"Perception requires engagement":
Banner from the Venice Biennale. You bet.
You may have heard vague tales of Ktahmet/Remember
, my very first
novel, written way back in the XXth Century, before The Present existed.
Finally, after years of waffling, I'm putting it online, a chapter at a time --
but, because I'm slightly demented, I'm putting the chapters online in
no particular order. There's actually a method to it, and you'll find a much more
complete explanation here.
Bloomington: Post-Posttranssexual: Transgender Studies
This event was the ride of my life -- celebrating, as it did, the
twentieth anniversary of the publication of The Empire
Strikes Back: a Posttranssexual Manifesto
, which some academic folks
claim is s founding document for the field of Transgender
Studies. Susan Stryker and the University of Indiana at Bloomington
set out to prove it by holding a conference dedicated to honoring that
work and the work of all scholars who put their asses on the line,
figuratively and literally, to create this new and still controversial
discipline. They were kind enough to invite me and Kate Bornstein as
guests of honor, and, believe me, an honor it was.
But besides the
wonderful conference, we were treated to a special tour of the amazing
Kinsey Institute, and Kate was invited to sign their archive copy of her book
Gender Outlaw (in the pic to the right). The Kinsey Institute is jaw-droppingly
amazing...their archives include the world's most extensive collection
of erotic art, dating back to the sixteenth century. Here's a shot of six
of us in the Kinsey office: Kate, Hans Scheirl, me, and I'm still trying to
sort out everyone else: help me out, folks, drop me a line with names.
Not to make light of any of this...fact is, during the panel discussion
Susan asked me to read the concluding paragraph of the Posttranssexual
Manifesto to the audience. I got a few sentences in, and discovered I was
crying. It's been a long road. We're not near the end yet, but we're all
clearly on our way. And that, as Gandalf says, is a reassuring thought.
Madrid: Technologies of the Body
The Fourth International Workshop on Technologies of the Body
will roll into Madrid from December 17 through the 23rd. Directed by
Jaime del Val, the week-long series of intense workshops and
performances features Stelarc, Daniel Schorno, Donald Glowinski,
Rudolfo Quintas and Andre goncalves, Roberta Bosco, Laura Canete, Juan
Carlos Olmos, and of course Yours Sincerely, doing something
unsettling concerning "dissonances of gender". This year's theme is
Frontier Bodies: Aesthetics and Politics in
This, Bilbo said, taking the pipe from his
mouth and smiling up at Gandalf, will be a night to remember. There
are still a few registration slots available, so hurry over here
and sign up now.
Neovagina Monologues at the Vortex
We mounted The Neovagina Monologues,
a brand-new version, at
the Vortex Theatre right here in Austin from November 29 to December
2. This performance, produced with the wonderful help of Producing
Artistic Director Bonnie Collum, was from my perspective the definitive
show, and the packed house seemed to agree. The
original was in three parts, Gender of Choice, Sexual Hoo Hah,
and Languages of Women.
each seventy-eight minutes long and
meant to run on three successive nights. For the Vortex show, we
edited and combined all three parts into one much tighter evening,
consisting of two one-hour parts and a fifteen-minute intermission.
The show was inspired by Eve Ensler's The Vagina Monologues,
which started life as a one-person performance from a finished script;
and by the late Spalding Gray, who sat at a table and
improvised full-evening performances out of his notebook. There's
more information about the Vortex here,
and more info about the performance in general
I was thrilled when the Vortex's own Chad Salvata agreed to write and
produce an original musical score and sound design for this production.
With Jessica Cohen's inspired lighting design and terrific support
from stage manager Tamara Farley and lightboard operator James Plata,
I was in the best of hands.
Since the show was right here in Austin, we had the luxury of weeks
of preparation and nearly a week of rehearsal, during which we
tweaked the script extensively. The result of all that effort
on everyone's part was right up there on the stage. Plus, we were
finally able to get good four-camera video coverage (plus over a
thousand high-quality stills) on three of the four
nights, so there will definitely be a DVD down the line...at least,
after as long as it takes to review and edit thirty-eight hours of
footage into a single two-hour performance video.
It's an interesting new world we live in, and all too frequently
not everyone appreciates the changes, or understands how to move
gracefully with them. This is particularly true of monster cartels
like the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and the
Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA).
Some time ago, there was a flap concerning encryption systems the
MPAA uses to cripple DVDs and HD DVDs in order to prevent the
purchaser (you) from exercising certain rights. These include such
heinous crimes as fair use, backup copies, copying a DVD to the
hard drive of a home entertainment system, and so forth.
Big cartels tend to be slow learners, because, in their experience,
what they can't buy with money they can coerce with thuggery.
One of the many things big cartels refuse to understand is that
Digital Rights Management, or DRM, is a zero-sum game. So it wasn't
long before clever people figured out the key to the encryption code,
which is a single number, and posted it on their blogs.
Amazingly, the MPAA then asserted that they owned the number,
that posting it violated copyright, and that the MPAA would sue
anyone who printed it. (For history buffs, that number, in
hexadecimal format, is 09F911029D74E35BD84156C5635688C0.)
Copyrighting a single number is analogous to copyrighting a single
letter of the alphabet. The idea that copyright law - already in
serious disarray - could be further twisted by an abusive cartel
laying claim to a single number raised the ire of a good many citizens,
with the result that within a short time the number appeared on
hundreds of thousands of web sites all over the world. At first the
MPAA tried to kill each site by trolling for the number and demanding
that it be removed. Angry citizens responded by embedding the number
in images - like the cute li'l gebril above - making it invisible to
text searches. Shortly the number was everywhere -- on T-shirts, in
poetry and song lyrics, bumper stickers, graffiti, even tattoos. To
me, this merely demonstrates the will of the people in action against
thuggish attacks from a huge and clumsy beast which has outlived its
time and can't understand the world it now, perforce, inhabits.
And this, of course, is where the ACTLab comes in. A flap of this
nature, pitting commercial behemoths wedded to obsolete business
models against light, lithe, distributed, and densely connected
networks of citizens with a deep sense of fairness and scant tolerance
for greed, is ripe for theorizin'. Baudrillard, had he lived a bit
longer, would have loved it as much as I do.
The MPAA, chastened but not deterred, has since shut up about suing
people, and instead has returned to attempting to create the perfect
unbreakable encryption scheme. Since this is impossible in any
real-world scenario, I - and everyone else - await the next move.
Whereupon the MPAA will again experience the power of a million angry
, curated by Marjorie Vecchio and the Gallerinas, was a
month-long multimedia exhibition at Sheppard Gallery, at the University
of Nevada at Reno, "converging on the intersections of health,
technology, and mythology". They concluded the week with a keynote
theoryperformance by Your Humble Whatever.
Sponsored by Nevada Humanities and the University of
Nevada, the exhibition featured work by artists such as Deborah
Aschheim and Lisa Mezzacappa, whose work absolutely floored me. The
catalog says that "Phonological is an
attempt to "back up" Deborah Aschheim's twenty-five favorite words by
storing them in songs so that she will remember them in the event of
possible future neurological damage or aphasia. In order to hopefully
preserve it, Aschheim has to surrender her vocabulary to other people
to interpret..." The pieces, which to my eye resemble clusters of
neurons, glow eerily, and do, in fact, emit songs. The photo above shows
a portion of the gallery area to which the staff added chairs
and a table for my work, which, in this case, I did sitting down. The
gallery videoed the work in HD, and if things go well there may be a
DVD later; we'll see.
ACTLab, ACTLab Student Media Services, and ACTLab TV completed this summer's ACTLab.TV
Summer of Code.
In a groundbreaking step, this year we intended to
add a wrinkle of our own by mixing in some social scientists, who
would look for patterns in the interactions between working Open
Source coders to see if something interesting emerges. If you wanna
code with us, or be a participant observer or just hang out and
schmooze, the time to volunteer for the next round is May.
The 2007 ACTLabTV Film Festival
was a terrific success. For
2008 the Festival is particularly interested in films/videos made with
cellphones and cheap digital cameras in movie mode. So many people
say "I could make an incredible movie if only I could get my hands on
one o' them HD cameras". We think not. As Alan Fox-Strangways said
in a famous letter to Harry Partch, "Regardless of theory, music is
whatever someone can think
out of an old battered horn."
Whatever, the ACTLabTV Film Festival will continue to push the
boundaries of being brilliant with cheap tech.
On March 31 The
was the concluding event at "Creative
Forces: Women, Art, Science", the 2007 Mid-Atlantic Womens Studies
Association national conference, held this year at Bucks County
College, near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I'll be performing Part
One, "Gender of Choice", running time 78 minutes. Bucks intended to
video the performance with a three-camera shoot, which would have
helped greatly with improving the piece when we viewed the edited
version as part of preparations for the November Austin show.
Unfortunately the taping failed, due largely to inexperience on the
part of the tech staff, so we didn't get to do that; the perfect
documentation of the piece in its current state still awaits the
proper confluence of opportunity and preparation. Note: This was a
PERFORMANCE. There was NO THEORY.
Thanks to my old colleague Chris Gray, my visit was part of the Crown
College Fortieth Anniversary Celebration. In this pic I'm on the
Porter College back campus not far from Crown, perched on a popular
sculpture that was fondly known as the Flying IUD. It was a shocker
to discover that here in the 21st Century nobody knew what an IUD was.
Tempus fugit, Y'all...
I was in residence at EGS
the amazing bleeding-edge university of the future in Saas-Fee,
Switzerland, from June 1 to June 22. Usually Cynbe and I do this together,
and we love talking theory with all and sundry,
though each of us interprets the term "theory" somewhat differently. We're
based at the Allalin Hotel, the EGS residence headquarters. Cynbe
has been discussing a new programming language, about which more will
shortly be revealed. This year I taught a course entitled
Nanophilosophy: Invisible Revolution
, which (from the catalog)
"foregrounds the developing nature of submicroscopic signaling and its
troubled relationship with informatics of domination and control far
beyond the Orwellian imaginary." Other EGS faculty include David
Lynch, Peter Greenaway, the Quay Brothers, Donna Haraway, Avital
Ronell, Bruce Sterling, John Waters, Slavoj Zizek, Shelly Jackson,
Victor Burgin, Judith Butler, and Paul Miller/DJ Spooky. Former
faculty and still guiding spirits include Jean-Francis Lyotard,
Jacques Derrida, and Jean Baudrillard. Forget Foucault, Y'all.
The 52nd international Biennale de Venezia
(with a bunch of EGS folx) and again June 23-24 (solo), ogling art,
hanging with friends, and getting ideas. If you didn't spot me
ambling about or at a table near the turtle fountain, you should've
looked for me around the Swiss pavilion. Perhaps we hoisted a glass
of white and discussed, ahem, theory. See you in two years...
Handmaiden of the Antichrist
Not long ago a group from a well-known university in the Dallas vicinity toured
the campus here. As they passed our corner of the academic vineyard,
one of them asked what building it was. When the docent told him,
he gasped, "Isn't that where Sandy Stone works?
She teaches young children to change their sex
. She is a
handmaiden of the Antichrist!"
Flattered though I may be to be perceived as a world-class menace, I'm afraid
the reality is far less flamboyant. While Sex Change 101 is an interesting idea,
it doesn't exist --
there's a lot more basic work to be done simply by educating people about the
social and cultural nature of gender and sexuality, and that work is already being
done by people far more qualified than I. UT has an admirable
Women's and Gender Studies (of which I'm a member),
as well as a flourishing research group
devoted to LBGT issues (whose meetings I hardly ever get to attend). Plus, there are
several student support groups, whose value to the community is accentuated by
occasional attempts to stamp them out. Nothing says success better than being attacked.
However, for those of you who may want to join in, we are making a limited number of
Handmaiden of the Antichrist T-shirts available from CafePress. With each
shirt you get a genuine Certificate of Authenticity, signed by Sandy Stone herself, and all the
proceeds go to help one of the student support groups. Who needs
to be attacked by lesbian separatists while you're simply trying to make women's music
when you can be
a Handmaiden in the comfort of your own home? Don't envy the handmaidens; be one!
Ceci n'est pas un blog
I get a lot of email from people who say something like "Why can't I post a response to your blog?"
Well, the simple answer is: This is not a blog.
A blog is a fairly well-defined piece of software, cleanly written,
incorporating simple means for creating content, syndication, and a mechanism for
managing comments. It's clearly social software, as we currently understand the term,
and a conduit for everything from the pithiness of Chomsky to the lone ranter
shouting into the dark. (Don't discount shouting into the dark; it keeps the wolves away.)
On the other hand, this website is a steaming hunk of bricolage, originally written in HTML,
to which I later added (ghasp!) tables, then (doubleghasp!) frames, then a CSS skeleton
as occasion required. You can see the content change; less obviously, the underlying code
also changes, as befits the website of someone teaching a course called
Extreme Freestyle Hacking. But blogging? I never intended to add any code to enable
people to post comments.
I could fake it with a line at the bottom that says "Comments for this post are closed",
and don't think I haven't entertained the idea. But on the other hand, you don't need me
to tell you that the boundaries between this website and a blog are getting mighty porous.
It started as an experiment, in the very early days of the web, when I had a few minutes
left over from keeping the ACTLab site stable in spite of our enthusiastic students'
trampling the bounds of reason and good code. These days it clearly has a life of its own.
But it's just my website. It's not a blog.
Yes, I did actually write all of my early stuff on a lovely old Olivetti.
And after the Olivetti, for a time there was an IBM Selectric. It wasn't until the second
draft of Ktahmet/Memory
that I got my hungry li'l hands on a borrowed
Kaypro "portable" computer. It looked like a sewing machine and weighed about twenty pounds,
but it was a stable beast, and with the help of Mark of the Unicorn's
I finally entered the XXth Century.
None of those typescripts survived the last few moves, but the magazines in
which they were originally published did. So recently I've
been scanning some of the early stuff right out of The Magazine of Fantasy
and Science Fiction and Galaxy and so forth, and putting them into digital form.
Though it still needs a bit of cleaning,
the first one, Thank God You're Alive, is
on my Projects page. This is the sort of stuff one turns out at a tender age,
so be gentle, gentle reader.
By the way, that image to the right is the only time I made Galaxy's cover. The illustration,
by Gaughan, is for Farewell To The Artifacts, which I wrote on the venerable Olivetti
and which I haven't finished scanning.
The title in the box was supposed to be "Farewell To The Artifacts", too, but at the
last minute they bought Robert Silverberg's "Dying Inside" -- so his title wound up
gracing the illustration for my story. That's the writing game, folks.:)
Professor? Me? Hmmm... I can still remember standing on
a streetcorner in, um, Madrid I think it was, with Brenda Laurel and
Rob Tow and maybe Atau Tanaka, when we realized that we were all fully
employed at the same time -- which had never happened before. Felt
weird. I was a theoretician; they all had real jobs. Anyway, enough
woolgathering. Welcome to my new web pages. That's me on the left.
Well, sorta. Actually that's more like me up there at the top. After
years of insisting that my students produce kickass web sites while I
went on hand-coding absolute dirt-basic HTML for myself, I realized it
was time to give in to XHTML and CSS. So the children of the cobbler
may still not have Flash, but at least they aren't embarrassingly
barefoot. Still, no matter how hard I try, unless I devote something
like a year to this site it's inevitably gonna be ragged. A lot of
links still don't work, and all I can say is oops. So please bear with
the rough edges while I and my students are off devoting our energy to
a far more noble pursuit: Designing a device which converts human
stupidity into clean-burning fuel.
Deviant Bodies Gallery Exhibition
As it says up there, Deviant Bodies
is a groundbreaking exhibition exploring the
margins of gender and representation. We don't often see these at mainstream
galleries, and the event is further remarkable in bringing together such a large
group of talented artists who have all focused their efforts on this topic.
The event, which is sponsored by
a generous grant from the Andy Warhol Foundation, runs from September 29
through December 17 at the CEPA Gallery ( 617 Main Street, Buffalo,
New York). Yours Sincerely was honored to have been asked to
participate, and is represented in the exhibition by two installation
That's a still from Simple Identity
at the left.
As usual with my stuff, Trapped
didn't fit into any of the preexisting
categories for submitted work, but the nice folks at CEPA were kind enough to
find ways to accommodate it.
ACTLabTV is a cutting-edge Transmedia project developed entirely by
actlab students. During the summer, through the good offices
of the RTF New Media Initiative, the ACTLabTV folks participated in
Summer of Code
, during which they were able to extend the project
in some very interesting ways. The basic idea behind ACTLabTV is that
with the right software you don't need broadband to broadcast video on
the Web -- anyone with internet access, even a simple dialup
connection, can be a videocasting station. In technical terms, the
system is distributed, acephalous, and format-agnostic, which is to
say that it's part of the rapidly growing family of online social
architectures such as Flickr, Wikipedia, and YouTube, but different in
that in the ACTLabTV architecture there is no central server, and
consequently no single point of failure. I don't really have to pump
and Brandon Wiley
's accomplishments... they're
changing the world just fine on their own. Just in case you haven't
discovered the greatest advance in Web video technology since sliced
challah, have a peek here.
Who is Sandy Stone, Anyway?
Associate Professor at the University of Texas at Austin,
Senior Artist at the Banff Centre, Professor of New Media and
Performance at the European Graduate School EGS, Artist, Performer,
Author, Critic, Public Intellectual, Transgender, Wife, Mother,
- Things to think about: Read my Teaching page first. Do you make
stuff? Have a look at my current Projects (even though most of the
links on that page are broken). To get a sense of who I am, kinda,
read the FAQ. Also, it may be helpful
to know that enrolling in the RTF department in order to work
with me may not be the best idea; you might do better to take an
interdisciplinary doctorate based in some other department and work
with me from there, so first read Application Advice. To get a sense of
how I teach and why my work is grounded in the semiotics of the
design of the actlab studio, you might read Under The Radar.
RTF New Media Initiative
Five years in the making, the department of Radio-Television-Film
New Media Initiative
formalizes a central part of the
ACTLab mission in a department-friendly package offering "a range of
exciting courses, projects, and events for students interested in
learning the latest developments in modes of communication and
artistic expression." The statement on the "About Us" page reads: "We
are a group of students and faculty from many areas and disciplines
with a common goal: To create vital, vibrant, and innovative New Media
courses and research which are flexible, open to change, and extend
their horizons through rich interactions between our students and
faculty and the greater New Media culture at institutions
worldwide. Our goal is to produce star graduates with portfolios of
radically new work and with the confidence to become leaders in this
ever-changing field." Yes, indeed. To apply
Initiative, email me, Joseph Lopez, or the Initiative. Don't apply
via the RTF advisors.
People who apply via the RTF advisors wind
up futilely running through mazes with lots of dead ends. Use the
direct approach. And to better understand our unconventional approach
to New Media education, read Under The
...And The Beast Has Ten Thousand Names
- New Media, eh? How about Digital Media, Digital Arts,
Transmedia, MultiMedia, Convergent Media? Greetings, Hacker of the
Old Code, she said, bowing gravely. All paths are One. And once
again I remind you that in the ACTLab we've developed our own unique
teaching and production methods for accomplishing the New Media (or
your term of choice here: digital media, digital art, digital
digital digital...) thing. Trust me, it's a good idea to read Under The Radar to grok what
No foolin', the snowy landscape was actually shot in Austin, Texas...Live Snowbunny
Capital of the World.
Apologies, I haven't kept up with reporting on all the wonderful
places New Media-fu happens because our efforts have been going into
building an affiliated web site which will be released very
soon. There are only so many hours in a day. I did mount a new performance in March 2006, which I'm
currently touring; the ACTLab Student Media Services Under The Radar
Film Festival was terrific; and there's SXSW 2006 to recover
from, so it's not as if nothing's happening...
...and while we're on the subject, how in hell does everybody else in
the sidereal universe find the time to keep their webpages updated?
Is there a secret vault full of time that everybody else knows about,
and simply goes to and dips out as much as they need?...