Digital Swamp

The outburst of the digital swamp

Rather than evading the (digital) wetlands, The Overkill wishes to design a route through its muddy paths. Artists navigating the Postdigital constellation think of the swamps as a playground to hybridise, as material under transformation and a womb for monstrous mutation. Today the swamp is reconsidered as a space for agency, it is inhabited by amphibious entities and exiled varieties of the self, the swamp is a liquefying space expanding on the different ecosystems.
The Overkill festival invites these hybrid and mixed media artists, accustomed to the porous and dripping networks of the everglades and welcomes everyone to venture into unstable fantasy spaces. Influenced by the proliferation of memes, wet aesthetics, derailed futures, “phygital”* morphologies and mixed fairy tales, these networks are to be navigated in daring ways, taking on a role and playing on the scenarios of an imminent reconfiguration of the planet.

* phygital : a combination of physical and digital

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Thoughts on co-curating the “digital swamp” by Kostis Stafylakis

To a Greek, born in the late 70s, the swamp strikes as a reference from the school years, reminiscent of the uninspiring patriotic pedagogy we had to undergo as kids. Penelope Delta, an early 20th century Greek author, wrote the popular “The Secrets of the Swamp’ (1937), telling the story of the fight between Greece and Bulgaria in the early 20 th century period of Greece’s expansionist ideologies. The Swamp of Giannitsa, what now is Northern Greece, was the physical territory that would judge the outcome of the battle. Here, in the Twente Region of the Netherlands, we learn that the raised bogs adjacent to Germany were constantly manipulated by human settlements, from the early medieval years onto the early 1900s. In the successful comic series Moonshine, by Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso, set in the era of prohibition, the young gangster hero travels through the zombie-filled dark bayous of New Orleans to reach Cleveland. The Swamp burdens different cultural imaginaries and narratives by making space for the uncertain interstices of modern life.

In the recent post-digital and internet-core milieu, artist and author Dane Sutherland (also known as Most Dismal Swamp) has invited us to rethink Henry David Thoreau’s adoration of swamps as “sacred places” of intoxication. Sutherland, featured at this year’s Overkill, theorizes the swamp as a place of “muddy indistinction” and taxonomic collapse, a fermenting depository of digital and physical matter. In his video installation, Sutherland animates three bog bodies, delivering mesmerized secrets to the audience and to the LARP players. My self and Theo Triantafyllidis design THE HORDE: GOBLIN MODE, an experimental LARP structure that invites artists, audience, and players to join a number of fantasy clans and contest over different ecological scenarios after an irreversible ecological catastrophe. Artists and audience are given the chance to become Swamp Goons, Boho Elves, Carbon Knights, or Chaos Goblins. Samuel Capps, artist and founder of Gossamer Fog in London, becomes a Swamp Goon and operates PASCALE, an abundant Brain Computer Interface [BCI] that controls the fate of the LARP’s realm. The BCAA System set up an inventory of tools, gadgets, clothes that assist them to traverse a muddy landscape avoiding their detention by their enemies in their LARP-based film No Blade of Grass. The KOTZ install a ring of “hell-fire”, using shopping carts to create a circular space wherein audience and LARP players can assemble, negotiate, eat vegan KOTZ sausages, and watch themselves burn in hell in a circular screen above their heads. A strange transmission in space projects Terminal Space 4: Xiu’s Story, a film by Plague pro, Virtue Village, Halo, Ian Bruner in which an unnamed narrator travels to the site of a toxic lake to search for a disappeared water rights lawyer. Studio 11 of the Athens School of Fine Arts, alongside students from other studios, creates a parallel LARP, The Horde: Doomer Mode, portraying a grim world of outcasts and diseased, trying to return to the world of Goblin Mode. Many more contributors of the festival develop methods to “larp the swamp” – ways to embody the
speculative entities that inhabit it.

Rather than approaching the Swamp as a metaphor for unbound potentiality, we should perhaps see how old and new ideas of the swamp describe its pull, its concentric power. Nowadays, the swamp is less an adventurous everglade for exploration. We are all in the swamp, “dank”, drenched, muddied by its oozing matter. The swamp is neither cathartic liquidity, nor hydro community, nor shared universal essence. The swamp is the material embeddedness of the world: its pull, after the monstrous expansion of Web 2.0 and Web 2.5.

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Amphibious – Fluid Program by Erik Peters

On the embodiment of fluidity and the swamp as fertile grounds for hybrid identities. Amphibious creatures, shapeshifters, beings and cyborgs that roam the phygital swamp and defy common notions of gender, identity and humanness. These fluid identities navigate the entangled network of multispecies realities presented by the swamp and show us all sorts of ways to co-exist. They are shapeshifters, gods and deities, monsters and glitches. They exist in multitudes, coming home to an interconnected chaotic wilderness. By embracing the digital swamp’s glitched landscapes, we find the multispecies existence of a rallying cry, a call to dismantle rigid boundaries and celebrate the hybrid identities of the creatures of the swamp.