The Decameron was a 14th-century book by Boccaccio about a group of people stuck inside a villa quarantining themselves from the Black Plague. They pass the time by telling each other stories, jokes, and making art together. Boccaccio’s storytelling was motivated by more than just boredom: He proposed storytelling and social cohesion as a tactic to prevent plague infection in medieval Italy.
“Although Boccaccio was not the first writer to deal with pestilence or epidemics in a literary work, he was the first to unite the topos of a life-threatening context with a public health disaster like the Black Death, and certainly the first author to propose storytelling as a means of prophylaxis in times of plague.”
– Martin Marafioti, Storytelling as Plague Prevention in Medieval and Early Modern Italy: The Decameron Tradition
It’s been a while since I’ve posted on this blog. That’s because I decided to stop posting in 2017, leaving behind an archive of my programming experiments, critical explorations, and art practice during my time in grad school from 2015-2017. It was a journal of sorts for me – mapping the ideas and theory that was informing my creative practice. I wrote about “the algorithmic gaze” inspired by Donna Haraway, the biopolitics of code, and cybernetic categorization on Facebook. It also captured many of the frustrations I encountered when my code broke, I couldn’t get a package to install, I built things that I later thought were dumb, or utterly failed to understand the science behind hydrology.
Under this new reality I’ve found myself during covid-19, I’ve been revisiting some of my coding projects and writing as a source of inspiration for my current creative practice. I realized that some of the best projects I developed and classes I took during my time in “art school” weren’t documented on this blog at all – my exploration of location data with Python, my experiments in “detourning the web,” my sketches and schema, and a great deal of my thesis research never made it into this archive.
To that end, I want to continue using this blog as an informal space in which I can test out new ideas and concepts, a complement to my are.na space for visual research and my Github for code experiments. I will continue to write about what I’m reading and creating (when I’m not busy working my 9-5 job as a researcher at Mozilla).
Artmaking and storytelling can be a tactic for survival in uncertain times.