The Jackals

2002-2003
Interactive Performance
Collaborative project with the collective TangentLab

The Jackals

The Jackal Project was a series of collaborative performances and installations with the TangentLab collective, a group of artists, designers and hackers. In the guise of the “jackals”, a band of masked cyborg technology scavengers, we build new electronic artworks and irrational inventions out of discarded, obsolete, and forgotten technologies. The entire process is presented as part of the work, engaging the audience in the act of deconstruction and re-invention in a kind of improvisational hacker workshop street theater. In addition to the addictive cycle of forced obsolescence, we can observe another interesting trend in technological development – on the one hand, we have increasing power, speed, flexibility, convenience, and so on; while on the other, we see a constant drive on the part of industry to decrease the amount of control that we as consumers actually have over our devices. In contrast, the Jackals are interested in demystifying technology, sharing information, opening dialogues, and re-negotiating the relationship between people and their machines.

The structure of this project, as a collaboration, was deliberately designed as a collective. In the same way that we wanted to make our work process public and collaborative, we wanted to present an alternate model for non-hierarchical group action and production. We felt that this was particularly appropriate since we were working in the realm of technology which is primarily organized according to the logic of corporate capitalism.

Specific Jackal projects probe the interplay of technology and contemporary culture, taking on subjects such as wearable computing and digital surveillance. Examples of work created during these performances include the PDA or Personal Data Annoyance, a briefcase that emits a loud continuous stream of emails, to-do lists, appointments, and stock quotes; the BubbleViz Data De-Visualizer, which converts a digital wiretap into a stream of soap bubbles; and Guitar Gods, an interactive experience where viewers play modified toy guitars to remix video and audio clips of the greatest guitar solos of all time.

The TangentLab Collective included Ben Chang, Mary Lucking, Silvia Ruzanka, Andrew Sempere and Dima Strakovsky, with Rodger Ruzanka and Chris Sorg.