Residentie Holly Herndon & Birgitta Jonsdottir

We live in a time where technology is taking over the control of our lives. Social media is using our data without us even knowing it, surveillance cameras follow our every move and without our smartphones we are lost.

Holly Herndon, American singer and composer, and Birgitta Jonsdottir, artist and poet from Iceland, came to Utrecht at the invitation of art exhibition HACKING HABITAT.Art of Control from the 24th till the 27th of January to share their ideas about how to deal with new technological systems.

The Residence of Holly Herndon and Birigtta Jonsdottir consisted of four parts:

1. Round Table Discussion
Holly Herndon en Birgitta Jonsdottir reflected on a renewed citizenship in a world that is dominated by technology during a exclusive Round Table Discussion on February 25th, the day preceding the official opening of Hacking Habitat. The public gathered at the former prison Wolvenplein, where the art exhibition is established. The panel consisted of:

– Birigitta Jonsdottir (IS), poet, known for the founding of Wikileaks and her role in The Pirate Party Iceland,
– Dimitri Tokmetzis (NL), author of ‘The Digital Shadow’ (2012) and hack-journalist for De Correspondent,
– Vinca Kruk (NL), designer and partner at Metahaven,
– Jolle Demmers (NL), author of Theories of Violent Conflict (2012) and Associate Professor Universiteit Utrecht,
– Holly Herndon (USA), componer and musician,
– Mat Dryhurst (UK), multimedia-artist and creative partner of Holly Herndon,
– Katerina Gregos (GR), artistic director of Art Brussels.

The Dutch philosopher Marjan Slob was moderator and Reiner van Zutphen, the Nationale Ombudsman, summarized and reflected upon the discussion.

2. Concert
On February 25th Holly Herndon gave a concert in TivoliVredenburg. Her music was reinforced with visuals by Mat Dryhurst. Halfway through the concert Birgitta Jonsdottir recited a poem, written especially for this occasion, with the subject Hacking Habitat.

© Foto’s: Jelmer de Haas / TivoliVredenburg

3. Meeting with students
Gaudeamus Muziekweek organised a meet and greet between Holly Herndon and students from the HKU, related to the 42nd International Computer Music Conference (ICMC), that takes place in September 2016 in Utrecht. The meet and greet took place between the soundcheck and the concert.
The students were curious to hear about Herndons life as a musician. Herndon talked about the groups she played in, how she experience the noisescene in San Francisco and mainly: how to become a succesfull solo artist. Herdon and her VJ, Mat Dryhurst, talked about their experiences and shared two important lessons: make sure you have a lot of connections in the live circuit, because that is where you make your money, and make sure you have a story to tell, otherwise you won’t stand out between all your rivals on the internet.

4. Official Opening
On February 26th Birgitta Jonsdottir took part in the opening of Hacking Habitat. She recited a poem that she had written for the concert of Holly Herndon, the day before.

I am poetician
I am hacker
I am life hacking

I am hacking habitat

I am hacking systems

I am hacking me

I hack hack hack
into the roots of the crumbling systems

I am helping the system collapse
from its own weight

I am planting seeds
creating new structures

I am planting
into this
with you
we hack
bleeding red code into the all embracing algorithmic eye

© Birgitta Jonsdottir

foto birgitta opening Hack Hab

About Holly
Holly Herndon hit every record in 2015 with her second album Platform.
In her avant-garde, electronic music she uses contemporary technologies. Herndons favroite instrument is therefore the laptop. “I’m interested in what it sounds like to be making music in 2015,”, she said in an interview with the The Guardian. “How do we express the emotions we’re feeling today? I find it odd to use a violin swell from another era to discuss the feeling I have after a Skype breakup.” Herndon builds several fragments into one cohesive piece and with her texts she reflects on our society. In her song ‘Home’ for instance, she sings about the relationship we have with our electronical devices “I know you know me better than I know me.

About Birgitta Jonsdottir
The Icelandic Birgitta Jonsdottir is politician and poet. She refers to herself as a poetician (combination of policitian and poet). She stands for privacy and the freedom of speech. Jonsdottir was founder of WikiLeaks, the websites for whisteblowers, and is since 2009 member of the Icelandic parliament. In her poetry she reflects upon the role of technology in our society.

I have seen signs
the end of the world
as we know it
has begun

Don’t panic
it might look terrifying
on the surface

Yet inside every
human being
a choice
to be a catalyst

Earth is calling
Sky is calling

Science is calling
Creation is calling:

Wake up, wake up now

Transform your heart into
a compassion machine

Now is the time
to yield to the call of growth
to the call of action

You are the change makers

Sleepers of all ages


wake up: NOW

by: Birgitta Jonsdottir

The art manifestation Hacking Habitat discusses the growing influence of technological systems. We are living in a remote control society: there are surveillance camera’s watching us, social media are using our data without us knowing and without our smartphones we are at a total loss. High-tech systems are connected worldwide and are becoming more powerful every day.
Fortunately, mankind is clever and is finding ways to take back the control over their lives. They are hacking their habitat. Hacking Habitat was based in former prison on the Wolvenplein in Utrecht from February till June 2016.

The Residency of Holly Hernodn and Birgitta Jonsdottir was a collaboration between Hacking Habitat.Art of Control, TivoliVredenburg, Gaudeamus Muziekweek, HKU and ICM 2016.