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American Artist, Mother of All Demos III, 2022

From Refigured

Feb 13, 2023


American Artist, Mother of All Demos III, 2022


American Artist: My name is American Artist. That is not the name I was born with. I changed my name in 2013. 

This work is a functional computer that is made out of dirt, and It has this material of asphalt that's been poured onto it and it's sort of dripping and sticky with this black material. 

Narrator: The title of this work, Mother of All Demos III, refers to a well-known event that took place in the field of computing in 1968 when engineer Doug Engelbart demonstrated many of the elements of modern computers, from windows to word processing. Before that, all computer interfaces had used only text-based code to perform different functions. American Artist’s work creates its own demo in which the color black becomes metaphorical. 

American Artist: The shape of the computer is modeled after the Apple II, which was the last commercial personal computer that used this all-black interface. And I wanted to make a computer that was really rooted in this moment where Blackness served as the basis of what could be done in virtual space. So it was sort of a return to that moment, but also wanting to rethink all of the values that we associate with computing that things need to be fast or pristine or mimic an office space. I wanted to make something that felt dirty, sticky, things that you wouldn't necessarily want to touch, but then to show that someone actually is using this thing. 

I chose the asphalt because it is black and it's gooey. And this word gooey is sort of a way of saying this acronym GUI, which means “graphical user interface.” And so the Black Gooey, which is part of the name of this series of works, was really about thinking about what a computation rooted in Blackness could look like and what kind of material manifestations it might have.

It's providing an alternative that is not necessarily attempting to resolve an issue. It's rather just provoking. It's saying you know, what if this computer is almost not useful? What if use isn't the main goal or deliverable of this object? But rather, it's merely intent on expressing different ways to exist or communicate that fall outside of everything we understand a computer to be able to do.