Autoresponder.exe is a slowly scanning video, presented on a vertical flatscreen, that reveals an image of an executive desk, on end, in a disheveled office. Three-prong power cords make up an oversized orange trident, leaning nonchalantly against its burnished top. The gleaming surface reflects a neat display of sportsmans' plaques with nautical knots, trophies, and awards. But the desk holds its ground in a disheveled workplace run amok in cliché office décor, and perturbed by power cords, cables, ropes and knots, that overflow out of file drawers, and spill from the rafters with shredded documents and files. Worse, caught with its pants down, the desk's exposed underbelly reveals its embarrassing stash of untoward paraphernalia.
"Out of the office... Away from my desk..."
Autoresponders are automated e-mail programs that send generic reply messages to incoming mail in lieu of a personally composed response. Usually an excuse or disguise for absence, they provide a shallow veneer of competence in circumstances where genuine productivity or attention is wanting. In Autoresponder.exe, the executive desk is a literal stand-in for an autoresponder. Using a symbol of executive and managerial power to embody an impersonal, ineffective, tone deaf, "all-surface-no-substance" autoresponder, Autoresponder.exe betrays those same qualities in corporate culture.
Like all autoresponders, Autoresponder.exe is routine without ritual. The monolithic desk references the size and shape of a mainframe computer, and the composition of this photograph alludes to She-Thing: The Onyx, a companion work. The Autoresponder is intended as a partner to the Onyx, a mainframe computer doubling as the Yoruba mother deity Yemaja. Autoresponder.exe casts a character invented by the 1990s cyberfeminist group VNS Matrix as her mate, but reimagines "Big Daddy Mainframe" as an absentee father, a deadbeat dad. The Onyx is a workhorse mainframe replete with materiality, but despite its sporting bravado, the Autoresponder is frustratingly MIA, "away from the desk."