Beginning in December, 2001, I began finding other people to participate in The Exchange Program. Our email discussion of the project continued up until the project began on April 20th. The following is the first two months of the conversation (the rest was lost in a computer crash). -Michael


I am asking for help in finding a student collaborator for an upcoming performance project, tentatively titled "Student Exchange Program."

A series of collaborators would switch places and props--essentially, switch lives--for a period of time between a week to a month, and 'play' each other. We would each write instructions on how to "be" or "perform" ourselves, turning personality into character, and foregrounding the performativity of daily life both in and out of the educational institution. These instructions can take whatever form each of the participants finds appropriate, from scrapbook to diary to user manual, but will include enough information about each of our personalities, habits, friends, beliefs, etc. to facilitate the exchange.

I anticipate the performance will move beyond the initial rupture, into a space where the people we interact with become implicated in the performance in their own right, growing more aware of how to be or 'play' themselves. Ideally the performance will lead to moments of slippage where we actually pass for one another.

I would like to do the project this spring, in March or April. If you are a student engaged in similar ideas about performance and identity, or you know of someone you think would be interested in collaborating in the project please forward this on to them, or any other professor for whom this call might be relevant. I am very excited about this project, and committed to its completion. Hopefully you know of someone who might be equally excited.



Having spent another two weeks since I wrote the last description thinking about the "Student Exchange Program" there are two new thoughts, or maybe just more articulated thoughts that I want to mention. I received a number of positive responses to the idea of collaboration from people at other schools and was talking to a couple of people here at Cal Arts who are interested, and I really like the idea of more than one exchange. I was thinking it would be an even more effective performance if there were two or three exchanges that took place.

Also in line with the idea of an exchange program, there could be a choice of durations depending on how long one wants to be somewhere else -- while I'm interested in committing a longer period time, maybe 20 to 30 days, other people might only be able to spend a week or 10 days doing the project. As long as two people interested in committing the same amount time can match up, multiple durations will work.

I want to emphasize my interest in working with collaborators to incorporate all of our ideas and desires into the project. That said, the way I had envisioned the exchange would work was something like this:

In preparation we would each make a guide of some sort -- written, spoken, a video, whatever so long as it contained the essential information the collaborator would need to "perform" you. At its most basic form it would include a description of yourself (your character, the way you interact people), information about the people the collaborator would be interacting with (descriptions and photographs of the people you interact with on a daily basis), and basic information like where you live, where your school and/or studio/work space is. The guide could also include information about your family, your diet, your habits, or whatever else seems appropriate and useful. These guides would be exchanged in advance of the actual exchange so we would have ample time to prepare.

On the first day of the exchange we would meet up as a pair, either at one of our residences/schools or somewhere in between, and make the exchange. The way I originally envisioned it, though I am open to different scenarios, we would exchange all of our possessions, so at this initial transfer we would trade clothes, wallets, cars, and keys. From that point to the end of of the exchange we would make every attempt to perform each other. We would hangout with each other's friends, live in each others house, wear each other's clothes (different body sizes might be interesting, but could become difficult if it is too extreme), attend each other's classes (doing the reading, and writing papers if they come up), work each other's jobs (teaching, or TA'ing it for each other's respective professors), call each other's parents on Sunday, etc.

I hope that the exchange will move through the first moment of rupture, to where the people who we interact with on a daily basis realize their own participation in the performance, and grow more aware of how we all "play" ourselves on a daily basis. Ideally the performance will lead to slippages where, if just for a moment, the people surrounding us or even we forget that this is a performance, and we actually pass for each other. It is also likely that the performance will create repeated moments of rupture, where it is clear that this is a performance, even a charade, and that we are not the "authentic" person; I think that these moments where the performance seems to fail may actually prove to be some of the most productive moments of the exchange.

In all of these acts there are degrees of loss of control involved, and depending on the wishes of the collaborators, different degrees of exchange will take place. It is understandable that some people (myself included) would be fascinated by their collaborator writing their papers, going to their end-of-year reviews (which happen here at Cal Arts around the time of the project and determine things like how large your grant will be next year), using their driver's license and credit card, or even exchanging intimacy with a significant other, and it is also to be expected that others will not want to relinquish control over all areas of their life. I think that people who are actually interested in collaborating on the project are probably interested in the central exchange, that of social and academic, and while this exchange is the essence of the project, I think that it does not compromise the project at all if the more sensitive exchanges take place to varying degrees as agreed upon by the collaborators, or are forgoed altogether.

Two other exchanges that I should mention are those of race/ethnicity and gender. I would guess that most of the people who would be interested in collaborating in this project have considered the notion that ethnicity and gender are social constructions, and are familiar with the theory and art production in this field (from Judith Butler to Adrianne Piper to Nicky S. Lee - who is a particularly fitting example here). Yet like the situations mentioned in the previous paragraph, some people may be comfortable participating in these exchanges, and other people might not be, and I think that this is something that should be respected. Also, gender and race exchanges might take a different candor. Depending on the difference and how it is performed, it could be a convincing slippage (here i'm thinking of Nicky S. Lee's performances) or it coulde be a totally obvious rupture. Both are possibly productive effects, though different. Roughly similarly, the meanings generated by a gender exchange would depend on whether the collaborators do not alter the way they perform gender, go in full drag, or somewhere between. Again, the effects would be different in each situtaion, though productive in each.

I think that during the project some sort of documentation is necessary, as the initial audience for the performance is limited just to those around you. A couple forms could be a video or written diary, a Web log, a formal essay, a debreifing, or "reverse-guide" where we each in form the collaborator of what happened (important interactions and conversations, new people met, etc.,) and that I'm sure there are many other forms it could take. Several of these forms of documentation could be used (e.g.: a video diary, and a formal essay,) and they could be the same for every exchange, or each person could choose their own form. Also, the guide itself would be useful to include as documentation. My inclination is to make all of these things available via the Web, though as with all parts of the project how much is made available on-line can be worked out as a group.

At the end of the exchange period we would meet again and exchange back. I think it would be good if each set of collaborators spent some time together after the exchange, and it would be fun if we all met at some point. I also think that we should put the documentation together and have a show that could go to each school which was involved.

I hope this helps create a better understanding of how the project will take place. I've tried to include everything I could think of, but feel free to ask more questions. I think that this could become a really effective performance, and I hope that you want to take part in the collaboration.

this latest not-so-abstract abstract will be available online at


January 17th.

hello all,

I've been talking to all of you individually , and I wanted to move these dialogues into a space where we all can "talk at once" so to speak. forgive me if I go over things your already know in this e-mail, I just want to bring everyone to the same place.

The email address will forward to all of our emails. When writing to the list please do not reply to these emails, but create a new e-mail written to as a reply will just go to the person who wrote the e- mail and not the whole group. Everyone on the list is:

Melanie Nakaue, (irvine)
Cara Erskine, (yale)
Angie (sp?) (yale)
Deb Fisher, (ucsd)
Nora Raggio, (san jose state)
Stephan, (san jose state)
Kevin McCarty, (calarts)
Heather Cassils, (calarts)
Michael Mandiberg, (calarts)
Haruko Tanaka, (calarts)

Also please keep in mind that some of the people on this list are still deciding about whether they want to or can participate, but I just wanted to create a space where everyone can discuss the project and raise questions about it. Also I'm going to talk to some UCLA students on Saturday, and if anyone knows of anyone else who wants to participate that would be great.

Which brings us to the question of timing...We had been discussing a date sometime in April, which though towards the end of the year seemed to be appropriate. I met with Natalie (Bookchin, calarts professor) yesterday , and she said that she thought it should happen as soon as possible so as to not lose the feeling of the project by bogging down in excessive preparation, though it could also just be her being contrary, and/or trying to push us harder/faster... I ran Natalie's response to the timing by Melanie, who was rightfully concerned that if we rush into it, we could end up focusing on the process(form), and not the societal implications (content) of the project. I think I agree with Melanie, and please keep in mind that when I am suggesting things, or discussing something, I am often undecided about the idea myself, and trying to convince myself as much as convincing you... i'm thinking outloud, so to speak. Melanie and Deb have shows in early April which they can't miss, so maybe Mid-April is the the best time?

Another thing that Natalie raised was that rather than approaching the project aiming to achieve a specific controlled goal ("to achieve slippages where we pass for each other" "to make people aware of their own performance") we should approach the performance from a set of guidelines or rules (or maybe as a contract ( Melanie and I were talking about the idea of creating contracts for each exchange that would double as the project statement) ... something like ... 1. for the duration of the performance we will perform each others character, 2. for the duration of the performance we will where each other's clothes, live in each others homes, and use each other's possessions, 3. etc...) .

Maybe a different metaphor would be to consider the set of guidelines as a (musical) score for an improvisation, and that inside of that score different things will happen -- probably different from what we 'expect' to happen, but no less exciting or productive -- and that we should definitely think about the societal implications of the project re: identity/performativity just that we should approach it not saying that "because we are/aren't switching race/gender/sexuality that our project will achieve this stated effect" but rather look at it as an experiment/experiential process where we say "we are/aren't switching race/gender/sexuality and we think that some of the possible effects it might have are rupture/hightened-performativity/possible-passing but we are interested in learning and experiencing what we might not have expected."

Though on the topic of nuts and bolts process , some of the ideas which have been tossed around include:

Time (as discussed above)

Meeting for a two(?) day workshop (possibly lead by someone in the calarts acting/performance dept) to build group trust, work on character, etc. because of the bi-coastal thing this would probably have to happen directly before the actual exchange takes place.

Meeting up in as full a group as is practical to do planning and discussion, possibly with non so-cal collaborators participating via the oh-so-corporate speakerphone...

Grant funding to facilitate transportation (I'm thinking about the coastal thing here) documentation costs , and other possible exhibition costs, etc... I think the first source of funding should be individual project funds at each of our home schools, depending on the situation there. another possible source of funding is the ucira grant: , which seems like a possibility, especially as Melanie has spoken with two of the members of the board about the project already (Daniel Martinez, and David Trend(the director) at UCI), and I have spoken to Adrienne Jenik (ucsd) about it. we will have to put a proposal together ( ), and the grant requires that "benefit two or more UC campuses" so we will have to make sure that we fit the bill there. In all other respects it seems like a perfect fit. the grant is due February 1st, which means this is something we need to get on pretty quickly.

A Web site to host the project, possible written/visual documentation, and all of the instructions that can be ported to the web -- is available (.com is not). Any objections/suggestions to that address?

In general , that we come up with a date for the exchange to take place and an outline/game plan for how we're going to go about the process .

This was mentioned above but I will mention it again -- project guidelines /statement in the form of a contract that each set of exchangers would sign .

Documentation in the form of video diaries, along with supplemental snapshot photographs, written documentation (Web log entries, as well as reflective writings after the fact)

OK, that's probably more than enough for a first e-mail... Please everyone jump right in and discuss!

(though remember not to reply to this e-mail , but to send a new e-mail to (



January 17th.

From: Haruko Tanaka
Subject: project

I like the idea of having guidelines or a possible contract as well. I had thought of leaving a pretty specific schedule for the person who would be taking my place on where to be when with seemed like a practical place to start...Haruko.

X-From_: Mon Jan 21 13:34:03 2002
X-Sender: (Unverified)
Date: Mon, 21 Jan 2002 13:38:18 -0800
From: Tom Texas Holmes
Subject: I left your ID at home but trust me I can drink

How Do You Spell Chameleonic -or- I'm Bleeding and I Don't Know Your Blood Type

I was told about this project just yesterday by Michael and am intrigued enough to jump into a discussion about its "form"ation although wary of how interesting any work formed by committee could be. Since I do not know most of you and are uninformed about the origins of the idea I don't want my frankness to step on any toes but instead provide a critical idiosyncratic voice that is invested in seeing more life/art actions.

Maybe starting with my own concerns would be productive. or the part of the e-mail I'd like to title
I Only Have One Pair of Shoes (Boots Really)

The proposed date ( April 10th-20th) actually would be perfect for me as I also have a thesis show to put up on April 5th.

I'm currently involved with a handful of life actions and disciplines at the moment that might limit my ability to completely adopt an assumptive persona. I'm conceptually limited from changing my costume, meditation practice or, diet but, would be thrilled to change my gender, race and/or, sexuality.

I would be completely willing to hand over my car, phone, apartment, keys, friends/lovers and, so forth -no problem.

When Michael mentioned the project we talked about trading places with each other but, seeing as I've fucked a sizable percentage of the graduating class at calarts and have a good sense of the UC schools from doing studio visits I'd really be interested in trading places with someone from yale and seeing the ugly side of a school I've never visited. Does the dividing principle have to be coupled -that is to say, could someone from yale take Michael's place as he takes mine as I get lost on an east cost train?

For the purpose to this discussion I will not be responding to the following words or phrases, as their usage is its own reward.
unpack, unpacking
the performative
identity (when used without a qualifier or by anyone who is not self-identified as queer)
possible-passing (when used without a qualifier or by anyone who has not attempted drag)
sexuality (when used as the repressed synonym for dyke, faggot, fag, queer)

Frank and/or "in your own words" language is much appreciated.

Now maybe I should fart out a few general ideas I have about the project -this part titled
God Save Me From the Theoretically Trained Misinterpretation of Conceptualism and Those Who Have No Aspirations of Visuality -or- How MFA America Ate Itself

I don't know about you but my current existence is hardly that engaged with a pedagogy (UCLA). I spend more time at the Hare Krishna compound that at school and my studio practice has a lot to do with wondering around talking with folks trying to collect my thoughts and napping. Instead of some "art school" project I'd love to see this thing broken out into a life swap among artists that happen to be in school. That's not to say we shouldn't lie about the school shit if it will get us some funding.

There are a few points that seem completely overdetermined. What's with this contract bullshit? Will it be on yellowing paper with type written or san serif font? -That is to say please god let us not rely on the unquestioned formal strategies (read conventions) of 70's conceptual performance (i.e. consumer grade video, black and white anything) I'm sick to shit of the ever assumed conceptual document. My bit of advice "If it looks like 'ideas' then the piece is already manured." That and "Getting something notarized never improves a piece." Is there a way we can call on ideas and/or the history of conceptual art as a secret weapon? I'd like to see this piece function more like the movie "Parent Trap" than some "dead in the water" endurance performance.

As for my own work I have already established a method of document (or resistance to the document) that relies on anecdote, rumor, word of mouth, astral availability and, often an accompanying vaguely descriptive photo image for the distribution of the piece (no text no how). Video leaves me with the same problems of written athorial language -that and video is tired as shit. I might be comfortable with some online auto files maybe but, want to reserve the ability to be active in the document simply asstrally.

I'm not crazy about evoking an acting method as medium. I think we could all handle a life-swap by simply relying on the training or instructions/insights of our predecessors. I completely trust my instinct to become someone else without an arguably anti-performance art move to acting as opposed to persona work.

I would be thrilled if someone attempted a doppleganger performance of me -trying to live in a way that impersonated me. I would do everything I could to facilitate that but, I'm simply not so chameleonic at this moment and would like to use the exchange to do more of a disappearing act. "If I were you I'd go on a vacation maybe or give you (me now) permission to do things I'd never do." It seems essential that everyone provide their own structure with limits they could live with all loosely base on an idea of swapping places.

As the idea stands now it seems all a bit too uptight for me a bit to "art school" and way crazy reliant on the shaky ground of the "conceptual.." When your teacher suggested that we strike the idea early in order to save its spontaneity she may have suspected that the belaboring of "form" would prevent this activity from being a real adventure.

I'm excited to have an adventure. Fully present in the new, unfamiliar and, the suffering.

also excited,

t o m

X-From_: Mon Jan 21 18:16:49 2002
Date: Mon, 21 Jan 2002 18:22:07 -0700
From: Deb Fisher
Organization: HammPfistedBearing, Inc.
X-Accept-Language: en
Subject: id

> intrigued enough to jump into a discussion about its "form"ation although wary of how interesting any work formed by committee could be.

Yes, too many cooks... a real potential problem. I'm still interested in seeing how it shakes out. I have to second Tom's vote for candor. (as long as I don't have to disclose how many people at CalArts I've fucked, ok?)

I also have a bone to pick with the art-school conceptual cute potential of the project and (just to make things easy) suggest that perhaps some people are included who are not in art school? Enough MFAs are included to make funding a breeze - Michael, is there a reason for limiting this to us school kids?

> What's with this contract bullshit?

And shit... As for contracts, I think the rigor is kinda sexy, but that's my own catholic childhood talking. I guess the question becomes, what does this mean to everybody? Is this a hijink or a western buddhist perversion or both? Maybe this is the wrong way to start questioning. When ya'al say you expect to exchange identities, what does that entail? I share Tom's aversion to acting, but I don't know what "persona work" means to me, and would rather make it about belief. And if it's about sustaining this belief in the face of incredible doubts (like clothes not fitting, lover not recognizing you, dog hating you etc) then the rigor of a 'contract' (for lack of a better word) makes sense.

If the situation is located in belief, maybe calling it a 'covenant' would help me. It's a major step away from the Parent Trap aesthetic, and perhaps too... goth, but, well, this can't be about putting one over on anyone anyway.

To be frank: I don't want to be trapped by either of these sthicks - the marblemouthed rupture/sexuality/blahdeeblah business is great for getting funding and the facile anti-everything stance is great for getting laid, but I don't find either of them useful when making art.

Okay, excited three,

X-From_: Mon Jan 21 18:19:38 2002
Date: Mon, 21 Jan 2002 21:17:34 -0500
From: Sharon Hayes
Subject: following
Sender: Sharon Hayes
To: Student Exchange Project

Following Tom's considered email, I will also throw into the discussion
from the point of view of not knowing most of you, have some suspicions but
some curiosty about the project, and not at all sure I can participate from
a practical point of view.

With that said, I think Tom raises some important issues and the one that I
am most confused by is the relation of the project to acting and the
insistence on swapping places through a convincing performance. I'm not
sure I understand the ground of the swap: what does our ability to execute
a convincing performance of someone else contribute to the project that is
not already affected by stepping into someone's schedule, home, car, etc...
I've never liked character work as a performer nor have I been particularly
interested in it as a viewer.

Thanks for including me in the dialogue.


X-From_: Tue Jan 22 10:39:23 2002
Date: Tue, 22 Jan 2002 10:39:22 -0800 (PST)
From: nora raggio
Subject: mas

so what if the phone rings and you need to answer in spanish or french because that's the only
language they'll understand?

i agree with tom that exchanging sexual preference identity may be the easiest part although i'm
not sure my partners would agree. it's the diet and the language and whatever other obsession
that's the hardest to change. i'm interested in deb's number of fucking partners...i don't think
you need to disclose them unless they're current. the std issue, well...i'm not going to make any
assumptions, but it crossed my mind.

the acting part, i say, don't "act". just take on the name and let the environment and
interactions guide the behavior.

the contract part, woops, haven't read everything. not sure about contracts. need to see what's
in them.

agree with deb that MFA exclusivity sucks. much more interesting to exchange with people who are
purportedly "not conceptually in the know".

however, conceptually this project is there. sorry i didn't think of it before...but congrats to

i'm not sure i'm tracking all the emails ok, but i think that either sharon or deb were sitting
on the fence. i think i am too. too much stuff shifting (including argentina) for me to sign on.

for now, later.


X-From_: Tue Jan 22 11:04:54 2002
Date: Tue, 22 Jan 2002 10:45:21 -0800
From: Deb
X-Accept-Language: en
Subject: fence

Hey, just want to confirm that yes, at this point I am on the fence. While I agree with Nora that the
project has tooth (And second her pat on Michael's back - thanks for arranging all of us in front of
eachother), I don't think this can fly if some group voodoo doesn't happen... and I think this starts
with finding out what exactly interests everybody about this project. None of us wants to act - so
what does sound interesting?

Girl-for-boy swapping?
Meal swapping?

I stated my own clubfooted preference for a group suspension of disbelief. If I thought this up,
that's the part I would find most interesting/sincere/least corruptable by 'concept' and mumbo jumbo.

But that's just my opinion - all I really need is commitment to a goal in order to hop off the fence,
and I'm not prudish or value-driven enough to deny commitment to an artschool prank that funded a
vacation and got me to meet new people (although I think that this project has much more potential
than that).

And okay, okay. I've never ever laid a hand on anyone at CalArts.
So much the pity,

X-From_: Tue Jan 22 14:16:08 2002
Date: Tue, 22 Jan 2002 14:18:18 -0800
From: Michael Mandiberg
Subject: a few more exchange thoughts

acting: i don't think i ever meant the project to be an excercise in acting or full character performance. that is not what i want to do either. i had envisioned it as an understanding of the way that the person you are replacing inhabits a space, or generally interacts with people -- basic basic things like whether one tends to be extroverted/introverted, whether one is more animated/more quiet, or things like. and going into situations with their name, their clothes/schedule/etc. and that general understanding in mind.

art school: the only reason that this was centered around art school is that it was a safe space for this to happen. it started out with the idea of one exchange, and then the absurd parallel of the "student exchange program" arose, and so i changed it to more than one exchange w/ art students. but there is really no reason that it has to be art students, and others can take part if they wish. we can also drop the "student exchange program" title as well. it is maybe part of the cute-ness/prank factor? i too want this to move out of the context as art school prank. different

exchanges: i also think that each person, and each set of exchangers (and there should be no reason why it couldn't be three rotating) should be able to do the exchange as they see fit. which is to say on one hand it works, if someone feels more compelled to try to reproduce the other person's presence more than described inthe above para, or if they decide (as tom has suggested) to authorize them to do things they would never do.

contract: i had thought of the contract as a general set of rough guidelines, or possibly written legally/by a lawyer to authorize each of us to assume each others personna (before the law) for a stated period of time. though i am keeping in mind that "Getting something notarized never improves a piece" and thus maybe it is unneccessary to go the legal route -- maybe that gets too conceptual/cute art school.

conceptualism/documentation: i agree that conceptualism has conventions that are mostly assumed. there is no way to get around the fact that the project is grounding in conceptualism, yet i think we all want to move beyond that. or as tom says, "Is there a way we can call on ideas and/or the history of conceptual art as a secret weapon?" which is maybe to say that we should acknowlegde that that is the nature of the project's long term genealogy, but that we should not approach it through the conventions. so then documentation? i don't know if i want it to be all based on rumour and recountings, but i certainly don't want it to become monumentalized. also, in the same vein as mfa exclusivity, i don't want it to become just participant exclusivity, as that will end up being mfa exclusivity as well.

adventure/experiment/suspension of disbelief: i think that setting aside the conceptual background of the act, the adventure and the unexpected, its nature as an experiment and experience of the surrounding participants, and the suspension of disbelief are maybe the three things that are most important to me in this. partly i am taking other people's words to describe things, and also my own desire for the experimental nature of it. with respect to wife/girl-boy/meal-swapping and interloping... i think interloping is unavoidable, and is central to the piece. even if the interloping is a dissappearance, it is an intrusion.

glad everyone is engaging.

thinking... in class (we actually have classes at calarts...) more thoughs later,


X-From_: Tue Jan 22 17:41:27 2002
X-Originating-IP: []
From: "Kevin McCarty"
Subject: two more cents
Date: Tue, 22 Jan 2002 20:41:03 -0500
X-OriginalArrivalTime: 23 Jan 2002 01:41:03.0356 (UTC) FILETIME=[0485B3C0:01C1A3AF]

dear exchangers and maybe exchangers,
i am glad that an open and honest discussion regarding the project is taking place. i have opted out of the exchange due to other commitments, but i am looking forward to the new you's that show up in April.
when i was first approached about the project i thought of the experience as a case of amnesia and the purpose as discovery. i wanted to create a document addressing collective identity. the person would get to know me through others and my stuff.
in regards to acting and performance: no acting has to take place and no performance is necessary if you give into the task of trying to understand another person and their narrative. and contrary what does this mean letting go of yours. all the issues previously addressed, identity, sexuality, gender, ethnicity, ect. are revealed in a piece that is simply about embodying another persons actions, thoughts, beliefs and their stuff. yes, there will be occasions that are impossible like going to bars, but i find that to be another layer in an already intense process. it will examine legal issues as well. and how much fun will that be fucking with the people who believe so strongly in the rules and regulations.
part of the reason that i backed out of the project was because my only concerns were that the person i replace smokes or drinks or snorts coke. besides these minor chemicals that my body will not tolerate, i have no reservations about getting the opportunity to spend ten days rummaging through every letter from mommy, the high school yearbooks, and looking for what is kept in the back corner under the pile of underwear in someone's closet. at times each exchangers might find moments of himself (pre exchange) in their new host identity. so having no reservations i wondered if i had anything to risk.
about those pants you can't fit into or the car you can't drive. these little details identify a person so much they can't be sacrificed. i know who is at cal arts and who isn't by the cars parked in front of the studios.
as for contracts i believe that they are a really bad idea because they insinuates an institution that the project needs permission from to proceed.
as for only art students. the art for art's sake is reinforced in a project that only incorporates art students and MFA's at that.
what about those of you on the list know of anyone who might want to exchange that aren't in art school. i am going to ask my grandma. anyone up for spending ten days playing bridge in florida.


X-From_: Tue Jan 22 21:57:40 2002
Date: Tue, 22 Jan 2002 22:03:13 -0700
From: Deb Fisher
Organization: HammPfistedBearing, Inc.
X-Accept-Language: en
Subject: Re: two more cents

I know I've already opined a lot, but I just had to give props to Kevin for
asking his grandma to swap.

Carry on, Deb

X-From_: Wed Jan 23 08:58:16 2002
Date: Wed, 23 Jan 2002 08:58:00 -0800 (PST)
From: nora raggio
Subject: a penny

i second kevin's "goldberg variations" on the exchange program.

how about his grandma exchange with my 8 year old nephew in argentina. she could go back to
school and he could learn some cool card games.



X-From_: Wed Jan 23 19:45:29 2002
Date: Wed, 23 Jan 2002 19:47:46 -0800
From: Michael Mandiberg
Subject: regrouping

I've spent most of the last few days thinking about what everyone has written about where they're coming from and what they want this project to be, and I think that each of us are saying a lot of the same things . To quote/paraphrase from our emails I think that project as we have been discussing might be summarized as follows.

We will go into this exchange with a group suspension of disbelief, occupying the other person's name, their space, and their stuff, and to letting go of ours. The goal of the project is to create a space of experiment and adventure for each other, and for those who have interact with us and have to deal with our replacements. That which is discovered by the participants and the people around us will vary depending on each situation. Everyone will use their own discretion to provide a structure with limits they can live with all loosely based on this idea of swapping places. We will not act, we will take on their name, (and an awareness of their persona at the discretion of each person,) and let the environment and interactions guide our behavior. As everyone will use their own discretion to provide a structure for their exchange, the form of the information or instruction given to the person who is replacing you, as well as the documentation will vary for each exchange.

what does everyone think of that description? I don't mean this to be a set of rules, if anything the entirety of this e-mail Exchange should be our guidelines, but I think that this somewhat summarizes what we have been discussing.

I've contacted a couple of my non-MFA friends who might be interested in taking part in the project. I will keep everyone abreast of any developments there , and encourage everyone to contact anyone they know of (grandmothers included).

okay, let me know what you all think about this one,


X-From_: Thu Jan 24 00:58:54 2002
Date: Thu, 24 Jan 2002 01:04:31 -0700
From: Deb Fisher
Organization: HammPfistedBearing, Inc.
X-Accept-Language: en
Subject: Re: regrouping

Hey, I've been thinking a lot about this project, and I have to beg
off... I can't think of a way to execute this that entails a satisfying
amount of risk, and yet doesn't have a great potential for hurting other
people (or myself... beyond acceptable risk). I mean, as a performance
this would only be interesting to me if it was *total* - as in here is
my SSN, PIN's, car keys, bank accounts, email passwords, and being
committed to play straight man with someone else's secret special
numbers and money 24-7 even though most people are looking at you like
the jig is up... quelle Eleanora Antinova. I like art and all, but I
just don't trust any of you with my bottom line like that - it's past
my acceptable risk level.

And doing any less than that just doesn't seem worth it. I mean, how do
you swap identities with limits that everyone's comfortable with? If
you're not willing to really give your identity away, what do you have
to gain from taking someone elses? The only real meat in the project is
the incredible amount of risk that each swapper assumes, because our
notion of what an identity is is so important and wrapped up in
ownership and privacy... Any limitation on this process of proving that
identity is only a concept (illusion?) would render the whole piece a
prank, a pointless circle jerk. In my opinion.

Besides, at times like this I also like to remember the sage words once
said to me:

"People have better things to do than deal with people like you on the

Innocent bystanders are going to get confused and misunderstood and put
out because of all of this rupturing and whatnot, and I don't feel that
this idea is worth complicating the daily lives of people who are just
trying to get through their day. It's not as if I don't think people's
lives should never be complicated, I just don't have any priviledge as
an artist to force complication when it's not asked for. And it's not as
if I think this is a particularly bad idea - I can't think of any
artistic conceit that is worth inconveniencing people who didn't sign
on. Doing so would be unfair, it would assume that an art project is so
important that it eclipses another person's basic sense of agency.

My closing salvos are meant in the context of respectful candor. I wish
you all the best of luck. Be nice to Kevin's grandma, and I hope you
work out a middle ground that makes sense for you.

Vaya con dios, Deb

X-From_: Fri Jan 25 11:21:49 2002
Date: Fri, 25 Jan 2002 11:21:41 -0800 (PST)
From: nora raggio
Subject: Re: regrouping

i guess i'll need to appropriate deb's email because i couldn't have put it better myself. going
"all the way" would have been the crux, but i'm not ready to go there.

i wish you all the best, and i'll keep checking michael mandiberg's website to see what you're all
up to.

au revoir,


X-From_: Sat Jan 26 07:31:03 2002
Date: Sat, 26 Jan 2002 07:31:03 -0800 (PST)
From: Lindsay Kelley
Subject: Re: the plot thickens
To: Michael Mandiberg

Hi Michael,

Hmmm. Sounds interesting. I read the e-mails, and am
glad you have so many people involved. It sounds like
CalArts is a pretty good fit for you, and that you've
been able to be productive there.

I don't know that I could participate in the project.
Some of these points might have already been addressed
in the e-mails, and I missed them, but I'll ask again

1) The project seems to assume that the people
exhanging places know one another, or that they will
receive some kind of document outlining how to behave
and where to go when. The only person I know amongst
the ppl e-mailing is you--I would wonder how this
would work when the two people exchanging don't know
anything about each other.

2) Work: Ideally, I want to be employed in April. I
think that regardless of my employer, my
absence/replacement by someone else would be noticed
and not looked upon favorably. That's the main reason
I wouldn't participate--does anyone else have that
issue? I could see how being in school, one could get
away with attending different classes, or making an
announcement beforehand, or something, but I don't
think the same rules apply for work--at least not jobs
I have had. I am certainly replacable, and I think I
probably could have gotten away with this with my job
at Netscape, esp. if the person replacing me was
similar in build and hair color, but work is so
unpredictable. There were weeks where nobody else
could have done my job (or would have wanted to). Work
also sucks up a lot of time and energy, and makes it
difficult to fully exchange. I know there is a bit on
the website about relinquishing control by degrees,
but I feel like if I do my work, I might as well not
do the exchange.

Anyway--it sounds like fun, and I would be really
interested in participating if everything worked out
(like, if I'm still unemployed or if I could trade
halfway so I went to my job by day but someone else's
life by night), but for now, maybe consider me an

Also, this smells a bit like "The Real
World"--especially the end project/documentation, if
it took video form. It would be poignant and humorous
is we submitted the whole thing to the major networks
as a reality TV pilot.

Meanwhile, thanks for the message. I will be in LA
from the 3rd to the 6th of February--anything I
should absolutely see? I already have parking
reservations for the Getty--I figured it had to be
done. Do you come into LA much? I would say I would
stop up north and see you, but by that point in the
road trip, I might not have the patience or energy for
that. Throughout, my cell phone will be 415-572-7158,
and we're staying in the downtown Marriot (on Figuero
street or something).

Good luck with everything,


ps--I think I might be sending this to people I don't
know. I am a friend of Michael's from RISD/Brown. I
have been working in the flailing death twitches of
the new media industry for the past year. I can be
reached at

Do You Yahoo!?
Great stuff seeking new owners in Yahoo! Auctions!

X-From_: Sat Jan 26 23:49:10 2002
Date: Wed, 6 Jan 1904 12:21:49 -0800
From: Haruko Tanaka
Subject: Re: Play/Grant

I'm still in. Documentation...well, it's still early, but since you need to write the grant...- I'll go with MiniDisc. I have my own recorder so no problem there. Just need disks- they're around $3.50 a pop, maybe one per day, so 10 disks, that's $35.00

The way I'm thinking about the project right now is what can I really do in 10 days?


X-From_: Mon Jan 28 10:08:32 2002
X-Originating-IP: []
From: "melanie nakaue"
Subject: pressing info.
Date: Mon, 28 Jan 2002 18:08:26
X-OriginalArrivalTime: 28 Jan 2002 18:08:26.0887 (UTC) FILETIME=[C87BE170:01C1A826]


michael and i are trying to get the grant written asap (it's due on friday) and for all those peeps who are still in for the exchange, could you please email me a one paragraph long cv of yourself???

...this is really inportant, and i part of the supporting documentation of the grant. they need to know about every artist/person who will participate in this.

so, please email me your one paragraph (short, i know, but we cannot exceed 2 pages total for all participants) cv by tueday at the very latest! thanks!

keep it real-


Get your FREE download of MSN Explorer at

X-From_: Mon Jan 28 23:56:03 2002
Date: Tue, 29 Jan 2002 02:55:05 -0500
From: Sharon Hayes
Subject: pressing info.
Sender: Sharon Hayes
To:, "melanie nakaue"

Sad to say...I must bow out. I'm a little all over the place these days and
need to rein (sp??) it in not let it loose.

best of luck.

X-From_: Tue Jan 29 16:02:43 2002
Date: Tue, 29 Jan 2002 16:05:17 -0800
From: Michael Mandiberg
Subject: update on the exchange program / grant stuff

I just wanted to let everyone know that there is a copy of the of the grant proposal up at feel free to either read it and give feedback, or to ignore it...

Regarding the grant, though, we need one paragraph bios for everyone who is planning/on the fence on participating. This is not a final commitment, but if you are not on the grant, it will be hard to get you funding if we do get the grant. They need to be of the third person narrative kind:

Chris Smith is an xyz artist. Her most recent work is/was/could be xyz. He has shown at xyz galleies, festivals, etc. She is currently pursuing an MFA at xyz school.

There is some uncertainty as to whether we can also include CV's, so if you have one of those handy, send that on as well.

For those of you on the list to have decided not to take part in the project, feel free to stay on the list, or let me know if you don't want to be on the email discussion list. Regardless, thanks a lot for your input and help regarding the project!





X-From_: Thu Jan 31 15:17:42 2002
X-Originating-IP: []
From: "Sara Jorden­"
Subject: project
Date: Thu, 31 Jan 2002 23:17:28 +0000
X-OriginalArrivalTime: 31 Jan 2002 23:17:28.0912 (UTC) FILETIME=[73A19D00:01C1AAAD]

HI Michael and everyone,

sorry for being so invisible, and thank you for including me on the list. i am still interested in hanging on to the project and to see how it turns out. It has a lot of problems, I think, as have been brought up, but I have a special interests in those kinds of problems, failures etc. I have had, however, problems following the discussion by email, and would very much like to meet with people in person. I am not sure how many are still in it and where they are coming from, which would be really interesting to hear more about in a different setting. Now when I want to comment on this project, I feel as I am repeating what other people are saying, and/or misinterprets them. It would be great to have a discussion without timedelays . Michael, let me know if you have an interest in setting up such a meeting soon.

As for grant stuff, I am sorry that I havent been able to participate more in that process. I dont know if its too late, but heres my bio and cv, if you can use it.

X-From_: Sat Feb 2 18:42:20 2002
Date: Sat, 2 Feb 2002 18:44:51 -0800
From: Michael Mandiberg
Subject: exchange program

Just wanted to drop a quick note...

The grant was delivered on time, and now we can just hope for the best. there is a copy of it available at if you'd like to check it out. though please keep in mind that what is written in it is by no means fixed in stone... especially the parts about documentation, and the schedule ( with the exception of the actual date of the performance, april 10-23, which I think that most everyone agrees upon -- correct me if I am wrong)

With regard to sara's comment about difficulty following the email e-mail and question about meeting... all of the emails are archived at . a number of the email addresses on the list have been bouncing (hotmail's small inbox limitations...), so if you didn't receive the emails you can go back and read them there. With respect to meeting, I think that is maybe a bigger question then it seems... I partly think that maybe we should meet, and also maybe that we should not meet. Not to meet so as to keep it so that we do not know anything about the person we are exchanging with other than the information provided to us directly before the exchange happens, and yet I realize that purity is both precious, and also to some degree already not pure -- we have all been talking on-line and have somewhat of a sense of each other from that, and some of us know each other as well... so, what does everyone else think?

Another thing which I have been thinking about is documentation , partly coming back to tom' s notion of hearsay and rumour, and also thinking about it in terms of the difficult line between creating access/disseminating information and monumentalization. I still think that documentation is an important thing, and I'm trying to come up with ways of documentation that might be more cohesive with the project itself, that doesn't end up monumentalizing the project.



Preparatory Emails

Curt and Lauren

   Video Clips

Amy and Michael

   Trailer for Video
   Amy's Post-its
   Amy's Photos
   Michael's Guide
   Amy's Revisions
   Michael's Post-its

Haruko and Melanie

   Melanie's Photos

Heather and Sara


Participant info