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POETRY Morgan Green merging language, technology for live performances
by Kelsey Hoff
2019-01-30

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Morgan Green is one of five resident artists at the Mana New Media Program, a collaboration with the School of the Art Institute of Chicago ( SAIC ) that supports work focused on the intersection of art and technology.

Green's art often explores the blurred line between human and machine; she has applied her background in computer science and experience with coding to digital, visual, written and performative works while earning her MFA at SAIC in 2018, and traveling back and forth to Los Angeles, where she received her BA.

"I want people to think about how technology and mathematical knowledge, and sexual or embodied knowledge, don't exist in separate spaces," Green told Windy City Times. Recently, she has been writing algorithms that write poetry and experimenting with a feedback process in which she feeds original work into an algorithm she created and then edits the results. Thinking about the way bodies are implicated in making and experiencing the poems has led Green to construct various kinds of "poetry machines."

Green will perform an example of this process in a live piece, "Morgan Green is a Poem Machine," at Intersect Coffee Feb. 2-9. In this series of silent performances, Green will become a part of a machine that she has built, but she won't know exactly what the poem is going to say in advance: She will read it for the first time along with the others in attendance.

At four hours each, the performances will total 16 hours onstage. Green recalled a group performance in which she did three 90-minute shows in one day. "It's hard. You're really tired at the end of it," she said, pointing out that the machine will be helping her this time. Although the performance only lasts as long as Green is onstage operating her machine, she is thinking about making the finished poems into an art object.

Green used a similar process in her contribution to Mana Contemporary's ongoing online exhibit, No Escape Hole, featuring its Chicago and Jersey City, New Jersey, residents. Green's work "hold you/mold you" uses an algorithm to modify key words in a text conversation between two lovers, creating new possible meanings. The exhibit opened Jan. 24 and is viewable on Mana's website.

"The ways my work deals with gender and sexuality might not always be super upfront, but those issues influence most of what I do," said Green, who is bisexual. "Computers are super-queer in a way that's often obfuscated by tech corporations. ... There's an intrinsic queerness to the way computing has developed, which tech companies try to exploit and at the same time suppress." Green cited Janelle Monae's work, especially her visual album Dirty Computer, as an influential work that explores queerness in new technology effectively.

"I want people who don't have a contemporary art education to realize that contemporary art is something they can learn a vocabulary for, they just need to spend a little time with it," said Green. "I always try to incorporate some kind of sensation, whether incorporating the body or language in writing algorithms." She favors venues that are more accessible and inviting than commercial galleries and museums to people outside the contemporary art scene: the web browser for No Escape Hole and Intersect Coffee in Pilsen for the upcoming "Morgan Green is a Poem Machine."

"Location affects form and content for art," said Green, on her move from Los Angeles to Chicago. "People forget that they're not making art in a vacuum. LA is very much occupied by the film industry, you see a lot more art having to do with seeing or being seen, whereas Chicago is coming from a history of industry. Things are less obvious, more of the work is interior. But it's hard to generalize. It's grungier here, in a good way."

Morgan Green is a Poem Machine will span four performances: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 2 and Sunday, Feb. 3; and the next weekend Saturday, Feb. 9 and Sunday, Feb. 10. at Intersect Coffee, 1727 W. 18th St. Chicago, IL 60608.

To learn about Green, visit howshekilledit.com/; for more about the Mana Contemporary No Escape Hole exhibit, visit manacontemporary.com/noescapehole.


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