Dark Matter Objects
Technologies of capture and things that can’t be held
This is a story about words.
This is a story about language.
This is a story about the language of things.
This is a story about participation in the name of the thing named.1
This is a story about the fabric of our lives.
One must learn from the great masters of history,
the master plan
the master class
the master craft
the master document
the master recording
the master’s degree
the master’s pedigree...
Thirty-one score and 1 year ago
a master baited his slave, quietly.
And the slave laughed,“For the slave, there was little that was humorous about his bondage. The conditions under which he was forced to survive were not calculated to evoke laughter, nor did the knowledge that his very soul was measured in dollars bring forth any waves of merriment. The very laws of the land proclaimed him a chattel, equal to the domestic animals which he tended.”2
You see, the master,
he is wise and shrewd as a manager in chief
and the slave,
well, to the master, the slave has no character, no personality, no being—only body.
On the long night of bondage
the slave cried out,
Oh friend, there was no friend then,
there is no friend now.
“There, there, don’t cry.”
“Quiet ‘fo they come!”
It’s a simple arrangement,
“the master tells the slave what to do and the slave shuts up.”3
This is what we shall see unfold in this modern folktale.
This is a story about logic.
This is a story about reason.
This is a story about technology.
This is a story about technologies of capture.4
This is a story about things that can’t be held.
This is a story about things that can’t be named.
This is a story about memory.
Shoot the footage
Capture the audio
Record the masters
Switch the tapes
Cut the footage
Manipulate the code
Upload the files
Export the assets
This is a story about power.
This is a story about ground.
This is a story about plantation and plot.
This is a story about
command and control
yes and no
on and off
1 and 0
beep and boop!
bits and bytes
and and or
true or false
white and black
subject and object
human and not human
confirm nor deny.
For all their supposed technical excellence and perspicuity,
the full significance of the myths they embed are not clearly perceived claiming,
“This isn’t about racism, they’re just technical terms!”5
while subsea fiber optic cables sowed by technological masters
trace contours of the trade routes from Portugal to South Africa screaming,
And so you see,
(don’t you see)
(you don’t see)
(y’all don’t hear me)
technology transforms its languages; poetry invents its tongues.6
What it takes to master language won’t be found in any book.7
We are lost in the inextricable, in the tangle of everything the master conceals and reveals
You see, the story of the master and the slave lies in everything people say and do.
The master/slave relationship has been used for centuries in technology, often to explain situations where one master process or component controls a slave process or component.
In audio recording, duplication is done with several tapes or recorders linked together. Operating the controls on the master recording triggers the same controls or commands on the slaves so that the recording is done in parallel.
In photography, slave flash units may be synchronized to the master to provide light from other directions.
In transportation, railway locomotives can be arranged in a master/slave configuration with the operation of all locomotives in the train slaved to the controls of the first master locomotive.
In automobile engineering, the master cylinder is a control device that converts force into hydraulic pressure in the brake system. The device controls slave cylinders located at the other end of the hydraulic system.
In software engineering, programmers upload code to the master branch repository.
In computers, the master clock provides time signals used to synchronize one or more slave clocks as a part of a clock network.
The computer holds the memories of time.
The computer is a clock.
Race against the clock.
The machine is running…
The computer was a person.
The term “computer” was first documented being used in the early 17th century to refer to a person who computes.
Teams of human computers who, in the beginning, were usually women, were commanded to perform long and tedious calculations by their masters, who were always men.
Like slaves tethered to the switch, the movements of human computers were imposed on them by the calculated commands of their masters.
The slave is a human computer.
The human computer is a machine.9
The machine is running.
“Massa gon git you!”
This is a story about time.
This is a story about history.
In 1939 the Federal Bureau of Narcotics threatened to arrest Holiday for drug use and possession if she performed “Strange Fruit” again.
In 1945 the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer (ENIAC), the first programmable general purpose computer was created.
In 1947 the Cold War began.
In 1954 the Civil Rights Movement began.
This is a story about the movement.
In 1958 the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) formed.
In 1963 John F. Kennedy supported the Civil Rights Movement in the Report to the American People.
In 1963 John F. Kennedy was assassinated.
In 1966 the Black Panther Party formed.
The Black Panther Party philosophy was inspired by Malcolm X, Mao Tse-Tung of the Communist Party of China and the anti-colonialist book the Wretched of the Earth by Frantz Fanon.They believed in and practiced armed self defense against the malware of anti-Black aggression by the Ku Klux Klan, a white supremacist cult.
They compiled the responses and created the Ten Point Platform and Program that acted as the foundation of the Black Panther Party.
The ten points of the Black Panther Party philosophy are:
Because of its practice of armed self-defense against police, as well as its communism, the Black Panther Party was frequently targeted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s COINTELPRO (a syllabic abbreviation named after the Counter Intelligence Program) in addition to state and local law enforcement groups. While the Black Panther Party was targeted for its militancy, they also provided free breakfast for school children, sickle cell anemia health screenings, legal aid and adult education, among other community services.
In 1968 the Young Lords formed.
In 1968 Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated.
In 1968 the Civil Rights Movement ended.
In 1969 the Stonewall Riots happened.
In 1969 Fred Hampton was assassinated.
Unix is technology that exists inside most—if not all, human made computers on earth.
The Unix philosophy established a set of cultural norms for making software that became as important and influential as the technology of Unix itself.
According to this philosophy, the operating system should provide a set of simple modular tools, each of which performs a limited, well-defined function.
The 17 points of the Unix philosophy are:
This is a story about technology.
In 1983 the Internet was created.
In 1983 the first personal computer was created by Apple Incorporated.
In 1991 the Cold War ended.
This is a story about time travel.
This is a story about the universe.
This is a story about parallel universes.
This is a story about the construction of one specific society from the components of all possible societies.10
Don’t you see,
it didn’t have to be this way
it could’ve been any way
but the master and the slave,
This is a story about the world.
This is a story about the earth.
This is a story about earth becoming world.
This is a story about the otherworld.
This is a story about dark matter.
“that nonluminous component of the universe that is said to exist but cannot be observed, cannot be recreated in laboratory conditions. Its distribution cannot be measured; its properties cannot be determined; and so it remains undetectable. The gravitational pull of this unseen matter is said to move galaxies.”12
Now you see, technology is all bound up with slavery.
Freedom is all bound up with slavery.
to infinity and beyond.
The story never ends,
and we carry on.
Master “I am a master of my craft.”
Master race race of people considered to be pre-eminent in greatness or power
Slave “He was a slave to his vices.”
Slave driver "He was an old slave driver."
Slaver “The Brookes slave ship is one of the first documented slavers.”
Slavery “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”
Captive “The slave ran away from captivity.”
Capture “Capture the audio.”
Cut “Cut the footage.”
Dispose “Dispose of the footage.”
Drive “Hard drive the slaves.”
Hard drive “Upload the files to the hard drive.”
Execute “Execute the program.”
Export “Export the assets.”
Manipulate “Manipulate the code.”
Record “The record needs to be mastered.”
Shoot “Shoot the footage.”
Store “The files are stored on the drive.”
Stow “Stow the slaves.”
Switch “Switch the computer off.”
Upload “Upload the files.”
Load “Load the cargo onto the ship.”
Download "Download the files.”
American Artist, “Black Gooey Universe” (Unbag Magazine 2018)
Audre Lorde, “Poetry is Not a Luxury,” Sister Outsider (Ten Speed Press 2007)
“Basics of the Unix Philosophy,” The University of Rhode Island Department of Computer Science and Statstics
“The Black Panther Party,” National Archives
Christopher Bracken, “The Language of Things: Walter Benjamin’s Primitive Thought,” (Semiotica 2002)
Claire E. Evans. Broad Band: The Untold Story of the Women Who Made the Internet
Denise Ferreira da Silva, “Toward a Black Feminist Poethics: The Quest(ion) of Blackness Toward the End of the World” (Taylor & Francis 2014)
Ed Robeson, To See the Earth Before the End of the World (Wesleyan University Press 2012)
Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth (François Maspero 1961)
Fred Moten, The Universal Machine (Duke University Press 2018)
Hito Steyerl, “A Thing Like You and Me,” The Wretched of the Screen (Sternberg Press 2009)
Hortense Spillers, “Critical Theory in Times of Crisis” (The South Atlantic Quarterly 2020)
Matthew David Segall, “Diagram of Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit”
M. NourbeSe Phillip, Zong! (Middletown: Wesleyan University Press 2011)
Orlando Patterson, "Toward a future that has no past—reflections on the fate of Blacks in the Americas" (National Affairs 1972)
Raymond M. Fish and Leslie A. Geddes, “Conduction of Electrical Current to and Through the Human Body” (Eplasty 2009)
Ron Eglash, “Broken Metaphor: The Master-Slave Analogy in Technical Literature,” Technology and Culture (Johns Hopkins University Press 2007)
Ruha Benjamin, Race After Technology (Polity 2019)
Saidiya Hartman, “Venus in Two Acts” (Small Axe Press 2008)
Tara McPherson, “U.S. Operating Systems at Mid-Century: The Intertwining of Race and UNIX.” Race after the Internet, by Lisa Nakamura and Peter A. Chow-White (Routledge Press 2012)
Wendy Hui Kyoung Chun. “On Software, or the Persistence of Visual Knowledge” (MIT Press Journals 2006)
Édouard Glissant, Poetics of Relation (The University of Michigan Press 1990)
“Remembering Slavery,” Durham University
Simone Browne, Dark Matters: On the Surveillance of Blackness (Duke University Press 2015)
Sylvia Wynter, "Novel and History, Plot and Plantation." (Savacou 1971)
Adder Chu, for being a comrade and collaborator who went out of their way to realize the book into a film beyond my imagination
Allison Parrish, for teaching and inspiring me to pursue computational approaches to narrative
Ashley Jane Lewis, for thesis advisement and going above and beyond in providing feedback and space to show the work
Ayodamola Okunseinde, for thesis advisement and sharing a multitude of resources and inspiration surrounding book arts and printed circuit board (PCB) fabrication
Bomani McClendon, for being a friend and collaborator who supported me throughout the process—from co-programming to running errands
Cezar Mocan, for sending me endless references and encouraging me to keep going
Chang Yuchen, for organizing lectures and classes that opened me up to the world of book arts
Cy X, for being a comrade and lending me their Panasonic Lumix DC GH5
Dan Shiffman, for being a comrade and an academic advisor who went out of their way to provide material support and resources during my entire educational experience at New York University
Elizabeth Perez, for being a friend and giving bountiful emotional support and critical feedback
Emma Rae Bruml Norton for being a friend, collaborator and continuous source of inspiration and support; and helping hand code the project website
Fred Moten, for teaching me so much of what I know and whose rigorous practice within Black studies fed me spiritually and intellectually, along with being the author of the book the Universal Machine which I struggled through reading while making the project
Galen Macdonald, for being a friend and collaborator who was there from the very beginning of the project
Holly Meadows-Smith, for being a comrade and collaborator who helped me print the book on risograph
Katherine Dillon, for organzing the "100 Days of Making" class in the interactive telecommunications program at New York University in which my "100 days of zine studies and experiments" project helped me create the book form
Kelli Anderson, for endless inspiration and free resources surrounding paper engineering
Khari Lucas, for being a comrade and a brilliant composer and producer who co-crafted the score
Mariame Kaba, for being a friend and collaborator whose comradery is a consisent source of support and inspiration
Melanie Hoff, for being a friend and collaborator who gave me the idea to perform the project
Mollie Underwood, for sending me endless inspiration
Sammi Aryani, for video production support
Simone Browne, for writing the book Dark Matters: On the Surveillance of Blackness—which deeply transformed me—and thesis advisement
Sol Cabrini de la Ciudad, for being an inspiring classmate who coined the term “technologies of capture”
Stefani Bardin, for thesis advisement
Steve Daniels, for thesis advisement on printed circuit board (PCB) fabrication and inspiring a transformative shift in the work
Sydney Spann, for generously supplying an archive of incredible field recordings for the score
Taylor Levy, for being an incredible physical computing teacher and helping me build the first Dark Matter Object in addition to providing one on one PCB fabrication tutorials and engineering
Tara Vancil, for being a friend who was the first person to show me I was capable of learning how to program computers and I could use computer programming to tell stories about my experience and the world