges in a flimsy phantasm of a courtroom, again and again, and each time the Judges asking the same question. The judges want to know what her beliefs are, and she replies that she’s a writer and a writer can’t afford to entertain beliefs, just voices, and she goes on to explain why. These streams of contextual information and extenuating circumstances threaten the spell of the whole system. Of course to enter judgement, maybe even to participate in global modernity’s grand project at all, things have to fulfil certain conditions, conditions that she is umming furiously about.  “Not for the first time, she wonders how it is that everyone she meets speaks English. Or is she mistaken? Are these folk in fact speaking other languages, languages unfamiliar to her–Polish, Magyar, Wendish–and are their utterances being translated into English, instantaneously and by miraculous means, for her benefit? Or on the other hand is it a condition of existence in this place that all speak a common tongue, Esperanto for example, and are the sounds that issue from her own lips not, as she deludedly believes, English words but Esperanto words, just as the words the Kapo woman speaks are Esperanto, though the woman may believe they are Polish? She herself, Elizabeth Costello, has no recollection of ever having studied Esperanto, but she could be mistaken, as she has been mistaken about so many things. But why then are the waiters Italian? Or is what she thinks of as their Italian simply Esperanto with an Italian accent and Italian hand gestures?”

The Trial II

Antigone

This one represents the relations in the Greek myth of Antigone, ** a story that arises from the cracks in law.

Bubbles

Home Buyer Removing a Gargoyle

Weight

Athens Pamphlet

Museum Dreams

A news source reporting nightly from the Design Museum Gent

Speculative Facts Book

The Department of Speculative Facts connects two seemingly contradictory approaches: Speculation which attempts to think and act beyond existing knowledge and structures, and fact checkers in search for a solid consensus on which our reality can be built. When stretching knowledge and speculating with fiction, what sense of responsibility is needed in times of democratized opinions and fake news? Learning from the other SF—Science Fiction—we think of speculation through facts, and facts through speculation, to situate ‘truth’ culturally.

The backbone of this book is an e-mail exchange between two fact checkers from the New York Times Magazine, which we handed over to artists to re-write, re-perform, and re-design. The publication includes the original letters, workshop scripts, as well as additional texts by philosophers, journalists, writers, and artists looking at new social contracts, with which we can anchor ourselves in the present.

“A fact, at its base, is a kind of social contract.” ** Or so concluded one contemporary expert on facts—professional fact checker Alex Carp. ** Reviewing factual claims by journalists on a daily basis for The New York Times Magazine, ** he saw cracks in the once-held belief in facts, as an objective, rock-solid ground on which our political, scientific and social reality can be built. ** To tease out this alleged social nature of facts, we asked Carp and his colleague Jamie Fisher to discuss their profession, ** which took place via an e-mail exchange. ** Weren’t fact checkers supposed to be the rational answer to irrational times? ** What can we learn about the politics of facts when such apparent guardians of truth flirt with post-truth ideas? ** We observed that many artists and writers working with similar questions about the social nature of facts tend to a more speculative approach. ** By including contingency and the unknown, it becomes possible to construct alternative futures that are more emancipated than our current present. ** Yet as much as speculation is necessary for producing new political strategies and imaginaries, ** beyond Western-centrism and knowledge that suits the powerful, ** it also has the potential to erode even more trust in institutions, governments, and perhaps social life itself. ** The Department started out of the neologism ‘Speculative Facts’ ** to express our concern about this friction between two separate terms ** that seem both loaded and at times contradictory. ** We decided to think speculation through facts, and facts through speculation, by bringing them together in one concept. ** Firstly, we invited four (performance) artists to re-write, re-perform, and re-design the e-mail exchange between the two fact checkers. ** Triggered by the questions raised by their interventions, ** we continued by inviting writers, philosophers and artists to speculate on facts, to fact check speculations, ** and look at forms of agreement or facticity, ** with the idea of finding new types of ‘social contracts’ with which we can anchor ourselves. ** As a ground to work from, we proposed the following working definition of what a speculative fact could be: Speculative fact ** 1. A contract about proof with stakes in the futures it enables and the experiences it comes from. ** 2. A non-anthropocentric fact, allowing for complex stories and collective types of causalities. ** 3. The tension field between building trust, and stretching or questioning what is proved or taken to be true.

Silver Bullet

A series of performance-viewings where groups simultaneously watch and mimic the gestures of a protagonist in action films, shifting the attention from the action to reaction. Across multiple iterations of this performance we’ve gone into cold war thrillers, neo-realist dramas, fantasy and DW Griffith’s war reconstructions. A silver bullet, coming from the silver screen, is the only thing effective against werewolves, witches and other fairytale figures. Accompanying the work is a series of interviews with stunt people, and an essay on the ways DW Griffith created a racist and fearful collective imaginary.

https://youtu.be/dqpK4NkGRW4

Thatcher & I

I’ve been having discussions – perhaps you could call them arguments – with Margaret Thatcher impersonators, actors who played Margaret Thatcher in a number of plays and films. Some started out parodying Thatcher and after, for example buying a house, or leaving the arts to ‘join the real world’, discovering ‘a feminist icon’ became more ambivalent or event pro Thatcher.

These interviewees speak as themselves and as Thatcher, exploring the relation between synthetic and real memories (if there really is such a binary) in method acting, the magical ability of the arts to pre-imitate something into being. It’s a little like the story of St Genesius – the patron saint of actors, who after parodying Christians in anti-Christian satires converted on stage (before eventually being executed for these new found beliefs).

Relations between fiction and politics aside, perhaps most of all, these meetings with the Thatchers act like a kind of therapy session for me, allowing me to discuss, pass guilt onto, speak and argue with of a historical figure (or at least the non-sentient parts of one).

 

Medea Media

A drawing of media in the play Medea ** Leading to the following productions of the play: ** Sweatshop labourers make a poisonous coat ** Litigators' speeches in lawsuits ** against the makers of various Pocahontas adaptions ** and the actors' mothers have dinner **

The Owl

I am the owl** watching over the forest at night.** I keep seeing, hearing, maybe even repeating.** Sometimes I get so full of stories I think I might fall to earth.** A doctor lists every disease in the forest.** Lovers kiss.** One day I wish to compile a dictionary of kissing sounds and their meanings.** At night everyone starts reciting the news** As if they might forget where they are** A woman was fined after accidentally setting a swamp on fire while she was making maple syrup.** The Australian government announced that it has given up its goal of vaccinating the entire population by the end of the year, and that legislators, judges, and public servants will no longer be exempt from rules against sexual harassment in the workplace.** A militia watches over a campfire that must never go out, for some dark purpose.** Whoo will give me more news?** Whooooooo?** At night everyone begins to repeat the past** as if they might forget who they are** Weepy regrets and slogans of oneself.** I repeat lies as if they were eye tests.** Sometimes if I repeat enough I begin to feel an interior forming in myself.** My feathers get heavy enough to fall to earth** but I never do** I am the owl.**

Witness Map

An introduction to an argument

Memorials 1

What thoughts are set in motion by the expectation of death?

Emoji Library part 4

Often Fired Fortune Teller

The End

Here I am writing you a letter

Here I am, writing you a letter. ** Thank you for the flowers. ** The whole room is saturated with their fragrance; ** I hated so to leave them that I didn't go to bed. ** In this absurd room with its columns, its weapons and its stuffed owl, ** I feel at home. ** The warmth, the smell, the peace and quiet belong to me. ** I take them with me like a reflection in the mirror: ** When I leave, they leave. ** When I return, I look—and there they are. ** I can hardly believe that they live in the mirror only through me. ** Now I wish most of all that it were summer, ** that everything that has happened had not happened. ** That I were young and strong. ** Then, perhaps, of this cross between crocodile and child ** would remain only the child and I might be happy. (VS) **

Untitled

Plot Diagram

Koki

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Plots

They started when I was having memory problems while writing literary criticism , the drawings that map out relations and tensions between “characters”. These proposed frameworks for life are probably the crux of what I produce as a writer and director, and probably also what I produce trying to survive as an artist, playing politics between actors, technicians, institutions, individuals and their multifarious interests.

Yet when making abstract sets of relations between characters, which are derived from concrete lived situations, there is by no means a 1:1 relation. When drawing up a chart of who reports to who on an issue, scripting the plot between actors, or in it’s more profane form nominating a vague series of crushes a love triangle, you produce and abstract shape of relations that speculative theorists would call hyperstitions, or business consultants would call self fulfilling prophecies. These shapes have a magical effect as they move to and fro between lived situations and abstractions.

In this particular one I’m mapping the (ultimately fatal) tensioning of powers between characters in the novel by Stendhal, The Red and the Black, as well as the “characters” in an alleged sexual assault by a star academic, who also happened to be the most influential person in the making of these diagrams. This star academic, also the brother of one of my favourite filmmakers,  used modern computing to revive and rethink the project of literary formalism: A movement in Russia that looked at literary structures with mathematical clarity. But he was not cautious enough, I argue elsewhere, with the way he moved into and out of abstractions, and fell into a plot he was attempting to map in graphs, maps and trees.

“Plotting” often means giving tension to a tale by arranging events, ** after the fact. **In a secondary definition, **“plotting” characters make monstrous or at least sinister-vibed schemes, ** in advance of the action. ** Together plots are themes “warped with various situational motifs… ** placed in tension like yarns on a loom before the weaving begins.” ** Like in a love triangle, plots make shapes and structure relations. **Yet because they get their momentum from lack **(of money, love, evidence, et cetera), ** this does not end well. **This DNA of doom travels through time, **from place to place, where “labyrinths of linkages reemerge in the same old place, **after the disintegration of old ways of life.” **3 Plots are spells, with actualizing effects, **and must be handled with care—or else! ** What follows are some cautionary tales, **about stories and life plotting against each other…** On the right side of the diagram ** up the top is Mathilde de la Mole and Julien Sorel characters from Stendhal’s novel The Red and the Black (1830) ** Julien is the handsome son of a carpenter who after landing a job with the local Mayor ** (bottom right) ** he seduces with the deeply religious mother of the family, Madame de Rênal. ** the rumours mean he has to leave ** but through his new connections he goes on to work for powerful Marquis de la Mole. ** and seduces the Marquis’ daughter Mathilde, ** for his personal advancement ** when their marriage is about to go ahead ** a letter from Madame de Rênal arrives, **addressed to the Mathilde’s father the Marquis. ** It calls Julien Sorel opportunistic, ** and between the lines calls Julien back to his old lover. **

The Trial Film

“The Trial” is based on an interview using literary devices, with a woman from the International Criminal Court’s Investigation Division. Within the court’s structure, the investigator cannot control the way the research she produces will be read, which is done by a separate legal department acting within a jurisdiction that’s often an instrument of colonialism. The film consists of voice, subtitles and soundtrack, reconstructing memories and spaces, in the first person, present-tense, a movi-esque soundtrack added in post production. The memory of a professional observer, is stretched and a game emerges between speaking and editing in the realm of law and cinematic imagination. Viewers can enter a screening room with or without wireless headphones to experience the film differently.

Pickpocket

Inside the commerce of an art fair with its poverty (mostly artists) and wealth (mostly collectors) another exchange takes place: An unidentified pickpocket is hired to move through Art Rotterdam, taking visitors’ wallets. The wallets were taken to a redistribution desk, where small amounts of cash were redistributed according to an algorithm and estimated demographics. The wallets are of course returned with an Art Edition: A customised certificate of the secret exchange.  The work was a collaboration with Ilke Gers and a pickpocket who cant be named.

It is a little-known psychological rule that we can only concentrate on one thing at a time. ** The desultory pattern of our thoughts often gives us the illusion ** that we are cognisant of two distinct thoughts simultaneously, ** but it is simply not true. ** That is why the “accidental” collision perpetrated by the pickpocket goes almost unnoticed. ** Haven’t you experienced this “tunnel vision” at one time or another? ** Haven’t there been times when you are suddenly awakened ** from an almost dreamlike trance, ** to find yourself back in reality? ** This is the cover the pickpocket operates under. ** In Victorian England, pickpocketing was declared a capital offence, ** and it was hoped that public executions would dissuade young and hopeful pickpockets. ** Scotland Yard soon abandoned this initiative when the spectators at these events ** complained of missing wallets and watches. ** If the mark is allowed to naturally take their mind off their wallet ** – if only for a few seconds – ** they will be astonished to find themselves robbed ** without the slightest disturbance. **

Athens Chapter

Athens Biennale, 2018

A growing collection of interviews with Marxists ranging from academics to dentists, looking at death through Marxism/Materialism, and Marxism through Death. It began with an ad in the London Review of Books, asking readers who considered themselves Marxists and dying to get in touch for a film – not really knowing if I’d get a reply.

For the Athens Biennale I created an outdoor ad campaign for Dying Marxists, leading to a dinner that was documented by a journalist, and a publication and installation with the previous interviews and correspondence. I continue to run this group and make memorials.

The most beautiful way of dying you find in the history of Marxism ** is the love letter of André Gorz. ** So he writes a novel-ish little book about his love to his wife, Doreen, ** when he is 83 and she is 83, **she is seriously ill, so she’s a Dying Marxist, ** and they commit suicide together ** so that none of them has to live without the other, **and it’s quite a moving book. ** The idea of consciously publicly committing suicide ** and to also publicly signal or to make public one’s commitment to one’s own love ** is quite beautiful. The book was published a few weeks after.

London Chapter

Quenton Miller is an artist and writer who makes films, plays, events, sculptures, and publications that play with fiction, format and modes of address.
He has exhibited at the 6th Athens Biennale, the Stedelijk Museum Bureau Amsterdam, apexart, New York, 1646, the Hague, & West Space, Melbourne. His writing and work has been published, performed, shot or otherwise circulated by The Believer, Guernica, NOON, Archive Books, The Minus Times (Drag City), Channel 31, and he is a member of the Rotterdam-based Action Publishing Collective.
He studied at the Jan van Eyck Academy and the Dutch Art Institute.

Write to: quenton.miller(at)gmail.com