Cookie Conversation with Dasha Ilina

IMPAKT Exhibition Don't Be Evil

Dasha Ilina is a Paris-based artist and founding member of NØ Collective and NØ School Nevers. Her work takes a critical look at the role of technology in our daily lives. In 2023 she had an EMAP residency at IMPAKT. During this residency, she worked on Advice Well Taken, a video and publication documenting ‘techlore’: folk knowledge on the complex and opaque functionalities of the modern technologies that surround us. The video work is exhibited in our Don’t Be Evil exhibition, and the publication can be bought at IMPAKT or through our webshop.

Your work Advice Well Taken, which you worked on during your EMAP residency at IMPAKT, deals with our (lack of) understanding of the technology we use every day and presents techlore: stories of how we try to gain control over the often unclear workings of our technology. How have these stories changed the way you look at your devices?

I think the main change I’ve seen is that I’ve started to notice these stories and mysterious occurrences all around me. When I started the project I had a few examples in mind, mainly ones from my friends and family, but now I’m starting to experience strange technological occurrences myself. For example, when I left my house the other day, I got a notification on my phone that told me I had “forgotten” my computer at home — I had never gotten a notification like that before and didn’t even know it was a service that Apple provided, let alone that I had it turned on on my phone. This instantly instilled paranoia in me to the point where I had convinced myself that my apartment was broken into, and my computer stolen, because what other logical reason could there be for receiving such a notification out of nowhere? After the first notification, this actually kept happening every time I left the house, to the point where I had to turn off the location services and the notifications, and the funny thing is — this whole situation made me think of the folktale of the boy who cried wolf. My computer had “cried” about being forgotten so often that I was forced to turn off the location services, and if it ever does get stolen or forgotten somewhere, I will have no way of finding it. This may be a more literal interpretation of why I find the title ‘techlore’ to be so fitting for these kinds of stories, but I do see a lot of parallels in between folk storytelling and the kinds of stories we share about our devices.

You visited this year’s festival Our Terms, Our Conditions for multiple days, with the spectacular ending of winning the Prompt Battle. What was your experience/what programmes did you enjoy the most?

Winning the Prompt Battle was indeed spectacular (and unbelievable)! I had an amazing time at the festival, and I feel so lucky to have had the time to stay for the whole programme. I’m not sure I could point out a specific event as one I enjoyed the most, because I learned a lot from all of the events I attended. But if I had to pick one event it would be a panel that informed my residency project and the research I was doing with it the most, which would probably have to be the Whistleblowers discussion with Thomas Le Bonniec and Daniel Motaung. Mainly because a lot of the myths I had been collecting during my project were busted during that discussion, so I felt almost a sense of relief of knowing the truth about some of the hypotheses we all share, such as our phones listening in on our conversations for example. But the whole festival addressed a lot of the different paths of research that I’ve been following, whether with my personal work, with the work I’m doing with NØ School Nevers, or with teaching digital culture. So it was nice to hear people’s perspectives on subjects that really differed one from the other, and another really refreshing aspect was seeing people from different backgrounds – artists, researchers, policy makers, politicians – all discussing issues around data, privacy, and digital agency together. Maybe it’s a bit naive, but hearing those discussions made me feel like maybe some form of positive change is possible.

How does your broader artistic practice relate to the IMPAKT festival we held recently with the theme Our Terms, Our Conditions?

As I mentioned in my answer to the previous question, I was almost surprised at how many of the research topics I have worked on in the past were also the themes of the panels, screenings, and discussions during the IMPAKT festival. In my practice, I explore the desire to integrate modern technology into our daily lives by showing what problems can arise when we surround ourselves with more and more technological tools. Of course, digital agency was one of the keywords of the festival and one of the main topics of my project Advice Well Taken, but I have also previously worked on the topic of the afterlife of our data, which was the topic of the last panel of the festival – RIP, If You Can. More broadly, I’ve always been interested in what privacy looks like in the digital age, as well as the hidden labor involved in all sorts of technological processes, from the conception of the tools to our personal data and ultimately our attention being capitalized on by big tech companies. All of these issues were very present in many of the panels, and they are something that I have worked on a lot in the past, and will continue to work on in the future.

In the theme of the festival, this year we created a series of Fortune Cookies with wishes for the future of technology and privacy. Currently, each visitor to the exhibition gets to take one with them. What fortune would you like to find in your cookie?

This was a much trickier question than I first imagined. But I think to follow in the line of work we have been doing with the upcoming NØ School Nevers, I would suggest something along the lines of: “In the future, we will all be living in dumb cities.”

Our other Cookie Conversation guests are Renske Leijten, Lotje Beek, Julia Janssen, Caroline Sinders, Guillaume Slizewicz, Jeroen van Loon, Roel Heremans, Leon van Oldenborgh and Tomo Kihara.

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