utorak, 4. veljače 2014.

Marina Zurkow - Queering the Green Man, Reframing the Garden

Animirane, psiho-naracije o ljudima i njihovu odnosu prema životinjama, biljkama, klimi i geologiji.


NECROCRACY (2012-13)
animated works, sculptures, banner prints
, food, assessment performances
single-channel installation, prints


cattle armor system, objects, billboards
"local" dinner for 25, menu. prints
lecture and tasting of invasive species
single-channel installation, prints
letterpressprint series


SLURB (2009)
single channel animation
multi channel installation
ELIXIR (2007-2009)
single-channel animations
single channel animation
two-channel animations
two channel animation
multi channel animation


ANIMAL AVATARS (2010 - ongoing)
print and facebook icon portraits
single channel animated video
botanical porcelain plates
four channel installation
ice sculpture, cards, ice rings, actors
truck, icies, music, stage, and squirrel emcee
single channel animated video
seven channel animated installation
PDPAL (2003-2004)
mobile missions for web, pda & cell phone
How I Learned to Love the War (2003)
interactive single channel installation
MAN WOMAN (2003)
found object pixel wall relief
animated 30 minute episodic
animated 90 second opera
subverting the proceedings
signposts and lightboxes
miniature moments from word.com
a game for gentlemen
jazzbo koans
nonsense ode to a crocheted egg
NUMATE (1997)
help for sexual deviants


Microscopic CowsPNCA, Portland, OR, 2012 (audio)

Microscopic Sacred Cows: NECROCRACY

The MFA in Collaborative Design program presents media and animation artist Marina Zurkow, who lectures on how humans are disturbed and dominated by long-dead marine microorganisms that compose modern day oil.
Marina Zurkow makes media works about humans and their relationships to animals, plants and the weather. These reconfigured and inclusive notions of our environment have taken the form of animated videos, customized multi-screen computer pieces, installations, prints, and participatory public art works.
In the Permian Period 250 million years ago, the geological riches of the west Texas were formed, as marine microorganisms accumulated in sediments on the floor of a vast saline sea. Over millions of years, the seas dried out, the landmass itself moved into its present location and these creatures transmuted into hydrocarbons. In the past century, we have pumped over 100 billion barrels of oil and a hundred trillion cubic feet of gas from these Texas hydrocarbon reservoirs. Media and animation artist Marina Zukow asks us to think about how we disturb, worship and are dominated by these long-dead beings: Necrocracy or the rule of the dead. Looking at both what’s below (geological visualizations) and what’s above (the Southern High Plains’ subtle ecosystem rendered as a 146 hour animated software cycle), and what we make of it all (plastics), Zurkow’s suite of projects navigate between visual art, ecocriticism, and natural science.

Necrocracy at Diverseworks, Houston, TX, 2012 (video)
InFrameTV interview, 2012 (video)
Friends, Enemies and Others, Montclair Art Museum, NJ, 2011 (video)


Queering the Green Man, Reframing the Garden:
Marina Zurkow's Mesocosm and the Theatre of Species,
Una Chaudhuri (pdf)

Published in Scapegoat Journal 2012
Crossing the Waters, Michael Connor (pdf)
Catalog essay for Bennington College exhibition, 2010
Marina Zurkow: Slurb, Megan Voeller (pdf)
Catalog essay for Lights on Tampa 2009 Art Program Catalogue
Unperforming Zoögeography, Una Chaudhuri (pdf)
Conference paper, 2009 


PDF/press links:

Necrocracy 2012 -
...Might Be Good interviewBlack Gold: Petroleum By-Products
Interviews 2011 -
Rhizome Interview
Friends, Enemies and Others -
Star Ledger
NJ Patch
NY Times
Paradoxical Sleep -
San Francisco Chronicle 
Metro, San Jose
The Poster Children -
Film Comment
Eyeball Media Arts
50,000 Beds -
New York Times
RES10 -
RES Magazine
Karaoke Ice - 
Metropolis Magazine
LA Weekly
Nicking the Never -
select press
Metropolis Magazine
PDPal - 
select press
Pussy Weevil -
select press
Braingirl - select press 


"Black gold" Joseph Campana, Culture Map, 2012
“Marina Zurkow,” Rachel Hooper, Might Be Good, April 2012
“Queering the Green Man, Reframing the Garden,” Una Chaudhuri, Scapegoat Journal“The Birdwatchers,” Chloé Rossetti, artforum.com
"Marina Zurkow Turns Animal Animations into UnpredictableVisual Form," Dan Bischoff, Star Ledger, 2011
"An Uncomfortably Small, and Shrinking, World," Martha Schwendener, New York Times, 2011
“Back from the Brink,” Amy Taubin, Film Comment, March/April 2008
“Pop Songs (and Popsicles) with a Bullet,” Ross Tuttle, L.A. Weekly, September 14-20, 2007
“Hotel Rooms Set the Scene” Benjamin Genocchio, New York Times, August 5, 2007
“Hotel Rooms Become Overnight Stars” Linda Yablonsky, New York Times, July 8, 2007
“How a Solitary Poet of the Past Speaks to 10 Artists of Today” Martha Schwendener, New York Times, March 9, 2007
“Works That Speak Volumes in a 19th Century Poet’s Voice” Benjamin Genocchio, New York Times, March 18, 2007
“San Jose’s Missing Soul,” Peter Hall, Metropolis Magazine, November 2006
“Marina Zurkow,” John Devine, Art Papers, May/June 2006
“Marina Zurkow,” Jennifer Davy, art US, May – June 2006
“RES10,” Lisa Delgado, RES Magazine, Vol9 No 2, 2006
“Never Land,” Houston Press, February 2006
“The Front Row,” KUHF Radio, February 2006
“Eddo Stern, Marina Zurkow,” Arts Monthly, February 2005
“Marina Zurkow, Eddo Stern,” The Guardian, January 15 2005
“Fair Game and Fantasy” The Independent, December 2004
“Animator Draws on Life” Liverpool Daily Post, December 10 2004
“Copy It, Steal It, Share It, at Borusan Art Gallery,” Art Asia Pacific, Winter 2004
“Rebuild Times Square, block by block on your PDA,” Time Out New York, November 2003
“Sim City,” Readymade, Fall 2003
“Deafening Dissonance,” ArtsEditor, September 2003
“Learning to Love HAL,” The Boston Phoenix, September 2003
“Site Seeing: the Hybrid Art of Marina Zurkow,” The Independent, March 2003
“PDPal,” Liberation, November 2002
“Mixed Signals,” Jonathan Ringen, Metropolis Magazine, May 2002
“Bad Ass Brains,” Bitch Magazine: Feminist Response to Pop Culture, January 2002
Nash (Ukraine), Spring 2001
“Braingirlitude,” ArtByte, Summer 2000
“Braingirl,” Holly Willis, Res Magazine, Autumn 2000



To Life! Eco Art in Pursuit of a Sustainable Planet (Linda Weintraub, University of California Press, pub.) 2012
Viral (Jasbir Puar, Patricia Clough, eds, Women’s Studies Quarterly, pub.) 2012
The Deliverance of Others (David Palumbo-Liu, Duke University Press Books) 2012
Context Providers (Margot Lovejoy, Christiane Paul, Victoria Vesna, eds., Intellect Books, pub.) 2011
Red Hot: Asian Art Today (Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, pub.) 2007
Else/where: Mapping New Cartographies of Networks and Territories (Janet Abrams and Peter Hall, eds., University of Minnesota Design Institute, pub.) 2005
Digital Currents: Art in the Electronic Age, Margot Lovejoy (Routledge, pub.) 2004
Marina Zurkow (Michael Connor, ed., FACT, pub.) 2004
Los Logos (Gestalten Verlag, pub.) 2002
Flash Frames (Billboard, pub.) 2002
The Education of an E-Designer (Steve Heller ed., Allworth Press, pub.) 2001
Pictoplasma (Gestalten Verlag, pub.) 2001
IMG SRC 100 (Shift Japan, pub.) 1999

Marina Zurkow
Mesocosm (Wink, Texas)
Software-driven animation
Courtesy of the artist

Interview: Marina Zurkow

by Rachel Hooper
Marina Zurkow came to Texas in January 2011 for a research trip to the Permian Basin, an endeavor that culminated in her solo exhibition at DiverseWorks, Necrocracy. Part of the FotoFest Biennial, the exhibition considers the effects of petroleum production on the ecology and geology of West Texas with a refreshingly open mind. Rachel Hooper set down with Zurkow just after the installation of Necrocracy to discuss the artist's research and the animations and drawings that debuted in the exhibition, which closes this Saturday.
Rachel Hooper [RH]: I’m interested in your animations and how you set up what you call “dynamic choreographies.” Can you tell us more about them?
Marina Zurkow [MZ]: There are four different animation strategies in this show. There are four different sets of work: NeoGeoMesocosm (Wink, Texas)The Thirsty Bird and HydrocarbonsMesocosm is the heart of the show and my starting point for the exhibition. It is based on a sinkhole in Wink, Texas that I first discovered on Google satellite view. The piece has a dynamic choreography in that it’s not canned video. There’s literally an animated stage and a file folder with events or actors. Actors might be weather, snakes, bees, people in hazmat suits, prairie dogs, monarch butterflies in October, cranes in the winter, more monarch butterflies in March, etc. There is action script coding that I developed with a software designer that manages both time and the actors. They’re not 3D objects, they’re 2D drawings, so the actors’ movements are tightly controlled. Finally, I have an xml data file that is thousands of lines of code organized by month and then by time of day: dawn, day, dusk and night. A day takes 24 minutes to elapse. Each “bucket” of time has a specified bunch of characters that might come out.
[RH]: And the video also cycles through an entire year?
[MZ]: The video cycles through twelve months and then continues. Each of these animals or weather has a percentage assigned to it so in, let’s say, July when it’s really hot, there is a 12% chance that a snake will come out at night and no snakes during the day. As it gets cooler, the percentage that the snake will come out during the day increases. It’s an elegant, simple system.
[RH]: Is it based on studies of habitats and animal patterns?
[MZ]: The animations are a negotiation between the reality of an ecosystem and a mythological or surreal offset of that place. In the case of West Texas, the hazmat people play the strange role in this world. They’re like choreographed dancers. They’re not doing anything practical, they’re performing the gestures that hazmat guys learn in training. They crawl, they drag, they walk, then occasionally they joke around. There’re all theseYouTube videos of kibitzing guys in hazmat suits, doing these weird dances. The suits turn you into a Teletubby, so instead of giving them disastrous, practical concerns, I gave them their own bird dances.
[RH]: A lot of research has gone into the people in the hazmat suits, the animals. Can you talk about your research trip to the Permian Basin, how you got inspired to go there, and what sort of discoveries you made?
[MZ]: A mesocosm is a term used in environmental science that describes a mid-sized, artificial ecosystem used for study. So, say behind an agricultural extension college they build a pond and populate it with a certain kind of bug and certain kinds of weeds, and they recombine elements of an ecosystem to see what happens. I wanted to go to West Texas because I wanted to make a piece for Texas, for DiverseWorks, that spoke to some of the issues around landscape and nature that would be less romantic. The first Mesocosm piece was for Northumberland, England, and that is a landscape that looks totally natural and “unspoiled” but actually has been managed, mined and deforested since the Bronze Age. It’s been a long-term manipulated ecosystem that included the presence and interventions of humans in the landscapeas well as populating it with stories about fairies. Both of these works are part of a larger planned series of mediated landscapes, or mesocosms.
[RH]: It’s not just science that you’re talking about. Are you talking about a system that would incorporate mythology, that would incorporate assumptions, as well as verified scientific discoveries?
[MZ]: Exactly. It’s a dynamic, constantly renegotiated space that includes airplanes, petrochemicals and hydrocarbons. I am influenced by Bruno Latour, especially by the idea of non-human agency and the sort of negotiations that are constantly being made in the world between all these players.
It’s very typical to come to Texas and do a piece about oil, but it’s also important to think outside the pejorative box, or the championing boxdepending on which side of the line you’re on. I wanted to break through the binaries around that.
From 2006-2009 my work was based in what I called the “ecology of the internet.” Everything was taken from YouTube; every bit of research, every inquiry, lived within that world. When I went to Northeast England in 2009, I had a research residency at ISIS Arts in Newcastle, Northumberland. My inquiry started with two squirrel species, the invasive American Gray squirrel and Great Britain’s precious, disintegrating native Red squirrel population. There were many ironies and high stakes, and a high degree of xenophobia expressed in this idea of invasive species and that was my lead into this place.
I wanted to go to Texas, to Midland, because I wanted to complicate my relationship to this material. My first drawing (which I absolutely wouldn’t put in the show) was vilifying. It was an Armageddon-view of the oil business and the ugliness of that landscape. It was aestheticized and definitely not what somebody from Texas would think. To my surprise the landscape around Midland wasn't littered with pump jacks, there’s actually space between them, which is disappointing if you’re expecting to see a certain kind of thing. So I had to confront a lot of my own prejudices, and that was great. I also had to confront a lot of local people’s prejudices and their suspicion that I must be there to vilify them, which I wasn’t.
[RH]: I was thinking about what you were saying earlier about how you’re interested in a sort of dialectic between humans and nature or relationships between humans and nature where the natural world or animals are given agency. I’m curious of how that played out of the oil industry because I think most people when they think of the petroleum industry, they think of a completely manmade system that’s used to sustain our human society and that is so harmful to the natural world that surrounds it. How did you allow nature agency in that sort of context?
[MZ]: When I was doing my research before I went to Midland, I got in touch with a place called the Sibley Nature Center, which is the work of one man,Burr Williams, a naturalist, who started this education center training an army of amateur naturalists to document the Llano Estacadothe southern high planes which stretch from Lubbock to the Edwards Plateau south of Midland. It’s coincident with the Permian Basin. Absolutely coincident with it, although neither necessarily talks about the other.
[RH]: So you’re talking about a binary between what’s above the ground and what’s beneath the ground, at work there coincidentally?
[MZ]: Yes. Mesocosm (Wink, Texas) is a piece that’s more or less about what’s above the ground although there is the sinkhole, and that sinkhole functions as a sort of Pandora’s box over the course of the piece, but the piece doesn’t explicitly talk about oil. There are suggestions of that in the landscape, but if you go into the Flicker Lounge and see NeoGeo, that piece is completely about what’s underground. That piece process-wise is constructed very differently from Wink.
I worked with Daniel Shiffman, a mathematician and code artist on NeoGeo and that series of works consists of video recordings of rocks assembling themselves into strata, punctuated by a drill bit boring through the endless layers. Occasionally, given the right accumulation of hydrocarbons, there will be an oil gush. I thought this was a pretty neutral thing for that environment, but oil gushes are blowouts. I had a student who used to be a mudlogger and he said you’re just going to be vilified, you’re depicting the oil industry in a negative light. As outsiders we look to the cinematic history, movies like Giant and There Will be Blood, where the blowout is equivalent to striking gold. Without the gush you’ve got nothing.
Also that piece is about time in a really different way than the other pieces. Wink is a 146 hour real-time cycle and NeoGeo is a set of four 12 minute recordings of endlessly recombinant strata. The density of the rock affects the speed of the drill and the way the hydrocarbon particles accumulate; they only accumulate under certain kinds of rock. But that piece is also about the liquidity of rock; because that rock is moving around in ways that rock moves over millions of years. We think that the earth is this inert, stable, inanimate material but it folds, subsides and rises up over long time periodsor sometimes, as in the case of the sinkhole, you’ll have an event that’s caused by pumping large volumes of water (as in fracking) or by an earthquake, that suddenly causes these kinds of shifts and collapses. So time is not stable in the geological context and we don’t or can’t imagine that, so I try to deal with that a little bit in NeoGeo. You can see the plasticity of what we consider hard matter.
[RH]: Thinking about material makes me want to go back to what we were talking about earlier with how you are grappling with the materiality of what you’re doing as an animator who works mostly with digital images and thinking about what kind of machines that involves. Were you aware as you did this research that you were working on computers made mostly from components that are derivative from petroleum?
[MZ]: Everything in the show is made out of petrochemicals. Everything. The paper that the Petroleum Manga are printed on is Tyvek; the inks are solvent inks, the little hazmat suits, made from Tychem® TK from DuPont™the fabric was donated under the condition that I wouldn’t actually let any children get in them. (laughs)
[RH]: Do they actually make child-size suits?
[MZ]: No, absolutely not. I had the suits fabricated.
[RH]: But also the material the suits are made of is fabricated from petroleum products. Isn’t it also the idea that it would protect you from a petroleum spill as well?
[MZ]: Yes, exactly. It’s ironic that so many of the things we have to protect ourselves from petrochemicals are made from petrochemicals.
[RH]: Your title for the exhibition, Necrocracy, pertains to what we were just talking about because petroleum itself, the actual material, is made from dead things, but then there’s this idea that the oil industry itself may someday be dead. At least that’s been bandied about for the last 30 or 40 years—that we’ve hit peak oil and that we’re going to have to phase out petroleum. After all your research and working on this project, have you thought about that, what might come after the Necrocracy?
[MZ]: The title comes from a book by the classicist Robert Pogue Harrison, titled The Dominion of the Dead; he looks at Greek and Roman cultures’ ancestor worship and concludes that Western civilization as we know it has been based on the worship of our dead. I thought, wow, what a great way to think about hydrocarbons. We obviously have a very deep connection to oil. I’d say an interdependence. We can’t survive without it. When I started working on this, I realized: I lack the imagination to think of an oil-free world. I think many people lack that imagination, short of knocking off 90% of the human population on this planet. I think with about 10% of the population we could live without oil, but there is no way to clothe, feed and shelter this many people without it. Yet it is a finite resource and I think we understand that on some psychological level.
When I constructed the survey that’s in the lab and online, I asked big questions. What could you not live without? What’s your opinion about plastics? Have you ever considered that plastics assume a kind of immortality for dead marine animals (hydrocarbons)? There’s a sense that these little dead things figured out a way to solicit us to make them into things that would outlive us. On a side note, it’s especially interesting talking to invasion biologists because I know they feel like they’re fighting a losing battle, because as long as you have a globalized culture, you’re going to drive the world towards monocultures. There is too much movement of goods and hitchhikers. There’s no room for niche developments. Niches require some privacy in order to diversify, otherwise you end up with fields of knotweed and mesquite. I asked a biologist where he thought we’d be in a hundred thousand years, and he replied that we’re going to be in more or less of a monoculture. We had way more diversity. But even in a hundred thousand years the realities of our globalization will still be manifesting.
[RH]: And then we get into the apocalyptic scenarios.
[MZ]: I’m very happy that this show doesn’t feel so apocalyptic. Because my work has been called apocalyptic or post-apocalyptic, and I think that’s a comforting space to work in. I try not to promulgate that anymore. I want to figure out a way to postulate these relationships that isn’t so negative.
[RH]: In a way it’s apocalyptic, but in another way I think your work is about how life goes on. Even in an apocalyptic scenario, even in a sinkhole in Wink, Texas which I would assume is a pretty toxic environment, still things are moving, life is there, and it may be invasive species, it may be humans in hazmat suits crawling around, but still, something persevering.
[MZ]: It’s a really amazing ecosystem. This is the thing about Burr Williams. He has scores of essays on the Sibley website about the delicate, subtle ecosystems of the Llano Estacado and what a rich, migratory space it is for birds—it’s an incredible bird space and even an oil pad will be colonized by birds, insects, reptiles and rabbits and these’re actually quite wild spaces. There’s not a lot of population density out there so there’s room for animals to thrive. When I was in Midland he took me all around. We looked at everything from old tiny pocket forests to the largest shin oak forest in the world: the oaks don’t go past your knee, but they yield normal-sized acorns. No one ever lived there because the only water, the Ogallala Aquifer, is fossil water which is not potable. The Llano is actually an ecotone, not so much an ecosystem itself. It is the overlap between more sustainable ecosystems around it. Nature abhors a vacuum and makes no moral judgments about where it might spring from.
[RH]: In a way what that’s about is nature having an imagination where we cannot. We look at an oil field that could potentially dry up, and we think this is the end of the world. We can’t live without this oil. But nature doesn’t even question it and just jumps right in and adapts.
[MZ]: There is resilience and flexibility and abhorring the vacuum. That’s the best way to put it. 
Rachel Hooper is a PhD student in art history at Rice University in Houston, Texas.
- www.fluentcollab.org/

Artist Profile: Marina Zurkow

Mesocosm (Northumberland, UK), Fall (2011), Flash standalone application
You describe your work as making psychological narratives about humans and their relationship to animals, plants, and the weather. It might seem surprising that this relationship to the natural world is depicted via computer animation. How do you perceive the use of technology in order to describe the natural? What does the computer offer you specifically when thinking about nature or the natural?
All representations employ some form of technology—start with burnt charcoal on cave walls.
Why the computer? Why suck all this electricity out of the wall to make inquiries into the representation of climate change? Why pick animation, which is a most unnatural form? There are tools and aesthetic choices that I naturally gravitate towards—in this case, scalable vector graphics that I can make move.
 My work started as pictograms and cartoons, leveraging the language of signage and the cute, because cartoons and info graphics are sly. Animation has freedom from verisimilitude, and warrants the fantastic. I’ve remained interested in making work that leaves you (and me) unsure if it’s clip art or hand-drawn, work that sits between the handmade analogue and the digital.
Much of the work I make is keyed to internet research, obscure stories, contradictory data, and highly circulated media. The Poster Children was made in 2007 when the polar bear became the poster child for global warming (Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth) and the poster child (again) for the cutest (Knut, born at the Berlin Zoo), and it was also the year of the Virginia Tech shooting which spawned copycat killers’ electronic press kits on YouTube, anti– and pro– gun law campaigning, and racism (questioning whether an Asian has the right to perpetrate this sort of massacre which has historically been the territory of young “pink” people). This work strategy sprung directly out of the network of information, personae, and cultures that exist within an internet ecology. My work is about the networked stories we tell ourselves about our place in the larger world, the interwoven and often conflicted threads of this, and how these are represented in mediated form. The network thinking emerged directly from distributed computing, systems, and game design, and this newish, lateral (non-hierarchical) web of connections. Animation—highly constructed and artificial worlds—is a good vehicle to explore this. 
Your recent work, Mesocosm (Northumberland, UK), truly considers online viewership: on your website, you describe its running time as a 146-hour cycle that begins on a certain date and runs until the viewer closes his or her browser window. Other works, like the site-specific Paradoxical Sleep series, or Slurb, which originated as a public art work, are presented on your website only as excerpts. 
The web is obviously a freer space for publishing than sanctioned venues of museum galleries, movie theaters, or television. When it’s appropriate to make works for the web, I do. Not all work benefits from this context. I post clips of all the movies, even if they don’t look perfect in that scale and compression. They are posted as references to the larger-scaled formats. The Mesocosm series is not great at the browser scale, but it’s okay. It was not designed specifically for a browser viewed on a small monitor, and as there is a lot of detail in the distance, it is actually best seen at a larger scale.Mesocosm is meant to be lived with, to be returned to or passed by repeatedly (for instance, in an office, a living room, or a commuter space). If you leave it running, you’ll witness subtle but significant changes in season, population, and behaviors. If you close the browser window or quit the application, the “winter cycle” version of the piece will remember where you left off.
 Do you plan on further experimenting with online presentation of your future works?
I am working on a collaborative set of “survival” instructions, whose main delivery system will be a web site comprised of PDFs and audio files. It all depends on what project-specific context the web can offer.
 Your work and its presentation both deeply consider the way we experience time and duration. Do you consider the amount of time that people spend with your work as crucial? Do you think time-based work and its new channels of distribution have changed this?
Since I made Braingirl, I became intrigued with different kinds of viewer attention. Web viewers tend to do more than one thing at once, so I started building what I hoped would be aggregated narrative structures that didn’t depend on continuous viewing to follow a story thread. I started building dense layered narrative works that you might return to repeatedly instead. It is logical for me to move towards longer works, less and less music video-sized experiences, and pieces that are not authored Quicktime movies but rather unfold procedurally.
Something about your working in thematic series invokes in me a certain idea of nineteenth-century science in its taxonomical nature, especially in the recent series about invasive species (Heraldic Crests for Invasive Species, 2011). Your work is heavily research-based, which can be traced on your blog, and is closely linked to the place in which it is produced or conceived. Do you see a scientific character in your process?
The character of my process is generalist and heterodox. Scientific projects are most often expected to perform consistently, and use recognized, homogeneous method. I think I address most of my work as tackling a problem, and problematizing a scenario or issue through design. More than emulating science, I’m interested in the history of natural sciences and its connection to other histories, philosophy, art, and narrative; the mediated stories of the natural world (not just Western versions) and how mediation and interpretation rely on visual strategies to do so. Can I utilize well-worn aesthetic strategies to make new pictures or new propositions? At best that’d be a new vision that addresses the romantic divide and reconfigures the relations between humans and the rest of the biosphere, and might suggest a different time frame for events beyond the human. 

“Ladies” (of all genders) can opt out of discussions about age or money.
Brooklyn, NY.
How long have you been working creatively with technology? How did you start?
Depends on how you define technology. I studied video art and installation in school. I participated in the BBS EchoNYC in 1992. In 1994, I built my first website and worked at SonicNet. 
Describe your experience with the tools you use. How did you start using them?
It was through web work in the mid 90’s that I started animating, first gif animations and then Flash v1.0. Before that, I made experimental videos and films, as well as graphic design projects. My work has always been collage- and bricolage-based, even though it appears as a fairly coherent and authored field now. I started using more and more rotoscoping (drawing frame by frame on top of video) in the last 4 years, but I also use more standard cartooning—squash and stretch, tweening of shapes, and purely invented behavioral cycles. 
Where did you go to school? What did you study?
I have a BFA from School of Visual Arts. I studied traditional fine art media, installation, video art, and semiotics. I was technically a sculpture major.
What traditional media do you use, if any? Do you think your work with traditional media relates to your work with technology?
I make drawings, and most recently completed a series of letterpress prints. I try to use media appropriate to the subject matter, or media that extends the narrative content. For instance, cartoons are a great way to create speculative fictions, moving paintings, and uncomfortable subject matter. Letterpress is an old technology that was used to create heraldry and identity work (like monograms), so it was perfect for the updatedHeraldic Crests for Invasive Species. These were originally hand-drawn, then inked on the computer with patterning added, and then metal plates were created and a traditional printing press was used.
Are you involved in other creative or social activities (i.e. music, writing, activism, community organizing)?
 I have intermittently donated design services for activists. I am completing a new body of work this winter about petroleum, and hope that an animation on the explicit connection between drilling for oil and water poisoning will be useful to activist organizations.
What do you do for a living? Do you think your job relates to your art practice in a significant way?
I’m on faculty at ITP.
Who are your key artistic influences?
It’s often project-specific, here are some: Odilon Redon, Philip Guston, Chris Ware, Hannah Hoch, Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Sue Williams, Marcus Coates, Hokusai’s Manga,  Miyazaki’s Spirited Away, Lucas’s THX1138, Lynch’s Blue Velvet, Wong  Kar Wai’s Fallen Angels, Herzog’s Grizzly Man. Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, Michael Pollan’s Botany of Desire, the writings of Stephen Jay Gould, Norman Klein, and Mike Davis, Dale Pendell’sPharmako trilogy. Thomas Bewick’s wood engravings, anonymous instructional design, early botanical manuscripts, and so on.
Have you collaborated with anyone in the art community on a project? With whom, and on what? 
Katie Salen, Nancy Nowacek and I made a project for 01SJ in 2006 called Karaoke Ice(which then toured Los Angeles through LACE in 2007). I’m starting work on a set of instructions (sound and graphics) for 2013 called Survival Challenges, with Ruth Ozeki (novelist and Zen priest), Oliver Kellhammer (land artist and botanist), Una Chaudhuri (ecocritic, drama and English professor), Fritz Ertl (theater director and drama professor), and a PTSD specialist.
Do you actively study art history? 
Yes—I see a lot of exhibitions, many of which are historical. I try not to draw lines around what constitutes art, so I would include natural history exhibitions (and their construction), movies (fiction and documentaries), performance, experience design, graphic and identity design, historical frameworks for things like botanicals or ethnography, and so on. I have studied a bit on Asian traditional screen and scroll painting, and book design.
 Do you read art criticism, philosophy, or critical theory? If so, which authors inspire you? 
Recently my reading has been more in the ecocriticism vein, and I got really excited by Jane Bennett’s Vibrant Matter. I’m planning to study some Bruno Latour and Object Oriented Ontology (OOO) this fall. I was very influenced by Deleuze and Guattari’s work on Becoming Animal and all the works they influenced, such as Steve Baker’s The Postmodern AnimalMesocosm was strongly informed by Timothy Morton’s post-humanist writings on nature and on ambient art, (especially the essay “Queer Ecology” and hisbook Ecology Without Nature. I work with theorist Una Chaudhuri on presentations and projects as well. 
Are there any issues around the production of, or the display/exhibition of new media art that you are concerned about?
“New” media shouldn’t be ghettoized. We need more dialogue between various forms. At the same time, while there are more funding opportunities for new media now than there were even five years ago, they are often a sub-category in interdisciplinary or film/video categories.
In my own work, even though I have and will make objects that contain screens, my IP does not reside in the objects made as much as in the work inside the screens. I’ve had a challenge editioning flexible formats—for instance, I edition an animation by pixel resolution, and one edition might comprise a projection, a flash-player and monitor, or just a USB stick. It’s a relief to work on a set of letterpress prints or series of porcelain plates. - rhizome.org/


by Katy Gray May 12, 2011

American Bullfrog from a series of 12 prints, “Heraldic Crests for Invasive Species” 2011. 16” x 20” Letterpress edition.
Marina Zurkow and I met at a birthday party for a mutual friend at a restaurant on Grand street in Williamsburg a few blocks from where she lives and makes her work. She was talking about a recent trip to NYU’s new digs in Abu Dhabi, the oil industry, and an upcoming residency in Texas. As my people are petrologists in Texas and Oklahoma I promptly gave her my mother’s email address. I thereafter much enjoyed being cc’d into their brief correspondence, especially when the men my mother works with were brought into the conversation. It was just a few exchanges between three or four strangers but it was enough to get me thinking about Marina’s work and how it is not only about the way humans interact with their environments but also about how we interact with each other when our interests conflict—when we are confronted with conversations we avoid having with certain people.
She is an artist looking for trouble, good trouble. Her humor and intelligence, along with a healthy attitude towards our inevitable demise, allow her to navigate those who might otherwise be unwilling toward uncomfortable yet important conversations.
KG Your more recent animations unfold slowly over a long period of time, would you explain, in layman’s terms, how they work and how it is that no two viewings are the same?
MZ The Mesocosm series is a new strategy—each work is long in duration and recombines perpetually. Chance determines order, density, and interrelationships. Like my previous pieces, these works have no beginning or end. But because change now happens at a more glacial pace, and can be radical over time, the works are intended to be seen in public places where people gather or pass through frequently, or to be lived with like a painting—in living rooms or meeting spaces. One might become invested over time in the fate of the protagonists on a summer’s eve, and be surprised 72 hours later when it’s snowing and the animated field is full of refugees. 
Mesocosm (Northumberland UK), production stills, 2011

Mesocosm (Northumberland UK) portrays the moors of Northern England in a year-long landscape cycle, determined by a simple probability equation. Over 146 hours, a year transpires. A cast of roughly 150 characters and weather phenomena may come out on to the landscape stage at any time, depending on their assignment. The year is broken into seasons (36.5 hours), which are broken into months (12 hours), and further into dawn/day/dusk/night. A creature may only appear on a June night, and there may be only a 2% chance that it will come out at all. Sometimes nothing happens for minutes on end, and other times there’s a party on screen. The piece was drawn by hand, frame-by-frame, using Flash and a Wacom tablet, and the programming was done by Flash wiz and artist Veronique Brossier.
KG What prompted you to deviate from the shorter format you were working with before? Or, what got you on to this idea of working with geological time?
MZ I stopped being interested in making pieces that worked like music videos, and wanted to make works people could live with. For the past few years, I was already working with silence, a static camera, no edits, and seamless loops that were dense enough to provide hypnotic interest over repeated viewings. But the more I made ambient worlds, the less it made sense to author every move. I wanted to push what it meant to have a long relationship with an unfolding landscape, and surprise myself at the recombinant cast of actants.
The computer does unfathomable time really well; it also performs unpredictable or idiosyncratic time, and procedural unfolding. I want to use data as narrative fodder, crafting narrative time that reflects the data but doesn’t illustrate it.
KG While you were in Northumberland you also started making work around invasive species. What has that come to?
MZ I am currently creating 12 heraldic crests for the major invasive species of Northern England. I developed a suite of projects with the title Friends and Enemies, through ISIS Arts in Newcastle, that include these crests, Mesocosm (Northumberland, UK), and a dinner composed of invasive species. I’m considering ways to spur a conversation around the relationship between our nativist views towards invasives and anti-immigrant rhetoric. You hear it in England, from arguments in the House of Lords regarding the “Vulgar American Gray Squirrel” problem, to the British National Party skinhead blogs where explicit text and image associations are made between Asian knotweed and Islamic terrorists. So there’s an intense space to work in using the intimacy of food, and the visual languages of power. Northern England was disputed territory for four hundred years, that spawned heaps of castles and family coats of arms, so this language is familiar. The crests are a very systematized and narrative language; for the Invasives’ Crests, I (and my assistants Marco Castro and Ellen Anne Burtner) figured out a grammar that’s based on traditional crests but that encodes information about the animal’s country of origin, its introduction, victories, allies and enemies.
KG Are the ties between invasive species and anti-immigrant rhetoric something that you see more of in England? Are we having these types of arguments?
MZ We are. For example, hunting communities use chat forums, and you hear things about feral hogs and Mexicans. Grackles and Mexicans. Eucalyptus trees. Asian knotweed and Asian carp. In fact the book, American Perceptions of Immigrant and Invasive Species: Strangers on the Land by Peter Coates (2006) addresses this phenomenon in the US.
KG There’s a lot of humor in your work—it’s apocalyptic, sure, but it’s funny too. How do you manage that?
MZ I’m a positive pessimist. I’m definitely a pessimist. But I think you have to make the best of it. And nobody will engage in a conversation with you if you’re a black cloud.
KG Right, it’s a “Laugh and the world laughs with you” kind of thing. Speaking of no one engaging in a conversation with you, let’s talk about your time in Texas.
MZ In January 2011 I took a two week research/road trip through West Texas to meet naturalists, oil men, cattlemen, activists, and so on. And yes, it took a while to get people to talk to me.
The trip was the first step in making a new exhibition focused on The Permian Basin of West Texas that will open March 2012 at DiverseWorks in Houston with a side project for Aurora Picture Show. The show will be called Necrocracy and will include a new Mesocosm piece, which centers on the Wink Sink II, one of two sinkholes that opened up about 60 miles south of Midland Texas. The oil company keeps putting up fences so people won’t swim in it and it’s a little monster, it breaks down the fences and just keeps growing. If you happened upon it, you would think it’s a delicious anomalous geological event that occured over time in some “natural” way. The Wink Sink II is reminiscent of the swimming holes depicted in The Garden of Earthly Delights. I might end up utilizing that, making connections to Art/Historical moments—to give me some footholds.
KG Theoretically?
MZ Theoretically connecting, but also because they resonate. Leigh Bowery, the naked man in Mesocosm (Northumberland UK) was such an incredible creature, such an incredible man, and an icon of the Other kind of England, an alter England. Lucien Freud, who painted the denuded Bowery, is a master of flesh and corporeality, and that’s how Bowery ended up in the first ??Mesocosm??—a capricious Green Man. In Northern England people will recognize themselves because Bowery really looks like a Geordie (a native of Northeast England).

The Thirsty Bird, storyboard, 2011

The Wink Sink II is suggestive as a Pandora’s box. There is an extremely uneasy relationship between oil and water in this landscape: there are periodic severe droughts; the Permian Basin/Southern High Plains was not inhabited until European settlements, because it can’t sustain life on a daily basis; the oil industry uses serious amounts of ground water to drill; and there is the always-present threat of contaminated water from drilling. ( And now, all of this information about chemical use in hydraulic fracturing is emerging).

Mesocosm (Wink, Texas), sketch, 2011

In the Permian Basin, oil is made of compressed marine life that died and disappeared 250 million years ago in the Permian extinction. There’s a funny poetry between hydrocarbon transmogrification, and the sticky permanence of the things that we create out of oil, like plastic bags, that have this unbelievably long shelf life.
The new Mescosm will be a breathing hole or vortex that sucks things in and blows them out. There will be plastic bags, some other petroleum products, birds, some migratory animals. And maybe mutant, Boschian people with some kind of plastic bag fetish? I’m thinking of people engaged in situations like Tino Sehgal’s hours-long kiss. Part of me wants no people at all. This total absence of people—
KG That’d be pretty true to the area.
MZ And true to this idea of geological time and my feeling about our shelf-life as a species. We really shouldn’t be around that much longer. We’ve been around a long time. I’m not even being apocalyptic— I’m just being. . . .geological.
KG You’re just being a positive pessimist. We’ve had a good run. What else besides the Wink Sink Mesocosm will be presented at DiverseWorks?
MZ I’m working on 200 drawings called The Petroleum Manga that enumerate the applications of oil. Manga, was the term used to describe cursive, whimsical drawings in Japan in the late 18th century. Well-known artists were making these beautiful how-to books; Hokusai made fifteen volumes of Manga that are arranged by subject—pages and pages devoted to rock formations or to mice who carry things. I plan to make a book of petroleum-based things (dolls, ski jackets, flip flops, radios, water bottles, etc.) organized by chemical. I’ll make cheap, large prints on Tyvek (a petroleum product) and paper the gallery with them.

from The Petroleum Manga, drawings, 2011

I sent a questionnaire to the head of the geology department at the University of Houston asking him to describe, as vividly as he could, what the drill bit sees when it goes through the rock hopefully towards its target of oily sands. I’m interested in how a geologist sees. And how you visualize what you can’t see. The oil industry is a highly imaginative, speculative field. Even with new technology—the equivalent of a 3D sonogram—it is still largely speculative and requires an imaginative gambler’s temperament to put that drill into the ground (for $700,000). It’s crazy. I’m working with Dan Shiffman, my colleague at ITP to create the works in Processing, using code and computer-drawn strata.
And I plan to fabricate hazmat suits for toddlers. A little army of them.
Lastly, I am making an audio piece with Burr Williams, the naturalist that I met in Midland who created the phenomenal Sibley Nature Center. A Nature Center in Midland is an odd thought. He’s my all-time, ideal kind of naturalist: “Nature” is indiscriminate,and everywhere. He’s training an army of local citizen naturalists to document the Llano Estacado—the local name for the Southern High Plains. He has a fantastic essay, “The Ecology of an Oil Pad”—birds that nest in the moving parts of the pump jack, and creatures that can tolerate hydrogen sulfide gas and extreme exposure.
KG You make work about humans and their relationship to “animals, plants and weather.” As a native New Yorker, and someone who has never lived outside of the city for any extended period of time, how do you approach nature?
MZ My mother was a touring concert pianist. When she was home, my parents and I consistently watched Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom on TV. This is a very happy memory, lying on their bed watching this show about African wildlife. My mother died when I was 17, and the following spring, my father took me out of school for two weeks and we went on a safari to East Africa, because my mother had always wanted to do this. So I have a very bourgeois, metropolitan relationship to capital “N” Nature and this very remote view of how special it is.
As an adult I got into taxonomy and naming things. To name something was to know it. I became obsessed with identifying things, and still am. I have a languaged, distanced, mediated relationship to the rest of the natural world. But as I have gotten deeper into critical texts and looking at the network of moving parts that constitutes the world, something’s happened that is still cerebral but really altered the way that I think. Eco-criticism, Latour, Deleuze have really challenged the humanistic, enlightenment relation to nature. I think that this is in confluence with network culture, systems design and computational capacities—distributed networks have really allowed us to consider repositioning ourselves within the world. It gives me tremendous comfort to see us as a cog in a much bigger universe of lateral connections. - bombsite.com/

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