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Virulence in the Virtual

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Virulent power dynamics manifest in games specifically designed to simulate rape, as well as games that have been modified to include it 

IN December 1993, Julian Dibbell published a groundbreaking article in the Village Voice, entitled, “A Rape in Cyberspace.” The first extensively printed account of virtual rape, Dibbell’s article describes the attempts of LambdaMOO, a text-based online community, to process and adjudicate the in-game rape of two of its players, legba and Starsinger. The culprit was an avatar named Mr. Bungle, self-described as “a fat, oleaginous, Bisquick-faced clown dressed in cum-stained harlequin garb and girdled with a mistletoe-and-hemlock belt whose buckle bore the quaint inscription “KISS ME UNDER THIS, BITCH!” (Dibbell). Mr. Bungle used a voodoo doll subprogram to control his two victims like puppets, forcing them into unwanted sexual encounters with other players and acts of self-violation and self-mutilation. Although this crime occurred in a virtual space, its traumatic repercussions extended into the private emotional lives of those involved, revealing the impossibility of drawing a clear line between real life and “virtual reality”. As Dibbell writes, the “meaning lies always in that gap” (Dibbell).

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Do No Harm

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When mental health professionals systemically misdiagnose patients of color, treatment looks more like punishment

I first bought pale blue note paper because that’s the kind Franny Glass used before she had her breakdown, and then, because the pale blue sheets were pulpy, notebooks, small notebooks, multiple notebooks, one in each bag. What ends up working best is a sheet of paper. You landscape-orient it and draw four lines down to create five columns. The first column you title Trigger and the last Evidence to the Contrary. This is called an intrusive thought chart, a cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) technique for people with obsessive-compulsive disorder that leans towards the O end of OCD. There are three other columns in between the thing that made your heart (what a guy) outdo itself beating (“trigger”), and the last step, where your frontal lobe has become engaged enough to help you embrace the mathematical probability of your fears coming true (“evidence to the contrary”), and if you don’t know what those columns are, you cannot ever truly understand. That is okay.

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The Irrelevant and the Contemporary

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Those who are truly contemporary, who truly belong to their time, are those who neither perfectly coincide with it nor adjust themselves to its demands. They are thus in this sense irrelevant. But precisely because of this condition, precisely through this disconnection and this anachronism, they are more capable than others of perceiving and grasping their own time.


—Giorgio Agamben,
from “What is the Contemporary”

Why is poetry #trending in contemporary art? 

POETRY is having a moment. Pasted on walls, crammed into press releases, and crawling across your screen, the word poetry seems to be everywhere lately. At MOCA and MoMA, at the New Museum and the Whitney, in commercial galleries, performance spaces, and underground venues you’re likely to find grand invocations of a literary form few people actually read. The combination is a strange one. The art world is restless and poetry slow; the art world is rich and poetry laughably poor; there must be a catch. In these contemporary art spaces, poetry has appeared in many guises: as object, installation, conceptual exercise, artist book, press release, digital experience, performance, and inter-relational happening. Yet, if you relied on press releases and wall text alone, it would seem as if each show’s version of poetic art or artsy poesy were new and groundbreaking, when in truth, most contemporary artists and curators have been recycling the same material.

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Hanford Idyll

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At Hanford Nuclear Reservation, wildlife is imagined as thriving, and violent state policy is extended into an indefinitely long future

 

THE Internet of 2016 plays host to an eye-catching subgenre of general interest articles that breathlessly describe the lives of wild animals at sites of nuclear catastrophe. In the fevered language of headlines, they imagine for the reader the post-human life of the contaminated space, where Fukushima’s wild boars and Chernobyl’s wolves have managed to acclimate to landscapes considered totally unfit for human life.

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Addicted to Failure

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Neoliberalism foists on career-minded millennials a self-relation which resembles that of alcoholics in the throes of addiction

 

A friend of mine is in a program now, and she’s doing much better. Underearners Anonymous (UA), a 12-step program founded in New York City in 2006, is a program for people who have trouble pursuing their personal “vision,” a term which appears seven times in the brief “About UA” pamphlet. In one sense, “underearning” is simply what its name implies: an “inability to provide for one’s needs.” But it’s not just about earning a higher salary. It is also about “underachieving, or under-being, no matter how much money we make.” Underearners cannot bring themselves to do exactly that which is meaningful for them. Often self-employed, they fail to charge enough for their services, or they give them away for free. They also take on debt, hoard, and waste time. These symptoms converge in a profile of typical UA candidates: freelancers who are called upon to play the role of both manager and employee and fail at both. And they fail precisely because, as much as they’d like to take an entrepreneurial approach to their careers, they fear the very the market they must venture into in order to do so.

Patterned after Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), the original 12-step program, UA may be thought of as a protocol for personal change. My aforementioned underearning friend has shelves that are lined with self-help books on everything from intimacy and closing sales to workspace organization, personal finances, and proper eating. She has read about how to meditate, learn to let go, care for herself, be present as well as brave, manage her time, and unleash her creativity. Yet the endless proliferation of the self-help field, with its books, workshops, therapists, groups, and programs, is evidence that its object is something essentially intractable. “These are the ways I’ve tried and failed to manage my life,” my friend says to me. Her bookshelf of dusty self-help books is proof that even the most eager of self-helping selves isn’t fully under its own control.

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