“To Flee Immediately! is to ironically explore remaining.”
December 13, 2011 Leave a comment
We have interviewed comics, writers, political activists, in our quest for creativity, imagination, and pro-active search of the self in a world that overvalues the immediate art of information. Amidst the desperation illustrated by the Occupy movement, and the necessity to make themselves a place in the sun, college graduates are amongst the poorest in all demographics. Rising unemployment rates and abandon of one’s aspiration and motivation is how we picture the youth of today. It only just occurred to us that the most imaginative and resourceful people we knew could be one of us, could be so close to what we want to achieve through this blog and through this organisation. We have therefore chosen to interview, depict and portray those who inspire us and could just as well see you through one of those days. Renee Carmichael is one of those unique minds who had to create her own space to breathe and explore what she loved to do most. A Bachelor from the American University of Paris and a Master’s degree from the prestigious Goldsmiths School of Arts in London, a native of Seattle, WA, Renee is an international, interdisciplinary, and unfathomable human being. Here, she presents her project, the new publication Flee Immediately!, and what pushes her through.
Can you explain what your most recent degree at Goldsmiths is about and what you expected from it?
The Masters I did at Goldsmiths College is called Interactive Media: Critical Theory and Practice. But that’s really a horrible name for it. No, I do not design websites or create showy interactive objects that use the latest technology. Instead, what the course is about is thinking critically about technology within social and political contexts and creating out of that. Software is not a given, it is as much a cultural decision as anything else. And MAIM takes that idea in order to experiment in terms of both methodologies and themes. Its about not being afraid to fail. And its as much about putting theory into practice as it is putting practice to theory, whether it may be through viewing a pen and paper as technology or by putting the pen and paper aside to write a computer programming code.
As the course is half practice and half theory, I was really expecting to start to develop a practice for myself. I had challenged myself through writing academic essays and using theory in interesting ways within them, but I wanted to expand my creativity beyond that. I think the course really did help me to do that. You really get a lot of support to develop and experiment within an area of choice (hence why its hard to say exactly what the course is about – it must be experienced). I normally don’t go as far as calling myself an artist just yet, but I do feel that I have a practice. And ironically, I’ve gone full circle from growing up wanting to be a writer, to wanting to expand beyond writing within this Masters, to finally calling myself a writer and exploring writing in completely new ways such as writing code poems and combining writing with other more physical elements and manifestations.
“Flee Immediately! was the result of a fire that burned underneath me. I had to do something. I was frustrated. I couldn’t find a job.”
How did the idea of Flee Immediately! came to be?
Flee Immediately! was the result of a fire that burned underneath me. I had to do something. I was frustrated. I couldn’t find a job. And even more, a job that related to what I studied as described above.
And most importantly, I wasn’t willing to sell my soul to a job that I could do but wasn’t interested in. So instead, I made Flee Immediately! as a way to not only help myself to achieve something despite what was going on around me, but to help everyone who did my course as well. I wanted it to become a forum that we could all use to explain and explore the complicated way that we see, use and explore technolog(y)ies – to give that experience to others that we all have a hard time describing. As writing has always come naturally to me, I thought a printed publication would be most suitable as a starting
point. But I have never seen Flee Immediately! as limited by this form. In fact, its printed on a1 folded down to A5 and then put into an envelope which actually gives the form itself a lot of flexibility.
Also, each issue can expand and change based on what people want, need, or just for the purpose of experimentation. It can also serve as a way to build events, exhibitions and performances. We’ve already done some readings, workshops and even a treasure hunt last summer before the first issue was printed which was great.
How did you choose the title?
I have to admit that I cannot take credit for the title, as I had help in coming up with it. But I do think it works well in a number of different ways. It originally stems from the friendship/battle between Harry Houdini and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Both were exploring the magical world, but in very different ways. Houdini practiced magic, but he revealed how he did every trick. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle used seances to explore the spirituality and secrecy of magic. Both of these approaches can be used to look at technology. The sending of the first telegram was both spiritual and magical. But the term ‘Flee Immediately!’ actually comes from a dinner that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had with some friends. They got around to speaking about the idea of secrecy and the idea that everyone must have secrets. To test his theory, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle sent an anonymous message to a random friend saying ‘All is revealed. Flee Immediately!’ And that friend was never seen again.
That’s where Flee Immediately! has its roots, but to me, it also works in quite an ironic way. It is a way to Flee Immediately! the classic responses you get when saying that you studied Interactive Media, like for example, that I design websites or that I create iphone applications, or anything like that. In the editorial of the first issue, I think I came up with the best way of putting it: ‘To Flee Immediately is to ironically explore remaining.’
“I can say that I wish to I leave it up to people to explore and experiment with what inspires them.”
So far, what is the publication focusing on and how do you recruit contributors?
There is only one issue out at the moment, but I’m working on a second one that will come out in January/February next year (2012). I think the focus is quite clear in that is looking at technology in more critical ways. But its also quite open and I’m experimenting and exploring what it can become.
The first issue was completely open. I wanted to show how different ideas could meet upon the fold but still relate to this idea of technology and interactive media. It includes: a project on databases and tea leaf reading, an essay on pregnancy and coding, a proposal for a project on food, data, and crime, a study of hawla money networks, a proposal for the importance of faking it in teaching dance and technology, and even a creative writing piece about a ship which is mapped out by a code poem.
For the next issue, the theme is ‘manual’, to be interpreted in many different ways: manual labor, manual as in hand, manual as the book that comes with your technology, man as machine, any way that inspires you. The first issue developed what Flee Immediately! could be and what it could explore, now this issue will give it a manual. But it won’t just be any manual and the content and the design will reveal that. I’ll leave it as a surprise for now.
The future focus, is still yet to be written. However, in terms of content, I can say that I wish to I leave it up to people to explore and experiment with what inspires them. It can be essays, creative writing, photography, film stills, anything you can think of really. The only limitation is that it somewhat relates to technology or technologies in a critical, social, political way. For the first
issue, I tried an open call but I think it was a bit too open and didn’t end up working too well. I ended up just asking people that I knew to submit things that I thought would represent the variety and type of projects that illustrated the conceptual basis of Flee Immediately!. This next issue, however, submissions have come from a mailing list I’m building, through interest taken up through friends of friends, and just a slow build up of interest in general. I don’t even know some of the people who have submitted. I always want to leave it open to people from all backgrounds to submit and explore for each issue.
“Before I could even think of doing something creative, I needed a job to be able to survive.”
At the moment its really only me. But that’s not to say that I am alone. I have a support network of people I studied with, who, although not completely involved, I have asked to help me out in various ways as I go along. I also plan to work with a designer for each issue. Overall, I want Flee Immediately! to be something collective so I’m happy if anyone wants to join at any point and in
any capacity that they feel they can. I think each issue will have new input from a variety of people which will help the project to continue to evolve and be a learning experience.
How do you think of expanding it? What do you want it to become?
I’ve already talked about this a lot through the previous questions. But for me, and for everyone, I think Flee Immediately! should be a forum where we can continue to expand and experiment. I’d like to continue doing more events in the future, and coming up with new ways of thinking about what these events can be, whether its an exhibition, performance, screening, party or so on. Not all people who are interested in the themes of Flee Immediately! will make something that fits on a printed page and I want to be able to accommodate that as well as as explore the ways that the printed form can take shape with and beyond the page.
To me Flee Immediately! was just something I had to do, whether it failed or not. I’m in it deep though as its really starting to gain a lot of interest. Even as it grows, however, I have not planned completely for its future. I do want it to continue to expand and become something else, but what that will be I want to leave up to the experimental and collaborative ideals behind the project itself.
What are the biggest hurdles you faced after graduation and coming up with a project?
I’m going to say it straight up: money. Before I could even think of doing something creative, I needed a job to be able to survive. And without one, I just kept being stressed about money. So much so, that I could never really relax as the thought of money was always there. Now I’m by no means rich, but I have enough that I don’t have to think about it and I finally have the freedom to create.
Also, in terms of Flee Immediately! I needed money to do it in the first place. To be honest, everything else seemed to come together: the ideas, we had interest from GALERIE8 in London to do workshops before the first issue was even printed, participation in publication fairs lined up, but how to actually make it happen? At the time it didn’t matter, as I had that fire underneath me I was determined and I was going to do it anyway. It all came together and I did. But now as it goes along, funding is an issue that I really need to start focusing on to make it a long term project. I would eventually like to have enough money to not only pay for the printing itself, but to give support to the contributers, designers, and makers of the project as well. For now I’m quite amazed at how little you can do these things with, and I would say it shouldn’t stop anyone in the future.