The Miseducation of Anya Major
The Miseducation of Anya Major
All exhibitions open
Tue 29.1. 17:30-23:00
Wed 30.1. - Sun 3.2. 10:00-22:00
Three exhibitions about reimagining the effects, uses and development of contemporary media
What is more educational is most aesthetic, and what is most aesthetic is most educational. – Nam June Paik
Whoever teaches without emancipating stultifies. – Jacques Rancière
The Miseducation of Anya Major openly investigates questions of knowledge, learning and education in relation to contemporary media, from the photocopier and paper shredder to computer games and the latest smartphone. What counts as useful knowledge in this context? And why is some knowledge considered irrelevant? What are we learning? What should we learn? What can we learn? What do we want to learn? Within which frameworks is this education taking place? Could it take place elsewhere? Who are our teachers? Do we trust them? Do other kinds of teachers exist? Is it necessary (and/or possible) to invent a radically different “school system”?
Addressing these questions, the exhibition series takes its cue from the famous television commercial for the first Macintosh computer that aired on January 22nd, 1984, during Super Bowl XVII. The commercial was directed by Ridley Scott, known for post-modern sci-fi classics Alien (1979) and Blade Runner (1982). Scott referenced George Orwell’s novel 1984 (1949) to create a dark futuristic setting, where an athlete/heroine carrying a sledgehammer tries to outrun a group of security guards through the halls of a sinister industrial complex. After running through tube-like corridors, she enters a big hall where a large group of people sits passively watching Big Brother on a large screen. Just as the guards are about to catch up with her, she throws the sledgehammer at the screen. The screen is destroyed in an explosion of light, and smoke blows into the dusty faces of the shocked listeners like some otherworldly life-giving force. Fading out, the commercial ends with the quote: “On January 24th, Apple Computer will introduce Macintosh. And you’ll see why 1984 won’t be like ‘1984.’”
The actress—and real-life athlete—who played the heroine is named Anya Major (b. 1966), and the exhibition series makes reference to her as a way of remembering and reimagining the rebellious spirit she embodies. Her miseducation is not a jeremiad about how she has been deliberately fed with false information and withheld important knowledge in order to keep her in a subordinate and passive position. On the contrary, it is a vision of the reemergence of a critical and inventive media literacy that, like Anya Major, escapes the forces of control and power to express disobedient engagement with the media of contemporary society. As such, it challenges the homogenization of media education enforced by creative industries and that education’s accompanying definition of a skillful media user in which the Macintosh life-style machine has become an integral part. Beyond standardizations of learning processes and pre-fabricated “student identities,” Anya Major’s miseducation opens up to an expanded and heterogeneous field of alternative possibilities for becoming an educated media user. It is, in other words, only literally a miseducation from the perspective of the educational principles of mainstream media culture. From the perspective of the exhibition series, it suggests a radical redefinition of what media education is or rather what it can be.
While the educational potential of computer games is often emphasized in discussions about contemporary media culture, computer art in the eyes of the general public is often perceived as too difficult and too strange to learn from. The Miseducation of Anya Major questions this perception and argues in favor of art as an educational language with its own set of experiences and forms of knowledge that sidesteps the progressive logic of media development to speculatively explore other, untimely ways of learning, using and developing media. It is language that enables smashing screens of control, neither with a sledgehammer nor with a Luddite incentive, but with conceptual tricks, visual subversions and material hacks that propose liberating reconfigurations of media objects and relations.
The three exhibitions respond to this educational challenge each in their own way. The exhibition Tools of Distorted Creativity presents a series of contemporary works that expands the notions of software tools and their affordance of creativity in nonconformist, and even dysfunctional directions. Imaging with Machine Processes. The Generative Art of Sonia Landy Sheridan, is a survey exhibition of an artist who experimented with the machines of technological society as instruments of the philosophical mind and artistic imagination from inside educational institutions. Finally, Evil Media Distribution Centre by the duo YoHa (Graham Harwood and Matsuko Yokokoji) is an installation that takes its point of departure from the book Evil Media (2012) by Matthew Fuller and Andrew Goffey. The installation presents everyday “evil media” objects accompanied by short texts by invited contributors to encourage an expanded notion of media and how it operates on our participatory behavior. The connection between the three exhibitions is the introduction of a media literacy that is not based on the ability to use media the way it is supposed to be used or to be a more accomplished and effective user. The connection is an investigation of media as cultural construct and effect and as the means of envisioning the inventive mutation of such constructs and effects.
The mass culture promoted by the creative industries and the spectacular media society eventually assimilated Anya Major. The Miseducation of Anya Major invites visitors to rediscover her example of resistance of uniformity and authority. This resistance is manifested in a series of works and exhibitions that accentuate the significance of rebellious ecological intelligence needed for development of eccentric, experimental and truly diverse media environments.