– Spring/Summer 2016

The New Gods in the Machine: Holly Herndon’s Vehicularity

Travis Jeppesen

Previous spread: Holly Herndon, Home, 2014, video directed and designed by Metahaven, colour, sound, 6min, still. All images courtesy the artist, RVNG Intl. and 4AD

The object – in its autonomy, its detachment from a larger system – has been a philosophical fetish item in recent times, whereas earlier, it was the nature of the system – its peregrinations, its sinister machinations – that held us captive. Arguably, not much has changed except for the directional flow of the analysis: many artists and thinkers retain the concern with the omniscient ‘outer’ frame and its embeddedness in our lives. But with technology playing a bigger role than ever before in mediating our quotidian transactions and affections, a bottom-up analysis has come to the fore: simultaneously considering the object qua object and (consequently) as a means through which to critique its relations, or the systems to which it contributes.

The point of such critique is, naturally, to catalyse some change in the structural flows of such systems. But is critique enough? Does it necessarily act as a catalyst in an era when, owing to technology’s omniscience and the so-called global forum, everyone has a voice; when, now more than ever before, the old adage ‘Opinions are like assholes...’ rings accurate? Indeed, under such conditions, critique often seems like little more than necessary filler.

A third, activist

  1. Holly Herndon, talk at ‘Red Bull Music Academy: Tokyo 2014’, 15 October 2014, available online at https://vimeo.com/114197599 (last accessed on 1 December 2015).

  2. Ibid.

  3. See Suhail Malik, On the Necessity of Art’s Exit from Contemporary Art, Falmouth: Urbanomic, 2016.

  4. H. Herndon, talk at Red Bull Music Academy, op. cit.

  5. Documentation of the performance at Stanford Memorial Church on 3 October 2012 is available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ya0yVsfVSX4 (last accessed on 1 December 2015).

  6. Documentation available at https://vimeo.com/10858247 (last accessed on 1 December 2015).

  7. See, for example, Ceci Moss, ‘Continuous Partial Listening: Holly Herndon in Conversation’, Rhizome, 22 January 2014, available at http://rhizome.org/editorial/2014/jan/22/holly-herndon/ (last accessed on 1 December 2015).

  8. Donna Haraway, ‘A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century’, Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature, London: Routledge, 1991, p.152.

  9. Akihiko Taniguchi, quoted in Ruth Saxelby, ‘10 Radical Ideas that Inspired Holly Herndon’s Platform, Fader, 21 May 2015, available at http://www.thefader.com/2015/05/21/radical-ideas-that-inspired-holly-herndon-platform (last accessed on 1 December 2015).