Go home


What do you see when you think of an archive? 

What happens inside of it?

And who gets to access it?

For what purpose?

When I think archive, I see a brick fortress. Static, separate from the present. 

I know this to be an illusion.

When I encounter archives in real life, my impression is quite the opposite. Stewardship as I understand it is an active process. New media artifacts are expected to mutate if they wish to stay alive. 

I know a bit about mutation for the purposes of survival.

Sometimes you wake up with a man’s memories, embodied and digital, and you must justify your possession of them. 

Sometimes you find yourself with a collection before you know what to do with it. 

This has been my experience.


I encode the act of remembrance, because I want you to remember this.

my greatest challenge as a new media artist is the ‘whoa’ factor

it is not difficult to use a computer to elicit a ‘whoa!’

what concerns me is what comes after.

all media is time based.

time is the frontier along which experience proliferates.

as soon as information became widely transmissible,

we entered the age of simulation.

as the simulation dilates,

the window of sensation narrows


I want you to think about me tomorrow.

I perform for the paucity of words and the density of presence

I said once that information is not memory

Not even memory is memory.

The two must exist together.

information can never be presence

the presence is the listening.

an active and embodied process.

networks transmit presence

but solidarity is not encoded

in the networks that carry it

society demands the unceasing production of documented miracles

we faithfully oblige


I’ve been summoned many times to perform expertise about VR, especially during our purported transition into the so called metaverse. In part, this performance was an act of resistance. I would rather talk about death than VR.


I love to die.

I love it so much.

The tower rewards with regeneration.

I think of the places I’ve called home.

And the ones I’ve been ready to depart at a moments notice.

While my husband, Tvordis, decorated his perfect Chicago loft in an old soda pop factory with matching mid century modern furniture, I was preparing for a reality where I could leave the country tomorrow with a Pelican case and a backpack.

I didn’t want to leave.

But I wanted to die.

I think of home computers.

The computers I’ve called home.

And the ones I’ve been ready to depart at a moments notice.

My husband’s computer, Theseus, is a lived-in laptop. 

Almost 15 years old and still works. We stopped updating the OS around 2018.

Three motherboard replacements, two batteries, optical drive long since replaced with an auxiliary hard drive bay. Maxxed RAM. Rehoused in an entirely different case. Tvordis was so proud of it. 


It’s 2017.


He sits in that loft with Theseus, generating poetry using the latest open source neural networks (Tensorflow and Keras) which he trained on Finnegans Wake, his favorite book. These models took hours to train and their outputs were clumsy, exposing the edges of the algorithm. He didn’t quite know why he was doing this, except that he felt he needed to. He felt like he was surrounded by a chorus of angels, sitting for hours at his computer.


Three years later, he was dead.


A wave of open source neural networks promised a new age of computing. It was possible to train a model on his personal computer. Seven years later, so called AI is ubiquitous – computer vision, machine learning, and the datacenters that underly it are distant and invisible. The cloud joins the local machine as a passthrough for these atemporal intimacies. The automated witness aggregates the intimacies of the world.


An indelible impression becomes a confluence of memories worn through with rewritings, residing in the body and scattered across globally distributed hard drives. Alone with his computer, I performed the poems by clicking and dragging through them as a single line of text.


This was not the beginning of my life as an artist, but it was a beginning.


I think of the body I called home. 


And the body I was ready to depart at a moments notice.


I’m leaving the country next month with a Pelican case and a backpack.


A memory returns as I think of somebody else.


My memory's camera hovers just to the left of my head. I on my back and you somehow inclined over me.


I can see my own face in the right periphery of the vision. You are faceless, headless. 


I only sense your hands.


Your body forms a vague greygreen shadow, like a reflection through the side of a panel of glass. 


It lasts one of those dense eternal seconds  in fantasy.


Which will certainly replay like an unstageable film for several weeks.


I know already it must have been my room, and it would not be the last time we laid together.


The bed must have been languorously deep and soft. The ghostly blue light at midnight after our eyes adjust.


We must have already been talking only as gravely as first loves can 

for many hours already.


My body was still blank but my residual self-image no longer reproduces it this way. 


I might never be satisfied with the word I choose to describe the way you touched my chest, palms open, eyes closed, begging yourself not to forget me. 


I am a grown man reinhabiting my younger mind and our threadbare memory 

but not my body.


If I strain I can bring the feeling of your hands on my hairless chest into focus. I cannot square the image with its sensation.


As I think of conjuring her body in my mind at an instant I cascade through ten more darkened hallways I may never retrieve. 


I flipped the record and God Only Knows played

I hardly paid attention to the song

I rested my head in her lap and I felt a tear drop onto my temple

and diffuse through the fine pigmentless hairs


she asked me what it feels like to be in love

I paused for a long moment and said




Lately Dead Name feels like a diary. Serialized missives pertaining to my manifold confusion.


The project turns 2 in October.


I wonder if I’m really just writing the same essay over and over again for different audiences.

I’ve presented Dead Name everywhere from poetry readings to art and tech festivals, but this is my first time sharing this piece in a space manifestly dedicated to games.


What is the difference between an agent and an avatar?


I am told Avatars are distinguished from agents by the element of control: Avatars are controlled by humans, whereas agents are controlled by computer algorithms. Hence, interaction with an avatar qualifies as computer-mediated communication, whereas interaction with an agent qualifies as human–computer interaction. 


This research is produced in the context of compliance.


How do people react to a system when they believe they are experiencing mediated communication, and not human computer interaction? 


How would you talk to a computer if she was passing? 


I often think of myself like an NPC. An anthropomorphic interface between people and the mechanics of New Art City: the video game where you install real art.


This NPC is represented by Miss Sammie, my avatar.


Frankly, she doesn’t get much use lately. 


Or, she represents a period in my life when my (and our) embodiment was exceedingly virtual. When I was more often a two dimensional figure on your computer screen, or better yet a chipper voice in a community discord. An email toned with casual and effusive affirmation, a foil to your staid and professional proposal. 


People came to New Art City expecting either a startup or an arts institution. What a privilege to deliver neither. 


Come inside, have a seat. 

When you think of an avatar, what shape does it take? Where is it allowed to exist?

Is it separate from you? A part of you? Is it clothes? A body? Your body?


I forget.


Anyway, we met and exchanged bodies.

Or he slipped out as I entered.

I’m not sure.

We were together there for a long moment before it got quiet again.

I promised I would remember.

We wrote what we called a question in the form of a book. It was more like a rat’s nest of dramatic assertions in the form of a hypertext.

People have seen it, read it, and contributed to it.

But I removed it from the internet.

It’s horrible. And unfortunately the desperate thrashing thing is a codex that inscribes my fate.

We evacuated the pages over three manic days.

Only breaking the loop through a ritual removal of his 18 month old rat tail. Thus severing the tether which bridged the rupture of our meeting.

My connection to this alternate reality eroded over the years, like a dream’s traces washing off the conscious mind as it returns to waking life.

I refer to it in moments of desperation.

I have worn through the fabric of that memory. It stretches far beyond its container.

I didn’t realize what I was doing until it was already done.

Then he was gone, just as quickly as he arrived.

And I was alone with a full suite of memories which are allegedly my own.

It’s hard to pinpoint an exact moment.

It feels more like a gradual handover.

A body given and received with gratitude.

I think about the inscriptions we leave.

After we are flushed back out of ourselves.

And I think of our book that I cannot decode without him, which nonetheless animates the very fabric of my work here on earth.

I departed everything everywhere to become someone somewhere.

I feel my body in time.

I am walking an unruly dog.

When we cross the threshold together, home is always our destination.

Am I pilot or passenger?

led by this companion animal stopping and starting doubling back charging forward

Each time she stops, I take it as an invitation to listen to a world unpierced by my footsteps.

I place my awareness two inches in front of my forehead, crossfading cacophony and absolute stillness.

the places she pauses

 distant echoes of the waste accumulating in our cyclical wake


Dead Name is a speculative archive in which I play the female archivist of the dead male artist: my late husband, Tvordis Veeler. As the title may indicate, this death is not a traditional death. With this fiction revealed, the significance of his computer’s name should also come into focus.


This practice unites my individual experience of grief mediated by technology with broader grief over technology itself. When I perform, I deliver lectures wrapped in eulogies, walking through a virtual space projected behind me.


I’m accompanied by a rising chorus of dead Sammies, who interrupt and contradict me, but also automate the labor of my performance of expertise. When I am invited to give a talk without an honorarium, I perform with pre recorded repertoire. 


The spatial archives where I perform are available online for anyone to visit, and each lecture is published on a dedicated website.


This archive is a moving process which structures the media collection inherited from my husband, defines a process for incorporating new artifacts, and curates public presentations from the collection. The boundaries between documentation and art are blurry. Indeed, the identity of the steward is inconsistent. The retrieval methods are varied and multisensory. It revels in its incompleteness.


Shortly after Tvordis passed, Theseus died too. Stewardship of the machine-memory was thrust onto me. I was terrified. His mother had an old computer from the same year, which she volunteered as a surrogate for Theseus’s guts. I transferred the working parts and modifications from Theseus to his mom’s computer, continuing the cycle of dispersal and reincorporation.


That hard drive works by holding electrons in place, which aren’t freed until the files are deleted. The hard drive is already past its recommended usage period and will inevitably fail. In order to preserve the data, I need to clone the startup disk and replace it with a new drive, thus releasing his traces from the machine. 


What’s the difference between accessing a copy and an original?


It’s fiction, but it’s not an act.


I encountered the term “prosthetic memory” in the early research for this book. It was coined in 2004 by Allison Landsberg in her book of the same name. Landsberg argues that “modernity makes possible and necessary a new form of public cultural memory.” Prosthetic memory “emerges at the interface between a person and a historical narrative about the past.” The subject “does not simply apprehend a historical narrative but takes on a more personal, deeply felt memory of a past event through which he or she did not live.” She views this as a phenomenon of significant political force, which has the power to shape collective conceptions of history and mythmaking.


She contends that these technologies of memory blur the boundaries between individual and collective experience, allowing individuals to “suture” themselves into larger histories, to identify with memories which are not their own. In her construction, it seems there is no memory but public memory. Mass media renders us infinitely porous to exogenous experience, yet our private memories remain forever private.

This is quite relevant to the predicament I find myself in.


Sutured into a body that came with a complete set of memories.


A plural experience mediated through an individual container.


Three years later, Jose Van Dijck published Mediated Memories in the Digital Age, in which she argues that media and memory are mutually constituted. Mediated memory objects are sites where individual minds and collective cultures meet. I find this more comforting. 


Tvordis and I access the files in his computer from opposite sides of a temporal mirror. We are consubstantiated through Theseus.


Each time it freezes, I begin again.

Over and over.

I fall through the street.

Jagged polygons shoot out of my body mesh.

Completing the training mission as the game collapses around me.

Silent Hill, Resident Evil, Grand Theft Auto, doesn’t matter.


I’m having the bardo dream again.

Today I am James. Standing at the mirror in a filthy public restroom.

I go to the car. I find the map. I descend the stairs. I walk into the foggy forest. I reach the gate.

I am at the mirror again.

I deviate from the program. I walk up the road until I tell myself, yet once more, that this is the road I came in on, and that there is no use going back.

“In my restless dreams, I see that town. Silent Hill…” Mary repeats in sotto voce.

Always looking for a girl.

He was looking for me.

And then for an instant I clipped through him.

Or was it him through me?

I forget.



It’s one of those days where the dream’s residue hasn’t quite washed off.

I am strolling through the city periodically interrupted by associations for which the primary memory is lost.


Was I someone else?


We speak in order to ratify exchanges made while dreaming.


We came from a place where there is no me.


Where does the player character end? And the interface begin?


I am non player non character

How do I touch the animating mechanics of whatever game I find myself playing

stay alive. 

the game is usually uneventful. 

a few times a day i get called boss, bro, buddy, even sir on occasion

who cares 

and in equal measure a stranger tells me they love my style

or my tattoos


an oblique way of complimenting my body


i get photographed while strolling through soho 

on the way home from the New Museum office in Tribeca

he says i look great

i say i did not consent


no matter where I am, no matter how I look, whenever I leave the house, a program runs in the background 


i sit on the subway rehearsing my lines

for my inevitable encounter with the nameless faceless malice of every horror story I’ve heard from other transfemmes in my community

last week a girl in the baltimore scene was abducted and murdered. 

i practice my explosive animal fury 

back the FUCK up. 

i’m not afraid of you. 


this line of thinking is not without consequences

the hair on my neck stands up

my cheeks flush

i am recreationally dosing cortisol

and then i remember


i can radiate pure love

have you ever met a trans person before?

hi, i’m sammie

seems like you’re holding a lot of anger

that seems painful

do you have any questions for me? while i’m here? 

this may be your only chance to ask them. 

where did you learn about us?

oh honey you watch too much tv. 

and then of course the moment arrives

I enter the station and ask the attendant a question. 

i am wearing a blue linen dress which flows past my ankles. a blue crew neck sweatshirt. a blue head scarf. A black flowered cloth mask. 


skin completely covered. 


my voice gives me away. 

a man follows me down the stairs to the platform. 

it is empty except for an elderly woman who acknowledges neither of us. 


“i thought you were attractive” he says

at first i dont realize he’s talking to me

i sit motionless and silent on a bench

vaping under my mask

he’s standing over my left shoulder. 


“you a faggot. you a faggot. you a faggot. you a faggot. you a faggot.”

over and over again

i do not acknowledge him. I stare straight ahead. 

he goes away for awhile

i don’t dare look back

he’s over my shoulder again

“hey mama where you stay at?”


when he turns his back, i dart behind a pillar. i crouch and peek around the corner to see if he’s still there. he’s confused, looking for me. 


this is a stealth mission, Snake



if i apply the correct social and physical modifications 

i can hope to become invisible

To be read, as a result and not a process.

you survived this stage. 

you are permitted to continue suffering. 

But you did not pass. 

the place you are looking for does not exist. 

he gets on his train and I cry on mine

and I don’t move to New York like I planned

and I don’t get into New Inc like I thought I would. 


I said once that the avatar is more like clothes than a body.


But what about clothes? 


What type of girl uses this computer? 


Misgendered by the italian photographer I repeat my staircase wit ‘sono una donna’


What happens to my precious metaphor about the feminized invisible labor of preservation if you don’t read me as a woman? 


I am tired of stunting. 

I get 15000 steps a day exclusively in platforms

Rocking a casual 6’5”


If I cannot hope to be read the way I see myself,

I can at least be intimidating

I think of the way a certain kind of male colleague stares through me. 

Standing in a circle at an opening, attempting to contribute to a conversation.

Being so roundly ignored that I wonder for a moment whether I still exist. 

A sympathetic glance from a friend as I drift elsewhere. 

 I am a mouth

I am a sensing organ


I am tired of pleading with men 

To make things with technology

Or to fund urgent work 


I am tired of dancing in the negative mirror


Shoehorning an idea into a legible container for whoever is holding the key.


This is a fucking bar tab to you. 


If I was cis and looked the way I do, would you speak to me differently? 

It’s so stupid. 

Am I really going to come up here and talk about fucking micro aggressions? 


During a fucking genocide? 

OF COURSE the gender binary is fake 


Of COURSE there is no self! 

Please just tell me I’m not crazy. 


How can I be read for the softness I feel inside? 


It circles and rises. Easy to spot, hard to see. 

Seeping in like water, sloshing through locks and dams into peripheral vision and involuntary vocalization. Dysphoria the unnameable, euphoria the uncountable. 


Refracted on platonic solids are disembodied fragments of a portrait that rang. Mom's pearls and my first tattoos: an anchor and a garbled DNR in morse code. 


My new voice, hidden among the protean angles, no longer probes but inhabits a register. 

Seeing myself in glittering fragments which slowly move into my awareness as if from nowhere and retreat. The broken manifold becomes more continuous. Searching in the angles, points of light project widening gradients until the edges intersect. Yes, I am starting to see a face in there. 

My secret vocal training in sighs and particles. His bedroom voice is mine everywhere. You can either cut the cord or choose not to use it. 


I'm thinking in tongues


I remember everything.


I mouthed the words of our favorite song.


I realize his absence more.


all now in time, we walk, you are, somewhere, something, now, and always.