Ian Bruner Talks About the Myth of Race, AI, and Post-Capital Society

by Rubén Palma
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Ian Bruner, is an artist based out of Denver, Colorado. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in English Literature from UCCS. Bruner engages in both digital and natural artistic pursuits, delving into the intricate nuances of class dynamics and racialized structures in the post-capitalist era. As a co-director of Rhizome Parking Garage and a co-curator of Solo Show, Ian actively contributes to the vibrant artistic landscape.

Hi Ian! Thank you for sitting down with me. First question that I always ask. How does a regular day look like for you in Colorado? 

Walk my dog, sell my labor as an insurance claims adjuster, spend time with my wife, dog, and cats, walk my dog again, work out. 

I’m curious. Growing up, what kind of kid were you, what did you enjoy doing and how did you spend your time?

I grew up in the Mojave desert, and spent the majority of my time exploring the desert around my home. My childhood consisted of myths and myth making. I also enjoyed drawing and making up stories. 

Do you remember how old you were when  you started to play around with different graphic design programs? And which programs do you use now?

I began using phone apps in 2015, i can’t recall exactly what, they were just random free stuff i could find and use to manipulate images. I now have a few go to apps I use like Picsart, and Bazaart.

With that in mind. What do you think about the rise of AI these last couple of years? And where do see the technology, in let’s say 5 years from now?

With the use of ubiquitous computing and sensing, AI is and will infuse within everyday life to a degree that its power begins to disappear, and in this way its control more acute, and pervasive. It already has seemed to change what it means to be human,  Byung-Chul Han, talks about the way in which decision is shifting into choice. This projected five years from now might not look or feel that different then it does today, and “the future is here it’s just not evenly  displaced” but in accordance to vectoral logic, eventually, and in correlation with other aspects of control society, trust will erode, both public, and private, and force us further into a futureless future, dictated by the vectoral class. There is a scene in the book “the every” by Dave Eggers, in which a woman at the loss of her AI assistant, becomes  trapped in a stairwell unable to decide to go up or down, she could no longer even trust her own instinct or memory. 

We will have to match AI’s logic and speed, and more, and more, we will begin to resemble some rendering of a perfect vectoral construction, free from the risk of freedom, automatons. Or maybe it will just be lots of fun and super cool, but it would appear every aspect of life is leading us deeper into enclosure. We probably won’t feel it happening, until it is too late, or some will but will be ignored, as anything inhibiting the rate of growth must be negated. 

Art created with AI would seem to benefit from an approach similar to that of Roland Barthes approach to photography, in particular the aspects of punctum and studium. There is and probably will be lots of art produced with AI that only offers studium and lacks any authentic connectability. However, there is some work produced with AI that has the ability to force an opening as the punctum of a good photo would and this is what interests me. 

What do you think made you gravitate towards digital art, installations and ,sculptures?

I studied English literature in college, and read lots of French theory like Roland Barthes’ “Mythologies”, which really got me interested in Semiology. I was also very taken with burroughs use of the cut-up and had been making sample music for a while as well as physical collages out of found images, at the same time I found things like James Bridel’s Drone Shadows, and the digital artwork of artist like Don Elektro. I decided to try to make digital art on my phone in the passing moments. Which grew to an everyday practice. 

After a while of making digital art more seriously I began to yearn for the feeling of making art with my hands. Lacking any actual artistic talent, and always having a fixation with the lyrical value of  trash, I began working with found objects, ready-made objects, and other debris I could find.  Eventually, I was lucky enough to be able to participate in installation projects , which led me to curating, and producing offsite shows. 

A lot of people probably don’t know this, but you actually create most of your digital work on your phone. Which, when looking at your work, is absolutely insane! So why are you not working on a computer for god sakes?!

I’ve  never really had a good enough computer to learn photoshop or anything so I just do my best with phone apps. 

With that in mind. Can you walk me through your creative process. From beginning, to end result?

For the most part I would say I don’t have a defined process, other than to always be working on something. I read and write a lot, which is part of my creative process. When making art I try not to think, and just work from intuition. If possible I like to make work, and leave it for sometime, and then come back to it, and see if I still think it’s any good or if it needs more work. Gabriel Garcia Máquez wrote this book called  “the autumn of the patriarch” which is about an aging dictator and is perhaps one of the most beautifully written books I have read, Máquez said in writing the book he learned everything he could about dictators and then attempted to forget everything when he wrote it, this is what I attempt to use as a guide to my art practice. To approach it as a fool.

So besides everything mentioned above, you also make music and write. Can you tell me more about that please? Like What kind of music and what do you write?

 A while back I was lucky enough to make some music with Drone Operator and Matti Gajek on a project called Sim Card Holder, which was released through Blueberry records. It’s a sort of free jazz experiment. We are hopefully coming out with another tape soon. More recently I completed a minimalistic-ambient tape called “coyote movements (1-7)” for Drowned By Locals which will be accompanied by a book of poems and art works titled, “a dog in a loop”,  which will be out through DBLs publishing house Drowned by Public.  The book is structured as a novella about a thief and is told through the poems, and images, and is very loosely based on the myth of actaeon and diana. I also enjoy writing non-fiction and have written some exhibition texts, and co-written a few lectures. Eventually, I hope to publish some longer form fiction such as a novel. 

 Ok Ian. These next couple of questions are about topics that I know interests you. First two questions are: Power relations, race and class. Why are those topics important for you to document through your work?

My work reflects the issues I often think about and, living in America, it’s impossible not to think about race. I believe race is a myth created by the ruling class.

For example the white-race is neither real scientifically, nor is it a social construct, but rather a method of breeding control through individuation while enforcing class collaboration. I am not “white”, I am a North American with white-skin privilege. The term “white” was not used until 1691, therefore, the idea of whiteness did not exist prior to that, white-people would have been considered british, or irish..ect. The myth of  “race” is a ruling class invention created to erode worker solidarity by establishing racism as a means of control. This movement towards racism was a response to several worker uprisings such as “bacon’s rebellion”. White-skin privilege is what Theadore Allen calls a “poison pill”, in that it kills those who take it, W.E.B Debouis talks about this in his essay “souls of white folk”. Whiteness means the death of the other, it also erodes the class collaborators’ autonomy and agency, it transforms them into both prisoners and the police. White supremacy is the most vulnerable point in the power structure of which we are currently tethered, whiteness is an Achilles heel.  

The vectoral class needs capitalism and capitalism needs racism and racism needs race to exist, and racism is a structural power system that requires the policing of bodies and minds. The creation of the white-race transforms its subjects into a standing army for the ruling class. This can be seen in the way private property is protected and how George Floyd was executed in broad daylight on a busy street, or how De’Von Bailey was shot in the back as he ran away, or how Eric Garner was choked to death, or how Ahmaud Arbery was hunted down, or how in America the zip code one lives in becomes integral in determining one’s life expectancy. 

Currently we are seeing how ideologies of “pure-identity”–of which Adrono has already linked to the holocaust–are being used as an attempt to justify, and legitimate the American funded genocide the Israeli government is currently waging against the Palastine people. In fact the occupying force of Israel has even handed out guns to its Zionist settler population to complete their transformation into the police. Pure-Identities’ logical outcome is the death of the other, and therefore, of the self, nothing can survive. The Zionist that remain in Palestine are no more alive then the children, women, and men they have murdered.  

I don’t necessarily think art can address any of these issues in any real way, art won’t stop a genocide or change the way asysmyties of power develop or are sustained. Art is not transgressive as it cannot stand outside of the whole of the social order, and can only attain the status of the antagonistic duality of instrumentalized rationality. Art can be used as propaganda, or advertisement of any nature, be it financial or spiritual, and perhaps it stops becoming art at some point, but the art I am interested in is the useless art, free of reason, and purpose, art that does not ask for a response, but rather art that needs silence.  

Same thing goes for surveillance. Why is that topic important for you to document?

Surveillance is no longer an issue of monitoring but a tool for controlling, predicting, and analyzing movement and thought, and as a system to buy, and sell the future, as mediated by behavioral controls. The owners of the data produced by this mass surveillance are not the state but rather the vectoral class. Due to this the vectoral class does not operate as the state has, as it negates even state power. Some may call it  neoliberalism or late stage capitalism… though these terms no longer apply, as McKenzie Wark has explained in her book “is capital dead: is this something worse?” capital is dead (though this does not mean gone), and a new layer of abstraction and oppression has been superimposed by vectoralism. 

The base creates the superstructure and the base has shifted, what was once capitalism is now a feeding tube for vectoral society. The end of feudalism through enclosure created capitalism in the same way the end of capital is ushered in by another enclosure, the enclosure of the future and the collapse of interiority. There is no place to hide. Not even are our thoughts safe. Panopticonic-society did not have access to interiority, a boundary existed.This boundary no longer exists. We now live in a pornographic society, that of vectoral-society. Even if you don’t want to participate you must, surveillance has attached itself to every aspect of life. Auto and allo forms of surveillance are stripping life into bare-life, and the whole system is determinant upon slave labor. Vectoral society is inherently tethered to that of disciplinary society, and its bio power. The networked society that is now replacing older forms in the over developed world requires  the (artisanal) slave miner, the child slave, the suicide nets around foxconn, the endless severer farms leeching, the poorly paid labors being paid two cents per image they catorigorize for AI algorithms, cobalt mines the size of Londo in the Congo, the toxic waste of electronics, Amazon warehouses, our thoughts, and feelings, memories, and emotions, our futures. 

Besides your work, you also run Rhizome Parking(link), and Solo Show(link). Tell me about those to ventures. Like what are they about etc.. 

Rhizome parking garage and solo show both started out as off-site projects. I started Rhizome Parking Garage with artist and teacher Noah Travis Phillps. I had been very inspired by groups like Underground Flower and Plague Pro and wanted to try some kind of offsite project. Ben Sang from Final Hot Desert had introduced me to Noah and we started talking about a possible offsite project which would become Rhizome Parking Garage, we did our first show for The Wrong biennale. Solo-show was started during the pandemic, when Halo and I had parallel ideas to host a decentralized offsite show, in which artists set up a show in their home. Halo really runs the whole thing, the site, and the instagram. For the most part we curate shows together, typically co-writing a text that we send to the artist we ask to participate. I’m very grateful to all the artists and friends I have been able to work with and who have trusted us along the way. 

What motivates you? 

Various things, it’s really hard to say. 

How would you describe a perfect day?

For me to do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticize after dinner, just as I have a mind, without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, shepherd or critic.

Alright Ian. I always ask these two questions at the end of an interview. The first is. What’s your favorite movie(s) and why?

A movie I think about often is Alphaville by Jean Luc Godard. I have a soft spot for Noir. The way Godard shot the film is very inspiring as it was shot at night in Paris with no special effects or sets or anything, yet it feels and looks like a futuristic science fiction film. It really inspired me to do what I do, and is also a very beautiful movie with lots of great scenes. 

The second is. What song(s) are you currently listening to the most right now?

Abdel Ja7eem Hafeth – Eed B Eed(Ma3 El Shaytan) ft. Sheekie Sheekie by Laith Demashqieh. Also the new African-American sound Recording’s album Share Spirit 

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