Digital Project
13 May - 31 Jul 2020

xtine burrough and Sabrina Starnaman - Epic Hand Washing in the Time of Lost Narratives

Epic Hand Washing in the Time of Lost Narratives by xtine burrough and Sabrina Starnaman is a speculative remix that confronts Epic Kitchens, a dataset of first-person cooking videos, with quotations from literature written during or about prior pandemics such as the bubonic plague and the global influenza pandemic of 1918-19. 


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The selections from fiction placed in conversation with domestic washing expands the subject or directive to “wash your hands” during COVID-19 into a centuries-long story of washing, sheltering in place, and illness. Literary selections have been pulled from works from authors including William Shakespeare, Virginia Woolf, Albert Camus, Katherine Anne Porter, William Maxwell, and Giovanni Boccacio. 

Epic Hand Washing in the Time of Lost Narratives reveals the arbitrary nature of information preservation and highlights the constructed nature of digitised materials. Blurring the lines between art and archive, or information and dataset, this project furthers discourse about the digital dataset as an authority of knowledge curation.

This project explores how these narratives and the mundane work of living day-to-day in isolation are both at play in our lived experience. What might appear as an everyday action in the original dataset becomes charged with contemporary worldwide conversations in burrough’s and Starnaman’s work.

Epic Hand Washing in the Time of Lost Narratives, © xtine burrough and Sabrina Starnaman

To compliment their commission for Data / Set / Match, burrough and Starnaman have written a text that weaves a thread between the technical and conceptual characteristics of the work.

Fill out this form if you would like to suggest a quote. This project was made by xtine burrough and Sabrina Starnaman with technical direction provided by Dale MacDonald. 

The source code is CC v1.0 Universal, available on GitHub.

xtine burrough is a new media artist. She regularly participates in international festivals of digital art and has authored or edited several books including Foundations of Digital Art and Design (2013, 2nd Edition 2019), Net Works: Case Studies in Web Art and Design (2011), and The Routledge Companion to Remix Studies (2015). She is Professor in The School of Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication at UT Dallas.

Sabrina Starnaman is Associate Professor of Instruction in Literary Studies. Her research focuses on Progressive Era (1880-1930) American texts about social settlements and women’s activism, urbanism, and disability. Dr. Starnaman’s research explores how nineteenth-century activists remediated exploitative labor practices, racism, and poverty. She is interested in finding ways that their historical solutions, often implemented locally, can be brought to bear on similar problems in the twenty-first century.

Technical Direction by Dale MacDonald

Epic Kitchens (2018) is a dataset of videos collected by a group of researchers to create non-scripted recordings of all daily activities in kitchens. It is the largest known dataset produced using first-person vision. Each recorded action is assigned a verb like wash, peel, toast or rub to describe and categorise the event.