Harris Kornstein – UCSD Portfolio



Site-specific installation at shuttle stops with wireless routers, software, digital video; dimensions variable; 2014

is a conceptual intervention that temporarily disrupted riders' activities at nine of San Francisco's privatized tech shuttle stops, exploiting the shuttles’ and riders’ own wireless networking technologies.  Modified wireless routers placed near stops mimicked the network names and passwords of the buses themselves, such as Google’s “GBUS.”  (The title of the piece was taken from Google’s infamous slogan "don't be evil," which is the basis of their wifi password.)  Riders whose phones were set to remember known networks automatically connected; others manually connected under the assumption that the service has been extended to the stops for their benefit.  However, rather than obtaining open access to the Internet, users were redirected and restricted to a pre-recorded, looped video of the sidewalk—shot on location at each bus stop—that imitated the position and angle of their phones.  The sidewalk image was both indeterminate and quite specific: on the one hand, it offered a clear symbol of failure in an otherwise highly-customized and efficient system; on the other, it highlighted the particularity of each space and gestured toward the consequences of supplanting lived environments with purely virtual worlds.

Note: The video above shows a version of the documentation created for gallery settings. The left channel offers documentary footage of riders at one of the stops; the right channel is a simulation of what riders saw at each stop.



Bound (What If All My Friends Were Dying? What If All My Friends Were Dead?)

Digital video, screens, frames, wallpaper; 8 x 4’ (screen size: 5 x 5”); TRT: 5 min (looped); 2014

examines nostalgia for 1980s and 1990s fashion and visual culture, noting a feeling of déjà vu between archival photos of artists lost en masse to AIDS and images circulating on social media today. Composed of “living” video portraits, the series comments on the reality that many young queers—born after the emergence of the epidemic—are both completely unfamiliar with the lives and work of their predecessors, and perform many stylistic similarities in their own appearances, art practices, and activism.   Drawing on recent queer theory on temporality and failure, however, Bound seeks to move beyond a cynical emphasis on remembrance and generationalism to consider how repetition, haunting, or even forgetting can foster queer forms of agency and relationality. The piece thus asks how to read a current moment in which young people—many of whom are now the age at which their antecedents died—casually reenact this earlier moment of historical trauma. Is it a superficial attempt to show street cred with a Keith Haring iPhone case? An awkward yearning for ACT UP-style mass struggle at a time when many feel angry in the face of similar neoliberal neglect? Or perhaps a simultaneous expression of loss and gesture of disavowal of what may be too heavy of a legacy? Bound suggests that perhaps it is all of the above. And it may be these very contradictions—a tension between different times as well as epistemologies—that speak most to a queer articulation of the ongoing AIDS crisis.

30 second detailed clips (full-screen available in player controls):





Everything I Know About The Internet I Learned from the Spice Girls

3.5" floppy disk with website (11 HTML pages), 71 found images, and ReadMe file (essay); 3.5" square, edition of 20; 2013

Everything I Know About the Internet I Learned from the Spice Girls
 is an attempt to re-create my first website from memory. After discovering a box of old 3.5" floppy disks at my parents' house, I went searching for the site I'd created using AOL's WYSIWYG editor nearly fifteen years ago, only to find that AOL had shut down its user homepages in 2008 with very little warning.  Though autobiographical, the piece raises broader questions about the preservation of born-digital archives in the face of technical obsolescence, the privatization of the Web, and the ways in which digital performance of identity has shifted.  The exercise of rebuilding the site from memory also provides a unique opportunity to consider shifts in the design, architecture, and social practices of the Internet.  I have chosen to release the complete work only on 3.5" floppy disks, as I find it another notable marker of change that all of its data occupies less disk space than a single image from my current mobile phone; the work is exhibited publicly as an interactive installation.



Impossible (It's Possible)

Two-channel digital projection with custom software (Max) and appropriated images; dimensions variable; 2013

On dating platforms like Grindr and OKCupidlike other forms of social networkingthe complexity of people's lives is reduced to a limited number of fields, such as age, weight, employment, favorite movies, etc.  Such a presentation of the self as an accumulation of data reflects Deleuze's concept of a shift from the individual to the dividual in late capitalism.  On an emotional level, the possibility of finding a "match"—whether for a night or long-term—can be daunting given the possible combinations of data points.  Impossible (It's Possible) is a digital projection based on a custom piece of software that pulls two images—one of the artist's profile picture, the other taken from a constantly-updated database of images of users the artist has contacted—and pixelates both, scrambling their arrays of pixels each second.  Thus, while the raw material of the images remain the same, the chance that the pixels will display in the correct pattern is highly improbable; of course, the chance that both will display their respective images at the same time is nearly impossible.  As database of images grows, so too do the number of pixels in each image, both enabling the possibility of a richer image and reducing the probability that the images will correctly match.



Every 11 Year Old Girl Dreamed a Dream

Performance with video projection and iPod; 2013

Originally created for a club setting, Every 11 Year Old Girl Dreamed a Dream is a drag performance accompanied by a video projection of curated amateur videos of (mostly) young girls singing or lip-syncing to the epic "I Dreamed a Dream."  For the first two thirds of the performance, my mouth is covered by an iPod that features cropped video images of the young women's mouths, in sync with the video projection and the track of the song.  Near the end of the performance, I remove the iPod and begin my own lip-sync as the videos multiply behind me, filling the screen, and audio from the myriad video fades in to create a cacophonous chorus.  The performance intentionally appropriates the song as a social text, juxtaposing its original context within well-worn tropes of drag as well as these young women's dreams.




work in progress: iPhone, custom software, brick, duct tape, clear packing tape, zip ties, velcro, rubber bands, bungee cords, twine, rope; 3" x 4" x 8"

A work in progress, Brickr is structured as a semi-fictional iPhone app and case made from an actual brick.  The function of the app is ostensibly to “mobilize free speech,” however the physicality of the actual object and the pre-loaded messages on the app— “there goes the neighborhood,” “techie go home, etc.—suggest more dubious purposes.  In this context, Brickr uses the language and modes of production of Silicon Valley to investigate relationships between the structural violence of gentrification (and neoliberalism more broadly) and the threat of violence and property in response.  Further, beyond a strictly satirical message, the piece is intended to complicate understandings of protest, critiquing both market-oriented and clicktivist approaches to activism as well as the futility of outmoded forms of demonstration.


Additional work and images are available via the homepage of this site.