2015 Artists Alliance Mentor Profile | Luke Munn

What interested you in being a mentor?

I just really enjoy discussing work and contributing ideas – whether artistic or theoretical references, constructive criticism or just practical tips. In our low profile NZ culture, the title of ‘mentor’ can be a little daunting, but I’m more comfortable now admitting there’s experiences and knowledge I’ve accumulated that are helpful when shared with others.

Have you been mentored yourself at some point?

I’m currently finishing my Masters at Colab so there’s definitely a form of mentoring relationship with my primary and secondary supervisors. Outside that, I’ve had a number of informal conversations with artists, theorists, and curators which have been really formative. Some of those have been through twitter, some on email lists, some in-person over drinks. I’m very sceptical of the lone artist/creative genius myth and very into using all the resources at your disposal. So in practice that means trying to make better work by being open and tapping into others. Sometimes that even comes from a productive antagonism – pinpointing exactly what you don’t like about someone’s practice. 

‘Half the Available Light in a Space’, light, shadow (2011).

How would you describe your practice?

As vaguely as possible. I keep my bio intentionally generic and use terms like conceptually driven and media agnostic, which is my attempt at remaining open and undefined. There is a phrase in my bio I’ve kept over the years – ‘the body and code’ – that still gets at the heart of my interests. How are (social, cultural, political) codes embedded in the code of our everyday digital technologies? And how do they shift notions like embodiment and identity? A couple things I’ve learned in the last year are that a single work can point towards a body of work, and that a body of work is actually a very unique and fluid system of knowledge which can shift based upon the configuration of pieces that are currently deployed. In other words, let the work speak for itself, but also let it come together to form different voices. 

‘Gazemaps’, code, webcam, lightboxes (2014).

What are you working on at the moment?

I’m finishing up my thesis, which is around digital disembodiment. The basic premise is that in digital capitalism the single, sited body becomes a kind of pathology. So you have this kind of vision or fantasy of an updated embodiment which somehow retains the creative, affective properties of the human but matches the performativity and mutability of ‘always on’ markets and distributed networks. That’s the writing. And then there’s a series of artworks which respond to this condition in a variety of ways, whether that’s embracing this trajectory or speculating on alternatives. 

One of the pieces I’m currently planning is a performance work where I’ve taken very emotional phrases from Tumblr, run them through a ‘natural’ language generator and then have live performers utter them while moving about a room. So you have this process which attempts to blur distinctions between author and algorithm, bot and body. 

And finally how do you take your coffee, tea, or favourite beverage?

Strong flat whites or US-style quantity over quality in a giant thermos I haul around ;-).

Video: Luke Munn, SR/DPR, Screen Recording (extract).

For more information regarding SR/DPR – and for an associated ‘Reader’ – visit Luke’s website: http://www.lukemunn.com/2015/sr-dpr/