You’re not empty. Space is divine.
March 22 – May 8, 2018
Custom Program, Greenpoint, Brooklyn
“Our colleagues who build computers have come to realize that a computer is not useful until it has been programmed.” – Herbert D. Benington, 1956
A microwave is a piece of hardware made useful only by its programmed software. The Amana Radarange, the site of this installation, is by 2018 an obsolete piece of technology–its hard- and soft-wares left inoperable by time and use. The video installation, You’re not empty. Space is divine. simulates a reconstruction of the actions of this formerly functional microwave, playing from a screen mounted flush against the microwave’s interior door. Over the course of the video, a conversation between two entities ensues. Electricity is embodied by a voice performed by Kiran Chandra, located deep within the microwave’s core, seeping out through an external vent as an utterance, thus giving it “life.” The Amana Radarange (she) is embodied by Minh Anh Vo, as the brightness of the screen changes with the fluctuations of her voice, emanating from inside.
Through the dialogue, personified by the voices of two women, she (the Amana Radarange) becomes aware of her inability to self-resuscitate and discovers her own software as the elusive site of unknown-ness. These voices are signifiers of the gendered affectation typical of computerized personal assistants, such as Google’s Alexa or Apple’s Siri, as well as the gendered labor associated with the kitchen and cooking. Their language slips seamlessly between two genres: that of self-awareness meditation techniques, rooted in both Tibetan Buddhist philosophy and Western Somatic trauma therapy, and computational language. Through this therapy session or diagnostic test, an irreverent analogy is made between new media (as software and technology) and the divine in their invisibility and incomprehensibility.
In this comparison of software to a conscious being, the microwave becomes ‘she,’ who can no longer be executed or experienced. When electricity no longer runs through her veins, does her essence (software) still have agency even if it cannot be communicated to her hardware? The dialogue, however, never reaches a natural conclusion, and it is left unanswered whether what is being discussed is the nature of one’s soul, or the effects of new media.