Hannah Epstein // Art && Code: Homemade, 1/16/2021

Hannah Epstein // Art && Code: Homemade, 1/16/2021

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And we are back with our penultimate lecture  for the Art&&Code Homemade festival of 2021:   digital tools crafty approaches. And it's my  great pleasure to introduce Hannah Epstein also   known as hansky who is a fiber space artist. She  integrates the traditional craft of rug hooking   with digital technologies creating digitally  augmented artifacts and interactive narrative   installations or game installations. She joins us  from her dual homes on the fringe of the internet   and in a church she is renovating in rural Nova  Scotia. Hannah Epstein. Hey so thank you Golan for   that introduction and thank you for having me here  for the Art&&Code Homemade conference festival.  

My name is Hannah Epstein. I think  something is weird with the- I think it's-   I think it's just a bad connection.  I made a backup video, so just like   just uh play that until I  figure out what's going on here. Hey my name is Hannah Epstein and I make  art on the graveyard of the 21st century.  

Okay let me just check my email here. Power bill  no. Family no. Super scam no. Okay delete that.   Okay finally. You've got mail [ __ ]. Oh Golan.  Hey Hannah, this is uh- this is Golan Levin here.   Oh hey Golan. You know, I never knew was  it uh was it Hannah or Hanaah? I was never   sure. It literally doesn't matter. So I was  wondering if you maybe you would uh want to come   to a presentation, this festival I'm doing.  Okay I'll do it. Cool well that's uh that's  

great. See you in cyberspace, I'm- I'm Golan  Levin, bye. Homemade? Homemade like what does   that even mean anymore? Literally everything is  homemade now that we've been imprisoned. There   even my sister, she's a lawyer, she's basically  practicing law in a homemade courtroom while   riding an underdesk elliptical. If only an  artist with a lot of foresight did their 2017   MFA thesis show about this exact topic. Oh yeah,  I did that. So I think I'm back now. I bring up my   thesis project because I want to show that my work  has been concerned with the concept of home. The  

home is a threat to totalitarian power. It seeks  for ways for you to open the door and let it in.   The project was called 'Work from Home' and it  started the family tn mock version of the Youtube   family phenomenon where real families would  upload content of their daily lives to Youtube,   collect followers and likes and subscriptions,  and basically cash in on advertising dollars. It seeks for ways for you to open the door and  let it in show you next how I've actually been   working from home for the majority of my  working life pre any kind of pandemic.   Hopefully throughout the talk you'll see how  my experience in different home settings has   affected work production. The last years of the  home as an unadulterated space to launch critique   you only need one. Take this footage you're  watching: was shot in 2012 a couple years after I   had moved to Toronto. I was living in a six-person  rooming house and making a lot of rug hookings and  

experimental video games. My home was a very  direct launching pad to all of these projects   and allowed me to find myself as an artist outside  of the school system. So um I live here with   six other people so there's like an array of  things that have been collected over the years   from other iterations of six people that have  lived here. Once you put together this environment  

maybe you would understand like the video games  and art stuff that I make. It's unlivable like on   a surface level and at the same time it's like the  most heartwarming place I've ever lived. Welcome   to psxe book. Welcome to psx ebook. The series of  tests you are about to undertake are part of an  

experimental prototype in consciousness mapping  software. Cyborg is like- it's actually like a   brainwashing mechanism. So we put it inside the  back of a van, people would go in one at a time   and they would answer a whole series of  questions to create a model of your psyche. Unadulterated space to launch critique cyborg  starred a charismatic techno cult leader,   basically an Elon musk type who encouraged  people to shed their meat husks and upload their and consciousness. Why you are here   goal was to like really like put people into like  a cube assaulted with sort of brainwashing tech   pro-technology rhetoric the whole time. Hopefully  I'm trying to get them to confront what it is to   exist in a technological world. Enter Carnegie  Mellon grad school was the first time I was making  

work outside of the home the first time I had  a studio. Inside the studio it was important to   me to try and retain the essence of what it was  that got me to grad school in the first place:   the commodification of the homemade  aesthetic and a military-industrial complex.   So I made projects like Choose Your Own Adventure  Clothing Destroy Evil which was an interactive   installation. People were encouraged to  destroy whatever they thought was evil. Or Shark and Hoop where people flew around these   RC controlled sharks. I eventually started making  these interactive rugs like here, feed the ducks. Hey um back again I just had to go change my  clothes. So I think it's impossible to talk about  

working from home without addressing the domestic  situation we have in these circumstances. And for   me my domestic situation changed drastically after  graduate school. Home sweet home. Home is the   place where women historically experience a lot of  exploitation. I moved in with my boyfriend who had   just sold his app company we lived half the time  in a penthouse condo in Toronto and the other half   in a modernist box in Venice beach L.A. Namaste.  Personally, right now I have a multi-millionaire   boyfriend and I have no money. This was actually  a pretty creative time for me. I was able to put  

together two solo shows. The first show was  Monster World, and it sold out in a couple of   days and was reviewed by the LA times. The second  show was Do You Want a Free Trip to Outer Space.   This is a show about from Hannah Epstein who's  a Canadian-based artist and all the hook rugs   that she made each one by herself illustrates  her voyage to outer space and back to earth. Hooked rugs and video games as trojan  horse style incursion technique   into the cultural temple known as the art  gallery. Superficially I had achieved success,  

although I was experiencing a lot of  isolation and loneliness that people now   under the conditions of the pandemic and lockdown  are starting to become familiar with. Sometimes I   think about what it might be like if I was the  rich one and my boyfriend was the poor one.   Like what if I went to work and he stayed  home all day and did some light dusting.   Today's craft will be an extension of societal  oppression into the domestic space. So I left with no solid ground stand on. I bounced around  from new york to Iceland to Israel and Italy all   while trying to put together my next solo show  making bets in a burning house. The show was  

definitely about me processing a breakup with a  tech boy, but it also symbolically was meant to   focus on culture's currently fraught relationship  with its own Silicon Valley boyfriends. One room of the show had the handmade  hanging on prison walls above a lava floor.   In the second room you discover you've been under  surveillance the whole time being watched by a   camera that tracks you with an AI system. And  all the works in the room are made by an AI.  

I fed all the images of all the rugs I'd ever  made into a generative adversarial network,   and I had those printed and made into physical  objects. Basically, realizing the AI's predictions   there's nothing that's sacred to technology but  it's insatiable desire for growth and consumption.   The only handmade object is a worm whose tail  points to a fake iPhone. If you were to pick   it up, the home button would zap you:  the snake in the virtual garden of Eden. Did you know that the Chinese use the same word  for crisis as they do for opportunity. Yes,  

gatherings of this park are not allowed. Please  practice safe distancing at all times. Stay safe,   stay home where we can keep  an eye on you, right guys. And so yeah I was like basically this is  the apocalypse. I need to get as far away  

from any kind of densely populated city as  possible, so Nova Scotia. And I need to like   create this safe place so that when my friends  are like escaping America because their country   is collapsing I have a refuge I can offer them.  What better place to build a refuge but a church?   Driving down the coastal highway lighthouse route  3 you approach a tall white building. The home is   a threat to totalitarian power. It seeks for  ways for you to open the door and let it in.   You approach a tall white building. Oh hey  welcome to my church. Uh it's mostly like a church  

studio. This is where I hang out and  smoke cigarettes and read books. I wanted   to try spray painting all the walls but that  turned out to be a terrible idea. This is my   collection of beach rocks that will eventually be  an outdoor fire pit. This is where I've been doing   a lot of the shooting for the video you've been  watching so far. This is where the magic happens.   Is it weird screen in front of a green screen.  This is my like one attempt at a painting and I  

nailed it. I still do a lot of rug hooking. I  basically sit here and kind of imagine myself   as a rug hooking priest and I imagine that  the thing that I'm making is like my sermon.   I want the new work to be as epic as possible  I want to abuse as many sacred cows as I can   and I want to playfully call out total losers.  Yeah I also have a bit of a collection of  

antique hooked rugs that I'm  like starting to build this is. Hello hi- hi there. I'm just here. My aunt  was down yesterday to look at a church cube,   so obviously because I have a church it means  I also have a graveyard of the 21st-century   facebook, bitcoin, Netflix, Twitter. And  actually, Amazon owns this graveyard,   and they're still in power and I'm not  going to say anything bad about them   Grime's an Elon a life together  and afterlife together okay like.

I'm sorry I don't hate technology. I really, you  know, I don't- I use technology all the time. Like   I'm shooting this on an iPhone.  I am on the internet all day.   I basically am constantly performing  on Instagram. I have been integrating   circuits into textiles to make them like  react with sound when you touch them. I do a lot of projection mapping like I use  technology. I just like see what's happening   and I just don't want like any of the stuff that  I make to be a party to like what is essentially   a new type of feudalism that's arising, like the  virtual empire where we're all these like peasants   tilling the content fields. And I understand  it's like an inescapable rubric at this point,  

but it's like refused to really believe that.  So basically if I was going to give some kind of   conclusive statement it's that for me  the idea of homemade is like really about   making a home space what- that means to own your  own space. This is like my inspiration. This is   from the east coast and I think it's supposed  to be like a Mexican style fighting mask or   something. But like this is to me like is like  the weirdest s*** ever, like that sense of like   ignorance. Like I don't know what I'm making  but I'm accidentally making something amazing.   Okay wow Hannah- Hanaah uh Epstein-  Epsteen... I don't really know. Um  

wow that was uh definitely a unique take  on the very simple ask for you to come   here and talk about the homemade. So I  guess my first question is... I'm Golan. right my first question Did I was having a heart attack. Did that work?  I didn't watch it. It totally worked. Okay good   because- Yeah no everyone everyone  is in the chat. Yeah I was having  

a total freak out thinking that it wasn't  gonna work so. No no it totally worked,   it totally worked. Everyone's here for you,  everyone's here for you. That's pretty good   I want to channel their questions which we have  a good amount of time for. Can I just say that  

I've like killed myself making this video  and it's amazing like the questions I like   we'll try to answer them but I feel very brain  dead and incapable. So true, no it's good. It's   clear you were up for some time to make that.  Yeah, the curatorial committee is very proud.   A simple technical question in a way: first  question very simple one is what kind of time   commitment is rug hooking? Do you do it by hand?  How do you feel about tech for rug hooking like   tufting guns? Yeah so rug hooking is definitely  what I spend the majority of my time doing and so   that means basically like anywhere from like three  to six hours a day. So it's very labor intensive,  

but in a way it's like a way of doing labor and  leisure at the same time. So I'll be rug hooking,   but I'll also be watching movies or listening  to podcasts and just like consuming media as I'm   doing this like slow process very much responding  to and reacting to media. The tufting gun is   something that I was initially very attracted  to because it's sort of like the electric guitar   and I feel like I'm playing acoustic. But I've  sort of remained true to just like the handmade,   the hand-hooked very like in touch with like this-  like my body is the machine is like what I like to   say. And so like feeling like very much in tune  with like the body's power to create things and  

not trying to like extend it to a tufting gun. I  mean also like I didn't want to build a new frame   and didn't want to like get the new material to  do it. Like I'm sort of like steadfast in this   methodology that I've already developed for  myself. So there's a lot of questions about   the church. Oh yeah. First of all Maddie whom you  know asks does Amazon literally own the church?  

There was a little bit of blurring of reality  and irreality there. What's the deal? No that   was just a joke to like imagine like a future.  But yes sorry that was a joke question too.   Do you actually have a graveyard? I do have a  graveyard. I mean it's not my responsibility,   but my neighbors are all dead so yeah. You live  next to a graveyard, your property includes a   graveyard? It doesn't fully include it, but like  it's I mean- Is your property partially included   it like borders onto it and there's  like sections of it that are mine.   But yeah like who really owns the graveyard. I  like to call it the rave yard because like maybe  

a big party there. What are your plans for the  church? Okay so like I've been converting it   into like a living space so you saw in the video  there this guy coming in asking about the pews.   And so the church was like full of pews obviously  at the church, and I just had them all cut out   and put on the front lawn. And so like it's been a  way for me to get to know the neighbors. Like all   the neighbors are stopping by and asking me if the  pews are for sale, so that was like a real thing.   So just like creating the studio getting it down  to like very brass tacks and then also hopefully   a residency, hopefully a gallery space. You know,  these are all part of the plan. Residency sounds   great. How did you start rug hooking? It's  unique yeah. So I did my undergrad in folklore  

and then like in Canada, and then I decided I  needed a real skill. So I learned how to rug hook.   And so that was like when I was 25. I went to  a woman. She opened the door and she was like   so you're the new hooker? And she brought me into  her basement and taught me the one skill I've been   using since then. So yeah from 25 I'm now 35. It's  been 10 years of rug hooking. But in growing up  

in Nova Scotia you mentioned to me that you had  rug hooking artifacts around you. Yeah like it's   a traditional craft. So it's here everywhere  in people's homes. They just sort of take for   granted just the imagery is more typically like  these really sweet like pastoral scenes of like   a little house or like a chicken and welcome  mats. They're not like naked James Franco.   How has the church and or Covid  informed your recent most work?   Okay well like I- some of the work is a very much  like direct response to Covid. Like I have one  

piece where there's like Chinese lettering and  translates to like 'there's nothing to see.'   And there's like a woman dancing in  front of like a giant pile of skulls.   And so like that's like a very direct like  response to like our current situation. But   I mean I like I'm trying to say in the video like  I've been working from home for a long time. So  

the situation everyone's complaining about like  isolation they feel this is something that I've   been going through for a long time. You just  get crazier is basically my advice from someone   who's been doing it for a while. The projection  mapping on the church, is it indoors or outdoors?   Outdoors. How are your neighbors enjoying that?  Loving it. So I'm like right on this thing called   Rails to Trails which is where they converted all  the old train tracks to hiking trails. But like   because I'm in the country, it's a lot of people  on ATVs like real yahoo types. And so they're like   zooming by and then basically put on these like  shows for them. And they'll stop and they'll like  

honk a little bit. You mentioned that you have a  church bell. Do you ring the bell when you do the   augmented projections on your church? Oh, I  should. I should. No, I rang it on New Year's Eve   and, you know, some special occasions but yeah.  Kelly Heaton asks a question I don't completely   understand. Have you explored hooking an ouija  board rug? Oh no but that's really interesting.  

I definitely like to do a lot of projects  that interact with like the spiritual magical   like energy realms and so yeah. You all  should meet. Yeah hit me up. I think   there there is such a wonderful wealth of things  on the- have you been to the discord? Have you   seen the- I just like put my phone away and I was  like just pacing like hoping the video works. So   yeah so we have a discord channel  that if you drop in you'll be able to   see much more about it for sure. Maddie asks do  you foresee collaborations with your neighbors?   Hmm yes actually. So I've been playing some online  chess recently. So like chess has like reemerged  

in my life and there's a folk artist around the  corner who like makes these like large wooden   sculptures. So I was joking about maybe setting  up like a sort of chess board in my backyard and   having him build and then having a surveillance  camera, because I have an outdoor surveillance   camera, like set up above the chessboard so you  can sort of like log in from your phone and like   have the overhead view of the outdoor chessboard  from the surveillance systems. Other questions.   What's been your favorite content to consume  lately while making? Have you been watching   Queen's Gambit or-? I did watch that, yes. That's  like part of the inspiration for playing. I mean   I love podcasts. I listen to a lot of Red  Scare. It's horrible that Ana Kassian was  

de-platformed from Twitter the same time as Trump,  you know. And yeah so Red Scare. And Tim Dillon,   I really like him. He's like a conspiracy theory  comedian, so yeah. Hannah you have set a new bar   for a conference presentation. The audience  can understand when I first heard that you   were going to be making a video I was like  oh no what's this. But I was assured by many  

people I had nothing to worry about. And I'm  so grateful for the incredible energy that you   have put into this. In the discord, I guess  we still have one more minute maybe. A quick   question here is- just came in on my phone here.  My fiber crafting partner wants to know if you   do arm exercises to keep from getting them hurt?  She's learned she has to pace herself. Sometimes,   I mean I just like sort of stretch my wrists like  that. Maybe wear like an elbow brace. But I'm kind  

of like when the machine breaks down the practice  breaks down, so yeah. Thank you so much for your   incredible energy. You have a well-deserved  rest. In just a few minutes, we're going to   pick it up again with Kelly Anderson for our final  presentation. And a big hand to Hannah. Thank you   so much Hannah! And we will meet up again in about  five minutes for Kelly Anderson's presentation.   Thank you so much for having me. Really thanks for  being open to this. You bet. Thank you good night.

2021-05-08 05:00

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