November 30, 2009

Human Machine

Another inspiring meeting with my teacher Kathleen...

I have been thinking about the loose ends in my piece and it wasn't till my meeting today that I was able to realize what I was missing. The project has now evolved into a series of steps that will eventually lead to the machine breaking up -or the Human aspect of the employee finally taking over the machine.

I intend to have three levels of response:

1- Fill out form. Basics. Multiple choice.
The response will lead to a more elaborate form.

2- Answer simple questions. Once sentence maybe, no more.
The response will lead to a third form, much more profound and more in touch with Human nature.

3- The response this time will be human. The effort of those who filled out the forms, took time to think, asked questions and went through the process WILL be rewarded. The reward is still being thought of, it does have to point out at the Human condition; what exactly makes us Human and how we can rejoice on it. This idea is brand new so it needs to be further develop.

Summery of the process, so far:

1- The project will be advertised as a marketing campaign. The Machine represents the corporate world as one. Possible names for this made-up corporation IUTU (It's Up To You) Playing also with the reading of the word as: You Too. The company will be promoting a chance of winning freedom of mind. Bring coupon to participate?

2- Machine set up. Line up. Fill out a form and place it on the conveyor belt. Each form will have a reference number to be able to keep track of the process, in case people don't come back till later.

3- Machine's response requires another response. This time the form gets a bit more complex. It is open for people to continue participating or not.

4- To the second response there will be a third and more profound form. Those who respond will obtain the reward.

I will ask for contact information in the first form, in order to keep in touch with those who follow through and are interested in more. This might develop into something else in the future.

November 24, 2009

All at Once

Today's song:
All at Once, by Jack Johnson

All at once the world can't overwhelm me
There's almost nothing that you could tell me
That could ease my mind

Which way will you run
When it's always all around you
And the feelin' lost and found you again
A feeling that we have no control
Around a song some say
There's gonna be the new hell, some say
It's still too early to tell, some say
It really ain't no myth at all

Keep asking ourselves
Are we really strong enough?
There's so many things
That we got too proud of
We're too proud of...
We're too proud of...

I wanna take the preconceived
Out from underneath your feet
We could shake it off

Instead we'll plant some seeds
We'll watch em' as they grow
And with each new beat from your heart
The roots grow deeper
The branches will they reach for what
Nobody really knows
But underneath it all there's this heart
All alone

What about is gone and it really won't be so long
Sometimes it feels like a heart
Is no place to be singing from at all

There's a world we've never seen
There's still hope between the dreams
The weight of it all could blow away with a breeze
If your waitin on the wind
Don't forget to breathe
Cause as the darkness gets deeper
We'll be sinkin
As we reach for love
At least somethin we could hold
But I'll reach to you
From where time
Just can't go

What about is gone
And it really won't be so long
Sometimes it feels like a heart
Is no place to be singing from at all...

Finding the missing links

Definitions of dehumanize

Oxford English Reference Dictionary: (also -ise)
1. deprive of human characteristics.
2. make impersonal or machine-like.
dehumanization n.

Collins COBUILD Advanced Learner\'s English Dictionary

dehumanize (dehumanizes, dehumanizing, dehumanized) Note: in BRIT, also use 'dehumanise'. If you say that something dehumanizes people, you mean it takes away from them good human qualities such as kindness, generosity, and independence. The years of civil war have dehumanized all of us. VERB: V n

Nov. 26 - Post curatorial group presentation

Today our works were presented by the curatorial group as if they were presented to the media. I separated myself from my own project and tried to understand it from a different angle. The person who presented my piece successfully conveyed the concept and idea behind the machine, however what I heard from her was mostly what I have written in my proposal, so I didn't get a chance to hear her own perspective or interpretation of it. In spite of this, I did take a couple of notes of the missing bits and pieces that would make my piece make sense on it's own:

-how to motivate the question?
-what's the question?
-how will people submit questions? typing machine? handwriting?

I need to connect the "Why" of the questions.
missing links.
Ridiculous machine...


Why to ask a question?
what question?
what exactly does the machine represent? CORPORATIONS?

interview people:
-what is a corporation?
-how do you feel about them?
-any personal experience? neg? pos?

painted smile,robotic attitude.
confront audience.

Offer service? coupons? invite people?
what's the process???

At this point I feel I'm in the right track. The concept is strong and I'm expressing a real concern in a creative way. The problem is that I'm lacking the element that will motivate people to use the machine. To be able to ask a question is not tying the project together; there are still to many broken links. Steve talked about process. What's the process in submitting a complaint? what's expected? what's the outcome? Let's imagine that my machine represents all corporations. I'm not sure I want this to turn into a complaint machine. I'd much rather get people excited about being given the opportunity to ask questions. But which questions and for what purpose? THAT'S THE QUESTION IN QUESTION...

Definitions of corporation
The most common form of business organization, and one which is chartered by a state and given many legal rights as an entity separate from its owners. This form of business is characterized by the limited liability of its owners, the issuance of shares of easily transferable stock, and existence as a going concern. The process of becoming a corporation, call incorporation, gives the company separate legal standing from its owners and protects those owners from being personally liable in the event that the company is sued (a condition known as limited liability). Incorporation also provides companies with a more flexible way to manage their ownership structure. In addition, there are different tax implications for corporations, although these can be both advantageous and disadvantageous. In these respects, corporations differ from sole proprietorships and limited partnerships.

I read this and I laugh. Basically corporations are allowed by law to screw their customers and not be responsible for it. It all makes sense now!!

The tittle of the piece might need to be changed. DeHuman might be too literal:
-Don't sweat it!!!

Response of a response to a response

Yesterday I've received a second response from the ADR office which is basically a copy and paste of the first letter. I'm thinking of responding once again, this time stripping all BS apart. Maybe a more direct and honest question...

November 18, 2009

First Proposal - DeHuman Machine

The DeHuman Machine is a kinetic sculpture/performance piece that reflects the loss of human values required to fulfill specific roles in society. To be more specific, the machine points at the automatization and devalue of the human spirit in order to accommodate the current economic system, oriented towards profit gaining and consumerism.

The structure:

As the idea developed recently, the machine structure is not entirely planned out as of yet. Its structure consists of an office cubicle run through by a crank-activated production line. The worker (performer) is inside the cubicle performing his or her duty; which is answering to written questions from the audience in a semi-automatic manner.

How it works:

The participant will write a question in a piece of paper (provided by the machine) and will place it on the conveyor belt going into the office. To get the paper inside the machine, he or she will have to crank a handle that will activate the "production line". Inside, the worker will receive the question, place it in a box and dispense the automated answer in the same manner as it was submitted -there will be a crank on the inside which runs the conveyor belt going on the opposite direction. No matter what the question is, the answer will be a non-answer and will be the exact same for each question.


This piece does not intend to just get people frustrated when realizing they will not receive a straight answer, it is also meant to have the audience experience both sides of the machine. The functional side was mentioned previously but the performance piece is what is going to get the audience BE the machine. At given times, the worker-performer will take breaks and will ask of people passing by to run the machine for the time he or she is gone off duty. The working of the machine would be explained in such a way that will enable the audience to become active participants of the process and inner workings of the machine.


The piece was inspired by a set of correspondences between myself and a banking institution, which resulted in merely burocratic responses from the employees I have contacted. After a mistake made by the Royal Bank of Canada, which jeopardized my financial situation, I decided to write an extensive letter in which I asked of the reader to step outside their role as an employee of the institution and give me a response from their "human" perspective. Up to this date, I have not been able to bend the rules and regulations which prevents the employee from being a person. My question can only be answered by a human being who has values and emotions. A human being, by simply fulfilling the role of an employee, is sacrificing their human values and becoming no different than a machine that has been programmed to execute a specific duty.

With this piece I intend to demonstrate that what holds the economic structure together is in fact a person becoming desensitized from human emotions and fulfilling the role for which they have been trained. How much are we willing to sacrifice our moral values in order to do the job? What is our real job as human beings? How far will we get as a civilization by denying our hearts and free will?

"The mediator between head and hands must be the heart..."
(Metropolis, Fritz Lang - 1927)

November 17, 2009

Reference 855-229516

Yesterday I finally received a response from the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada:

"FCAC sympathizes with your concerns; however, please note that FCAC has no
jurisdiction over matters of contract or the day-to-day operations and decisions
of banks. banks determine their own internal policies and guidelines with
respect to the servicing of customers and their accounts"

Really? Is this all you have to say? Is this your humane response? So far I have received a response to three of the four letters I have sent. Not a single response answered my question. I am starting to think that they are not capable, as employees of a bank institution, to respond as human beings. I can't blame them, it's their job. And to work for such institution you most likely need to get rid of all your human instincts. This is exactly what has inspired my performance piece: the de-human machine (still not the official tittle)

November 10, 2009

Zooming in

The responses to the letter, mentioned in my last entry, triggered a chain reaction of thoughts and the development of my installation piece. I came up with the idea of setting up a space full of blind-folded mannequins; each of them in a particular social context. I thought the idea was brilliant, I felt I had actually hit the nail this time. Everything started falling into place nicely, until today.

I first talked to Kathleen, one of my teachers and theoretical support, and her first response was: drop the mannequins. My intial reaction was the though that my piece had just been murdered but after thinking for a while the suggestion started to make sense. The mannequins as they are, have a whole history behind. It would be quite difficult for me to achieve what I want to achieve using objects that have been objectified and de-objectified a thousand times. So I thought: okey, maybe I can just set up the spaces with the blind folds somewhere around each scenario. No manequinns. Leave the spaces open for people to fill them in -either physically or mentally. And then I met with Steve, my production teacher...

After an hour long conversation plus a taxi ride to the Power Plant (my many thanks to Steve) we came to the conclusion that I need to tear apart the global issue and zoom in at one of the many problems. I guess that my way of branching out is only making me lose focus. As Kathleen mentioned in a previous meeting, I need to find ONE or TWO issues or meanings or concepts, rather than trying to generalize. Steve said the same. I am starting to say the same. But the way I develop ideas makes it hard for me to break things down and I understand this is something I am going to have to learn if I want to make significant art pieces. This is my chance to learn it.

The plan now is to sketch a chart and/or algorythm to represent my telephone conversation with a dehumanized bank employee and her relationship with the bank. I will study the procedures that were sent to me from the ADR Chambers and find co-relations between them and I will look for contradictions. After I have the flow chart I would be able to identify relationships and maybe come up with more ideas. Some ideas are already generating in my brain:

-Performace piece:
Me, blind-folded, inside an office cubicule, dehumanized, blurting policies and responding with more policies to any particular question asked by the audience. The CON of this is that I don't want to make an angry piece. I want to find a way to focus in the possible solutions rather than just bitching about the problem.

-Need/want >> give/take:
You want, you take more. You give, you need to give more. How do I show people that the current system is based on wanting/taking which leaves us all VERY unsatisfied? How do I focus on the possitive aspects of giving? Relationship to the present economic system?

I want to thank my teachers for pushing me this far. I hope I can keep pushing myself without going crazy in the process.

Artists to research:
-Mark Lombardi
-Candice Breitz (exhibit at the Power Plant)
-"The Moniac" by Michael Stevenson

November 3, 2009

First responses

Last week I finalized my letter to RBC and sent it out on Friday by registered mail. Monday morning I obtained my first response from the ADR Chambers. "ADR Chambers Banking Ombuds Office (ADRBO) reviews decisions of the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) Ombudsman when RBC customers are not satisfied with the outcome of the RBC Ombudsman process. An independent ADR Chambers Investigator can advise customers about whether they have been treated fairly. If a complaint requires a full investigation, an investigation will be conducted and the Investigator may make non-binding recommendations." The fact that they responded so quickly makes me think that no one is actually making any complaints...

The response, however, seemed like a joke and I requested a letter so that I could have it in writing. The lady who called me said I needed to send a letter to Royal Bank before they could even look into the complaint. I will try to reproduce the conversation.

ADR lady: We have received your letter and I would like to let you know that before we can even look at it, you need to escalate with Royal Bank first. Only after you have received a response from them, if you are not satisfied with their explanation, you can contact us.

Me: Have you read the letter?

ADR Lady: Yes, but as I said, you need to contact RBC first.

Me: I had.

ADR Lady: Oh, you didn't state that in your letter.

Me: Well, if you've read the letter you'd realize it's not the point. So you mean before I can get a (humane) response from you, first I need a response from RBC.

ADR Lady: That's correct.

Me: Have you read the letter?

The conversation continued for a few minutes and it kept getting more and more ridiculous. That's when I requested I get a letter. Now I have something to use for my final project. I took it with humour...
Then Tuesday morning, I got a call from Client Care. They are investigating what has happened. I say there isn't too much to investigate. I would like a response to my question... is that too much to ask? Apparently, there are no humans working in banks...

This is the letter that was sent out:

To whom I would like to concern;

My name is Agata Ivanna Pogorelsky and have been a “customer” of Royal Bank since 2002. I write this letter as a re-action to a mistake made by your institution that has, quite frankly, jeopardized the balance I seek in my life. I hope this letter will make the reader think and re-consider specific values and the ethical issues behind certain policies and the way these are implemented. As well, I am hoping that my words will inspire a feeling not only of compassion but of responsibility, not for my own benefit but for all of us. I do not expect anything but a humane response to my call for awareness of a very realistic problem, which is affecting many people, in various ways. Allow me to start by briefly mentioning what has occurred.

In February 2009, I personally went to one of your branches in downtown Toronto, to get advice from a financial specialist. As I know little about finances, I trusted your institution to handle “my” money according to my needs and for my best interests. I was then advised to open a tax-free account, which would give me a higher-rate interest and would enable me to put some money aside without being charged for taxes. I followed the financial advisor’s suggestion -I decided that his name would be omitted- fully trusting this was indeed my best option and handed him some cheques. Close to $7000 in total was ought to be deposited and transferred to the new account; this was the money I had just received from OSAP for the winter semester. I must mention that I am currently enrolled in my 4th and last year of University, which not only means I will be graduating very soon, but also, I will have to start re-paying the HUGE debt that I got myself into just so that I could go to school and become “somebody” (I am starting to have my doubts about this last statement)

By the end of my meeting, all my cheques had been deposited and my new tax-free account had been opened with a balance of $5000; with the remaining of the money being deposited into my existing checking account. I did not have to do much except sit on the other side of the desk, hand in the cheques, and express my concerns about my finances and my future. Six months later, I get a phone call from this same person “regretting” to inform me that a mistake had been made and the bank would take away $5000. He explained that during my visit to the branch the money was never actually transferred, so even when I was showing those $5000 in my bank statements, they were not really there and they had never been. I was never given any option or even asked how this action would affect me.

How do I make you understand the financial situation your institution, the Royal Bank of Canada, has put me in? My last year of University, with no income other than the $12,000 the government lends me each year for 8 months of school, with a debt of almost $50,000 eagerly waiting for me to graduate to be re-paid, with $2194.18 of unpaid tuition and almost a $1000 in credit card debts; how am I supposed to give it my very best and my all to my final year of University? The money I assumed I had, the budget I had calculated for the year and the details of what these $5000 entails, have now evaporated. So I ask: am I supposed to NOT finish school so that I can get a job and pay my rent?

This is the question I want to pose to you, the reader of this letter, who I am hoping will not be anonymous by the time he or she finishes reading. In the society we live in, who gets “rewarded”? Is it those who struggle the most to achieve excellence? Or is it those who have the money to buy their way around? As it is, society is pushing people like me to become criminals, to infringe the law, to break the rules; because the rules seem to be fair for only a few: those who have the financial resources to come and go as they please, to buy their status, to change the rules, and to, in a way, abuse those who do not have as much money.

So I ask you, what am I supposed to do? I am an individual, 26 years of age, with a part-time job that leaves me with no more than $200 a month, only because I have the full-time job of being a student. I have no financial support other than a government loan, which I am likely to be re-paying for quite a number of years of my life. What happens then with my dreams? My dreams of growth and freedom, of becoming a better person... What happens then with my desire of helping to build a better world? My concerns for my community and my fellow human beings are realistic, yet I fear I will not be able to pursuit my goals, as I have been ripped off the little “savings” I had –or that I thought I had.

This is the catch 22. It was my choice to go to school. Seven years ago I immigrated with my family to this wonderful country that Canada is; my parents wanted a better future for me and my sister. After seven years spent with people from so many different cultures, learning the many points of view and understanding a bit better the world we live in; I developed a genuine interest in people, in life and in the pursuit of freedom. I immersed myself in a journey of self discovery so that I could start giving and contributing to this country, which has been an example all around the world. This is why I chose to go to school: to develop ethics, get educated, get informed and to learn and push myself to the best I can be. I believe you can give genuinely, only when you know who you are and what you are capable of. I want to give back to the people what I was given as a gift, but I cannot break free of these chains you have put me in.

I write to you, as a representative of one of those chains. I do not expect to live my life without having to pay bills; there will always be bills to pay. But your institution has not only chained me down, it has also cut my wings and any possibility of aiming high, when they took away the little savings I had to get through my final year of school. I quote RBC’s how to make a complaint booklet: “We all stand to gain from open communication” This is my plea for real communication between an institution backed up by the Federal Government of Canada and a self-supporting individual. I would like for you to respond honestly and compassionately to my situation. What am I ought to do? Continue to aim high, strive for excellence and fight for ethics OR find the first job I can and become part of this machinery that is taking us nowhere? I hope to hear from you soon and I thank you in advance for taking the time to read this letter.


Agata Ivanna Pogorelsky

The Child in Us

Today's song: The Child in Us - Enigma

Who is of smiling face,
bestower of all fortunes,
Whose hands are ready to rescue anyone from fear,
Who is adorned by various ornaments with precious stones...

For to us a child is born,
To us a son is given.
And the government will be
upon his shoulder...

Some day you came
And I knew you were the one
You were the rain,
you were the sun
But I needed both,
cause I needed you.

You were the one
I was dreaming of all my life.
When it is dark you are my light.
But don't forget
Who's always our guide:
it is the child in us.

The days are gradually getting fuller and fuller, everything is manifesting in the most beautiful and organic way. More and more, what I need seems to be presented to me as the day unfolds; everything is happening right here, right now. The less I try to control it, the more opportunities present themselves.

I started my day making Love and that Love kept floating on the air, all around and inside me. The first manifestation occurred when I stopped at a bookstore and saw the book "Men and his symbols" by Carl Jung at the window; mentioned by Gaby only two days ago. While we were hanging out on Sunday -another day full of Love- Gaby suggested I read the book, he even wrote it down on a piece of paper. There it was. Right in front of my eyes. I entered the bookstore to find out what the price was and a black cat with a white spot on the tip of the tail came to greet us. At first he was shy but I'm sure he felt the Love, as he kindly requested to be petted. When I decided it was time to leave, he stood by the door...

At this point, we were heading with Todd to have some lunch and I was wondering what to do for the rest of the day. I could go home or go with him to his audition. I had a "hunch" I should walk with him, so I followed my instinct. We stopped for lunch at a bar called "True Love" on Sherbourne and Queen and we shared a bowl of spaghetti and meatballs while we played an intense game of chess. After a very fulfilling lunch we continued walking towards his audition, turning on random corners, just going South. We weren't very sure where we were or how far it was but when we become aware of this, we were one block away from our destination. We still had 40 minutes before his call time so I suggested we had a coffee. Right there, in front of us, a petite coffee shop. As we entered they said they were actually closing but offered me the coffee that was left, for free. It was an excellent coffee! I left them a tip and walk out the shop feeling very thankful. What else could I possibly need or want? To my surprise, more was coming...

As we arrived at Todd's audition, right there outside the building, I found what I was looking for for my final project. I found in the street three panels to make the office cubicle (part of my installation piece) My final project... There it was. I needed a car to pick them up, so I went inside the building and asked if I could leave them to pick up later. I called my mom to see if she could give me a hand but it was not possible. It's only rarely that I ask for help but when I do, the answer is almost always "no". For the first time in my life I didn't get upset. I realized that the only reason why this happens, is because I can deal with whatever it is by myself. This way, I'm becoming more and more independent, which at the end of the day, it's only for every one's benefit. After Todd's audition we went back to grab the panels; we had decided to carry them all the way back to my place. Todd took two and I took one and with a deep breath, lifted them up over our heads. We hadn't walk a block when we run into Jamie Kastner, a documentary director. The funny thing about this is that yesterday I mentioned to Todd that I hadn't heard back from him but I was sure I would run into him soon. Yes, there he was. I felt I was going to explode... so much was happening completely out of my control, and yet ALL of it was the manifestation of my thoughts!

As we walked home, carrying the panels on our heads, a guy catched up with us and offered his help to carry the third panel for as long as our ways were the same. For a few blocks, which seemed like many, he carried one of the panels on his head. When we got to the corner of Queen and Sherbourne, right in front of "True Love" cafe he put the panel down and said: "This is where I turn left". Todd and I continued walking straight, singing down the street, feeling like those African women who carry heavy stuff on top of their heads, finding how to distribute the weight in a balanced way. Balance and weight. Find the balance and take the weight off. Amazing!

What a fantastic day!! IT IS DEFINITELY HAPPENING...