Monday’s Lecture: Evan Roth

Last Monday Evan Roth came to talk to us and introduced me to the hack.  Of course I am familiar with the term “hacking” as it pertains to computers, but Evan provided a much broader definition.  According to Evan Roth, a hack is “a clever (often playful) intervention into an existing system which alters the originally intended purpose and turns it into something new.”

He gave us funny and interesting examples such as floating a balloon in front of a security camera, silencing a speaker outside a store, and graffiti in general.  Art in Airports was a series of “hacks” he used to entertain himself during frequent flights and time in airports.  In Skymall Liberation, Evan cut out the faces of the SkyMall catalogue arranging them by gender, race, and in other ways.  TSA communication was a collection of metal plates with messages emblazoned on them that he would stash in his bag.  He could pick different messages depending on how he was feeling or what he felt like communicating that day.  How to Keep Motherfuckers From Putting Their Seats Back was another hack that simply involved securing an industrial size zip-tie to the chair in front of you on a plane to keep the passenger from reclining their chair into your space.  I had never really considered these clever acts, that seem similar to jokes, to be art.  But they are calling attention to something, making you think in a new way, changing the context of materials and situations … that sounds a lot like art to me.

Evan Roth also quoted Eric Raymond saying he aimed to be “Lazy like a fox.”  He said he aimed to make the most impact with the smallest amount of effort.  Hacks can be simple acts, requiring simple materials (i.e. a zip-tie) and yet still have a big message and impact.  This concept is rather unfamiliar to me.  It seems we’ve always been taught to work hard, do things right, and that the best things take the most effort.  It is quite intriguing to suddenly switch this philosophy.

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