Dialogue with jonCates && Jake Elliott

Fall 2010: v.06 n.02: Dynamic Coupling

 jonCates && Jake Elliott, 2012 – 2007. Photo credit: Nina Wenhart

jonCates && Jake Elliott, 2012 – 2007. Photo credit: Nina Wenhart

Ouroboros, the serpent god swallowing its own tail to form a circle, functions as a metaphor for 0UR080R05 performances which display and digest audio and video streams recursively from one performance to the next. In 54MPL3 0UR080R05 (1337 MODE INDEXED), our 0UR080R05 machine runs in realtime in 1337 Mode, redigesting itself while we live code our artware intertwined in deep time recursivity and self-modifying psychedelic cyber-ware.

How much time do you spend together?

We have been collaborating since 2012. Together, we started a label for the experimental genre of Slow Electronics (that we’re inventing) called Southbridge:
http://slowelectronics.com. We are, as we say on our website, “concerned with decoding and resisting crypto-fascist patriarchal Power Electronics. We believe in the process of slowness in terms of processing power, data streams and carefully considered recursions folding in on themselves.…” We play a show on glitch.fm every Sunday: http://glitch.fm/slowelectronics_v2. We are the exception on the station, playing our slower, more experimental material on an otherwise beat-oriented glitch-hop station. An excerpt from a broadcast on glitch.fm is here: http://bit.ly/cWUrSe

Do you live together or share a studio, or do you just get together to work on projects as they come up?

We lived in a house called 2012 for oneyear but now we meet in various locations (in physical space and online) to develop projects.

When you are working on something do you schedule structured time together in a physical space, or meet online, or is it more organic than that?

All of the above.

Do you keep your personal/professional lives separate, or have they become seamless and indistinct? Is this okay?

These distinctions are fairly indistinct for us. It is okay.

Can you, or do you, turn off your research/studio practice(s)?

Perhaps this question is for those collaborators who are romantically coupled and need to set aside their collaborations from time to time to play cards. We play games together but are not romantically coupled.

When and how did you meet each other and under what circumstances?

We originally met over email after Jake Elliott played an experimental music show that jonCates attended. We went to similar events, hung out on the same websites and registered the same domain names inspired by collaborations such as those of William S. Burroughs and Brion Gysin.

At what point did you start making work together?


Was there a growing period, when you had to get a feel for each other’s process/priorities, learn how to communicate – or did you click right away?

Discussing this question, we feel that we weren’t conscious of any specific period of growing together. However, we remember an event in February, 2006, in Lancaster, England, at the Lancaster Autonomous University (a shadow university within Lancaster University). Jake Elliott had already become a core developer of the collaborative criticalartware project (initially co-founded by jonCates) a year earlier in 2005. Jake Elliott had proposed and initiated a criticalartware project called BLIT:SCREEN. BLIT:SCREEN was both a decentralized snail mail distribution system and distributed archive for experimental Media Art. We introduced BLIT:SCREEN at the Hack The Knowledge Lab event in Lancaster, a city haunted by the ghosts of witches imprisoned and killed in the early 1600s.

Also at this radical anti-conference, we facilitated a group discussion session on “Psychedelic Technologies” and spent a lot of time talking about what that phrase might mean in terms of artware, code, programming, hystories, etc.… These conversations became important to establishing the vocabulary of how we work together. Afterward, we collaboratively wrote a text, Hacking Open Together: New Media Art, Activism and Computer Counter Cultures in 2006. We claimed that the vocabulary at the edge of hackerdom is a kind of populist coded satire of elitism called l33t. l33t  becomes not only a vocabulary but a pervasive affect. “The” becomes “teh” and “owned” becomes “pwned.” As mistakes fold into the language, dirty glitch becomes linguistic atoms moving horizontally and playfully rather than being controlled by linguistic legitimacy. We wrote then that our use of l33t was an attempt to play rather than render our activities illegible. We wanted to resist clean codes, introduce Noise to our experimental New Media Art theory practices and embrace dirtiness of various kinds in these activities.… We are still engaged in/motivated by those efforts and desires.

Do you gravitate towards roles in your practice – based on strengths, or personality, or skills? Or is every project a different kind of adventure?

Our roles are played as Ouroboros, the serpent god swallowing its own tail to form a circle. Our 0UR080R05 project is a series of performances, which display and digest audio and video streams recursively from one performance to the next. This process of self-digestion flattens any distinct roles in our practice into a field of live coded artware intertwined in deep time recursivity and self-modifying psychedelic cyber-ware.

How do you generate the concepts you work with? Do you draw, write, photograph, or do any sort of regular background practice? Is this a shared thing?

Our artistic projects are iterative and our organizational/curatorial work is usually a response to some event or community that we perceive to be open, fertile or hackable/crackable.

How do you make choices and negotiate decisions about what direction to take with projects?

We have a level of trust and familiarity that allows us to make decisions individually and together without negotiations because these decisions are almost never in conflict.

Does your collaboration ever involve more people? If no, why not? If yes, then when and how does that work?

Yes, regularly. There were many times in the past in which we worked within larger groups of collaborators all co-creating and directing projects. Recently we have shifted more toward a working relationship in which we concept and create projects between the two of us, and collaborators are invited to perform more specific roles. For example, our project Southbridge operates as a record label, and we invite artists and musicians to release material.

Will you describe a project that didn’t work out or you didn’t follow through on? Can you describe something that you couldn’t agree on or you didn’t feel like you were both “into?”

Our 0UR080R05 project often fails to ‘work out’ the way that anyone might reasonably expect. We did an East Coast Noise tour in March 2007, with other Noise musicians from Chicago. During this tour we regularly performed failure, breakdown, unpreparedness and external conflicts with each other. These improvised performances developed out of our own interests in failure as a concept/technique. We often surprised our hosts, venues and tour partners with the extent of these performed failures. In order to fix the computers in our performances, we had to destroy them onstage. We left broken equipment in every city and venue. Nothing seemed to ‘work out’ wonderfully.

What kinds of singular processes or practices, studio or research, do you maintain as individuals that you may or may not bring into the collaboration?

We have our professional fields of work and inquiry (independent game development for Jake Elliott and alternative Media Art Hystories for jonCates) that inform our collaborative efforts.

Do you make your own work in addition to the collaborative work, and what sort of need does this fill?

Yes. In terms of needs, we feel again that this question may be designed for those who are romantically coupled. We have various needs met in a multiplicity of patterns and we are Polymorphously Perverse.

If you maintain an individual practice as well as a collaborative practice, have you run into conflicts of interest, time-management/priority issues, or experienced communication problems due to multiple focuses at any point? How is this resolved?

We have not encountered these conflicts or problems.

What are the strengths in working collaboratively and what are the challenges in working collaboratively?

Our skills, interests and sense of humor complement one another. We have encountered challenges in the past working within larger groups of collaborators. Those projects went in various directions that were not necessarily anticipated or what we had hoped for. We have addressed those situations by shifting more toward a working together more closely rather than in these types of larger groups. We, as we answered earlier, still collaborate with others, but now in more clearly defined ways, whereas we have been and are able to maintain seamless and indistinct forms of co-creation between the two of us. For example, we concepted and organized an event called Critical Glitch Artware at a conference called NOTACON and within a demoscene party/competition called BLOCKPARTY. We (jonCates and Jake Elliott) organized this event together and invited curators (Nick Briz), artists/musicians/performers (Jon Satrom, James Connolly and Eric Pellegrino) and collaborators (Mark Beasley and Tamas Kemenczy) to be involved in this event in specific ways.

What sort of theory, cultural circumstances, or life scenarios influence or inform your decision to work collaboratively? Would you say that your collaboration is philosophically driven, or more pragmatic?

Yes, philosophic and pragmatic.

If you teach, how does collaborative practice inform the way you facilitate student projects and teach studio courses?

Yes, we both teach in various contexts and yes concept/techniques such as openness (in terms of Open Source software/hardware, Free Culture efforts, hacker cultures, etc), decentralization, resisting vertical hierarchies, questioning power formations, feminisms, and engaged pedagogy (via bell hooks) have informed both our collaborations and teaching strategies.

If you teach, do you co-teach? If you do co-teach, how has that been received by the students, and how has this been received in the academic institutions you have worked with?

We have not co-taught.

Please point to us at a project or projects you would like to describe. Include links or attach files. If relevant, share with us a sense of the collaborative back-and-forth that may have gone into planning and making the work.

jonCates && Jake Elliott have run various experiments in radical inclusivity in online art whirlds environments, realtime critical glitch artware deathmatches, workshops, performances and presentations, including, in most recent chronological order:

*) the IN.F3XXX10N.US online art exhibition, which we organized, initiated and curated from July 1 – July 31 2010. During the run of the exhibition we gave away the password and user name of the site. The site became a collective stream of consciousness (via a tumblr account which was accessed by countless identified and anonymous artists/participants) until the IN.F3XXX10N.US domain expired. The domain expiration effectively ended our collective control of the exhibition, but opening the opportunity to anyone who wishes to now purchase the domain and continue the project in whatever form they may imagine best. An archive of our activity exists here:


*) The Critical Glitch Artware event at NOTACON and BLOCKPARTY 2010:


*) Southbridge, the label for the experimental genre of Slow Electronics:


We play a Southbridge Slow Electronics show on glitch.fm every Sunday:


*) dorkbot Chicago, the monthly series and local Chicago node of the international dorkbot network, which we organize together:


*) 0UR080R05 (1337 MODE INDEXED) – jonCates && Jake Elliott (2012 – 2007)


additionally, we have been involved in initiating + co-creating in the larger collaborative efforts of:

#) The Guardians of the Tradition (2009)

#) H3X3N Computer Witchcraft Club (2006 – 2009)


#) r4WB1t5 international micro.Fest of Dirty New Media (2005 – 2007)

#) the Chicago Hackmeetings at dai5ychain and the Flower Shop (2007)

jonCates makes, organizes and teaches experimental New Media Art. His projects have been presented internationally at various events in locations such as Beijing, Madrid and Mexico City; nationally in Chicago, New York and Boston; and through wide distribution online. Art Games, experimental Machinima, Computer Witchcraft, digitalPunk and Noise music are some of the unstable categories that his work playfully moves through. jonCates is an Associate Professor, and teaches in the New Media path of study of the Film, Video & New Media Department at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. His research and writings are on Media Art Histories and related subjects. In 2007, he initiated the Phil Morton Memorial Research Archive to archive and freely distribute the Media Art work of Phil Morton and associated research. He writes on these topics for Furtherfield.org as well as in other online and offline publications.


Jake Elliott lives in Chicago and makes games, software art, websites, and noise.