Ahmet Öğüt’s Many Modes of Collaboration


Watching the film of Kurdish artist Ahmet Öğüt’s Happy Together: Collaborators Collaborating is like peeling the proverbial onion of performance art. The outer skin is the film itself, commissioned for the Chisenhale Gallery website, requiring the work of 8 volunteer camera operators, a lighting designer, a gaffer, an editor, and various other crew. The subject of the film is a staged “chatshow” with a live audience, hosted by Andrea Philips, who masterfully performs the interviewer/provocateur role in the creation of this multimodal artwork, this “revenge of the collaborators”. As Studio International contributor Harry Thorne writes in his review, “it becomes clear that Phillips’s line of questioning has been directed by the Öğüt himself “, although the answers of the collaborators are clearly personal and unscripted.

Phillips introduces and questions ten different Öğüt collaborators from various projects, with professions including stuntman, lip reader, firefighter, hairdresser, and auctioneer. The collaborators recount their experience working with Ahmet amicably, and all seem notably comfortable with their secondary role in the achievement of the artist’s vision. Each of the projects discussed reveal yet another layer to Öğüt’s work, highlighting innovative, reality-based performances by these skilled non-artists: lip reading the artist’s words through binoculars to an audience, cutting hair by motorcycle headlamp, riding a horse from town to town and reading aloud from a press release, and even auctioning off a punchable portrait of the artist himself. One is led to wonder whether all of these works are simply now being held in review, or if they were, in fact, staged with prescience for the purpose for this film.

What impresses and inspires me is the way that Öğüt has expertly positioned his collaborators in the space between artistic co-collaborator and commissioned artisan. His coworkers don’t generally share in the creative vision of his work, but they’re also not simply craftspeople following a designer’s blueprint. They are, in fact, performing, as themselves, in a reality play designed, but not scripted, by the artist. They are improv actors, unskilled as they may be in improvisation, but successful in their execution of their role because their role is an abstraction of their own profession. Öğüt, meanwhile, is like a master painter who doesn’t need to touch his brush, but rather just commands it to do what it was made to do.

On Wounds of Class

In Wounds of Class, the late Mark Fisher recounts a memory of visiting a tea room with his sister and mother, specifically noting the discomfort level of his mother, who was not “half clambered out” of her class, as Fisher and his sister had become. For Fisher’s mother and father, taking up space alongside the middle-class occupants of an award-winning tea room equated to an existential crisis:

Stalked by fear and shame in such places, their sense of not belonging there, of being intruders, of being implicitly judged and watched and the anxiety that somehow they will be exposed is ever-present.

Though Fisher did not feel threatened by the tea-room, he did remember having felt the same way going to University, and equated it to his sister’s social anxiety and his own inability to “do anything” with his novels because of a need to engage with them. The underlying theme is an unrelenting feeling that no matter what you accomplish, you’ll never be good enough:

These are the wounds of class, ever-present, life-long. Knowing that you’re common, not good enough, not one of the decent people. That for some obscure reason despite all your work and care, being a good parent, educating your children, paying your taxes and scrimping and saving you should be ashamed, not of what you have done or failed to do but of what you are.

In the second half of the essay, Fisher contrasts the “wounds of class” with the “balm of class”, recognizing the benefit of the belongingness his mother earned from a lifetime of being part of the working class:

 In a sense, living there for so many years, the repetitions, the routines, the small talk and the familiar faces, growing up an old in the shadow of that shipyard, in this provincial, working-class world that seemed to us as kids, encouraged to think about a life beyond it, sterile, grey and joyless, was the daily work, the daily investment that is being returned and repaid to her now by the whole town and it has helped immeasurably with her grief.


British educator and blogger Rich Will reflected on Fisher’s essay in his post, Some thoughts on language, education, and class, expanding on these two primary aspects:

The wounds of class run deep, but then, as both Lynsey Hanley and Helen Mort have articulated brilliantly, the sense of discomfort at being stranded between classes, particularly at being a working class person in the more rarified echelons of higher education, can also be uncomfortable.

It is in Will’s essay that I found myself, akin to Russell Brand ( who was a subject of Will’s piece and of Fisher’s admiration), as an autodidactic imposter in the academic world. Here I sit, reading, as Owen Hatherley put it, “writing of a sort that wasn’t supposed to exist anymore”, developing a presentation for a session of Methodologies of Artistic Practice Now, a seminar at The New Centre for Research & Practice, as a certificate student in the school’s Art & Curatorial Practice Program.

How did I manage to sneak in here?

I graduated high school on the good graces of my teachers, since I was too burnt out to attend most of my senior year. I left college for the US Army Infantry after less than a year, with no credits and a string of incomplete classes. A veteran of the first Gulf War, I left the military after 5 years with no transferrable skills and a “General Under Honorable Conditions” discharge (meaning I retained all my benefits except my educational benefits). At the age of 24, I was back to living with my parents in eastern Kentucky, seemingly doomed to a working-class life with no hopes of paying for a higher education.

However, like Fisher and his sister, I somehow managed to “half clamber” out of my class by moving to Seattle, teaching myself how to code, and stumbling into the tech world. Two decades later, sans academic credentials, I work at the University of Washington, holding a position that would require of any other candidate a degree that I don’t have. Of course, I know intellectually that there is no school on the planet teaching the unique set of skills I bring to work every day, but there are still times I feel, emotionally, the imposter.

The old familiar imposter syndrome is even stronger as I consider presenting these thoughts to my peers, an inner voice that sounds like Jeremy Paxman questioning Russell Brand, the drift being, as Fisher wrote:

What gives this working class person the authority to speak?

Blogging Again

I need a place to collect my writing and other output. Facebook’s algorithms favor memes over original content, burying anything of true value. Medium is nice, but has a certain media hustler flavor that I don’t find appealing. I don’t feel like managing a server right now, so here I am at WordPress.com.

What’s in a Name

Image: green handwritten text reading “Qid Love” on a black background.

I’m in the process of editing my identity across the internet. I’m methodically hitting dozens of apps and websites, changing my display name, pronouns, profile pictures, and all that. I’ve got brand new cards to hand out at networking events, and I’m becoming more comfortable with introducing myself using my new name. Today, I talked with my boss about communicating my change of preferred name to my team and department, possibly the scariest part of all of this. Thankfully, for the most part, everyone has been very supportive.

I’m not sure I would ever have felt completely secure and ready to begin asserting my identity in such a bold way. If I had waited for “the right time”, I’m pretty sure it would never have come. Ultimately, I just did it; one big Facebook post to out myself, and no looking back. However, it was far from an impulsive act.

I’ve been in perpetual identity crisis mode for my entire life. Like most kids with adjustable-length names, I shortened my given name to a four letter word before I was out of elementary school. I’ve picked up, carried, and discarded a number of nicknames provided for me: Bubba, Duck, Stone. As a performing musician and recording artist, I started with my own name and later moved through a handful of personas (Echo Root, Mood481) as my musical styles changed.

Image: directional road signs with arrows pointing in opposite directions, reading “one way” and “another way”.

My diagnosis with Asperger’s Syndrome at age 43 was the signpost pointing to the fork in the road that ultimately led me here, now. That moment was my Point of No Return. The changes I’ve gone through in the past 5 years seem inevitable, like destiny. Finding my name was like coming home with the elixir at the end of my own hero’s journey.


“Qid” came from a completely different thought experiment, a broader brainstorm on the nature of Queer IDentity. I wasn’t even thinking about names. Synapses fired, neural pathways formed, planets aligned, the muse whispered… and Qid was conceived. As soon as it hit me that this could be my name, I was utterly euphoric.

Image: purple-tinted photo of the artist Prince playing guitar. Image by jacther; original Flickr image, By penner [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL],

I mean, it starts with Q, which is really enough. But it speaks queer… queer identity. It sounds like “kid”, so it queers age. It pays sonic homage to The Kid, hero of Purple Rain and Graffiti Bridge, The Purple One’s handmade personal myth. I love words, especially richly-encoded, made-up words that seem like they were there all along. “Qid” is more than a word; it’s a language.

In the language of Qid, “qid” means “we are”. We are Love.

Chronofluidity, or Neuroqueering Age

On the set of “Something Nasty”. Photo by Rich Fought.

I recently directed my first narrative film while wearing my pajamas. I’ve seen plenty of interviews with directors and behind-the-scenes footage, but I can’t remember ever seeing Scorsese, Spielberg, or Tarantino wearing sleep pants and slippers. While I do dress a bit more conservatively for documentary shoots, as long as I have a choice in the matter, this will be the set attire of choice.

Of course, there was some practicality in my choice of clothing. Like many spectrumfolk, I have some sensory issues and tend to blow through spoons a bit quicker when forced to dress like an “adult”. Comfort was a concern since we were working non-stop through the weekend, and quiet clothing was desired due to close quarters. Mostly, however, I just wanted to be comfortable emotionally and help the rest of the team be comfortable by being my authentic self and maintaining a playful environment on the set.

Dressing in graphic tees with funny memes or characters from Marvel movies helps me maintain a little better parity between my internal and external age. Shopping for “men’s clothes” is a borderline traumatic experience for me, and when I had to be fitted for a suit recently for an Oscar gala, I felt like a complete imposter hiding out in a man’s body. When I need clothes, I generally gravitate towards the young men’s section of department stores, sheepishly browse the Hot Topic or Spencer’s Gifts at the mall, or give up and shop online.

Chrononormativity

It seems that there is a connection between progression along heteronormative developmental timelines and age identity, but honestly I followed my southern-born script by joining the Army, getting married, and having my first kid by the time I was 21. By the time I hit my early 40’s, my kids were grown and I was over a decade into my career as a programmer. By all odds, I should be feeling my age and then some, so I largely attribute my internal youth to my neurodivergence. Many of my friends on the spectrum also have the feel of having aged on a curve, not necessarily stuck at a certain mental age, but not being generally concerned with (or consciously avoiding) “growing up”.

I’m thankful that geek culture makes it a bit easier and safer to dress down at work and surround myself with comfort items like bobbleheads, spinners and beanie babies to make it through the workday. I might lose my shit if I had to work in cubicle-land with nothing but a stapler and some paperclips to keep me company.


Performing Age

There are plenty of ways besides Groot t-shirts and Funko Pops to bring your external and internal age identities into balance. My mom is an avid gamer. A lot of my friends watch anime or cartoons, and read comics or YA books. Honestly, with Disney and Marvel pushing out so much content, no one really has to feel guilty for indulging their inner child a bit these days.

There are also plenty of us who find cuteness and playfulness attractive or downright sexy. There’s a certain warmth and intimacy to putting your adult away and letting your inner child fumble around a bit. I’d personally choose a cuddle party over a dance club any day of the week. 🙂

Thanks for Noticing Me


Dear friend,

It’s been a while, and I apologize for not writing sooner, but you know… life and stuff. I hope you’re well.

Before I dive in, here’s a little “recent” history. I am in the process of retiring from a 20-year-long monogamous, heterosexual marriage (she’s fine, I’m fine, the dog’s depressed, thanks for asking). Slightly unrelated (but not really), I was diagnosed with Asperger’s / ASD a little over 3 years ago. Combine those two happenings with the fact that the 70’s were just barely a thing when I came along, and you could easily arrive at the following conclusions:

  1. I’m not an expert at any of this.
  2. The world has changed tremendously since I got here.
  3. I am definitely qualified for a mid-life crisis.

So, with those caveats, I like to take this opportunity share what I’m learning and discovering about myself and the world. In order to do that and avoid a lot of confusion and unnecessary Googling on your part, I should probably start with a few newer-to-me terms that I’ve found useful in thinking about and discussing some of the turns my life seems to be taking. Also, words are important.

Neurodivergent

So… I’m neurodivergent, but you can call me autistic. Of course, I’ve always been autistic, but up until a few years ago I didn’t know it, which is why I never told you. So I was, maybe, awkward, emotionally unavailable, obsessive, depressed… basically a tortured artist / fucking genius. But now I’m all those and autistic.

This little tidbit of info caused a bit of a meltdown and a major reboot as my conscious brain scrambled to reevaluate the sum of my life experiences through a completely new filter. On the other side of that process, I am not the same person. Nope, not at all.

The good news is, I have new tools and info and community for making my time on this planet a bit more comfortable than it has been in the past. Also, I stopped taking those pills for the thing I didn’t actually have. I feel the same… no, actually better, because now I know why, and the answer is that it’s just who I am.

Genderqueer / Non-binary / Genderfluid

Gender is a spectrum. I know this now. And although I’ve historically identified/performed as male publicly, my relationship with my partner of the past two decades could easily be viewed through a heteronormative lens as textbook role reversal. I’m not a macho guy, and honestly I can’t stand the fuckers. I like cute and fuzzy, I’m playful, and feel all the things(!) deeply. So, while I may not be putting on a skirt anytime soon (note: by December I was all kilts and jean-free forever!), I do love going places in my PJs and I totally love my Eeyore plushie (not that it matters anyway).

Polysexual

So if gender is a spectrum (it is), then terms like straight and bisexual just don’t work so good. As mentioned above, I have very little use for manly men, and only slightly more use for womanly women (and thus I’m not pansexual, if you’re keeping score). Beyond that, I tend to crush easily on smart and cute (hearts, not parts) with a leaning towards other genderqueer folks.

Relationship Anarchy

This is a big topic, so I won’t try and cover too much here. I stumbled across this concept in the past 6 months as I was navigating non-monogamy, and it just makes so much damn sense! Basically it looks a lot like non-hierarchical, ethical non-monogamy, while expanding to cover non-sexual and/or non-romantic relationships as well. In a nutshell, it means I’m striving to have intentional relationships and allow them to each take their own unique form, while treating each as equally important. It’s a work in progress, and mononormative deprogramming has definitely proven to be challenging.

Neuroqueer

This is the big one, the sum of all the above parts and a lot more. Read this or tl;dr here:

What are the various practices that fall within the definition of neuroqueering?

Being neurodivergent and approaching one’s neurodivergence as a form of queerness (e.g., by understanding and approaching neurodivergence in ways that are inspired by, or similar to, the ways in which queerness is understood and approached in Queer Theory, Gender Studies, and/or queer activism).

Being both neurodivergent and queer, with some degree of conscious awareness and/or active exploration around how these two aspects of one’s identity intersect and interact.

Being neurodivergent and actively choosing to embody and express one’s neurodivergence (or refusing to suppress one’s embodiment and expression of neurodivergence) in ways that “queer” one’s performance of gender, sexuality, ethnicity, occupation, and/or other aspects of one’s identity.

Engaging in the “queering” of one’s own neurocognitive processes (and one’s outward embodiment and expression of those processes) by intentionally altering them in ways that create significant and lasting increase in one’s divergence from dominant neurological, cognitive, and behavioral norms.

Engaging in practices intended to “undo” one’s cultural conditioning toward conformity and compliance with dominant norms, with the aim of reclaiming one’s capacity to give more full expression to one’s neurodivergence and/or one’s uniquely weird personal potentials and inclinations.

Identifying as neuroqueer due to one’s engagement in any of the above practices.

Being neurodivergent and producing literature and/or other cultural artifacts that foreground neurodivergent experiences and perspectives.

Being neurodivergent and producing critical responses to literature and/or other cultural artifacts, focusing on intentional or unintentional characterizations of neurodivergence and how those characterizations illuminate and/or are illuminated by the lived experiences of actual neurodivergent people.

Working to transform social and cultural environments in order to create spaces and communities — and ultimately a society — in which engagement in any or all of the above practices is permitted, accepted, supported, and encouraged.

The Top 5 Quotes from Drone, Glitch and Noise


One of the coolest unexpected side effects of publishing my books on Kindle has been the ability to look through my own writing and see which passages are regularly highlighted by readers. It’s rewarding in itself to see that something I’ve written has been deemed worthy of bookmarking or highlighting, but it also offers me tremendous insight into what is important and meaningful to my audience as I ponder what to write next.

Here are the top 5 most highlighted quotes from my first book, Drone, Glitch and Noise:

The point is, question everything, hold nothing sacred, and make your own rules.

If you stumble upon an exciting new realm of sonic awesomeness, make sure you know how you got there, and how to get back.

Deadlines provide a pressure to commit to putting in the effort now instead of later (or never).

For experimental artists, the goal is often quite different. While the process of creating still ends with a finished work of some sort, the end result is generally unknown.

Keep those things; label them, tag them, and put them in a folder somewhere.

I Don’t Wanna

It’s time to start thinking about New Year’s resolutions again… but I don’t wanna. So instead, I’m making a list of things I would like to avoid, if possible, in 2017.

1. Building a Website

I’ve purchased 5 or 6 different templates, installed and reinstalled WordPress numerous times, imported old posts and then deleted them, and even moved to a different server. Several folks (including me) are pushing me to get an official website up and running again. I sit down to work on it, and within minutes I just want to go to bed.

I’m not going to do it. I’m not going to keep paying for hosting and domain renewals that I’m not using. I’m not going to even pretend that I will suddenly find the time I need to get the site running and then keep the hackers and spammers at bay. I don’t wanna, and I’m not gonna.

I’ll try to do better at Facebook, Twitter, and maybe even Medium, but I’m not going to build a website in 2017.

2. Rebooting the Magazine

I’ve been really tempted. There’s a lot of potential, but it’s an intense amount of work, a good amount of risk, and at the end of the day it’s a dying medium. Of more importance, I no longer have the passion for it that I had before. It’s just not gonna happen.

3. Splitting Nothing Three Ways

The music business has become a game of waiting 90 days to get your cut of the distributor’s cut of the rare sale, at a price you didn’t set, made to someone with whom you can’t form a relationship. Your fans send $15 a month to billion dollar corporations who pay you as close to nothing as they possibly can for streaming royalties. Direct-to-fan solutions feel better, but there’s still the middleman and no one wants to download and deal with actual files these days.

I don’t wanna sell music anymore. One of my more interesting tasks of 2017 will be figuring out if it’s possible to run a record label without selling music, but I don’t wanna, so I’m not gonna.

Ok, then…

So what am I gonna do? Lots of cool stuff, hopefully, like writing, making films, making music, traveling, and learning new things. I’ll let you know.

Book 1.1


I wrote and published my first book, “Drone, Glitch and Noise”, almost a year ago. The book has done fairly well, selling hundreds of digital copies in the first couple of months, and still gaining at least a dozen new readers per month. It has been a great experience for me on many levels.

For those who haven’t read the book, there are really two main sections: the first three chapters, and everything else. The book starts with my general thoughts on experimental art, along with some strategies on workflow and staying productive. The remainder of the book is more technical, giving an overview of different iOS apps useful for making experimental music.

The Problem With Books

While the first section of DGN (the book) will hopefully be useful for many years to come, the majority of the book is destined to become outdated. While all of the apps listed in the book are still available as I write this, there are a good number of exciting new apps that have been released over the last year that I would definitely add if I were writing the book today. Given the rapid rate of change in the Apple ecosystem, it’s likely DGN will be showing its age by this time next year.

What’s a Poor Author To Do?

I have a few options. I could give in to the inevitability of obsolescence and just allow the book to fade into obscurity. I could re-write and release an “Updated and Expanded!” edition every year or so. I could write new books, providing more depth and fresh insights related to the topics introduced in book one. Or… I could just write articles on Medium.

Whatever the future may bring, I do hope to use this forum to expand on some of the ideas from DGN, share some of the lessons and discoveries that writing and publishing the book have provided, and generally ramble about what I’m excited about this week. I hope you’ll join me.


Here’s a preview of the book, for those interested: https://read.amazon.com/kp/embed?asin=B00YGG9O9M&preview=newtab&linkCode=kpe&ref_=cm_sw_r_kb_dp_8.Qkxb8689EV0&tag=apptronica-20

The Music of Aspergia

I’d like to tell a story about me, partially in hopes that someone will “listen”, but mostly with the goal of getting it out, I think.


I was diagnosed with Asperger’s last year at the age of 44. I have struggled socially and emotionally my whole life, collecting various labels along the way: ADHD, PTSD, Bi-polar, severe depression, etc. None of those conditions with their associated symptoms and treatments seemed to really fit, and even combined, they failed to cover the full range and complexity of my issues.

Asperger’s, however, fits like a glove. Taking a look back over my life, re-living each memory through the filter of this new knowledge, I have come to understand more and more who I am and why I act and think the way I do.

Granted, my life hasn’t been all pain and misery. I am mostly capable of taking care of myself and I can communicate fairly well when I’m not overly excited or anxious. I’ve managed to be fairly successful with a few things, including sustaining a career as a software developer, self-publishing a couple of books, and producing an insane amount of music.

It’s the music that I want to talk about, because I feel that it’s the most important thing I do. It’s not just that I feel it’s important that I make music; I feel that it’s important for people to hear it. I feel that the music itself is important.

What I’m not quite able to figure out is whether this deep, lifelong conviction of the inherent value of my art is real, or just some “theory of mind” Aspergian construct.

Music is my primary source of meaning-making, and it’s the only way I’ve found to communicate the subtle shades and intense depths of emotions I feel. Unable to express the nuances of feeling through standard neurotypical means, I have (I think) developed a language of sounds and noises better suited to communicate how I really feel.

The trouble is, the more adept I get at producing art that I feel truly represents what my words cannot, the less people seem interested in listening. I’ll explain.

The first music I shared consisted of “real” songs — music and lyrics. People told me they were truly and deeply touched. They loved my music, cried at the sad songs, and sang along. It was during this time, 17 years ago, that my wife fell in love with me and my music.

But performing was hard for me. Some of it was natural anxiety and stage fright, but mostly it was having to relive the emotional context of the songs I had written every time I played them. I often self-sabotaged, cancelling shows because I just couldn’t bear to go through it.

The next stage for me was improvisation. With words out of the way, I was able to use my guitar to express more of what I felt in the moment instead of revisiting past emotions. This shift in style and focus alienated most of my previous listeners who maybe weren’t “into that kind of music” or preferred my earlier music. Still, enough people seemed to get it, and maybe understand.

After twenty plus years of playing guitar, I got bilateral cubital tunnel syndrome, a nerve condition similar to carpal tunnel that makes it painful and impossible to play guitar for any length of time. In going through this deep and painful loss, I discovered the iPad as a musical instrument, and fell into the world of electronic and experimental music.

In the past few years, I have become increasingly prolific, releasing close to 100 albums as Mood481. In doing so, I’ve been able to delve much more deeply into the fabric of music and sound, using these new tools to craft soundscapes capable of recalling, and hopefully communicating, a greater breadth and depth of meaning.

Unfortunately, as I’ve moved further into the abstract, away from comfortable and easily recognizable forms of music, the number of people listening to my music has dwindled to dangerously low numbers. As I become more adept at expressing the emotions locked behind my autistic wall, I’ve become less able to get people to actually listen.

I honestly believe that listening to my music is the only path to truly understanding and knowing me. I struggle with the fact that so few are willing to listen. It’s even harder when the most important people to me don’t take an interest.

As with any form of communication — spoken, written, or otherwise — I don’t expect everyone to like, agree, or understand what I have to say. I just want more people to listen.