a military man with a peronified microphone and camera on each arm
Khalid Albaih, “Dictator’s Bitches,” cartoon, 2017.


States of Control

Cambridge Analytica, an obscure company that combined data mining and political consulting, become a news sensation after its role in Brexit and 2016 elections in the U.S. became known. In the wake of the scandal the company closed operation, but the technologies of weaponizing masses of data to manipulate public opinion, and the intentions that drive them, are surely here to stay.

The artists Emily Gastineau, Billy Mullaney, and Rachel Jendrzejewski were in residence at WAM in fall 2019, where they collaborated closely with a cohort of University students. They write:

We will use performance to investigate data as a tool for the manipulation of democracy. Our research will deal with ways aesthetic and performative forms combine with psychology, technology and law to create push-polling, gerrymandering and social media manipulations. What is the difference between representation in performance vs. representation in democracy? What are the aesthetics of participation, and how do we know when they are deployed as an illusion, masking fundamental inequality? What ethical, political, or performative responses are possible for a citizen when faced with these ostensibly participatory mechanisms?

The research will lead to a new performance work. This piece is one component of ‘States of Control,’ an ongoing curatorial project into media technologies used to manipulate publics, presented at WAM by the curators collective TOK (St Petersburg, Russia).

Emily Gastineau (she/her/hers) is a choreographer, performer, curator, and writer. She performs nationally and internationally, solo as well as in collaboration with Billy Mullaney under the name Fire Drill. Emily is the Program Manager of Mn Artists at the Walker Art Center, and a Co-Artistic Director of Red Eye Theater. 

Rachel Jendrzejewski (she/her/hers) is a writer and performance maker who works throughout the U.S. and internationally, collaborating with choreographers, musicians, and visual artists to explore new performative vocabularies. Rachel is a Co-Artistic Director of Red Eye Theater and a Core Writer at The Playwrights’ Center. 

Billy Mullaney (he/him/his) is an American artist working in theatre and performance art who is interested in choreographic approach to knowledge, in undermining virtuosity, and interventions into conventional modes of spectatorship. He performs nationally and internationally, solo as well as in collaboration with Emily Gastineau under the name Fire Drill.