In ArtReview, Volume 17 Number 1.
In 2018 American Artist premiered Black Gooey Universe in Brooklyn, a viscerally heady and moving exhibition that reveals historical erasures and future potentialities of blackness in computation and digital cultures. Take Mother of All Demos (2018), one of the works on display, in which Artist stages a seemingly nonfunctional computer workstation partially covered in viscous bitumen. It is as if the keyboard has been tarred, or an opaque black ectoplasm is seeping out. The installation addresses a 1968 computer demonstration of a graphical user interface (GUI, pronounced ‘gooey’) that inaugurated a transition from the black command-line computer screen to the now dominant white screen of folders and documents. For New York-based Artist, this technical transition indexes vast dynamics of antiblackness in the US, bound to America’s history of slavery, which runs like goo through Silicon Valley products. At the same time, Mother of All Demos speculates a renewed functionality of blackness on the computer screen, as an operating system outside the logics of white supremacy and racial capitalism. How to use Artist’s black ‘gooey’ is challenging to discern, as the work is not interested in pragmatic solutions. Instead, blackness is encountered as something broken that demands the epistemologies of the interface be rewritten.