John W. Fail
[ contact ]

2016 to 2018
Biathlon (Temporary/Kuusi Palaa) [ cultural toolkit; experimental culture venues ]

Biathlon is a series of tools designed to facilitate cultural production via a decentralised logic, using blockchain and open-source technologies to reduce administration and empower more inclusive content. It operated for one year at Temporary, a platform for experiments in participatory trans-disciplinary culture, located in Helsinki, Finland. It later relaunched as Kuusi Palaa, which decentralised the financing into a cooperative model. The Biathlon project is currently on hiatus.

2010 to 2017
Pixelache [ trans-disciplinary culture platform ]

Pixelache Helsinki is a trans-disciplinary platform for experimental art, research, and activism. Festival co-director (2015), member 2012-2017, board member 2013-2015. Project facilitator, digital culture specialist, web maintenance, curatorial guidance. Organiser of AMRT (Alternative Mobility Research Triangle) project, 2014-2015.

July 2009 to September 2014
Ptarmigan [ project space / platform ]

Co-founder and constant volunteer. Ptarmigan was an artist-run project space in Tallinn, Estonia and a venue (later a mobile curatorial platform) in Helsinki, Finland. Ptarmigan aimed to create space for participatory cultural projects and adventurous, challenging scenarios, usually the form of workshops, art/sound/performance events, discussions, education-orientated events and unusual social interactions. Ptarmigan organised over 400 events, operated a residency programme and instigated numerous collaborations and projects.

ongoing to eternity!
Collaborative interactions

Facilitation of collaborative creative forms in trans-disciplinary, post-subcultural space. Workshop facilitator, including Grawlixes, Ptarmigan (2013); DIS/Orientations, La-Bas biennale, Helsinki (2012); Space is the Place, Kuvataideakatemia Helsinki (2012); Miscellaneous Expertise, MoKS (2010). Organising of regular events and projects: workshops, reading groups, seminars, and non-institutional environments for sharing skills and perspectives via Ptarmigan and elsewhere. Various and scattered involvements: production and organising, creative work, various participations. Also see 'Various musical projects' and output.

ongoing to eternity!
Projects, networks and affiliations

Member, organiser or otherwise involved with numerous projects and networks. More recently: Pixelache (Helsinki); Migrating Art Academies; Open-Sourcing Festivals; Artist Initiatives Meetings network; Alternative Mobility Research Triangle. More distantly: Triple Canopy (New York); Robin Hood Minor Asset Management (Helsinki/worldwide); Slothrop's English Bookshop (Tallinn), Blind Carbon Copy; Due Diligence Development Circuit.

September 2011 to May 2014
Liminal Images [ video screenings ]

Liminal Images was a 'film' / video series that looks at the transformative movements in film culture in the 20th century, specifically in the realm of experimental cinema. Each month, we screen selections from a time before the moving image was all-pervasive (ie: nothing from the YouTube era, and only early, experimental video work). The selections range from classics of early 20th century surrealism to 1960s agit-prop, structuralist and material cinema, and other such (anti-) classics.

December 1998 to present
Various musical projects

Solo and group recordings and performances including groups Bat Tarbet (Helsinki/Glasgow) [video 1, video 2], Lied Music (Glasgow), Intro to Pterodactyl (Providence, RI), Land (Pittsburgh, PA). Solo projects as John W. Fail, Oakwhistle, Handshake Garden, The 15,000 Day Boat Trip. Many brief collaborations and workshops. For recordings and performance history, see 'outputs' section. An overview (2007).

December 2011 to August 2012
Tiib [ gallery / visual art space ]

Tiib was a visual art space in the Pelgulinn area of Tallinn. Over a temporary lifespan several exhibitions and events were organised and curated by Ptarmigan in collaboration with Flo Kasearu.

January 2010 to June 2011
Helsinki Public School [ activity ]

Helsinki franchise of international open education model: "THE PUBLIC SCHOOL is a school with no curriculum. At the moment, it operates as follows: first, classes are proposed by the public (I want to learn this or I want to teach this); then, people have the opportunity to sign up for the classes (I also want to learn that); finally, when enough people have expressed interest, the school finds a teacher and offers the class to those who signed up." -- TPS site

December 2000 to July 2008
Cenotaph [ record label ]

Ownership and operation of independent label focusing on avant-garde and experimental music. Releases include CDs and LPs by Car Commercials, Burning Star Core, Eyes and Arms of Smoke, Scatter, Arco Flute Foundation, Earth Trumpet, Need New Body. Curation, production and marketing of releases.

September 2008 to present
Svamp [ sound workshop ]

Svamp is a regularly-scheduled workshop for music improvisation in Helsinki, Finland and Tallinn, Estonia. It does not involve money, careers or obligations -- only interpersonal and sound relationships. Svamp sessions may range from collective improvisation to directed exercises or game-playing.

March 2006 to June 2008
Sharks and Pfennigs [ label ]

CD-R and cassette label for limited production of art-edition releases. Includes releases by John W. Fail (solo and with Ben Reynolds), Oakwhistle, Minn Minn Lights, The Good Anna, Nonhorse, Matt McDowell. Distribution throughout US and Europe.

output, publications and dissemination
'Over the Volcano' (essay), April 2021
Critical reflections on blockchain technology. Available online here.
Icewhistle on Onlyfans (video essays) Online, December 2020 to present
Essays on various topics (music, literature, culture) on Onlyfans platform.
Seventeen Years of Media Consumption (2002–2018) (books) Scarlatti Tilt, January 2020
Three-volume set of books of media/cultural criticism.
Serious Introspection podcasts (audio interviews), 2017 to present
Occasional audio podcasts under the SI banner.
Excerpts from 'The Triplications' (art installation) Myymälä2, August 2019
Installation from hybrid visual art/literature work in progress.
Fears Of (workshop) Supermarket Art Fair, April 2019
Open-form workshop exploring cultural behaviour
Documentation of the not (working group) Festival of the Not, CIRCA Projects + Giles Bailey, Star and Shadow Cinema, Newcastle, UK, January 2019
Facilitated working group seeking experimental approaches to festival documentation and non-fictional collaboration.
Radio of Changes (interactive installation, publication and radio broadcast) Urbanapa X Ateneum festival, October 2018
Live museum installation at festival.
Kompass (lecture/talk) Free Riga, Latvia, August 2018
Presentation of Biathlon project as part of Kompass series, presenting urbanist projects to Riga.
I'm Too Busy (board game) Supermarket Art Fair, Stockholm / Kuusi Palaa, Helsinki, April 2018
Workshop/game based on urban experiences and art production in Helsinki.
Discussion with Luke Fowler (Q&A) Sola Festival 2017, November 2017
Total Rekola (radio play) UrbanApa X festival, Ateneum, Helsinki, Oct. 2017
performer in live broadcast of radio play
Curr-ency (workshop / performance) World is Sudden Summer Lab (Circa Projects + Giles Bailey), North Pennines, England, July 2017
facilitated collaborative workshop creating fictitious art collective, with public presentation in symposium format
'Serious Introspection' (talk show) Mad House Helsinki, Oct 2015 - April 2016
live show, interviewing performance artists and other creative actors. Also appearing IHME Päivät festival (April 2016). Also member of Mad House working group (2016-present). 16 episodes, viewable via
Pixelache Helsinki 2015 (festival) Piknik Frequency ry, September 2015
Festival co-director (with Agnieszka Pokrywka); theme 'Living Spaces'.
Kompass (un-conference) Ptarmigan, Tallinn, August 2014
Two-day un-conference for Latvian and Estonian cultural activists to organise around the topic of 'public space'. Organised with Kaspars Lielgalvis.
'Why Care?' (seminar and panel) Water Tower Art Fest, Sofia, Bulgaria, June 2014
Conference attached to Water Tower Art Fest
'Life beyond budgets' (panel discussion) Supermarket Art Fair, Stockholm, 16 February 2014
Moderated panel on alternative financing ideas for artist-run culture initiatives.
'Inventing our own economies: a provocation' (article) Supermarket artist-run art magazine issue #4, February 2014
On the possibilities of self-designed economic structures to benefit culture organisation.
'Clash of the Scenes' (concert performance) Äänen Lumo (Charm of Sound), Helsinki, December 2013
Improvised music performance
'Yet-unnamed explorations' (workshop) Experimental Event 2013, Aalto University (Pori,Finland), October 2013
Group collaboration exploring open-ended narratives, environmental perception, and object reinvention.
'Grawlixes' (workshop) Ptarmigan, Tallinn, July 2013
Workshop on "creative profanity"; multicultural deconstruction of language/obscenity, improvisations and collaborative writing.
'Reverse Tourism' (interactive performance / open project) INTER-FORMAT SYMPOSIUM: On Critical Tourism, Site-specificity and Post-romantic Condition, Nida Art Colony, 16-19 May 2013
Supermarket Art Fair 2012-2014 (exhibitor, web developer, meetings moderator, presenter) Supermarket Art Fair, Stockholm, February 2012 and 2013
Ongoing performance/action booth (with Ptarmigan, 2012); meeting moderator (2012-2014); presentation/talk on AIM Project (2013), panel discussion (see above, 2014, 2016), general staff.
(Il)legal Aesthetics laboratory (workshop series) Migrating Art Academies, January-March 2013
Moderator and co-organiser of 'core workshop' January 2013; producer of 'Wall Street Parasites' seminar and 'Temporary public circuits' workshop.
Sleepwalkers 2012 short film festival (jury member) Tallinn, November 2013
The Little Dipper (open durational talk show) Blind Carbon Copy: Curators Go to the Bar, KIM? Contemporary Art Centre, Riga, October 2012
Hosted three hour public talk show at KIM?, interviewing various artists, curators, urbanists and thinkers.
'Dis/Orientations' (workshop) La-Bas Concept of Performance biennale, Helsinki, April 2012
Co-designer and facilitator (with John Grzinich and Sari Kivinen) of workshop investigating misunderstanding, confusion and sensory deprivation via performance and action. (info)
Space is the Place (exhibition, workshops, lectures and publication) Kuvataideakatemia (Finnish Academy of Fine Arts), January 2012
Process-exhibition at Kaiku-galleria addressing space, organisation and the unfolding of culture. Co-led workshops on writing as response, zine publication, sound improvisation, and artistic self-management. Contributing editor to zine publication. [ Download ]
'Everything is Tentative and Possible' (essay) Mount Analogue, 2011
Account of my experiences with Ptarmigan from the beginning until the opening of the Tallinn space.
Lost Lake (Vinyl LP sound recording) Shadazz, March 2011
Second collaborative LP with Vernon and Burns, released as Vernon and Burns meet Lied Music.
Patterns, bumps and pulses (seminar) mansedanse2010, October 2010
3-day reading group on the topic of 'rhythm'
Miscellaneous Expertise (workshop) MoKS, Mooste Estonia, August 2010
5-day workshop with Giles Bailey on performative practice, curation and miscellany
The 15,000 Day Boat Trip (Vinyl LP sound recording) 8mm Records, December 2009
Solo LP. Info/availability: here, here, and here.
'A User Field Study: Communication in Academic Communities and Government Agencies' (poster at conference) Planets Project, September 2008
ECDL '08: Proceedings of the 12th European conference on Research and Advanced Technology for Digital Libraries [link]
Pores in the Porch and Puddles Beneath (CD) Soopa label [Porto, Portugal], January 2007
Collaborative CD with Spiral Joy Band
Oakwhistle tour (performances) , October - December 2006
European tour including festivals in the Netherlands, Belgium, Norway; additional dates in Sweden, France, Italy, Poland, Germany.
Other Green Worlds (Master's dissertation) University of Glasgow, September, 2006
subtitled: Accident and articulation in Samuel R. Delany’s Dhalgren, Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker, and Peter Greenaway’s The Falls" [pdf]
In India: audiotourism.2004 (Art booklet with CD-R) Sharks and Pfennigs, May 2006
Field recordings of India, recorded and compiled with photo essay.
Lied Music UK tour (performances) , March 2006
Live dates in Newcastle, Edinburgh, Manchester, Sheffield, Leeds, London, and Brighton.
Lied Music vs. Boy-Band Tax Returns (LP) Ultra Eczema [Antwerp, Belgium], March 2006
Collaborative LP with Boy Band Tax Returns.
The Icewhistle (CD-R) Sharks and Pfennigs, March 2006
solo disc of israj improvisations
'The Public Burning' by Robert Coover; 'Lookout Cartridge' and 'Actress in the House' by Joseph McElroy. (Book reviews) Ecriture: A Journal of Challenging and Experimental Literature, Vol 1 No 1 , October 2005
The Frozen Musics 1999-2005 (4xC-10) Dronedisco, July 2005
compilation of 8 projects: Land, Intro to Pterodactyl, Scandalous Falls, Come Cry, Fail/O'Keefe, Handshake Garden, God's Horn, Fail/McDowell
Mnemelish (bootleg DVD label) , September 2004 - May 2005
A Tribute to Augie Leonard Sr. (sound/performance installation) with Michael Tamburo and Matt McDowell, @ FLUX Pittsburgh, June 2004
'Kalpa Imperial: The Greatest Empire that Never Was' by Angelica Gorodischer (Book review) Review of Contemporary Fiction, Vol XXIV No. 1, January 2004
professional experience
June 2000 to present
No Culture Icons: artistic, cultural, and technical design and production
Various locations - Helsinki and elsewhere

Artistic work. Organisation and production of creative projects. Organisation of project spaces, artist-in-residency programmes, creative development. Workshop facilitation and instruction; sound recording and performance; freelance writing (creative, technical) and copyediting. Website development involving database creation, customised design and functionality, content management. Textual assistance, criticism and copyediting.

For projects, clients and affiliations see 'projects' above but also including: Bioart Society/SOLU, HYBRID_MATTERs [full-stack developer], 101 Kaikkien Puolesta [full-stack developer], Supermarket Art Fair [meeting and event facilitator, developer], Frontiers in Retreat (HIAP) [web developer], MoKS [web developer], SLED [full-stack developer], Slothrop's [store founder and development of digital infrastructure], Triple Canopy [development team 2008-2010],Version [development]

January 2016 to August 2018
Kolmas linja 7 / Helsinki / 00550 / Finland

Development of Biathlon toolkit. Design, production and operation of Temporary project space (curation, production, facilitating). See 'Projects', above.

2014 to 2015
Pixelache Helsinki
Kaasutehtaankatu 1/33 / Helsinki / 00540 / Finland
Festival co-director, 2015

Co-director of Pixelache Festival 2015, 'Living Spaces', producer of AMRT project, and digital infrastructure.

July 2009 to September 2014
Helsinki and Tallinn
Toom-Kooli 13 / Tallinn / 10130 / Estonia
Chief Cultural Strategist

Co-founder and Chief Cultural Strategist of Ptarmigan (see website and 'Projects', above) which functioned as my primary artistic practice and platform. Creative development, organisation, management, everything really -- but with many others!

November 2007 to March 2010
University of Glasgow
Humanities Advanced Technology and Information Institute
11 University Gardens / University of Glasgow / Glasgow / G12 8QH / UK
HATII Systems Programmer

Development of arts-based systems for academic and research purposes. Participation in digital preservation programming and research. Workpackage leader on Preservation Planning workpackage of Planets Project. Contributions to 3D-COFORM project. System administration, infrastructure and maintenance. Database development, expansion and support.

Sample output:

As a practicing artist: Event-driven collaborative practices - workshop curation and facilitation, participation-based/social practice projects, improvisation research and practice (sound, music, performance, and other), seminar-based discussions. Performances in music/sound (solo and group improvisation, musique concrete construction, various electro-acoustic clatter).

As organiser, producer, curator: what's the difference, really? Programming and execution of ephemeral/event-based arts experiences; organisation of ongoing public projects, hosting of artist residencies, booking of sound performances, art installations/exhibitions, workshops, classes. And so on.

Research and writing (cultural analysis, criticism, English literature, film studies, arts and entertainment journalism). English proofreading.

Ruby/Rails full stack development, design, deployment, administration and support. Full utilisation of cutting-edge Rails technologies and additional libraries as well as HTML5/CSS frameworks; integration with social networking systems and web 2.0, etc.. Lighter Ruby frameworks when applicable.

Javascript, VueJS front-end, Node.js, Express/Koa frameworks + development with Electron, JQuery, etc.

Web3/blockchain: Ethereum smart contracts (Solidity), web3.js, integration with other platforms (Rails backends).

Additionally: PHP, Perl, and *AMP apps (web/database integration), GTK3 interface building, UNIX/Linux system administration, basic hardware and electronics design.

2005 - 2006
University of Glasgow
Master of Literature, English Literature: Modernities (with distinction)

1997 - 2001
University of Pittsburgh
Bachelor of Science, Information Science