Sorry to dump on you like

"Somewhere deep inside the directory of Christopher Clary’s Sorry to dump on you like, the text 'do you play' appears as a file name. This particular JPG is one of 1,860 images in the work: a pixelated 320 x 240 photograph of a bearded man, perhaps a profile pic, creation date February 26, 2001. Is it an invitation? Without punctuation, the phrase 'do you play' reads like a provocation, a quick text message, short for 'do (the two of) you play (outside of your relationship?)' Surrounding texts encourage a sexualized reading, but isolating it as a fragment suggests other takes. Are you a player? Who’s playing whom?

My  zip file as it appeared on Rhizome’s home page. 

Consisting only of still images and their filenames, Sorry to dump on you like can be read as a dramatic desktop play that takes on an almost operatic depth, with characters, dialogue, and changing scenery. Multiple voices speak the texts, including a chorus of porn actors, tumblr users, and the artist himself, but in this case I imagine the computer asking me — the user who downloads — if I play. In Clary’s work, the paratextual spaces of the operating system (file names, dates, metadata, keywords) can perform unlimited narratives, if the player is game to save, search, and sort.
I download, play with, and trash the zip on my desktop.

Clary’s practice builds upon a long history of artists who appropriate, a trajectory that only recently took a sharp turn into the crowd. Artists like Penelope Umbrico, Joan Fontcuberta, and Joachim Schmid sift through the new vernaculars of picture-taking to create works that result in massive textures, rather than singular portraits. Sorry to dump on you like extends this fascination by pointing the crowd’s camera toward constructions of masculinity, sexuality, and ultimately, maps the subjectivity of the artist himself.
I took screenshots during the performance for a  zine published by Library of the Printed Web and…
…photographs (Galerie Andreas Schmidt, Berlin).

It’s tempting to call Sorry to dump on you like a pornographic work, since an actual porn collection is embedded within it—the artist’s own archive of men accumulated in fifteen years of web browsing. But these JPGs serve only as a substrate: thin scaffolding for an epic textual work that hangs loosely from the files. The numerous written narratives describe intimate exchanges between boyfriends and lovers, alternating between dramatic betrayals, breakups, and banalities. 

I  saved the zip on a USB thumb drive and rusted it — creating a  fire-hazard if networked.

Laced through the work are heart-breaking utterances, illustrated by found images of men that have already been downloaded, stored, and used. In making them available for us to 're-use,' Clary discards them—the title of the work an apology, even, for offloading his memory onto ours.

I printed each jpeg icon on a single page and collected all 1,860 in 10 legal binders (Yami-ichi NY2). 

The voices in Sorry to dump on you like vary, merge, and separate, coalescing into a linear narrative when files are sorted by date. When actually called out, characters’ identities are revealed to be file names, like BM1710667 and GBEARFUCKED1. Entangled networks. Actors switch roles to stand in during the most painful scenes, managing to reveal very little. Has anyone been protected? Not all of the images are pornographic, and some have been pixelated beyond recognition, but maybe they’ve all been loved by Clary, the way one loves a fetish or a fantasy. Or an old file. Again and again, the work asks us—now that we’ve downloaded—is it ours? Who do we decide to keep or discard through time? These stories are an offering of sorts: characters once loved, now staged as daddies and bears, cigars and cocks. The object-files of sorry to dump on you like travel through networked relations, but settle into hard drives like angry ghosts."
— Paul Soulellis, curator, Rhizome

The zip has been performed by myself and others for The Classroom at the New York Art Book Fair, Conceptual Poetics Day at MISS READ: The Berlin Art Book Fair, WordHack at Babycastles Gallery, the Zine and Self-published Book Fair at Baxter Street Camera Club of New York, and at a past and forthcoming exhibition for the Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Art Show in Brooklyn.

This series was originally commissioned by Rhizome at the New Museum as a zip file and honored by Hyperallergic as the best individual work of internet art in 2015. It has since been versioned as a zine, photographs, prints, objects, and performance. Versions of the zip are included in the libraries at MoMA and the Whitney Museum of American Art.