User Agent

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Curated by Rachel

Presented by the New York Performance Artists Collective

Judson Memorial Church
55 Washington Square South
New York, NY 10012

Featuring Tyler Coburn (with Susan Bennett), Ian Hatcher, Lanny Jordan Jackson, and Research Service (Avi Alpert, Mashinka Firunts, Danny Snelson)

Art in America
Art F City

User Agent
presents four performances that interrogate our relationship to devices, software, and technological apparatuses, often complicating their perceived cognitive faculties and capacity for agency through a sustained engagement with the language and codes of these technologies.

A user agent, in computing, is a software that acts on behalf of a user, in other words, a performer enacting a functional, operational task. Each of these four performances blur the boundaries of user and agent, subject and object, agency and automation, proposing new ways we might consider the technologies that shape communication, movement, and speech.

Tyler Coburn, NaturallySpeaking, 2013/2014
First live performance delivered by Susan Bennett, the original voice of Siri

NaturallySpeaking is an experimental essay performed live for the first time by Susan Bennett, the original voice of Siri, Apple’s speech recognition software. The essay retells famous stories of the births and afterlives of the voice: from Edison’s attempt to make his phonograph a device through which every sound in the history of the world again might be heard, to the robotic dogs and chatbots of early AI, and the scene in Rabelais’s Gargantua and Pantagruel, when the warming air thaws the frozen sounds of a past battle. As Bennett reads, a projected screensaver tracks the melting of an ice sculpture of Pantagruel’s ship.

NaturallySpeaking was commissioned for the publication You Are Here: Art After the Internet (Cornerhouse Books, 2014) and presented in 2014 as an installation in the exhibition “La Voix Humaine” at Kunstverein Munich. It has screened as a single-channel video with voiceover by Susan Bennett, the original voice of Apple’s Siri, in “Art Post-Internet” at the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing.

Ian Hatcher, Drone Pilot v0.2, 2015
In Ian Hatcher’s Drone Pilot v0.2, a seemingly endless flow of software-driven text flickers and streams rapidly across a screen, expanding and contracting from the smallest word particle to a multi-word column. Hatcher performs at astonishing speed a reading of this text, even as it is occasionally interrupted — silenced — when the screen goes dark.

Lanny Jordan Jackson, Young Blood, 2014/2015

Lanny Jordan Jackson will present a new work titled Young Blood (2015): an elliptical and provisional monologue via microphone and projector, helmet and shield, assessing the remains of a failed film project.

Research Service, Systems Say What Words Cannot, 2015

In this performance-lecture, the three members of Research Service (Avi Alpert, Mashinka Firunts, and Danny Snelson) each deliver a brief statement on the relationship between automation and embodiment. Three virtual avatars choreograph their movements as they speak. Their instructions lead to variations on each lecture. This event commemorates the passing of Eugene Goostman.


Tyler Coburn is an artist and writer based in New York. Coburn's writing has appeared in frieze, e-flux journal, Mousse, Art-Agenda and Rhizome, among others. His performances, sound works and installations have been presented at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; South London Gallery; Kunstverein Munich; CCA Glasgow; Objectif Exhibitions, Antwerp; CAC Vilnius; LAXART, Los Angeles; and SculptureCenter, New York.

Ian Hatcher is a text/sound/code artist whose work explores tensions between digital control structures and the body. Three books are forthcoming in 2015: Prosthesis (full-length poetry, Poor Claudia), The All-New (chapbook, Anomalous), and, with Amaranth Borsuk & Kate Durbin, Abra (artist's book/iOS app, Center for Book and Paper Arts). He has performed his work at a wide array of venues, including The Kitchen in NY and the Bibliothèque nationale in Paris. Recent projects include two collaborations with Stephanie Strickland: Vniverse (iPad app) and House of Trust (generative poem). See also

Lanny Jordan Jackson is a filmmaker, writer, artist, and performer living in New York. He is the author of the chapbooks VILLI (2010), Dear Swimmer (2011), the films Triple Shark Cerberus (2013), Scorpio vs. Glass Door Restaurant (2014), Tonight Will Be The End Of Meaning (2014) in collaboration with Corina Copp, and a slew of short performative pieces. He has shown and presented work in solo and group settings at The Poetry Project, Home Alone 2 Gallery, MoMA, and the Akademie der Künste, among other venues.

Research Service is the collaborative endeavor of Avi Alpert, Mashinka Firunts, and Danny Snelson. Our projects propose that scholarship is as much a question of aesthetic inquiry as abstract thought. To these ends, we craft unique research initiatives around discrete subjects, on assignment. This practice stresses the communal nature of knowledge production, positioning audiences as nodes within events and creating a heightened affective situation for shared conceptual labor. Recent projects have been presented at the Palais de Tokyo (Paris), Lisa Cooley Gallery (New York), Drawing Center (New York), the Institute of Contemporary Art (Philadelphia), and in the New Museum VOICE Registers Series. 

Avi Alpert received his PhD in Comparative Literature from the University of Pennsylvania in 2014. For 2014-2016, he will be a Mellon Postdoctoral Associate in the Department of English and Center for Cultural Analysis at Rutgers University. He is currently at work on a book project with the working title Unbearable Identities: Essaying the Globe from Montaigne to Suzuki. He was previously in the Critical Studies section of the Whitney Museum’s Independent Study Program, and a Sauvé Scholar at McGill University. His articles are published or forthcoming in diacritics, Early American Literature, J19, Third Text, Twentieth Century Literature, and Postcolonial Studies.

Danny Snelson is a writer, editor, and archivist. His online editorial work can be found on UbuWeb, PennSound, Eclipse, and Jacket2. His dissertation, "Variable Format: Media Poetics and the Little Database," examines the digital objects that circulate art and literature online. He is the publisher of Edit Publications and runs the Edit Series at the Kelly Writers House in Philadelphia. In 2014, he served as exhibition co-ordinator for “Poetry Will Be Made By All!” with 89plus/LUMA Foundation, where he continues to work as series editor of the 1000 Books by 1000 Poets series. Recent works include Epic Lyric Poem (Troll Thread, 2015), Radios (Make Now Press, 2015), and Inventory Arousal with James Hoff (Bedford Press/Architectual Association, 2011). See also

Mashinka Firunts is a writer, artist, and Ph.D. candidate in the History of Art at the University of Pennsylvania. Her current research focuses on the politics and history of the lecture-performance, from experiments by the interwar avant-gardes to contemporary iterations generated for digital distribution. Her book, Radio Armenia, is forthcoming from Make Now Press. Recent collaborative and individual projects have been featured at the Palais de Tokyo, Drawing Center, LUMA Foundation, the ICA Philadelphia, and in the New Museum VOICE Registers Series. See also

Special thanks to Susan Bennett, Zachary Mosely, Micah Bucey, Judson Memorial Church, Ryan Mueller, Ruth Somalo, Bart van der Heide, Saim Demircan, Robin Peckham, Karen Archey, Omar Kholeif, Rick Hinkle, Matt Nasser, La MaMa, Chris Wegman, and Ben Rodriguez-Cubeñas. NaturallySpeaking is supported by a Foundation for Contemporary Arts Emergency Grant.