Picture: Aad Hogendoorn

In 2012, the artist Riley Harmon received an email from a conspiracy theorist. He was accused of being an actress, named Riley Harmon, who had been hired by the US government to fake a tragedy. 

 

In response to the email’s accusation, Harmon launched his own inquiry, gathered discussion from Internet forums and generated a film based on the collected data. In the exhibition Infinite Monkey Theorem, MAMA shows Harmon’s response to his accuser: a highly cinematic manifestation of the fantasy allegations that continually shifts between fiction and documentary, titled A Method for Blue Logic, 2014.

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concept, redactioneel,

audiovisueel, routing en grafisch ontwerp: O.O.N.A

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iley Harmon, currently resident at the Rijksacademie in Amsterdam, is showing his two latest video installations at Showroom MAMA.  

 

If a monkey randomly hits the keys on a typewriter keyboard for an infinite amount of time, there is the chance it will type the complete works of William Shakespeare. The chances are slim, but it’s not impossible. Such possibilities create a space for doubt and fantasy, and once such spa-ces arise, there is a tendency for humans to fill them; from which stories arise, scientific research originates, and conspiracy theories are born. In our current information age where know- ledge and scientific evidence are highly distributed, the truth appears to be increasingly accessible but the human need for a meaningful connection between events remains. The Internet plays a major role in this as a platform whereby anyone can create, shape and disseminate their own truths and realities. Individuals find each other and an audience, and gather evidence to subs- tantiate their stories and theories. The default thinking of our era is that the truth is always in doubt, nothing is what it seems, and everything is possible.  

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verse-engineer social and personal narratives. He explores the theatricality of humans as performers in the world and the thin line between loss and desire, and fantasy and lived experience. In his work, he appropriates material from YouTube, video games, and television and offers a detour from the original. 

Where as instructions and rules sets are very common in information technology and software programming, Harmon uses the idea of governing principles to make artworks. He starts with an idea, creates a set of rules to follow, and than executes these rules many times over in order to gain technical expertise and create meaningful content. 

 

For example, in the Passengers series (2010-ongoing), 

verse-engineer social and personal narratives. He explores the theatricality of humans as performers in the world and the thin line between loss and desire, and fantasy and lived experience. In his work, he appropriates material from YouTube, video games, and television and offers a detour from the original. 

Where as instructions and rules sets are very common in information technology and software programming, Harmon uses the idea of governing principles to make artworks. He starts with an idea, creates a set of rules to follow, and than executes these rules many times over in order to gain technical expertise and create meaningful content. 

 

For example, in the Passengers series (2010-ongoing), 

verse-engineer social and personal narratives. He explores the theatricality of humans as performers in the world and the thin line between loss and desire, and fantasy and lived experience. In his work, he appropriates material from YouTube, video games, and television and offers a detour from the original. 

Where as instructions and rules sets are very common in information technology and software programming, Harmon uses the idea of governing principles to make artworks. He starts with an idea, creates a set of rules to follow, and than executes these rules many times over in order to gain technical expertise and create meaningful content. 

 

For example, in the Passengers series (2010-ongoing), 

 

instruction, as do his acting skills through the playing of many different characters. Thus, the work is almost self-generating, and while following the in- structions, meaning is generated along the way. That being said, serendipity can also play a role. This was the case when he received an email from a conspiracy theorist in 2012. From this e-mail Harmon started researching the conspiracy theory online and discovered many people gathering information and creating content online to support their version of the tragedy. For Harmon, it seemed these contributors were like the Monkey Theorem, randomly hitting buttons in the hope of finding a synchronicity in meaning or coming closer to some kind of truth. From the researched data, he then created a rule-set and instructions for a screenplay and its cinematography and décor. In his own way, Harmon tried to construct order and give meaning to this conspiracy and, in the process, became a conspiracy theorist himself. The artist becomes the monkey, who becomes the viewer, who becomes the conspiracist.  

 by: Marloes de Vries

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iley Harmon grew 

up performing and working backstage in community theatres. He has worked in information technology and commercial visual effects. His commercial work informs his artistic practice in terms of technical knowledge, and in return his personal practice influences his commercial work, creating a dialogue back and forth. He received his bachelor in Fine Arts in Oklahoma before moving to Pittsburgh to do his Masters at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. 

 

He is currently a resident at the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam. Harmon’s artistic practice seeks to re-

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 he infinite

monkey theorem states that a monkey hitting keys at random on a typewriter keyboard for an infinite amount of time will almost surely type a given text, such as the complete works of William Shakespeare.  

 

In this context, “almost surely” is a mathematical term with a precise meaning, and the

typing a complete work such as Shakespeare’s Hamlet is so tiny that the chance of it occurring during a period of time hundreds of thousands of orders of magnitude longer than the age of the universe

is extremely low (but technically not zero).

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existing movies; his command of visual effects improves with every repetition of this instruction, as do his acting skills through the playing of 

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but a metaphor for an abstract device that produces an endless random sequence of letters and symbols. One of the earliest instances of the use of the “monkey metaphor” is that of French mathematician Émile Borel in 1913, but the earliest instance may be even earlier.

 

The relevance of the theorem is questionable— the probability of a universe full of monkeys 

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showroom: Witte de Withstraat 29-31 Rotterdam – NL info@showroommama.nl

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