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March 4, 2016

Artist in Residence Update: Grensis


Editor’s note: Ben Willis is a musician and composer and one of our 2015-2016 artists in residence. As part of this program, artists in residence attend UMS performances to inspire new thinking and creative work within their own art forms.

Here, Ben is in conversation with Lester Crespum, an intuitive design specialist, explorer, and specious theorist.


Ben Willis: While I know I’m at risk of injecting my own biases and suppositions into this discussion, I’d like to talk to you about how you feel about being a multidisciplinarian, the expectations and challenges thereof, and also about this looming thing called the future, which all of us understand exists, but few of us really acknowledge.

Lester Crepsum: I’d like to begin with your second point.

BW: The future.

LC: Yes.

BW: Go ahead.

LC:  (silence)

BW: Are you still there?

LC: Yes, I apologize, I was merely engaging with inevitability. I find that most claims are best reached when mediated by silence. In the case of the future, whose even existence is debatable – yet, inevitable, the question is more a case of the why than the what.

BW: Isn’t that always the case?

LC: I actually find the opposite to be true. I find myself asking “What?” and “What is that?” about pretty much everything. I also have an extremely poor short-term and long-term memory, requiring me to rely heavily on bionic augmentation.


BW: Technology?

LC: I’m currently in the process of developing, along with a team of technologists, a series of sensory augmentation ports that I could permanently inject into my spinal column.

BW: This will improve your memory?

LC: Better, it will be incredibly painful, which will serve as a constant reminder that I am alive. So often, when just sitting, or even in situations when I am being engaged, like now, I slip into an automatic mode of existence – of relying upon my own brain. While I know that I exist entirely within my own brain, and yes, since solipsisms (once radical, now boring!) are a thing, YOU, and EVERYTHING ELSE could very well (and probably do) exist entirely within my brain, it helps to be reminded that I’ve chosen to believe otherwise. These sensory augmentation ports in my spinal column would serve as nodes of interaction with the outside world, hyperventilated and fabricated pituita serving as divine access to the noumenal. (And by noumenal, I mean anything that isn’t me, of course, or at least everything that isn’t me and also isn’t my brain, which could very well be nothing. Thankfully, there’s so much more nothing than there is something! That’s where those questions “What?” and “What is that?” come in handy. Most of the time, the answer is “I don’t know!” or, even more aggravating, “What?”)


BW: Let’s talk about that parenthetical. You find the answer is often the question, “What?”

LC: What?

BW: I see.

LC: The future is mostly a realm of expectation. It will be or it won’t. Where do you think we will be in five years?

BW: What?

LC: Exactly! When I was embedded with the Zintook tribe in southern Smibwenbia, one of the most useful things I learned was a form of greeting. Between men, this was enacted by taking each others’ hands, making direct eye contact, and very slowly bringing your tongues to touch. The rest of the men would form a circle around you making a falsetto “Lululu” sound, in imitation mockery. Between a man and a woman, the greeters would lightly take each others’ hands, and then the woman would smack the man in the face, backhand, and then laugh. Between two women, they would just make eye contact, wink at each other, and then smile impishly. If there were other genders present, or gender fluid individuals, they would just pick one of these actions and perform it. Which was kind of more fun for the other person, if they didn’t know what was going to happen, like if a man starts going for the tongue thing, and then gets backhanded in the face! I’ve never laughed so hard.

BW: I’ve never heard of this tribe.

LC: Yes, sadly, they are largely decimated by now. And those left mostly act as weapon runners.

BW: It’s a cruel world.

LC: Business is booming for cruel people.


Interested in more? Follow the adventures and process of other UMS Artists in Residence.