My name is Sammie Veeler. I am an artist based in Los Angeles. My work takes the shape of undulating loops in time playing out across performance, digital media, world building, and prose. I seek to examine the spiritual and transformative power of personal and collective digital archives by connecting my personal practice of preserving my late husband's personal data to the collective production of history online. My facilitatory work as co-founder and Gallery Director of New Art City is vital to this practice. Through this work I aim to open an accessible and abundant space which advances beyond the gatekept nature of traditional arts institutions governed by scarcity.
WHAT IS GOING ON HERE.
“I didn’t know what I was doing until it was already done.”
A Time Capsule Or A Grave is a hybrid performance project initially commissioned by the Tezos Foundation for Octobre Numérique Faire Monde in Arles, France in October 2022. The piece takes no definite form. It is my first serious attempt to involve performance in my practice. What began as a fictionalized performance of expertise becomes an earnest performance of ignorance. The work exists in a hybrid format. I activate a persistent virtual space on New Art City with IRL performances, the audio of which are recorded and installed spatially in the virtual after each iteration. This essay is itself a momentary capsule of subjectivity.
A week before I went to perform the piece for the first time at Octobre Numerique Faire Monde, Lauren Lee McCarthy introduced me to her idea of a “performance in progress.” I had already planned to record the audio from the first performance and install clips in this space at each place I spoke, but Lauren sparked the idea that I could perform the piece multiple times.
My late husband, Tvordis Veeler, was obsessed with Finnegans Wake. One idea that forms the book’s internal logic comes from The New Science of Giambattista Vico. According to Vico, the cyclical structure of history loops through three ages: divine, heroic, and human. Joyce modifies the schema to include a ricorso between cycles which I view something like eddying out on the river of time. As I write this, A Time Capsule or A Grave has been performed four times. The ricorso came second through a collaboration with Emji St. Spero.
Production of each age in this first cycle of performances formed a tightening temporal loop.
As I write this, the piece has been enacted four times:
A Time Capsule Or A Grave - October 2022 - Arles, FR - Octobre Numerique Faire Monde - Essay
What Will You Be Like Before, What Were You Like After December 2022 - Venice, CA - Beyond Baroque
About My Avatar - January 2022 - Los Angeles, CA - Human Resources - Essay
His And Hers - January 2022 - Los Angeles, CA - NFTuesday LA
So did I design them this way? With the Viconian cycle in mind?
No. It is a comfortable frame from my former literary obsession with which to name the phenomena I’ve observed in this process.
Wait. You said your husband was the Joycean.
Tvordis is my previous avatar– an identity to which I am wedded but which is no longer alive. This fiction was not revealed as fiction until the third iteration of the performance.
Increments of time and space have the same statistical character as the whole. In the same way, I hope this essay will mirror the constellation of objects and processes that make up this work.
This first cycle of exploration has revealed that the process of observing and naming particularities in this world must be central to the work going forward. Indeed it has defined all of the efforts leading here as well.
Words spiral out of the rupture of an encounter with a past self as other and the future self as self. The best way to show my future self what I can’t see today is to get out of my own way and try to name the sensations. Even though I made these worlds and everything in them, the internal logic here remains unclear. I still get lost. The process of this piece is becoming a pataphysical study of the phenomena taking place here.
In September 2021, I started working around this idea I call ‘Local Posting,’ in which I translated this piece to the local languages of exhibitions I participated in. The basic form is a simulated CRT monitor with the text “Transsexual in your area” displayed on it, slightly distorted by a wavy glass plate between the monitor and the camera. I then convert renders to black and white which forms a background of wavy black and white vertical strips in a square shape, with the text in the center. This process makes the images highly suitable to replication by low-cost printers. It should cost under 25 cents to produce. I wanted to embed the replicability of digital images in this IRL intervention.
In the first edition, I was showing an interactive piece in ‘The Day We Intertwined’ at FLAME-TP Video Art Fair in Taipei. I asked the curator, Kiki Wu, to translate the text of the piece into Chinese. She then printed out several cheap copies of it, and I asked her to post them around the city near the exhibition space. The documentation in this post is the second performance of the piece, enacted in Arles during Octobre Numerique. I printed 10 numbered and signed editions of the piece translated to French and put them up around Arles during the festival.
The phrase ‘Local Posting’ draws a comparison between posting online and posting’s IRL antecedent: bulletin boards, the namesake of the first online forums. The net affords one type of anonymity: even if your name is public, your body is not at immediate risk by being visible. You are responsible for the way you are represented through your writing, profile photos, and avatars. By being visibly trans online, one remains at constant risk of being brigaded by online transphobes, as the Twitch streamer Keffals was by the Kiwifarms forum in October. IRL posting affords another type of anonymity. You are witnessed as you enact the speech in writing, but when you walk away, your post is no longer attributable to you.
As I posted the flyers I was hyperaware of how I was being perceived, because my safety could be in jeopardy. Nobody reacted, but this is not evidence that people wouldn’t ever react. The slogan ‘transsexual in your area’ is ambiguous. It neither supports nor opposes the existence of trans people, it simply acknowledges that we exist. I imagined that it could draw ire from witnesses regardless of their views on trans people. I wanted to highlight this moment of uncertainty which resembles my experience as a trans person. Dysphoria often feels like an incongruity between the way I see myself and the way I feel others perceive me.
As I posted these flyers, Operator and Anika Meier launched Unsigned: an collection of signatures by female artists which engaged the contention by Dr. Helen Gorrill that “the addition of a woman’s signature can devalue artwork to the extent that female artists are more likely to leave their work unsigned.” My work up to this point was always mutable and networked. An artist’s signature felt almost like an anachronism. I appropriated the convention of signing and editioning these prints, my first ever physical editions, which were installed in public space and meant to be ephemeral. My signature, a monograph of a V with an S snaking through it, does not identify me by name. It does, however, identify the flyer as an artwork.
What is the value of signing art that is not for sale and not designed to be preserved in its current state? How is the value of art determined in the absence of transaction? Can commodified art and identity be liberatory?
The 7th performance in the Time Capsule Or A Grave series performed as a part of A Day Of Loving Devotion To The End Of The World, a block party curated Star Feliz and featuring readings and performances by Edgar Fabián Frías, Vaughan Larsen, Marcel Monroy, Priestusssy, and Cielo Saucedo.
EPOCH is proud to present, CATALYST, a group exhibition in collaboration with Honor Fraser Gallery. EPOCH is partnering with Honor Fraser to mount our first hybrid physical/virtual installation. The exhibition features seven internationally celebrated artists who have developed artworks which are situated within a speculative 3D model of LACMA’s forthcoming building, designed by Peter Zumthor. Like chemicals in a laboratory or warm sunlight grazing photosensitive emulsion, the artists in CATALYST use their artwork to provoke and accelerate change, whether that be personal, social, or political.
A PLACE TO STAY is a group exhibition of nine Los Angeles artists whose selected works focus on themes of respite and themes of shelter. In the past year, a record number of laws have been introduced throughout the United States discriminating against transgender individuals. Laws as such, though disturbing, are not unprecedented, and speak to the challenges that LGBTQIA+ people have faced. The artworks in this exhibition echo the strength individuals in our community have by developing havens for themselves in times of adversity, whether this be through community or more internal havens, such as intimacies with others or reflections with themselves and their own bodies.
The title of the exhibition was inspired by a quote by trans activist Marsha P. Johnson, who, with Sylvia Rivera, co-founded Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR), an organization dedicated to sheltering young transgender individuals who were shunned by their families. “I’ll always be known [for] reaching out to young people who have no one to help them out, so I help them out with a place to stay or some food to eat or some change for their pocket. And they never forget it.”
A PLACE TO STAY will include a catalog of short texts and poems from trans writers throughout the country reflecting upon these themes. Writers include: Hannah Baer, Mattlida Bernstein Sycamore, Angel Dominguez, Kay Gabriel, Cecilia Gentili, Raquel Gutiérrez, Coyote Park, and Emji Saint Spero.
Impressions, a collaboration with Mistress Fix, is a hybrid interactive performance in two parts: a durational BDSM display during the opening of Compersion, a solo exhibition by Maya Fuhr, and a two channel video installation composed of documentation from the scene sourced from viewers, which will be exhibited as part of the Lifelike group exhibition at Vellum LA, curated by Katie Peyton Hofstadter for Epoch Gallery.
The performance produced a negative latex cast of the subject’s body which will remain in the gallery for the duration of Compersion until it is reinstalled at Vellum. The work reflects on experience flattened for screens and measured in impressions, and the precarity of digital representation for trans people and sex workers.
Crowd-sourcing documentation requires that we, the performers, watch ourselves being watched, thus enlisting the encapsulated gaze of the viewer as a character in the scene. Online, impressions are anonymous. Your sight is captured in discrete granules and translated to machine-readable formats, which determine the market value of images in the content economy.
As invisible people watch you, so too does the algorithm. Impressions invites viewers to embody the human gaze which typically remains anonymous, and personally gather the data which tech platforms harvest autonomously.
An image of Mia Khalifa hung behind us as we performed. The artist informed us that Mia collects every image of her that she makes, essentially buying back her own image. During the performance, a photographer captured 10 images of us which are now for sale on Getty Images. We do not own these images and we were not expressly informed beforehand. These mirrored gestures transform a site-specific performance about commodified images to their actual commodification.
What does it mean when a metaphorical commodity is instantly re-converted to a literal one? What is the difference between these files and the ones gathered by the audience?
MY other BODY collapses multiple concurrent streams in my work examining embodiment astride physical and virtual space. I map the historically invisible, feminized labor of computing onto my current experience as a trans woman and as a widow who acts as the conservator of her late husband’s digital archive. This is my first physical installation of physical work and it aims to express a narrative which reverses time by flowing from right to left. The installation surveys Time Capsule and Local Posting and draws a through line across my image-making process, colliding artifacts created over the past three years in a chiastic shape.
His And Hers Computers is a recurring asset in my work. The edition is an artifact spun off from A Time Capsule Or A Grave This union of two local machines by a mass of cables between them symbolizes the digital bond between myself and my late husband, Tvordis. On the left, my avatar floats out of the glowing translucent screen of a Macintosh covered in the stickers that adorn my current computer. On the right, a replica of Tvordis’s personal computer, Theseus, depicts a portrait of him on the screen.
A central conceit of the work is my grief ritual and preservation practice with Tvordis’s digital archive. There is more to preservation than storage. Digital artifacts only perform their objecthood when accessed. They always point back to an invisible original. We must not confuse information for memory. Information exists in the machine. Memory is constituted in the body. I would rather the piece live in your mind than die in a hard drive where it lies in suspended animation.
A Time Capsule Or A Grave is an ongoing process and this edition is a snapshot of a single state of its existence. Once minted, His And Hers Computers will be immutably written and perpetually preserved on the blockchain. If, as Jon Ippolito tells us, new media art can only survive by mutating, what role does immutability play in this process?
Included with this edition are an archival 4K TIFF render, a gLTF 3D file, and a .Blend file of the scene depicted in the image. The TIF format was released in 1996. It is a preferred archival format for digital preservation of images and is not likely to change in the near future. The gLTF format was released in 2015. While much newer, it is quickly becoming the new standard for 3D files in the WebGL era. It is a happy medium between mutability and fixity. Blender is about as old as the TIF, but in terms of longevity, it is the most precarious of the three. The most recent .Blend file version that can be opened by the current long term service version of Blender (3.3) is version 2.8, released in 2015. How long will files made with 3.3 be supported?
While open source projects can in some cases provide more resiliency than corporate platforms, the evolving nature of the software means the original tools for authoring this work will not be here forever. How will you preserve these artifacts? What does preservation mean to you? What role do humans have in this preservation process that entrusts the task of storage to a so called trustless system?
What Will You Be Like Before, What Were You Like After is a multimedia performance created in collaboration with Emji St. Spero. A ricorso - an eddy in the river of time. The content was created through a short free writing exercise on the eponymous questions. The performance was enacted in two parts: first, recorded on video immediately after it was composed, and second at Beyond Baroque with the original video projected behind us.
A midsentence opened but never shut. My entire visual practice has evolved in concert with my investigations of virtual space. Virtual space forms a bridge between the archive of sounds which my dead husband created or gathered, and the expanding manifold of multisensory language spun off from my process of grief and transformation. To hear what he heard and through the act of listening be there with him. These are perpetually incomplete and evolving spaces– my virtual sites of private reflection and digital nostalgia where I return to visit myself and leave new offerings, to share my new self with my beloved friends and coconspirators
This was a private digital refuge for 6 formative months of my life. I went for walks here before there was any art. I made some galleries and thought, perhaps I should make some art to put in them. This space contains images, videos, sculptures, and performances spanning the last year of my transition. The theme of these works is the projected observer. In each piece, you see me seeing myself. Until I transitioned, my practice which I undertook in private was almost exclusively sound. Transition dilated my pupils and I tried in vain to express the feelings in words. The visual works flowed out the paucity of words to contain this new volume of feeling. This is a story in song which stops, reverses, and collapses time into the illusion of space. It forms one corridor of a mutable biography which overflows and intersects itself, continually failing to satisfactorily explain its nature. It is also a portal – a third space between my current self and my past selves where we can exist together outside time. In many moments of my life I call out to myself, saying yes it will be just fine. I want to ring a bell so loudly I can hear it across time. The art and the landscape arose together. My first 3D modeling attempts sit with my most recent ones. The seams from my clumsy exploration are visible everywhere. I flatten myself amid my artifacts– the distortion of audio and video synthesizers, the jumbling of my tits and pearls in transparent polyhedra.