… this is not made of language but energy

…this is not made of language but energy was a series of four online conversations occurring November 17 to December 15, 2020, centred on born-digital art, tool-making, and circulation. It began a new stream of programming at the AGYU centered on works of art that are born-digital and primarily experienced online. The series was curated by Clara Halpern, emerging from several years of research studying artists, writers, and curators who critically embrace the experience of art online—its possibilities, as well as its biases and barriers, and considers the art institution’s slow relationship to supporting art for the internet.

This program was inspired by the words of artist and writer Mimi Ọnụọha, who writes:

If artists want to reimagine the web, we must set aside the tendency to subscribe to a universal ‘us’ that is blank, neutral, and anonymous (a.k.a white, Western, and tech-literate). Though the creators of the internet may have inscribed this monolithic into the beginnings of the medium, there is nothing in the cacophony of on/offline lives today that supports it. There is no World Wide Web, but many worlds of webs, wherein different groups with particular aims and interests bump into and overlap with one another. The groups, like the voices they represent, morph and shrink daily. But this is not a bug. There is power in the shifts. (source)

…this is not made of language but energy was a speculative exploration of our present and future through topics including toolmaking, modes of circulation, frameworks, and more broadly, our digital lives. By the very nature of its subject, this body of research is ever evolving, and we looked forward to these conversations with an international group of artists, writers, and curators in the weeks to come.

Registration for the series was available here: https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/128779401657



When all my friends are online at once
A keynote by writer Orit Gat
followed by Q & A with Clara Halpern, AGYU Assistant Curator
Tuesday, November 17, 6pm EST

The sessions begin with a talk by London-based writer Orit Gat who has written extensively on contemporary art and digital culture. At the culmination of a year in which most of the world population’s relationship to their digital lives has changed in ways they could have never imagined, this talk looks back to digital pasts in order to assert that screen-mediated human communication does not lead to less meaningful exchanges. Thinking along three lines in the history of coming together online: the history of chat, the construction of a self online, and representations of the home on the internet, this talk brings together references from art and popular culture, along with a history of different digital platforms in order to explore digital lives in the past and the weird present.


Conversation with Kite (Suzanne Kite), Ashley Jane Lewis, Gary Zhexi Zhang, and Taeyoon Choi (moderator)
Tuesday, November 24, 6pm EST

This conversation brings together artists who explore tool-making in their practices, which range from theorizing, building to teaching and can be summed up by a quote from Gary Zhexi Zhang: “if the web is a built environment increasingly designed and constructed by corporations, tool-making offers users a way to regain some of their lost agency.” (source )

Gary Zhexi Zhang is an artist and writer. His work explores concepts and fictions that compose the concrete world, such as ecology, finance, and information. He is currently a Transformations of the Human Researcher at the Berggruen Institute, where he studies non-human networks and markets.

How to Build Anything Ethically, a text by Oglála Lakȟóta performance artist, visual artist, and composer Kite (aka Suzanne Kite), uses Lakota knowledge frameworks to propose a protocol for ethically building computer hardware from the ground up. The artist and scholar specifically draws on how Lakota form relationships to stones and how it might inform how human relationships can be formed with AI hardware.

Ashley Jane Lewis is a new media artist with a focus on interactive installations, bio art, social justice, and speculative design. Her practice explores Black cultures of the past, present, and future through computational and analog mediums. Lewis’s advocacy work has pushed tech institutions to explore equitable access points for marginalized folks and she has taught more than 3500 young people how to code.

Taeyoon Choi is an artist and educator based in New York and Seoul. Inspired by the poetics in science, technology, society, and human relations, he’s a co-founder of School for Poetic Computation, an artist-run school in New York. He believes in the intersectionalities of art, activism, and education and works with activists and scholars on disability rights, environmental justice, and anti-racism.

This session is in partnership with InterAccess.


Frameworks & Futures
Conversation with Tega Brain, Jason Edward Lewis, Tabita Rezaire*, and Paul Soulellis (moderator)
Thursday, December 10, 6pm EST

*Please note: Due to unexpected circumstances, Tabita Rezaire was unable to join us for our live event this evening, but a recording of her presentation will be made available on the AGYU website shortly.  

The artists in this conversation share a criticality of the structures and systems that underpin the internet and the way our data is collected and used. Their work exposes the issues in these larger apparatuses while also proposing alternate frameworks.

Based in Cayenne, French Guiana, artist-healer-seeker Tabita Rezaire points out that the tools and networks that comprise the internet are deeply entangled with systems of extraction and exploitation. In her work, she she digs into scientific imaginaries to tackle the pervasive matrix of coloniality in our information and communication technologies, navigating digital, corporeal, and ancestral memory as sites of struggles, tapping into ancestral or plant networks to seek alternative spiritual technologies.

Tega Brain is an Australian-born artist and environmental engineer whose work examines issues of ecology, data systems, and infrastructure. She has created wireless networks that respond to natural phenomena, systems for obfuscating fitness data, and an online smell-based dating service.

Paul Soulellis is an artist and educator based in Providence, RI, and founder/director of Queer.Archive.Work. His practice includes teaching, writing, and experimental publishing, with a focus on queer methodologies and network culture. In his recent writing, he’s explored coming together in urgent times, emphasizing working from shared, common positions, in common, and on common ground.

Digital media theorist, artist, and software designer Jason Edward Lewis is a co-founder (with artist Skawennati), of AbTeC, Aboriginal Territories in Cyberspace, an Aboriginally determined research-creation network whose goal is to ensure Indigenous presence in the web pages, online environments, video games, and virtual worlds that comprise cyberspace. Based in Montreal, born and raised in northern California, Lewis is Hawaiian and Samoan. His research includes emergent media theory and history, and methodologies for conducting art-led technology research and he has written extensively on mobile media, video game design, machinima, and experimental pedagogy with Indigenous communities.


Circulation & Hybrid Practices
Conversation with Julia Weist and Christina Battle
Tuesday, December 15, 6pm EST

It is clear in our day to day life that things flow back and forth from online to physical space, but we often think of these spaces in isolation in art: the art gallery, the publication, and the web. Artists Christina Battle and Julia Weist share a hybridized process of art-making – creating individual artworks that are experienced both online and offline, moving fluidly between these spaces.

Edmonton-based artist Christina Battle has a background in environmental biology and film studies and is currently working on a number of projects taking place online, which will later seep out into the physical world, including taking up online systems and networks around plant-based ones.

Julia Weist is a New York based artist who explores how the process of record keeping reveals crucial social truths around shared systems of knowledge and power. Drawing heavily on archival material and artifacts, Weist sites her work both inside art world contexts, such as galleries and museums, as well as other shared “commons” like public libraries, government websites, advertising platforms, and digital spaces. In 2019 she was named Public Artist in Residence for New York City’s Department of Records and Information Services.

This session is in partnership with Rhizome.


This series is curated by Clara Halpern, AGYU Assistant Curator, in collaboration with Jenifer Papararo, AGYU Director/Curator, and Orit Gat. The series title, “this is not made of language but energy,” is a quote from “Dream 2,” a poem by Eileen Myles. Graphic design by Marta Ryczko.

We would like to offer thanks to the artists, writers, and curators who contribute to this program, which is deeply informed by their work. We would also like to thank our partners InterAccess, Toronto, and Rhizome, New York City, for supporting the presentation of sessions in this program.

See also

Digital Art Program Stream

Digital Art Program Stream
Commissioned series
2023 +

Zhang and Jama in conversation

Zhang and Jama in conversation
29 Sep 2023

Circulation and Hybridity

Circulation and Hybridity
Panel discussion
15 Dec 2020

Frameworks and Futures

Frameworks and Futures
Panel discussion
10 Dec 2020

Tabita Rezaire

Tabita Rezaire
10 Dec 2020


Panel discussion
24 Nov 2020

When all my friends are online at once

When all my friends are online at once
Keynote lecture
17 Nov 2020

… this is not made of language but energy

… this is not made of language but energy
Discussion series
Fall 2020




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