Ms. Gilligan, in The Common Sense you have a device called “The Patch”. It enables people to share emotions and bodily sensations, being something like a „bridge“ for brainwaves. In the longer run of the video series it also creates its own neural activities. Does it refer to actual things in our lives, or is it more of a MacGuffin, a placeholder for something we don’t really grasp?

On some level it is a device. On another, The Patch is a way to look at a very networked, very dispersed relationship between people. It has clear conditions, economic pressures and hierarchies, but none of it can be located in any kind of object. There is a network of links between people using The Patch.

How does technology affect your own life specifically? For example, when it comes to reading.

I myself find it not overly simple and easy for me to just read everything on the computer, even PDFs. I value books, not so much because I like objects per se. In this moment when attention spans are changing in so many ways, we see academic professionalisation on the one hand, and on the other hand a media sphere that is really condensing and making articles incredibly short. Both phenomena are making the task of writing a different breed of thing, if it is not just algorithmically generated.

You mean texts coming from auto-complementing terms, like in the google interface?

A lot of newspapers are generated in such a way now, at least that is what it seems like. I see these transformations having physical components. It changes capacities of people, which in the long term might change people in more significant ways, changing the brain’s neuroplasticity, and it will be difficult to change back.

Do you look into neurosciences to understand more about that?

There is an aspect of the brain that I find especially pertinent to study: The constant neuroplastic change and feedback with one’s environment.  I am not an expert at all, but I’ve been influenced by neuroscientists such as Antonio Damasio who has looked at the brain’s constant feedback with the body and emotions. The Patch being physical and mental, people are having physical sensations, too, when using it.

Let’s take the smartphone, as the most common tool now in our daily lives. How do you use it? How do you deal with it artistically?

The smartphone influenced me a lot when I was making The Common Sense. There is nothing more paradigmatic when it comes to our changes in relation to work, on so many levels. And it is not that widely discussed. People take these technologies on, while the bar is getting taken up a level all the time in terms of the amount of work we’re expected to do at all times and how responsive we are meant to be to those work demands. However, because there is no particular agency doing it there is no identifiable agent or cause to address regarding this change.Those changes accumulate and speed up relations. It is fascinating how it becomes a social norm.

But in terms of agency we have come to see a lot clearer. In fact, it is basically three or four digital trusts now.

Yes, isn’t it weird? It is back to the age of monopoly capitalism. That is something that really needs to be addressed.

Does the decentralized internet still have liberating potential?

The internet as a frame of reference for potentially liberating technology has gone through many stages of disillusionment. Why do technologies end up not fulfilling our expectations in terms of political change? Do I have hope? It is tough to answer that. For The Common Sense, I looked at the shift from a TV model of transmission (one way) to a more networked model. I made The Common Sense trying to get at what potential might be in the relationship of technology to social change. I have a big interest in people’s relationship to their tools. Tools are not neutral, but will they forever remain closed to some potential?

Do you consider narrations also a tool, even a political tool for change?

I have always been inspired by thinkers who come at technology from an anthropologoical perspective, like Bernard Stiegler, the French philosopher of technology. He discusses language as a tool and in a similar way we might be able to say that stories can be tools. Time-based work was always interesting for me in that sense, but also discursive work. With a friend filmmaker, Matthew Houston, I have started writing scripts for full feature films.

So you may actually go into feature film making in an industrial context? That adds a very interesting level to your installational work.

Of course I want to do it my own way. My early works Crisis in the Credit System and Popular Unrest have endings and narrative arcs. With the Common Sense I tried to explode certain narrative conventions. It is a non-linear narrative in networked structures, that goes off into two different directions, which both wrap up, but don’t end. They continue on after we have watched them. I ended up realizing that the episodic TV format, even in the visual art form, where it becomes spatial in the installation, allows you to push into different possibilities of story.

Do you have a favorite TV show?

What really inspired me for my first episodic narrative a long time ago I was looking The Wire.

A story in and about Baltimore, which has often been described as systemic.

Such an economic or social fabric like a big city requires a type of story that is not just focused on emotional personal narratives. Recently I have been watching Better Call Saul. There are scenes like that: One shot holding on everything happening in the interior of an immigration center near the US – Mexico border, the checking of cars and all the goods moving through. There is a shift between characters and larger social pictures. That is really great TV.

One can imagine a show like The Wire about the iPhone as well. It would be a truly global story. But conventional, on the other hand.

Exactly. Lots of artists made these documentaries. When I made Popular Unrest I wasn’t interested to make a film about instances of production or circulation within the capitalist economy, but to make a story that can summarise and point toward a larger view of capital’s shapes in the light of post crisis conditions.

If we consider the iPhone as a brain in itself, it needs its own neuroscience.

What we were saying about tools, becomes important here again. In unlocking elements of what is changing socially, we need a discussion that synthesizes many aspects of the whole picture as opposed to just following a chain of production or distribution, which would be just too embedded.