Years in Review: 2019 & 2020

The reasons not to write a year in review are abundant this year: after all, what could we accomplish staying home all the time, or alternately, what kind of monsters are we if we accomplished anything in the face of the misery that was 2020?

But I am writing this anyways. For one, my year in review process helps me remember that I am not, in fact, a constant black-hole of failure. For another, I never did a year in review 2019, because last December Berlin averaged 1.5 hours of sunlight a day and I felt like I lived in a misty bog the whole time. So I thought comparing the two years month-by-month might be illuminating.

January 2019

I saw in 2019 from our couch in Brooklyn — frozen pea packages affixed to my shoulders after the 100 x 100 meter swim I did New Years Eve morning. I remember that being one of the hardest things I’ve ever done and being so proud I was finally back in shape. Now I wonder will I ever see the inside of a pool again and the scale is once more a place of terror.

But in January 2019, I was on point and packing up to head to Madrid for my very first ICLC — the international live code conference.

Prepped with Codie stickers, and a new tiny projector and capture card, Wes and I got into town a little early, so we could be a little less jetlagged and hit up Madrid’s big three: the Prado, the Thyssen-Bornemisza, and the Reina Sofia. The art was chill — still love Goya, especially the way his faces are all blurry and I got to see all the hits, including Saturn Devouring His Son; still think Picasso is meh, though Guernica does have its points. The Prado is the Prado and although I have a limit to the number of 500 year old Jesuses and Spanish Hapsburgs I can look at, the Carravaggios were glorious and I posted up in front of the Bosch, refusing to be jostled by unending tour group eddies. At the Reina Sofia, I encountered visual music filmmaker Hy Hirsh for the first time.

Then there was the conference itself, which had a visualists breakout session organized by Olivia Jack and Hellocatfood. That felt very special, since there are usually fewer visualists than musicians at livecode events and we can be treated as the extra seasoning, rather than part of the main course. But we spent an hour talking just about visualist problems. This is also when I first met Guy John, who will resurface saving my butt about a year from now. Somewhere in here I finished up my interviews with my current employer, and I believe I did all the offer negotiating from a toilet at the algorave.

Algorave. Toilet not shown.

We put together a mini-European tour for Codie after the conference, so from Madrid we headed to Berlin. For me, this featured what I think of as the morning of the three breakfasts: one at the airport, lining up outside the business class lounge before it opened at 5:30, so we could all descend on our “free” food; once on the flight to Amsterdam; and then again on the flight to Berlin because I got up so damn early. In Berlin, we played Noiseberg, which is one of the best shows we’ve done and luckily got it on tape.

From Berlin, Melody and I took the train all the way to Sheffield. I had talked her into it because I love trains and hate planes, but Deutsche Bahn had us screwed from the jump so every transfer between services was fraught. Berlin to Cologne was late and involved a broken train and standing the last hour on a very full replacement. Then a Thalys to Brussels where they threw us out of first class, saying Deutsche Bahn first class was not Thalys first class. Luckily our original Eurostar, which we would have missed, had been cancelled, so we were moved the later one with no hassle. We just made the last train from St. Pancras to Sheffield. I salute you unknown Midland Railways lady, who did not make a big deal of the fact that our tickets were for a train hours gone and possibly leaving from a different station, and let us through the barrier first.

In Sheffield we took a beautiful hike, saw some cows closer than I intended, and played another great set.

From there it was off to London, where attempts to do a show hadn’t come off, and a handful of us ended up playing to one another in a warehouse. The venue was cool and everyone was fun; I just wish we’d had time to fill it better. I also went to Foyle’s (always, have you seen their transit nerd section); checked out the murals at Tottenham Court Road while not being a jerk tourist and blocking the path (hard when your trains come so often!) and had cocktails in the future-past at the Barbican.

The last night we stayed at the hotel at Gatwick, which I weirdly like, hotel airport being the most liminal of liminal zones. Somehow I managed to get the fanciest room at the airport hotel, which was even better. I still have fantasies of doing a residency there sometime. (Bloc Gatwick, call me.)

Though it was fun and we were playing great, the tour was tough on Codie, as I think it is for lots of bands. While we still play together and are friends, I don’t think the fractures of the first band tour will ever totally be gone.

January 2020

We welcomed 2020 in Basel, where we had gone because the the Musee Tinguely had a Len Lye show going and it was closing soon. It was a quick there-and-back trip, to fit around the German language classes we had started. The art was wonderful: Lye at the Tinguely was an opportunity to spend deep time with mid-century visual music works that I consider important influences. Toba Khedoori at Fondation Beyeler has such great space and another view on Los Angeles; Lucas Arruda’s Turneresque works had perfect light.

And the permanent collection at Kunstmuseum introduced me to Ferdinand Hodler. I bought a short biography of him in German, which I still haven’t read, thought I am getting closer to being able to do so. Also there, were two moving works, Anri Sala’s Long Sorrow and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye’s A Culmination.

Otherwise, Basel was fine, though I was starting to get very tired of traveling at this point — not knowing where to eat, always feeling embarrassed my languages weren’t stronger, dragging suitcases about. Little did I know what lay in store for the majority of 2020.

The rest of the month was spent attacking my language embarrassments with language classes all morning and then working in the afternoons and evenings.

If I were to do something differently, it would have been starting language lessons as soon as I landed in Berlin. I thought getting my feet under me was important, but the first stage of any language is so dull that being jetlagged would probably improve it. I have fantasized about my own intro language curriculum for months now. Mostly I think I would start with a quick overview of the primary concepts, not expecting students to learn them all, but giving a lay of the land before going back again and doing all the concepts with more detail. It’s more motivating than diligently learning one tiny concept in depth and hoping in two months you can make a sentence. I would also try to add in more interesting topics.

Anyways, at this point in January I was still looking for a swim team to join as well. I had tried out a few and fell in love with SSE pool, but none had stuck.

Finally, my father’s sister also passed away. I am not close to my father (we met once when I was 19) or his family, but I have a cousin who kept trying to get my mother and I to come to a Christmastime meetup, which we did in 2018. My aunt and I looked so similar and it was so nice to meet once at least.

February 2019

February 3 was Bleep Bloop 3, the last Bleep Bloop and our friend Eric’s last show in New York before moving to Denver, where he has started making guitar pedals, hiking in sport sandals and becoming more and more Coloradan every day. I think that may have been Pam’s first livecode show, and now she plays a ton.

The rest of the month, which ended with me having to go back to work again, was devoted to art watching with Amy — Klint at the Guggenheim, Joan Mitchell and Joan Jonas at MoMA — and art doing alone, with a watercolor class. Funnily our warmup layouts were much better than the watercolors themselves.

This month also featured one of the most hilarious moments in my marriage (according to me), in which Wes tripped with a container full of curry and it went everywhere. I still find books with little flecks on the spines. As a klutz, I have learned how to laugh at these things, but I am pretty sure Wes is still mad. I am now christening February 11 Curry Day.

The furthest splatter, all the way across the room

February 2020

February 2020 was ICLC again — this time in Limerick. Kate came to Berlin ahead of ICLC to go to some Transmediale events. Mostly I think we were both pretty underwhelmed, although Bahar Noorizadeh’s After Scarcity was a triumph, an actually interesting film about cybernetics; even make the video-game 3D graphics style that usually makes my stomach hurt compelling.

Then it was Dublin, where I experienced for the first time the relief of being someplace where everyone just spoke my language by default. I don’t think everyone finds language skills as fraught as I do, but I am so embarrassed by lack of skill and while many people in Berlin can speak English to me, I feel like such an asshole for making them. Dublin was pretty, the National Gallery charming. Early the next day we drove out to Limerick. This version of ICLC was less good than Madrid, by which I think I mean it was more academic and more focused on visuals.

On the way back, I stopped in London to get my hair cut by people familiar with curly hair — you may laugh but I have no idea where to find a hairdresser I can trust in Berlin — and to visit the last days of the Nam Jun Paik exhibition. It was lovely to get to spend some time with his videos and the Sistine Chapel at the end really just sharpened my resolve to have that but my stuff someday.

The biggest disappointment was that we were unable to walk through TV Garden but just having to stare from the door. The biggest surprise was discovering Dóra Maurer, whose Timing is a masterpiece of simplicity and rhythm. Naoya Hatakeyama’s light box photos were also neat.

I was meant to go straight from the Tate to Gatwick and home, but on arriving at the airport, I found out a storm had cancelled all flights. Luckily Guy was able to rescue me and a stranded Live Code NYC member. The next day I did the reverse of January 2019’s Berlin → Sheffield trip and did 12 hours, this time avoiding Cologne and going London → Amsterdam → Berlin instead. This ended up being the last time I set foot on any long-distance travel conveyance.

The month ended with me finally picking a Berlin swim team and seeing someone other than me perform with La Habra for the first time — Kayla at Clojure:D. I was worried that it would be so like my work that it would make it clear that everything I do is forced by the system and not by my skill. Luckily, that was not what happened. Kayla’s set was both delightful and unlike mine.

We also ran into some old code friends at the conference and made some new ones. I was starting to feel like maybe I was finding a spot for myself in a new city. Hahahahahahahha, sob.

March 2019

The only solo show I’ve done yet was this month. Codie on Canal opened in a small stall on Canal as part of Wallplay’s offerings. I don’t think it had much of an effect on viewers except some men we met who ran a gallery near my parents’ place in California. Of course I lost the card.

Otherwise, I did visuals for Monocrush for the second time and painted the one set of pictures from watercolor class I don’t hate.

I must have been working on my Eyeo talk and workshop.

March 2020

I started March equally dreading and anticipating the travel I was going to have to do, first to all hands and then back to the States for a few months. Instead, like for everyone, the month quickly became not doing things, other than preparing for lockdown. We got Wes a desk and a Switch before they were all sold out. I ordered a midi-pad for use with the framebuffer. Swimming was cancelled. We did a long bike ride as spring came on and found this delightful fish sign.

April 2019

Not much this month. I think I was getting used to working remotely and to my team in general. Wes and I went to New London to visit a friend. We ordered a Pelican case for the big projector. I bought a James Turrell book at the Strand.

I did get to play with MARCO, my friend Christo Allegra’s pair painting program.

April 2020

Maybe Eliot was right about April. I believe in here I took a week’s vacation to “enjoy” spring and not being able to leave the house. I read some video art history books — knowing where you fit is important — and enjoyed the return of sunlight.

I did some framebuffer art and Wes grew a mustache. I may have joined Instagram and done residency and exhibition applications. I wrote my manifesto. (Was that just this year? It was.)

This was the part of the pandemic where things seemed strange because I still remembered the before. Luckily I don’t have that problem any more.

May 2019

It appears not much happened in May 2019. The Bushwick studio was getting cute. We visited Wave Farm for the first time and I attempted to make visuals that people could tune into from the middle of a field. It was not particularly successful.

I played Algomech remotely. I regret not being able to return to Sheffield for it now, though at the time I couldn’t stomach another transatlantic flight.

May 2020

May began with this meme, which I rediscovered in my photo roll.

More video art was made, including this sun noodling that would be better if the filter weren’t broken and vis for my first stream as an Electric Detective, with Molly Gunn.

Wes started feeding the crows. The roses came out in Leise Park.

At work, I switched back to the CI team and started working on the DAG graph visualization, one of the better projects I’ve done do far. It was pleasing to be able to bring my SVG knowledge to actual work and help people out.

And then, at the end of the month, George Floyd was killed and protests in the US began. It was strange to be so far away at this moment, to be someplace quiet and sunny and safe, and to wake up every morning and read what had happened the night before; to listen to Europeans talk about how much better they were at race than the United States (note: this is not actually true) and to listen to Americans talk about working on their plans to flee if Trump won again. I thought a lot about how I don’t protest any more; how I am more comfortable as an artist, with things of the spirit than with things of power and politics. I considered writing an essay about my cowardice and decided it wasn’t the time. I contributed to bail funds and sent emails and hoped something might actually change.

June 2019

But June was the payoff: Eyeo. My first Eyeo conference was the conference’s second year — my boss at the time somehow found out about the first one and we’d followed it from our office; we were online getting tickets the moment they went on sale the second year. It was a moving introduction to data art and broader new media works, and as such a foundation for a lot of my early forays into data and data art.

(The week we came back I got fired for looking for a new job. I was already negotiating and planning to quit that Friday, so, uh, that was interesting. But hey, thanks for pointing me along the road to my next things, Unnamed Company!)

Either way, for years, Eyeo had been a part of my personal conference triple crown, along with Strangeloop and JSConfEU. And this was my chance! The first day, I taught a live code visuals workshop and that went well. I tried to balance explaining time and coding time and most people appreciated that. I loved seeing the demos at the end as well — the various outputs people come up with given the same tool buoys my faith in humanity, or at least creativity.

My talk was the last day of the conference and I still wish I had done an even better job on it. It covered a lot of what I wanted to say to people and inspired my manifesto, but it was diffuse and I think uninteresting to a lot of people. There was less engagement with the ideas than I hoped. It’s possible I’m not as interesting as I thought; it’s possible that the lure of AI art is too strong.

Around the talk, I did get to enjoy this Rivane Neuenschwander film and see these wonderful decorations at the party venue. It was very pleasant to see so many friends, as well.

From Minneapolis, I went back to New York for a night and then was up bright and early for the train to Boston, to play at @party, my first and so far only demo party. I played a blistering set with Business Pastel and bit into a pepper so hot I had to go in the bathroom to drool in peace.

Wes did some nice stained glass work and I took this photo of him testing his glass with projections.

Somewhere in here, I had pictures of my brain taken to try to explain unexplained tingling. (It remains unexplained.)

June 2020

Outdoor pools in Berlin opened in June. I hadn’t been certain they would, but they did and it was wonderful. First it was just Prinzenstraße, which is the most “serious” public pool for laps, since there are two lap pools in addition to the fun floating pool. Then Humboldthain, which is the one I first fell in love with, opened and it was nice. Later in the summer, it got a bit tedious, because it was so much smaller and because there is a less of a sort yourself by speed culture there.

Molly and I put together a video for the second Electric Detectives stream.

For Wes’s birthday adventure, we rode out to Teufeslsberg, which was a nice ride but a bit of a disappointing destination. The street art didn’t hold a candle to Bushwick’s offerings and the virus made inside exploration feel fraught.

July 2019

The first half of July 2019 was spent preparing for our long travel plans. Wes had been laid off from the Intercept earlier in the year and thanks to work, I had a lot of vacation time and could work from anywhere. We decided to go for it and enjoy the flexibility we had. I knew we’d be gone for a while, but I didn’t quite realize this marked a certain watershed in our relationship with New York City, a certain complication. I thought Brooklyn would always be there and we’d be back soon enough.

Our first stop was Denver and then the Rockies. In the city, we stayed in a cute Airbnb, and I worked all day while Wes practiced driving. I swam outdoors in a park, where I suffered from the altitude and my temporary teammates cheered me on. We saw a Clark Richert show at MCA and the Light Show at DAM, where I encountered Bill Viola. We ate tacos and I discovered this glorious mess of a building. In forty years, Denver Postmodernism is going to be subject to a Brutalism-style revival.

We saw our friend Eric play at a dive on Colfax. The more time I spend in Denver, the more I like it. I think as a Western city, it is legible to me in ways that other cityscapes are not. Nothing is surprising, nothing is cute, nothing is redolent of books I used to read and adventures I used to dream about. It just makes sense, and in that way the most unexpected part is that.

We drove up to Granby over Trail Ridge Road, stopping at the vistas like other tourists and cursing slower drivers. We bought this bird in the mountains, which seems to be a forerunner to Wes’s favorite quarantine obsession.

In the mountains, we went to a Hennigh family reunion and I took pictures of Wes taking pictures and of lichen.

The day my real vacation started, I finished my first big project for work and then promptly ruined my computer by spilling my celebratory whisky on it. (I was sober, but I am always a klutz.)

July 2020

In July, there was more riding and swimming. We went all the way out to Wannsee for the first time: a long ride, but a pleasant one, especially the second half, which goes through Grunewald. I tried the Pankow pool; it was not the best from a speed vantage point — I was faster than all the other swimmers, which can be annoying both for them and for me — but the grounds are fascinating. My understanding is that Pankow was one of the nicer neighborhoods to live in in DDR East Berlin and the previous fanciness of the pool is very apparent, though the snack bar terrace is now falling apart and the grounds are overgrown. It’s still very popular with families and I look forward to testing out the diving tower when its open again. (Something about Corona regulations had all the diving towers and slides closed this year.)

I also started an intensive German class online. It was probably a little too hard — I discovered later I’d skipped a level —, but the stretch was worth it. It was an hour and a half, Monday through Thursday, and since I was swimming I had some cause to speak to people who did not speak English, so that was nice.

I ordered prints as a precursor to opening a print shop.

Wes made this very anxious pancake for me. I remember thinking it was weird that people were doing so much socializing — not just going to picnics but going on vacation.

August 2019

So. Much. Travel.

From Denver, we flew back to New York for something like 40 hours: just enough time to do some laundry and grab another suitcase. Then a redeye to London, a day wandering around the locks, the next morning the Eurostar to Belgium, where I gave a talk at Heart of Clojure in Leuven. I really enjoyed being in Belgium and would like to spend more time there.

We had a two-month Eurail pass and put it to good use. First we went to Linnich, to see a stained glass museum, which involved taking many small trains through Belguim and into Germany. There is a tiny, graffiti covered local that nearly no one took and I loved how serious its conductors were at each stop. The Liege station is beautiful and next time I definitely plan to get off and actually walk down the steps into town. In Maastricht, we went to a bookstore in a former church.

Next, we headed to Karlsruhe. I had a date in Munich in a few days, and we were trying to decide to go, when I remembered ZKM and that I knew someone who worked there. I expected a day would be fine for ZKM, but I was very wrong. I did enjoy seeing all the light-focused works, but I could really only dip into the video art viewing stations, much less the rest of the collection. I hope I will be back again soon, prepared.

From Karlsruhe, we went to Munich, where I met up with Anna, my bff, and left Wes to wander Germany for a week. Anna and I were off to a swim trek trip in Croatia. We took a sleeper to Zagreb, spent a little time at the Naive Art Museum, then boarded the hottest, smelliest ride ever to Šibenik. The café car was closed, so we stopped a few times to let people fuel up on water and again to try to fix the AC. (August in Croatia is boiling.) Oh, and the two driver breaks. Thanks to all this, it seemed unlikely we’d make our transfer at Perković.

When we asked the conductor about the transfer, she picked up her cell to call Perković. They would hold the train, she said. When we arrived 30 minutes late, we were surprised the train would be held till we got on and ... discovered we were the only passengers for the 45-minute ride.

I’ve learned since how underfunded Croatian railways are these days and it’s a real shame. The countryside was beautiful and the driver and conductor so kind. With all the tourism the nation gets, linking the capital to the coast seems like a real lost opportunity. Croatian Railways, I’m pulling for you!

The next morning, we needed to make the ferry to Privić Luka, our final destination. Thanks to a schedule-reading mishap, we thought we were an hour early when we were really about to miss the boat. We actually hopped on after the gangway was taken up. But we made it after all. Croatian Ferrys, I salute you.

Once on the island, it was just seven days of swimming in the archipelago and having late dinners to avoid the majority of the heat. Each day we’d wake up, take the boat to the first swim, swim, explore, lunch, rest, swim again, then back to the hotel for a nap and dinner. At one lunch, we saw a fisherman and his boat and they looked straight from a cheeky kids cartoon. The boat was covered in containers, roped on several layers high. The fisherman himself wore a large beard, old waders and a striped shirt.

I enjoyed the island hopping swims the most: being in blue water so deep it just trails into a void is electrifying and I like sighting something far away better than near coastal swims. Unfortunately, the winds were against us, so we had to do more protected coastal swims than planned. I’d do this again, but I think in June or July instead.

Following a fairly terrifying boat and car transfer a week later, it was a plane from Split to Berlin, where I met up with Wes again and swapped out some luggage, which friends very kindly stored for us. Then it was back to trains — the northern loop. Wes and I began with a night train from Berlin to Malmo, which also went a boat. As seems to be a theme these last two years, the reality of this is slightly less appealing than the imagination. The train goes into the hold with trucks and things, so it’s pretty smelly and stuffy. There is no AC. The boat itself is also kinda like a sad cafeteria on the sea, more than anything more adventurous. I’m glad we tried it, but I don’t know if I’d do it again.

We continued on to Oslo, where we spend a night in a non-moving contraption and had lunch with a friend from New York who had moved back. That evening was another sleeper: Oslo to Bodo. The countryside was beautiful, but my favorite part was Lillehammer, where for some reason, a large number of dogs were waiting for the train.

In Bodo, we visited the only museums in the town and hid from the rain, waiting for the ferry out to Svolvær, in the Lofoten Islands.

The ferry was beautiful. Turns out fjords? Not overrated. The last hour was a bit terrifying as the swells were large, but I had a beer to keep from getting seasick, and I figured anyone driving the ferry in the Arctic Circle knew what she was doing.

It rained the entire two days we had planned for Svolvær, so we walked around a bit, but could only see a little. In the one break in the weather, we tried to do an “easy” hike, but my broken toe and a giant rock at the start put that off. It was still pretty and had excellent lichen.

We wanted to fit this loop in to all our other plans, so we ended up not spending much time in each spot, and I do regret that a little, though not as much as not going at all. From Svolvær we took the bus to Narvik, the northernmost point of Swedish Rail, and then another sleeper all the way back to Stockholm, where we switched to another ride to Copenhagen. There, we returned to my two favorite Danish places: the state art museum and Hay.

From there we intended to take the train to Hamburg and Berlin, but construction forced us to fly the last leg. It was definitely an interesting trip, and we got to see a lot and learn a lot about what you do and don’t need to plan when traveling by train. I will also definitely be a little less ambitious in my train travels in the future — going fewer places and spending a little longer in each one.

August 2020

August 2020 also started with a vacation, though far less extensive than the 2019 version. I just wanted to focus on German lessons without worrying about work after, then spend my afternoons at the farther-flung city pools.

The first pool went off well. Wes and I rode out to the Olympiastadion pool, which is still nestled in the stands built for the Olympics in 1936. It was a beautiful pool and I got in a solid workout before it got too crowded. On the way back, we rode a small dirt path that went past allotments and things along the Spree. Once we hit pavement again, it seemed something was wrong with my bike, the brakes were rubbing. The next morning we adjusted them and headed out Wannsee again. This was a less successful visit than in July. The wasps were unbearable and halfway along, we discovered the dropout on my bike was busted; the original problem stemmed from a run-in with a stick in June, but the dirt path had made things worse. Molly got stung by a wasp and I got stung again the next day. My bike went to the shop. Not the vacation I was dreaming of.

On the last day of the month, I found this weird dude though.

And I kept swimming.

September 2019

In Berlin again, I was back at work in various friends’ apartments, hotels and Airbnbs, while Wes biked around town, looking at apartments we might be able to rent. We were considering splitting our time between Berlin and Brooklyn, but the biggest question was could we find a place we could afford that would rent to us with no in-country credit history.

My first piece for Denver Supernova went on display, though I couldn’t see it.

We took a sojourn to Leipzig to have dinner with coworkers and look at more art, both at Kunstkraftwerk and the Grassi.

I went to Vienna to meet some others. There, I caught the Vertigo and Dorit Margariter shows at mumok. The former had some of the best light and otherwise optical art I’ve seen.

I also visited the Schieles at the Leopold, and had my first run-in with the Wien Conundrum — it starts lovely and then after three days it is so dull you must leave immediately. When I was small, I was afraid to watch the Neverending Story because I thought it never ended and I would be trapped in the theater forever. This is the fear I feel waking up in Vienna on the fourth day. It is irrational. Maybe if I spent a month there I would make it though the wall. Maybe now that I speak better German, I would get a bit more stuck in.

Just before we left Berlin, we signed a lease and bought a mattress at Ikea.

September 2020

Outside swimming closed in the middle of the month, just after I had discovered Seestraße pool: a nice ride and mostly empty. But the club started back up again. I was cautious but happy.

I was in Denver Supernova for a second time, and they sent some really bitchin’ documentation.

I’d like to be able to actually see it real life maybe in 2021.

Codie presented at Sound, Image and Interaction Design Symposium (SIIDS) 2020 with a chill video.

I also had some work in Genarrative, a exhibit of mostly plotter art, plus my generative video buds at Padalmarkt, a shop in Kreuzberg. Molly played at the opening, which was thirty people in masks standing around outside. This is the closest I have come to a party in months.

Something I am really looking forward to in the After is hanging out the pedal shop and making new friends.

October 2019

Back home, finally! All the plants we hadn’t given away were dead, except the fiddle leaf fig, which had one leaf left, and the cactus. (Before we went back to Berlin, we gave the plant to Wes’s friend, and it thrives.)

Sooner than expected, it was time to get back on the road, this time to upstate New York, where Wes did a day of glass blowing in Corning and I got to wander the museum, and watch and meet the winner of that Netflix glass show — she was awesome.

Then we arrived at the real destination: Alfred, NY.

This here is actually the most important thing that’s happened to me in the last two years: my weeklong residency at Alfred University. We had originally applied to come as Codie, Melody and I, but she had to drop out because of work commitments. Would I have applied alone? Would I have been accepted? I don’t know. But in the end, it was Wes and I who appeared for the residency.

Alfred University has an incredibly impressive art school, especially for pottery and video art. I came for the Fairlight CVI, a synth from the 1980s in particular, but the residency provided unlimited access to a professional level Blackmagic mixer, some Roland video synth modules, a Sandin, and a freaking old school analog framebuffer.

While I expected to like the Fairlight and I did, I was surprised what fun I had with transitions with the Blackmagic and the framebuffer.

Rescanning the computer screen with old cameras started as a convenient way to get the images into the older synths, but the glow this process gives in unrepeatable. And now I spend way too much on Kleinanzeigen looking for old cameras, or an old camera, with appropriate accessories.

And then I got to use the immersion gallery to test some of my footage. I have always believed that size is important for the full effect of my work, and the experiment showed how important it is.

Overall, this residency opened up so many new paths into video art. I’d walked in a livecoder — a livecoder into the visual music tradition, but a livecoder nonetheless. I walked a video artist, with a digital sheaf of footage and sight of the road ahead.

I also got to swim in Alfred’s pool, which was nearly deserted. An unadvertised bonus.

But October wasn’t yet done. From Alfred, I headed to Bard College, where Kate and I met students and performed with them. That was a lovely set and I am pretty sure I went monochrome for the student set. I can’t seem to find any documentation, however.

I played one last haunted set at Wonderville.

October 2020

In October, the Artists and Hackers podcast episode I did came out.

I actually opened my store.

I finished my triptych for the NeON/Indeterminacy show at Nomas* Gallery in Dundee. I think it’s really some of my best work to date.

All of these things are cool, but they don’t take up too much space to relate.

November 2020

Due to personal idiocy, we arrived in Berlin one day after the 30th anniversary of the Fall of the Wall. I’m still pretty sad about this, because I can actually remember the day the wall came down. I was in elementary school, and I remember understanding that something very important had happened without being able to comprehend what it was.

Nevertheless, we settled in. We bought washer, an indulgence compared to New York, and ordered a couch. I tried my first Berlin swim team, which didn’t stick, but the desire to swim at SSE sure did.

I bought the bike that brought me such trouble this year and learned Ikea has delicious waffles.

Then, ten days after we arrived, my grandmother died. She had been in a bad way so it was a mercy, but I also still miss her a lot. She was my mother’s mother and took care of me quite a lot when I was young. There are infinite pictures of me in her neighborhood pool. She was such a badass: finished high school when a lot of Italian-American girls her age did not; used the war to claim her independence; ran her family how she wanted while my grandfather was at sea; flirted with everyone everywhere at every time — even the EMTs. When my grandfather didn’t want to see me because he was mad my dad was black, she told him to get bent and went to see my mother. I was actually supposed to be named after her, but she hated her name and objected at the hospital and that’s how I got the most popular name of the early 80s.

I didn’t fly back to Los Angeles to see my mother, thinking we’d been flying so much and I’d be back in March in any case.

November 2020

In November, swimming was canceled again. I got hit by a car when riding my bike. While I am glad Donald Trump lost, the entire process and the entirely inadequate replacement is depressing.

I decided to hide from all this depression by working all the time. I actually like my current project — it’s big and hard and worthwhile — so that kinda worked.

My LZX Memory Palace arrived at the end of the month.

December 2019

Usually I like December. It’s my birthday month. I love Christmas and Christmas lights.

But the darkness at this latitudes is brutal and I am a weak plant from California. Everything closes, even 95% of the restaurants, and there aren’t enough lights. December in Berlin was hard.

The bright spot was getting to visit Christmas markets in Braunschweig, Leipzig, and Vienna. Leipzig is really the best — large enough to be interesting, small enough to be good.

We had a party for my birthday and took everyone to the Planetarium to see a Queen laser show; this was another bright spot. I am still trying to make a cardboard dome, but being bedeviled by supply chain problems. (Thanks for nothing, Modulor.)

This was peak it is impossible to eat without intricate planning time in both Berlin and Vienna. Even getting pizzas for my birthday was a weird challenge. We honestly only solved this by all the restaurants closing for Covid.

December 2020

Wes trying

Me giving up.

Ok, I also explored VDMX and did a good art.


I wanted to have something meaningful to say here at this point, but I am not sure that I do. Usually this exercise cheers me up. While I think in the past two years I have had some great adventures — the kinds I used to dream about — I still remember how tired it all made me and how, at the start of the pandemic, just being able to be still was a relief. I didn’t realize then quite how much I would miss having things to look forward to.

I don’t know what will happen in 2021. I don’t know when everyone will be vaccinated enough we can kinda do stuff. I don’t know when pools will come back. I don’t know if I will ever have the chance to show the work I believe in at the size it merits and if people will see what I see what I do. I don’t know if the next essay I write will just fall into the same hole as my Eyeo talk or my manifesto.

Maybe things will get better again; maybe they will get worse. I don’t know. I have never thought of myself as a particularly optimistic person — I pretty much left SF because if I ever had to hear about a positive mindset again, it would be too soon. But I apparently had a secret (to me) optimism embedded in looking forward to things, in the idea that progress was possible. And now, I don’t know.