Nancy Mauro-Flude takes to Phoenix Gallery for Error in Time at Brighton Digital Festival 2012

By Duncan Andrews | 06 September 2012
A photo of a woman making a presentation in front of a screen of green coding
The Brighton Digital Festival launched in coded fashion© Daniel Yanaz Gonzalaz
Brighton Digital Festival: Error in Time – Nancy Mauro-Flude, Phoenix Gallery, Brighton, September 2 2012

As part of the launch of digital platform E-Permanent and the Brighton Digital Festival, performance artist Nancy Mauro-Flude presented Error in Time, a digital lecture and performance which transpired to be an intimate exploration of the relationship between mankind and machines.

Her themes included the ways in which computers might limit human communication, and ultimately whether they stifle our ability to explore, create and learn.

In almost silence, she employed the Command Line Interface to type and code what was essentially an intimate live diary entry on modern day computing and its relationship to art.

Mauro-Flude sat at a desk facing away from the audience, her computer screen projected onto the wall of the Phoenix Gallery.

The green typography against a black background reminded me of an old Amstrad computer, which visually prioritises the words on the screen to give them an almost literary air.

Her performance explored our everyday engagement with modern computing, attacking our imaged-obsessed interaction and almost unquestioning reliance on GUI (Graphical User Interface) operating systems.

She bemoaned, in command prompt, “why is it mostly the case that GUI is presented as a given to the regular computer user.”

Her central argument is that GUI image-based operating systems such as Windows and Mac OS limit our direct control over a computer (as they predict our searches), and stifle our ability to explore new possibilities, create and learn new skills.

She damningly advances that “the GUI ultimately limits human communication and even our ability to imagine the intangible”.
Throughout her performance, she stresses that our unending drive towards greater expediency and efficiency in computers and smart phone technologies is ultimately sacrificing our ability to explore new possibilities and be creative.

This is an interesting argument and one that highlights the contested place that art and artists occupy within computer programming. It suggests a knowledge limited to a privileged minority who are reluctant to share.

She views the Command Line Interface as one of many alternative ways of redressing this imbalance and offering greater diversity, employing the analogy of wandering through a library aimlessly in the hope of discovering something new.

The system clearly defines a hierarchy between the user and the machine as they provide a concise way of controlling a program or an operating system.

Her performance really highlighted the intimacy between the user (in this case, the artist) and the computer. It was almost as if the audience was not present and her isolation (turned away from the audience) acted as a metaphor for our everyday personal interaction with our computer, while the audience (the internet) monitored this interaction.

Through this female artist the audience are able to explore these usually closed off spaces and demystify the “geek” and “know- it-all” tags which are often associated with male-dominated  computer programming.

This unusual lecture was a fine starting point for the Brighton Digital Festival 2012 and a great discussion point for the newly re-launched E-Permanent, posing interesting questions about the relationship between art and technology and encouraging artists and programmers to imagine the unimaginable.

  • Brighton Digital Festival 2012 runs until September 30 2012. See our Preview.

Visit Duncan Andrews' blog and follow him on Twitter @DuncanAndrews.

More pictures:

A photo of a woman making a presentation in front of a screen of green coding
© Daniel Yanaz Gonzalaz
A photo of people sitting in front of a screen with coding type projected onto it
© Daniel Yanaz Gonzalaz
A photo of two people sitting in front of a code of screening during a lecture
© Daniel Yanaz Gonzalaz
A photo of a person making a presentation to a crowd in front of an illuminated screen
© Daniel Yanaz Gonzalaz
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