"Getting in on the Ground Floor: A Hazy History of How and Why We Banded Together" appears in xxxboîte, an artifact produced in celebration of the first ten years of Studio XX, Montréal, QC, October 2007

Getting in on the Ground Floor:
A Hazy History of How and Why We Banded Together

In the beginning there were only a few of us. That we knew of. We thought there might be others, but we weren't sure where to look. We were in a room. It was a small room. If it had a glass ceiling, we couldn't see it. The point was to share the room, and what was in it. What was in it was a lot of paper and also, a computer. It was our understanding that the computer would replace the paper. We hadn't got that working yet. We had other, more pressing questions: Where is this place called cyberspace? And who pays for it? We asked around, but no one would tell us anything. Go away, they said. You're no good at math, they said. Which only made us ask more questions: What are they hiding from us - passwords, codes, equipment? What are we missing - information, networks, power? What don't they want us to know - that if they can do it we can do it? If they can do it than how hard could it possibly be?

One day we decided we would ask the computer. Computer, do you contain any answers to the many questions you engender? We huddled around it. We only had the one. It was a grey-beige box with a beetle-black glass eye. We knew we had to get past the surface of the thing. We knew that deep down inside our grey-beige box was much larger than it appeared. It was connected to other grey-beige boxes in other rooms. Stashed away inside these millions of boxes there must be billions of answers.

We switched the computer on. There was a click, a whir, and then a steady hum. Soon enough we sat basking in a blue-green glow. A cursor blinked at us. We blinked back. Now what do we do? Expectations were running high. We'd been promised progress, deliverance, another chance. And there was this cursor clearing a path to the command line for us, a clean slate. Before we knew it we were giving it orders: run, kill, execute. This kind of language was hard for some of us to take. Some of us just wanted to: sleep, jobs, stop, exit. Others wanted to know more: list, who, finger, history. Cables coiled at our feet. They snaked out the door. We slipped out with them. So this is how we shed our skin!

We had stumbled into uncharted territory, an outlaw zone where we could be anything, anyone, anywhere. We could be logical. We could be abstract. We could be "it" or "he/she" or we could log in as Guest and cruise anonymous through Archie, Gopher, Telnet and FTP. We wandered around like this for a dog's age. Which, in Internet years, was just a few days. We still had bodies. Our wrists were sore. And everywhere we went we were: @gender, language thwarting us at every turn.

One day we were minding our own business writing shell scripts on the command line when a bright spec appeared on the horizon. It was a pixel. It was a mass of pixels. The pixels joined forces. Soon they formed a thumbnail, and then a whole jpeg. An image! The next thing we knew no one knew who was issuing commands anymore. We were all clicking away on icons. What we saw was what we got. One thing linking to another, faster and faster, around and around we went.

Now all we have to do is ask, and answers come racing at us. So many answers. What were the questions again? They were merely predictions. They enabled us to move forward. Toward what? We never would have guessed. How many of us there are. How much we do and do not know. How are we going to remember all this? Will our uncertainties be stored online, along with our desires? Maybe we'd better print them out just in case. How necessary is closure? Well, it's a start anyway.

J. R. Carpenter, Montreal, October 2007

xxxboîte is an artifact produced in celebration of the first ten years of Studio XX, Centre d'artiste féministe engagé dans l'exploration, la création et la critique en art technologique. The boîte contains a publication featuring new texts from Kim Sawchuk, Marie-Christiane Mathieu, Anna Friz, J.R.Carpenter, and Michelle Kasprzak and a DVD comprised of documentation of selected projects, presentations and events of the first ten years of programming at studioxx. Inserted into this collection is a limited edition print from Montréal based artist, beewoo.

Faced with the impossibility of fully describing something that continues to shift in form and intentions, commissaire invitée, jake moore, has instead assembled the residue and remnants of the studio’s affects and actions for your consideration. The resulting collection indicates a centre ripe with exchange, diversity, and energy whose development parallels that of contemporary digital technologies.

Artists and projects represented on the DVD include: Kim Sawchuk, Kathy Kennedy, Sheryl Hamilton, Deb Van Slet, Histoire Orales, MXXR, Élène Tremblay, Anna Friz, Annabelle Chvostek, Katarina Soukup, Valerie Walker, Nancy Wight, Hope Peterson, Stephanie Lagueux, Diane Labrosse, Chantal Dumas, Caroline Martel, Miriam Verburg, Genevieve Heistek, Nancy Tobin, Bernadette Houde, Anne-Francoise Jacques and more...

For more information and/or to order xxxboîte contact Studio XX
4001 Rue Berri, espace 201, Montréal. Québec H2L 4H2
tél: 514-845-7934 . fax: 514.845.4941
info at studioxx dot org

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