If one would associate Erica Scourti to the material she uses to create her artworks, this should be, without a doubt, an algorithm. The algorithm in its most insidious form, the one that hides behind the appearance of an anonymous calculation tool, the control on language and the form of subjective expression. That is the algorithm as it is used by Google, Facebook or mobile phones.
For many centuries mathematics has been employed not only as a system of measurement, but also as a tool to produce and re-produce reality. The mathematisation of the world has allowed humans to achieve goals otherwise inconceivable: the conquest of space, automation of complex processes of production, informatisation, are all achievements made possible only by long sequences of numerical calculations.
The internet and its 2.0 evolution have then created the possibility for this process to not limit to dealing only with objects, but also to cross the threshold of subjectivity and reach its deepest layers, affecting human language, needs and desires.
It is a silent process, that insinuates into the articulation of subjectivity, without being noticed.
But when it is discovered and brought to light, the result is as unsettling as it is grotesque. Its mathematical rigour becomes illogical, and the impersonal efficiency turns out to be strongly culturally connoted.
To give expression to the uncovered irrationality and bias of algorithms is the fundamental aspect of Erica Scourti’s poetics.
It is actually impossible to define her work in technical or disciplinary terms. To attribute her the status of media or video artist would be very reductive. Her videos, texts and performances are just the documentation of effects brought about by the intense exposition of her subjectivity to the action of algorithms.
In Body Scan the artist photographs various parts of her body and parses them through a visual search app which attempts to identify them and link to relevant online information. Besides considering some parts of female body ‘offensive’, the app outlines a strongly stereotypical portrait of it and is oriented by precise economic interests.
One can find another distorted self-portrait of the artist, heavily influenced by commercial dynamics in Life in AdWords. An almost year-long project in which Erica Scourti wrote and emailed her daily diary to her Gmail account and performed to web-cam the list of suggested keywords linking to clusters of relevant ads, making visible the way how her personal information are commodified in the ‘free’ internet economy.
In the deformed representation of herself, there is something that reminds one of beckettian poetics. Many of Erica Scourti’s statements echo the same baffling effect produced by the absurdities pronounced by Samuel Beckett‘s characters. They disorient one because they are nonsensical, but at the same time sound very familiar. The theatre of the absurd did not create anything new. It simply staged the nonsense of the common places, of which the every day language is full, showing it from an unusual point of view. Theodor W. Adorno compared the embarrassment caused by Beckett’s work, with the one provoked by recognising one’s own recorded voice, realising that it is different from how one has always thought.
It is the recorded voice indeed, the protagonist of one of his most famous piéce, Krapp’s last tape, in which the main character plays his old recorded diary throughout the show.
Rather then using magnetic tapes, in Think you know me, Erica Scourti shows the altered reflection of herself, performing the predictive-texts produced by using keyboard shortcuts and learnt patterns of text-recognition on her mobile phone, which creates a semi-improvised script. In this way, the artist completely entrusts her linguistic faculty to the algorithm, which takes over her subjectivity and defines its forms of expression. The result is a long monologue, seemingly consistent, in places comical, but completely senseless. Rather then being a rigorous sequence of calculation, the algorithm appears to be a compulsive generator of chaos.