Dept. Arts and Sciences

The Zombie Swarm: Low Art as Hyperobject

Professors Lee Simmons and Keith Hamon hosted a panel discussion at the 89th meeting of the South Atlantic Modern Language Association (SAMLA89). The panel asked what happens to the borders and boundaries of the high art object when it becomes a hyperobject through commercialization? If low art is a boundless zombie swarm hollowing all art into economic value, then how does the loss of boundary turn art into a metaphor for other aspects of culture and current events? This panel explored the tensions between high art and low art which suggest that printed text may well have planted the first seeds of the zombie apocalypse and forced the question, “What flowers bloom in the folds of rotting books?”  What value “blooms” from low art?  The commodification of art evident in the California low brow movement has parallels in the production process and zombification of creativity in novels slated to be or “demanded” as products.  Performativity of the artist, a “Warhol” effect, becomes less creative and more zombified as time goes on in this post-post modern (alter-modern) sterile zone.

In addition to its consideration of images, the panel also considered the rise of new texts on the Internet, such as the recent #MeToo hashtag. As of 2017, the world was generating more than 7 trillion text messages per year, 580+ billion per month, 19+ billion per day. This number does not include Facebook and Twitter messages, which add billions more. This is an unimaginable written conversation—a cacophony, a swarm, a hyperobject—that phases in and out of our consciousness and provides the white noise out of which much of the world’s thoughts and writing emerge. The panel explored strategies for engaging these hyperobjects, relying on concepts of complexity in the works of Serres, Deleuze and Guattari, Morin, Morton, and Cilliers and on the panelists’ experiences in swarm writing on the Net.

Lee Simmons is an art professor at MGA and a practicing printmaker. You may recognize his work under his artist signature and alias D.L. Simmons. Simmons’ artwork has shown internationally at Liu Haisu Art Museum, Shanghai, China and most recently he was a selected artist in the public art event, Big Ink at Atlanta Printmakers Studio.  Dr. Keith Hamon is an English instructor at MGA and active in the online learning community. He was an early participant in the original MOOCs with George SiemensStephen Downes, and Dave Cormier and uses technology extensively in his writing and literature classes.