Mendi + Keith Obadike
Deep End Residency: Coding the Crop

With this project we hope to distill the complex daily activity of coding and filtering into a five step score. For many years now we have been exposing code (the organizing language of our world) and investigating the nature of filters in our projects. Our interest began with digital filters (used in audio and image processing) and later we started to think of these elements as metaphors for social filters. By social filters we mean the cultural mechanisms constructed to regulate the movement of resources or individuals in the social realm. Whether we are concerned with people or data, in order for a ‘thing’ to be filtered it must first be categorized, or coded.

CODING THE CROP / BROWSING THE BUSH (CC/BB) is a companion module to our current theatrical project Four Electric Ghosts (4EG), an opera-masquerade. 4EG tells an original story told through songs, proverbs, and dance. It was inspired by Amos Tutuola’s novel My Life in the Bush of Ghosts and the back-story for the video game Pac-Man. We were drawn to these texts for many reasons, but among those reasons is the way coding works in both texts.

For the uninitiated, here is a gross simplification of the narratives. Pac-Man is a game in which one being who eats everything (Pac-Man) is being pursued by ghosts, who may or may not eat him. The game player performs as Pac-Man and must figure out how to avoid the ghosts. The invisible algorithms used to determine each ghost’s movement patterns are noticeable to the player because each ghost is color-coded. Now, in Tutuola’s novel, a boy is lost in a world of ghosts and must find his way back to the land of the living. In order to navigate the land of the dead, he quickly tries to learn the ways of each mysterious and highly codified ghost town. Some ghosts communicate with subtle gestures like shrugs and blinks and all maintain arcane taboos. The boy’s survival in this world depends on taking what he needs from each ghost town, while not being identified as an outsider. Four Electric Ghosts tells the story of a stray, voracious mortal in a ghost town from the perspective of four ghost sisters with distinct habits and skills. Threaded through our narrative are questions about how we order and filter our world, among many other issues. This 4EG companion module, CC/BB, focuses on the difficulty in organizing the organic, it is about the struggle to code the living.

We'd like to thank Tom Leeser for the invitation to come and conduct research at the Center for Integrated Media and we want to thank Ellen Birell and David Bunn for hosting us during our residency at the Deep End Ranch.