Or Zubalsky is an artist, educator, and parent based in Lenapehoking (Brooklyn). They work in video and performance, using software paradigms and tools to process relationships between memory and trauma. Zubalsky's projects restructure personal and collective histories as acts of protest and healing. Their work unpacks the ways systemic harms manifest on a personal level and uses digital technology to document, reframe, and process the entanglements of settler colonialism, trauma, and gender.

Zubalsky works from a collection of cultural lineages. Their Eastern European Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry offers traditions of relating to traumatic fragmentation and intergenerational trauma. Managing their trauma motivates them to traverse gaps in memory, reclaiming the past by confronting how power has made it inaccessible and distorted. Zubalsky's activism experience and decolonial praxis ground their thinking on silence and resistance. Their time spent in various queer communities orients them towards celebrating life and intimacy.

Zubalsky's work has been supported by The New Museum, Pioneer Works, C/Change, The Museum of Art and Design, Queens Museum of Art, Rhizome, Eyebeam, among other institutions.

Get in touch at orzubalsky@gmail.com

Decentered

Video, 2024.

Project: Decentered

1 / 2

Sorting through ancestor-descendant folder structures in order to process ancestor-descendant knowledge transference and loss.

2 / 2

Presented at:
  • Blank Tape, Brew Arts House, Pittsburgh, PA.

Photo by Chris Uhren.

/* Vessels */

Digital Platform, 2023.
Collaboration with Lee Tzu-Tung 李紫彤 and Czyka Tumaliuan

Project: /* Vessels */

Digital Version →

1 / 3

/* Vessels */ is a system for collecting and sharing trauma-informed activist practices that focus on grieving and healing. It offers an opportunity to explore the gap as a space for both mourning and life.

2 / 3

The core values of /* Vessels */ lie in its resilience against internet suppression, censorship, and cyber attacks, ensuring the continued dissemination of information. Just as a local publisher may face downtime or a bookstore struggles with physical space, /* Vessels */ envisions itself as a portable library. People can persistently contribute to this repository, ensuring the preservation and accessibility of knowledge and information, regardless of external challenges. The shared stories, ideas and knowledges are discreetly distributed within a trusted network.

3 / 3

Presented at:
  • C/Change Salon, C/Change.

Created, Modified.

Installation, 2023.

Project: Created, Modified.

1 / 2

A version of the trans flag, made from a file system with a past that is constantly being re-examined, re-negotiated, and re-understood. Records from the past are constantly revisited and recreated as their created dates and modified dates shift. A representation of a transition-in-progress.

2 / 2

Presented at:
  • Open Studios, EFA, New York, NY.

When A Reference To A Name Is Lost

Video and performance, 2023.

Project: When A Reference To A Name Is Lost

1 / 2

Personal history, national narratives, code, and sound facilitate a debugging session of a memory leak: a type of software bug that gradually makes memory unavailable and depletes the system of resources.

2 / 2

Presented at:
  • Second Sundays, Pioneer Works, Brooklyn, NY.
  • Demo 2023, New Museum, New York, NY.

Merge Conflicts

Four channel video and digital interface, 2022.

Project: Merge Conflicts

Digital Version →

1 / 3

Staged as a series of video tutorials, Merge Conflicts engages a process of unlearning settler colonial pedagogy through using Git, a software tool for managing multiple versions of digital documents.

2 / 3

Digital version is available at https://learngit.xyz.

3 / 3

Presented at:
  • Second Sundays, Pioneer Works, Brooklyn, NY.
  • Art+Code Showcase, Dunkunsthalle, New York, NY.
  • Branding Conflict, Space 204 Gallery, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN.

Song Itself Acts As a First Line of Territorial Defense

Digital interface, 2022.

Project: Song Itself Acts As a First Line of Territorial Defense

Digital Version →

1 / 3

Song Itself Acts As a First Line of Territorial Defense is a digital listening experience, highlighting the physicality of the internet.

2 / 3

The website traces the physical route data packets traveled from the server, through various routers along the network, and to the client. It then plays recent recordings of birds from key places along the route.

3 / 3

Digital version is available at http://www.birdsoftheinternet.com.

Request Deferred

Custom software, digitally printed index cards, vinyl lettering, 2019.

Project: Request Deferred

1 / 4

Request Deferred is an intervention in the digitization process of the Israel State Archive.

2 / 4

In 2019, the majority of records have not been digitized. In this piece, the process of requesting unavailable records is automated.

3 / 4

For the duration of the installation, the script repeated filling out the online form hundreds of times to request records related to the displacement and dispossession of Palestinians in 1948 and 1949. All records were officially added to the archivists’ queue to be made public.

4 / 4

Presented at:
  • The Body Responds by Lying Down, NARS Foundations, Brooklyn, NY.

Time Travels: Building a State in the Middle East

Custom software, high school history textbooks, 2016-2018.

Project: Time Travels: Building a State in the Middle East

1 / 3

A function draws rectangles in different sizes with different offsets on a canvas.

2 / 3

The rectangles are used to cut into Israeli history textbooks in order to identify patterns in settler colonial pedagogy.

2 / 3

All textbooks contain a single image from 1948, of Al Nakba, the ongoing Palestinian catastrophe.

2 / 3

Through cutting into the textbooks, the image is made visible to provide opportunities for self study.

3 / 3

Presented at:
  • Art+Code Showcase, Dunkunsthalle, New York, NY.
  • Branding Conflict, Space 204 Gallery, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN.

Mold For Marching Drum

2017.

Project: Mold For Marching Drum

1 / 5

A code poem generates vector files.

2 / 5

The files are read by a laser cutter.

3 / 5

The shapes are assembled to make cylindrical molds.

4 / 5

The molds are used to make light, affordable, and loud marching drums.

5 / 5

The marching drums are used in street actions, whenever needed.

Coalitions

Poplar, polyester film, polyester rope, graphite, digital print., 2017.

Project: Coalitions

1 / 3

An installation of marching drums at rest and a poetic reflection on political organizing work.

2 / 3

3 / 3

Presented at:
  • Intimate Zoo, Red Hook, NY.

How Will You Write it in a Sentence? How Will You Sing it?

Two channel digital video, 2016.

Project: How Will You Write it in a Sentence? How Will You Sing it?

1 / 2

Mother and child separated by distance come together in virtual space with the goal of writing a protest chant.

2 / 2

Presented at:
  • The Nakba of His Inauguration, The Overlook Place, Chicago, IL.

Invisible Library

Installation with phone and book and digital platform, 2013-ongoing.
Collaboration with Hương Ngô

Project: Invisible Library

Digital Version →

1 / 3

The project was as a response to Ralph Ellisson’s book “Invisible Man” being banned in the Randolph County Board of Education in Central North Carolina in 2013.

2 / 3

As a digital platform for civil disobedience, the project asks participants to record and upload parts of banned books.

3 / 3

As an installation, participants call in and record individual pages of "Invisible Man." A collective act of solidarity with those who are still invisible in our society.

Presented at:
  • RESPOND, Smack Mellon, Brooklyn, NY.
  • Media Futures, School of the Art Institute, Chicago, IL.
  • What We Make, Ross Art Museum, Delaware, OH.

The Silent Period

Multi-channel sound installation and contract, 2013.
Collaboration with Hương Ngô

Project: The Silent Period

1 / 3

Employing strategic uses of silence in the reading of appropriated texts, the installation renders a “lack” of spoken language production into a call for acts of critical listening.

3 / 3

Presented at:
  • Vox Populi, Philadelphia, PA.

Fantastic Futures

Digital platform, 2010-2014.

Project: Fantastic Futures

1 / 4

Fantastic Futures was a collective formed during the Iraq War. With participants from Baghdad and NYC, we shared stories and envisioned the future.

2 / 4

We created an interactive sound collection through which we made and exchanged sounds.

3 / 4

We interviewed each other, made field recordings and listened together. We collaged sounds from different locations to form compositions.

4 / 4

Presented at:
  • Dissident Futures, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco, CA.
  • Earlids, Sheila C. Johnson Design Center, New York, NY.
  • The Shortest Distance, Syndicat Potential, Strasbourg, France.

Through Body, Through Earth, Through Speech

Multi-Channel Sound Performance, 2013.
Collaboration with Fantastic Futures

Project: Through Body, Through Earth, Through Speech

1 / 2

Performative installation made with collective recording excercises and interviews conducted by Fantastic Futures in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, addressing questions and discussions around diversity, visions of the future, and entitlement of space.

2 / 2

Presented at:
  • Eyebeam, New York, NY.
  • Queens Museum, Queens, NY.

The Future Is Fantastic (If You Want It)

Multi-Channel Sound Performance, 2012.
Collaboration with Fantastic Futures

Project: The Future Is Fantastic (If You Want It)

1 / 3

With support from Rhizome, Fantastic Futures created a movement based performance to experiment with modes of attentive listening.

2 / 3

In this event, audience members are blindfolded as performers move around the space playing sounds from the collective's online platform using minimal, low-tech megaphones.

2 / 3

The compositions performed consist of collaged field recordings and interviews conducted among members of the group in Baghdad and NYC in 2011.

Trade School

Network of volunteer-run, self-organized schools and digital Platform, 2009-2019.

Project: Trade School

1 / 3

For a decade, Trade School operated in fifty chapters worldwide. Teachers proposed classes and asked for barter items from students. Students signed up for classes by agreeing to bring a barter item for the teacher.

2 / 3

The project included open source software used to manage the project internally as well as the public facing system for establishing exchanges.

3 / 3

Presented at:
  • Interactive Space, Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY.
  • Art, Environment, Action!, Sheila C. Johnson Design Center, New York, NY.
  • Arts Education 2.0: Exploring Alternative Education Models, ArtsTech, New York, NY.
  • Meet the Organizers, Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY.
  • Brown Bag Session, College Art Association, New York, NY.
  • Disrupting Higher Ed: Barter and Mentor Based Education, Maker Faire, New York, NY.
  • TEDxYouth, Brooklyn Free School, Brooklyn, NY.

Meeting Table

Drum, stethoscopes, electronics, 2014.

Project: Meeting Table

1 / 3

A responsive drum amplifies the participants’ heartbeats, becoming a collective resonant body.

2 / 3

Through a series of performances that juxtapose speech, singing, and heartbeat sounds, audiences are invited to consider how individuals share airtime and listen to each other.

Heart, Voice, Song: Three Meetings Performances, by Sable Elyse Smith, Sara Jimenez, and Simone Tyson at The Museum of Arts and Design.

3 / 3

Presented at:
  • NYC Makers: The MAD Biennial, Museum of Arts and Design, New York, NY.
  • Refest: Art+Tech, Culturehub, New York, NY.

A Poem from 1967 That Makes Me Think About My Mother, by Christhian Diaz at The Museum of Arts and Design.

Tools

Ongoing.

Project: Tools

1 / 3

Circuit for Listening to the Heart is designed to amplify the frequencies of five heartbeats and attenuate others significantly. Five amplified and filtered heartbeat signals are mixed into one output. Combined with modified stethoscopes, this circuit facilitates a listening experience where five people listen to the group’s collective heartbeat.

2 / 3

Spoken Synth is a cusom made synthesizer. A Speakjet chip turned into a five oscillator additive synthesizer, controlled by an Arduino and custom software. Sounds generated by this synthesizer have been used for multiple projects.

2 / 3

Circuit for Voice and Wind incorporates five AC dimmers that are controled by an external input. This circuit facilitates the translation of voice and wind.