dispatches from paris and its squats

Feminism for Robots

This week’s Engadget video profile covers my work designing a genderless AI personality, Kai, for Kasisto. Just as algorithms left to train on large data sets have come up with results that appear sexist, AI personalities are blank slates that must be deliberately inscribed or risk reproducing biases of the culture in which they arise.

Women aren’t objects. So, objects don’t have to be women, as I recently told Refinery29.

Finally, I’m quite proud of having designed Kai to stonewall come ons, as this article notes.

Futur Bouffe

HORIZON 2050, U.D.A.G. 1

(photo Bruno de Nazareth / future food le C. F. A.)

‘One must make one’s own sun and lug it with impunity below the shade-blanketed sky.’

–Solstice Alando, To Set Each Beard on Fire, 2022, p. 22…

The élite have at their disposal a range of resources that are broader, healthier, and more sophisticated than does the population as a whole. At the pinnacle of this hierarchy, certain practices now in large-scale development breach even the meagerest remaining levee of what once was called professional ethics. Please find this issue explored in detail under the heading ‘Privatization of food resources and human capital’ (p. 11)…

In times of drought Australian aboriginals drank from bladders of frogs discovered under two cold stones. They brought their lips to the outlets of orifices and gently pressed the bellies. Liquid left the frogs as from a juicy fruit.

— Jean-Roger Helmin, MANGER EN / NUTRITION IN 2050, Éditions C. F. A.

I translated the fictional journalist’s work for this bilingual edition, exhibited in Paris and Lille.

HORIZON 2050, U.D.A.G. 2


People talk about the beauty of this city’s rooftops, but not as often about its windows.

Every window in this apartment except the one in my bedroom opens onto the courtyard. The apartment grays as the days shorten. My window opens onto rue du Temple. Across the street is a jeweler’s. A short man in a long white coat makes jewelry in the window across from me. For a few days I thought he was writing or painting by candlelight, then I noticed his goggles (and the jeweler’s sign) and realized his craft used the flame.

My desk is by the window. I write at my desk and the man works at his desk and sometimes we happen to rotate toward the window at the same dull moment and are startled to lock eyes. I was unused to this intimacy. I learned to remember to close the blinds after a shower.

I saw an interesting exhibit on Saturday, “Hommage à Edward Hopper,” at the Mona Bismarck American Center for Art & Culture. (I went there for a concert by the two Fulbrighters who are musicians, Cathryn Gaylord and Katy LaFavre, who play bassoon and percussion, beautifully.)

The artists, a duo named Clark et Pougnaud, produce photographs after Edward Hopper’s paintings. (There is currently a well-advertised Hopper exhibit at the Grand Palais.) Pougnaud makes 1/12-sized sets that resemble the paintings. Clark photographs actors posed as Hopper’s people, and also photographs the sets.

I’m including some of the photos far below, taken from the artists’ online portfolio.

Of course Hopper is interested in windows. I became interested in Hopper a couple years ago, when I was directing a sparse, sweet play of Sarah Ruhl’s called “Dead Man’s Cell Phone.” Ruhl recommends Hopper in her notes to directors. I started to think about light in green and yellow shades, long beams, still and mournful light, and what it fails to illuminate when it smacks you in the face.

The homage to Hopper is not quite overly literal, even as it approaches the uncanny valley. It works because Hopper (like Ruhl) seems concerned with boundaries between real and imagined — you have to wonder what his people are dreaming about — and how one might transcend the bounded world. Clark’s deeply colored, hybrid photos transpose Hopper’s private, anxious figures into a storied loneliness.

I stepped out of the exhibit onto avenue de New York, on the Right Bank, and felt in my stomach how the Eiffel Tower looked at dusk.

I came home at night to find a crane stringing Christmas lights across the street and was awed (elves at work).

I was moved by the words to get rid of ripe mangoes at the Belleville market: “They are honey! They are amazing. They are not expensive! They are free! Three for two euros! Try them, my brother! Try them, my cousin! Try them, my beauty! Taste the honey! Taste the sunshine! Eat! Eat! Eat!”

This morning, there was some commotion outside. I went to the window and looked down to the street, where a knot of pedestrians argued with some cops. I looked up. The jeweler and his colleagues were standing at their window, too. They smiled. I smiled back. One jeweler waved. They laughed at me.

Le Carrosse

I have spent much of my time since I arrived in Paris finding the people who lived in a squat called Le Carrosse, which was evicted from 14 – 16 rue de Capitaine Marchal near Porte de Bagnolet March 28.

After leaving the squat, its residents scattered, to other squats, to a friend’s apartment in the suburbs, to a relative’s couch. Some miss Le Carrosse, others do not.

Thinking about the squat, I found some photos I took when I stayed there a week in January. Le Carrosse was cold in the winter, unheated except for a few space heaters that frequently zapped off because of the squat’s DIY wiring. Artists flowed daily through several workshops.