Artists Steve Warwick and Nora Khan combed through seminal episodes of the X- Files to closely examine the evolving climate of fear during the Clinton era. This period is remarkable in that it marked the birth of the Internet and an era of networked communication, while also operating within an increasingly dense cloud of paranoia. The X-Files spoke to the psychological anxieties of this complex time: Aliens replaced Communism, and fear of ghosts, and the paranormal prefaced our current Islamophobic climate, with deregulated neoliberalism continually hovering, like an invisible man in the room. The show allows us to track a collective need for an enemy of the state, manifested in earnest (often comical) conspiracy theories, urban legends, and endless figurations of bogeymen.
Our June Rhizome feature explores the use of the Internet within important episodes of the show, along with the series’ impact on early Internet use, as it was one of the first with a global Internet fan base. The X-Files was perfectly suited for its target demographic, suburban teenagers and young adults who were learning to use the Internet, logging onto dedicated forums and manic chat rooms to discuss episode content, to speculate on theories and their basis in the real world, and come up with urban legends of their own. They used the early Internet to map the unknown world. Over successive seasons, characters become more engaged with the Internet, using it to construct theories, navigate an increasingly uncertain world, and sort and pick through the inexplicable and weird. – Nora Khan
On Monday, Warwick will present this research, featuring images, clips, and ephemera that Khan and he compiled for a short film in development and an extensive Rhizome feature Discussion surrounding the interplay between seminal X-Files episodes, ‘90s Internet culture, and paranoia in the American networked imaginary will take place with Warwick following the presentation.
Steven Warwick is a British artist and musician living and working in Berlin.
His practice is multidisciplinary, ranging from durational multi sensual performances, installations, directing plays, films, self published books, hosting a radio talk show and curating exhibitions.
He also performs and records music under the solo monicker Heatsick releasing on the acclaimed club/ experimental label PAN and also as a duo with Luke Younger called Birds of Delay and most recently with LA performance artist and improv musician Anna Homler under the hybrid dance/ sound/ theatre project Breadwoman.
He has exhibited work at SMK Cclosedhagen, the Modern Institute Glasgow, ICA London, Balice Hertling NYC,Exile Galerie Berlin, Kinderhook & Caracas, Kurator CH, New Theater Berlin, Schinkel Pavillon and was artist in residence at Villa Aurora, Los Angeles 2015.
With Heatsick, music is created in real time based upon loops that are moulded, stretched and reduced to interlink, merging with one another ; live dance music that expands and unlocks the senses.Heatsick: Extended Play is a performance series often stretched beyond three hours and augmented by elements of his broader art practice, favourably received at venues worldwide including Berghain, MoMa PS1, V&A Museum London, Malmö Konsthall, Kunsthaus Bregenz, Mutek and Unsound Festival.
Nora Khan is a writer and a contributing editor at Rhizome. She’s 2016 Thoma Foundation Arts Writing Fellow in Digital Art, and an artist-in-residence at Industry Lab in Cambridge. She writes fiction and criticism about digital art, artificial intelligence, literature, games, and electronic music. She has published in Rhizome, Kill Screen, Conjunctions, After Us, Ran Dian, AVANT, DIS, and many other places. In 2015 she was a contributing critic for Åzone Futures Market, the Guggenheim’s first digital exhibition, organized around speculative bets on the future of technology and society.
Her website is at: http://noranahidkhan.com.