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Choose Your Muse Interview: Igor Štromajer

Choose Your Muse is a new series of interviews where Marc Garrett asks emerging and established artists, curators, techies, hacktivists, activists and theorists; practising across the fields of art, technology and social change, how and what has inspired them, personally, artistically and culturally.

Since 1989, Igor Štromajer aka Intima has shown his media art work at more than a 130 exhibitions, festivals and biennials in 60 countries. His work has been exhibited and presented at the transmediale, ISEA, EMAF, SIGGRAPH, Ars Electronica Futurelab, V2_, IMPAKT, CYNETART, Manifesta, FILE, Stuttgarter Filmwinter, Hamburg Kunsthalle, ARCO, Microwave, Banff Centre, Les Rencontres Internationales and in numerous other galleries and museums worldwide. His works are included in the permanent collections of the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the MNCA Reina Sofía in Madrid, Moderna galerija in Ljubljana, Computer Fine Arts in New York, and UGM.

Available as:
PDF file 0sn-3iexfemiat.pdf (2.7 MB, 206 A4 pages)
EPUB file 0sn-3iexfemiat.epub (884 kB); Open eBook Publication Structure (Kobo etc)
mobi file 0sn-3iexfemiat_mobi.zip (994 kB); Kindle (3 files: mobi, apnx, mbp)

Marc Garrett: Could you tell us who has inspired you the most in your work and why?

Igor Štromajer:

Ajda Likar, Aleksandra Domanović, Alexei Shulgin, Ana Isaković, Andy Warhol, Angela Washko, Anne Magle, Anne Roquigny, Annie Abrahams, Annika Scharm, Antonin Artaud, Aphra Tesla, Bertolt Brecht, Bojana Kunst, Brane Zorman, Brigitte Lahaie, Carolee Schneemann, Chantal Michel, Charlotte Steibenhoff, Curt Cloninger, Diamanda Galás, Dirk Paesmans, Dragan Živadinov, Falk Grieffenhagen, Florian Schneider, Fritz Hilpert, Gabriel Delgado-López, Georges Bataille, Gertrude Stein, Gianna Michaels, Gina Spalmare, Gretta Louw, Henning Schmitz, Ida Hiršenfelder, Immanuel Kant, Italo Calvino, Ivan Jani Novak, James Joyce, Jerzy Grotowski, Jim Punk, Joan Heemskerk, Johann Sebastian Bach, John Cage, John Lennon, Jorg Immendorff, Josephine Bosma, Judith Malina, Julian Beck, Karl Marx, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Kazimir Malevich, Lars von Trier, Laurie Anderson, Laurie Bellanca, Lucille Calmel, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Luka Prinčič, Marcel Duchamp, Margarida Carvalho, Maria Winterhalter, Marie-Sophie Morel, Marina Tsvetaeva, Marisa Olson, Marjana Harcet, Marko Peljhan, Martine Neddam, Matjaž Berger, Minu Kjuder, Morena Fortuna, Nam June Paik, Nana Milčinski, Netochka Nezvanova, Nika Ločniškar, Olia Lialina, Peter Luining, Philip Glass, Ralf Hütter, Robert Görl, Robert Sakrowski, Robert Wilson, Robin Dunbar, Ronnie Sluik, Sergei Eisenstein, Simone de Beauvoir, Srečko Kosovel, Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz, Stanley Kubrick, Suvi Solkio, Thor Magnusson, Ulrike Susanne Ottensen, Varvara Stepanova, Vesna Jevnikar, Vladimir Mayakovsky, Vlado Gotvan Repnik,Vsevolod Meyerhold, Vuk Ćosić, Yevgeny Vakhtangov.


MG:
How have they influenced your own practice?

IŠ: ×›lëśßwp^Ů ßc W Ýc}=ďnău ÝŐľ ďnÝB+Îč×Ö÷©÷ Ăč Đ6Ő€P íŐ¦§]s[)m}=ăk{›u ¬¦ °•÷ é–ŁnŘ ß 3 {ˇóĺö 3 Žw´ů}óî] Í{Áť‡ Ó›}dH dA P‹° •÷˝ărůµ U흼 =îÇÉč 駝s™Ý ´Ë5˘şĄ Ű•Ż ěďu pŔ ‚Řw] bűÝ« ď}7» ú9f×Sî “•!«+q ą^őI[}vÝr«ĺn÷ Ľ ÓŰŰ Ż7Ş5g4Ť 0őÝc%ž ›Ź{ zM” ¬¦ °•÷ žl” v:i* p 4®Ú Ws›VęÖ’Fť«M˝ď{Ó¸sëÁäzç} zŻsS§NůŚńŞ%z=t{Ĺź4$ ˇ@ čТ€H) P]e †´B Ćťë®I ďwNë »DîŮ Î2P € Ă@ˇˇ ’Š ¨ iˇ+[ŔĆ 0 ŽŞ…_©2ô†YCHâAĐ ůđ ‰R!h ¨––‚)”˘!i ĆÓI KXµ …\d äPŔ t©’¤6‘ Kď ń˛ ‚ I \l ”Q,Ať „ň [ Because I have nothing to say and I’m saying it. The highest purpose is to have no purpose at all. ] ÉBÜÍ%TD IQNŔ – ¦”bbJv•M € Ä ˛-•H6•J Đspś“ Đť°Ł Ä gl @a Ä Ä cÍ‹˛ˇJ ! cĚäŠGČÄTDM L@PĐÄ ! D&Ĺ9Ť d¦¨§ó„ĚÓQ 튚 ÉC Ô$M Ö=ě ŢĘS÷…O‚ üś ^cFoŃŚ îpPÄ I@Rb bĂHhX™b 4¤i$”dwŰ ž$ .‰˘ ăóy LJSAT QI 7Ž –j(” :Ę‚jż oděG ę®h Ňáo Ăłg K÷ţk D% 9(ö¤řÜ Ľ9B Jí6ő¸n Tvôiő}@8„EO ¬¦ °•÷ bŻý!Ćńě BlÁé [řŤeÚ ‡ »Â ő˙2ľ p6Ř?¨6 Óű;7 ú3 Ś«˛ ŕ8ó ĘŐ@Ř‚˘ĹŞNÎ ž$n:vAňá Ý f ąŮ0 WżÝđ” Ł •ŻŮ vőtĽ Ďg«út’´ž W¦Ś] 0§ń–3¦é×F= ]iᆠ• „ü ¬¦ °•÷ ˙®k ŢyÚŢâ ţ ĂóJUţŮ ä …˛” 9Ů ţ˝Ó{ Ě›9ôĚŕ Š¸·fˇµÁP¸ş Dşź ´ľtÜŢ ŻŇĽ· 瀝,& ëÄŔ´DőJň% &–<VĐlŃ fű.Q |đjË DľŠ ×zr|-ú=÷8 BµÂ muŃ xĹžK ” yáüŃťdÚ°T ş ÖötË śîzl ÂI \o˝‡Ă ˇ n+„’ ¬¦ °•÷ 3 z Ŕˇ™ Úp ‘ZpĽHťĂż‹~ Ę,Ńů Šr!CćX Ěď{† –Ćľ E5‡0 Éž@ss 3 łá” 3Ďk¨nŃ×ĆëŁ ;=Š”t-ŻÓAd% [ Đ@{×űX2E , Y ŕ

Could you share with us some examples?

IŠ: ´Ą˙ pÇꯗ ž^Çš ´źw ey€©× ś˙…Ă@{ˇ\wě„á Łźhµ h÷ýŞ38ŕ 4(â‰yD @úD ®ÜÓŽŢ}” .. óDm ˙YĎă ]. B ÍT6¨S Hh…og“mS~ÍÖθŐZ» ŔťŢ¦Ř7 aŔ ”€Ł ÚKîýŚ‚ óíŃđ?Ą.±{ răö ”±D6á=ˇ Ă×Ö ď7Aą CŰś˙K ŰË&hË`Çĺ – ééërm ćÇ1ý mźŰiţIÇż–:(ěč“~śpó; žč ¦ë 0§ń–3¦é×F= Miᆠ¬¦ °•÷ ƱÝŃ |lŤé ˘ 3 OĆ VW° )»VępŇ› nŹÇŃť E—`Qt &ëú!=JŁ±`>EL ŹK Ô2 ¬¦ °•÷ CT N ö´HU ĂÎ cŽ ńű…a Q ¬¦ °•÷ QŕAĐ- ś Ý} Š*†Ľfٟʉ ŔŽ O”‡ž j xkĚ宋$w5]Ś»˙Ö]Ń€ Ôá~‹<A¸ěÂrD „»’† ( ”ń Nşţç [µ`.Ő1X¨Ź(ßżo]ťV š Ě, …ÖÜ A˙ ł Í 0§ń–3¦é×F= ]iᆠâ.Ůs_ p!VSf|r0 ě E ó÷ ·Vľ ;ń < ¬¦ °•÷ q T~ň3Ű…üTs Ínű·?Ş ©aKŠ1ŰĄkĚmąĎ;·? Ž Ź J,6 -ľŇH°¦Y˙7y= =Q _™Z Můě Uů÷I˙˙+÷…ś{÷ *Ű…¦¬ţ¬A@n8•Š •°Çč©hD ˙áď Ë Ý @=*˙ IuvÇ tčCúN™Ŕalĺ÷ ÷ě(pr °éĄ¦sÎ%¬¦ŕ «X6 ű¬ $P•M(Ô÷Ĺi%wńB [ For example, I don’t want it to be essentially the same – I want it to be exactly the same. Because the more you look at the same exact thing, the more the meaning goes away, and the better and emptier you feel. ] Ĺ1OŮŔ „6S§R4 Jú`Y¬ ÷ č«. 幀)H 28ł†Ve€@.]qT* ľ H} ¦wč¸s† Ŕ˝U}µ ô d7u•Ý’Ž H1ÓÔ z°Zý C €Z¸¦në szë Ö +° ˙˙¬˙g‹˙íö ”Ţ * úx ‚Ë®÷6l°) & b•*^ ŞTˇ@4@ Š»˙I˙>! BK °9 č Í Ő˙@®¬ń z° Ź önď» >Ş •:” ¦ś¬ RF ‚* ę¨ eR€ p€ _•”Nę ˙ű¸h) “$ŮŔ ÎBwA¬ ú ‚ĹZ`ˇHTĘ°R ť•ťA¤zçM÷ •)É ô0 ¦ îIű ®¦˙ú÷yĄ›PĐşŕŐ – »´ [RY 1Ńđ ´˛ > 3˙? } Ő” Š ’ ” fE9 ”Őnş^>Hn˙©° Ě˙JHŽş =§ÝĂ »=nMŹ€ ÷ µH Đ$K”i P ”™É 9Îos„Xô…ó ¬Ó›Pđ}7n 7 ›SOü‰ T ť)ťśďsďŤ ¬HRSc ÷ŔĆńěŐ:ëcŻ°.Ý !ůIi Ćş˘ ‚•9ú‚ ,ˇR €©]VŘ Ű• gÁ” ő™ÓŮ˝)ˇÍŐQ î©ö¨t ˇv@î@c J®‚Aä‹ß ‘j2Ű]nJ› ˘Ů…ĽŁIu•iP ^P ĆQ«I0=Ű$ń Č NtF´«@’¤ ‚z Ŕ…6 ă[ë žĂÄ îßbK Š˝śĺ ’DíŁ“ I î˘ CÁB5b ¦ÓÎ÷˘HfŞťăSęž+ßBž©ă{Ô wTw)b!ěiA¨W$ ®Xˇ– Mčp Úľc 4‡¬^ \妯 Ždzč –A H “b•lS ď ďůÍ@dsŰMP Š¬Ü”óC¬4w čĘä[Le ›}ds}ď ť ďJĹĉ°lďĹP{î ň{Şné «” &ç ś]!{ 6•µëu„H\-=Ż{3 bhŢ%F}d +Ą Śp hsmYI Ö]”Ó+ š «pŠ} 5ťŃ–é¨×pĚuä3 ĦÓ_ëóÝ=Wv´Đ§ Ý Ö×ő Žw” ŽB4ÝĐŐŘ AÉM Uˇ4DD ¸¦bÍ Ť w† ťQÄ â÷‹daÝ»––r ˛2Đ%Ŕ[I Đ Ä P}r§{z‘• cË› ×†Ş ´ °ůy TÄű*Â@^•N !ůsL z0lÉ}dIÖÝÄpJ €äíĐ Q Ś6 %Ľź÷$lv€Gócą(Ě •° ˇq¦Ŕ÷˛kčăÇ ÷§ť7 N!g ˛Mí =

MG: How different is your work different from your influences and what are the reasons for this?

IŠ: íş9č ĆW„oő lĘ pŽ3ćhŹ+¬r-ţ-AµÖ MńúćŐ6 ¬¦ °•÷ ’ ŚścՀŦ5Qe‘ďť*â@ť†v Őý vŮ ĺ ęJó]s ±1Śu @yŤ .1ş6dnµ yź]ŽuôŤ -ŻNE\± Ë9Ť}Ű č>†zž úŁř G6 𫡏 ‰ 5Ď9?:’E·xýćđ) \^Ł×ĺ(‡Bq }rM RQÓ›6 ę4_uvB´ lŰ6áH‡ { Š¬râ ´ [ Therefore I have no special message. I wish I did. It would be great if I had one. ] Qłë ©űiŇšpý–—`s§ !“9“Ř ‡łRˇ˘OÚy™9ľŻ bčw ă- -pń÷b ´ŽŇ VT oP»Őč„ ‰ ÎŘ`lăß űW §7ŞŘË caŔbýVťŘ ż‘„ć d% AK RPĐQ C ĐK, T´S Ó0T CL SăËDЉ(¨Ş*iHMŘŕ+vf?1™=QŮý̧5× +Bé:&ĘË ügŃc’µĄ (`° ‹ Ćő˝ţ9łXü ôĘČX µň ‚’Äí ¬¦ °•÷ ‰ëľ ś ň٠ߢVJfg‡!} ˛_ 2“9(ĄK! % yńNąvg ×áäěČ éżOX N ¬™ů¨ }‘« šŮ¨ óá nńxăĹ Ţo ®( ‚ Ó Oů‹Łk c ą¦( qT°€qWc 3 ćp

MG: Is there something you’d like to change in the art world, or in fields of art, technology and social change; if so, what would it be?

IŠ: üć»w+űe7 Ö®» y»ËăĺăTA© A¨ŽŇ‚i LY `B ż ™{d ]( !äßŰăËmńl›Y9Űí¬í3a5T @T o uf čT> 3 ^ =–vŮQ E˘¸…t0Ë î„Îy Ş{,žX×TU [ Yes. Nothing. ] ÜwŢńg&XhűÍ-…] !)+ÝĚVŕ ®ćŢĽ ¬¦ °•÷ YągŃ ]ݔ⠥@6<‹tr ¬¦ °•÷ ©±¨ Ŕ»&RŐÖQ ”% —ĆŁ{ ¬¦ °•÷ ë~ ._ć şřk ş÷© ,°–śÇoĂ›ű ýď˝ç _´p+ŚÖđ5 śZőXßÇ ň>KqĚé˙ ܇ Ę,| ©‘ ü,ź± 9»1Áµ y(m$ tÉ’ ĚÂM©Ç u˛č¨z }´s÷ĺż^

MG: Describe a real-life situation that inspired you and then describe a current idea or art work that has inspired you?

IŠ: Ń´j qď OĐîť% ßŰűxËýż OçżěoÓíŮËĚ˙ ő3?ôoŐĺÜ 4ň2Ëe Űą“Űżž äżôÝ ˙fAş]Ď ]Ů8ĘZ ‡“ľ _¦÷\9Á· WŰ©:jiď Ů\3ĂŮ o$ý\S|vy´ćîý úy…›¬Żę} 6m”ˇ> ‰—Đ7 Ő.™ ţľĎ§ę_WćĆw.& Ŕ·§ ~Đ 1ć ‘ ĚÇ« ¬(`¤ gőđĘĺv ţÍ ¤‚¨Ź éOŁ [ She said: “Make your own art. Do not expect me to do it for you.” ] S=•üĎVz˙ Ľ‚;z‡—xľ€J,?HóŹg¦ ľ˙ňö3ůvFĐľˇŰIa RřG A =qż?AĘ˘Ř v€D·öĂXŠ! ÷äŁ\u@U ‘ KŽ‚żB„ ŔŮQ.c‹ }9€×éĺŠ÷ů(8×Sł·¬ Y+ćĽĘ> ¨mű8°@‰%ó5 ŃĹXoňOźŔ y˙Môu ®^Dxrő áĂgwý l¬au%}‰Ě: ˙ ßČ HGPŇŃ—Dď×Ď ĎdJ› } ‘Ń@ Bu_č ôuKŘăĂóŘ ×ŠŇ(xşµ»ŐŞČ: b \[ŽAü”űđé´{ emsó|Ń‚xăö9 x: ˇoťŞřĺńta ŞĺŹË ÖŰĽŰ (:Šké í ‡Udl=Tż ‚: 3 ó]5č¦×Hsśww· ľ‰0ů t®Üqčř đ1X úI2¦ $Ýj& 3ÁśIëďą {uŐÝ

MG: What’s the best piece of advice you can give to anyone thinking of starting up in the fields of art, technology and social change?

IŠ: °§s© ;źĆÝČ ÉůąÚ- ď]™@ Ľat•Îňc}ľ o,ú˛đ ÷Žă ÷sýqŐ«AŻ7őúWB 3 ‘ Ľ Öůxńľ ¬¦ °•÷ _µÎ ·k y·8[ ä®î¦<8}Ť4ť űfÖY †‡tŕ m۵đ [ Make love, not art. ] ź©Xrôw»´sŘîćî ¬¦ °•÷ ‡Ó‹ăHŰ˝tn ňtë+O ća¬7 TvÇĄ ż,ľ} ř[« Č< ľn

MG: Finally, could you recommend any reading materials or exhibitions past or present that you think would be great for the readers to view, and if so why?

IŠ: With pleasure.

Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason is the key text for the understanding of everything.

BodyAnxiety.com, curated by Leah Schrager and Jennifer Chan, is the exhibition everyone would have to see in details.
Still remember Cornelia Sollfrank’s Net Art Generator? Here it is: http://net.art-generator.com
And if you already forgot everything about Jonas Lund’s exhibition in MAMA – The Fear Of Missing Out, 2013 – you need to refresh your memory: http://jonaslund.biz/works/the-fear-of-missing-out

Choose Your Muse Interview: Mike Stubbs, Director of Fact in Liverpool, UK

Choose Your Muse is a new series of interviews where Marc Garrett asks emerging and established artists, curators, techies, hacktivists, activists and theorists; practising across the fields of art, technology and social change, how and what has inspired them, personally, artistically and culturally.

Mike Stubbs became director of FACT (Foundation for Art and Creative Technology) media arts centre, based in Liverpool in 2007, just before Liverpool’s Capital of Culture year. The centre offers a unique programme of exhibitions, film and participant-led art projects. He views the organisation as to be cutting-edge of art and new media and one of the jewels in the crown of Liverpool’s ongoing cultural renaissance.

     QWOP dance by Antonio Roberts, Syndrome, at FACT, Light Night 2014

Stubbs has worked as an advisor to the Royal Academy of Arts, The Science Musuem, London, Site Gallery, Sheffield and NESTA (National Endowment for Science Technology and Art), ACID (Australian Centre for Interactive Arts) and the Banff Centre, Canada. He has been Production Advisor to artists such as Roddy Buchannan, Luke Jerram and Louise K Wilson.

Trained at Cardiff Art College and the Royal College of Art, Stubbs’ own internationally commissioned art-work encompasses broadcast, large scale public projections and new media installation. In 2002 he exhibited at the Tate Britain, 2004 at the Baltic, Newcastle, 2006 at the Experimental Arts Foundation, Adelaide. He has received more than a dozen major international awards including 1st prizes for Cultural Quarter, at the 2003 Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennial, Japan, WRO Festival, Poland 2005, Golden Pheonix, Monte Negro Media Art Fest 2006. In 2003 he was awarded a Banff, Fleck Fellowship.

Interview.

Marc Garrett: Could you tell us who has inspired you the most in your work and why?

Mike Stubbs: Uncle Islwyn Thomas (deceased) who told a barman to bugger off in Welsh for not serving us (age 14) – It made me realise one could object.

David Nash. I was lucky to have a chance visit to his studio (chapel) when I worked in Llechwedd Slate Mine Craft shop, Blaenau Ffestiniog. He persuaded to save up for a Kawaskai Z650 in the future and not to be a paint sprayer and instead, go to art college (circa 1976…), and that being an artist was a viable alternative.

Installation view of David Nash: New Work, October 9 – November 8, 2008 at Haines Gallery.

And Krzysztof Wodiczko,

I saw his Cruise Missile projected on Nelsons Column in 1985 and then him swivel the projector and project a swastika onto the south african embassy in response to Margaret Thatcher donating £7 million quid to PK Botha government – big slap in the face to the anit-apartheid movement of which I was part (Greetings From the Cape of Good Hope can be found here, http://mikestubbsco.ipage.com/artworks.html)


Krzysztof Wodiczko, City Projections – Nelson’s Column , 1985

MG: How does your work compare to those who’ve influenced you, and what do you think the  reasons are for these differences?

MS: With age I’ve tempered the urge to object to too much and post election, I feel like I’m from another planet. Workwise, I’ve been priviledged and lucky to build support within the public sector for arts organisations which have maintained some edge (Hull Time Based Arts, ACMI, FACT).  Recently very proud to have produced Group Therapy, Mental Distress in a Digital Age, which is both critical and a form of social activisim. I am lucky to have collaborated in developing festivals including : ROOT and the AND (Abandon Normal Devices) which have created more room to commission and present a risk taking program.

MG: Is there something you’d like to change in the art world, or in fields of art, technology and social change; if so, what would it be?

MS: That longer term agendas might accept that risk and experiment are needed and that Art IS innovation and that more people from non-art backgrounds get a chance to experience and make art.

MG: Describe a real-life situation that inspired you and then describe a current idea or art work that has inspired you?

MS: Watching on TV a flood victim being rescued by helcopter and dropping her entire belongings. And Hseih Teching’s One Year Performance.

Tehching Hsieh – One Year Performance, 1980 – 1981

“Tehching Hsieh’s work, informed through a period spent in New York City without a visa, experiments with time. He was actively ‘wasting his time’ by setting up a stringent set of conditions within five different year-long performances. The driving force for an individual to perform such extreme actions must surely be the ultimate cipher for being emotionally, psychologically touched – and that, ultimately, is a gift. His work poses the question: as humans how can we afford not to be touched?” [1]

MG: What’s the best piece of advice you can give to anyone thinking of starting up in the fields of art, technology and social change?

MS: Do what you feel like. Dont copy others

MG: Finally, could you recommend any reading materials or exhibitions past or present that you think would be great for the readers to view, and if so why?

MS: Post-humous papers Robert Musil, they continuously speak to me at the most fundamental level and with wit. http://bit.ly/1PYIq6A

Diamond Age Neal Stephenson. Inspired the idea of democratising interactive media. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Diamond_Age

Art of Experience John Dewey, a bible of ideas to re-frame arts and culture – first citing the term ‘impulsion’ – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Art_as_Experience

The City and the City, China Meilville. It inspired our exhibition Science Fiction, New Death at FACT. It elegantly suggests how we simultanesouly occupy the same political, social and physical spaces despite difference.

References:

[1] Fact – Tehching Hsieh – One Year Performance, 1980 – 1981. (2010)
http://www.fact.co.uk/projects/liverpool-biennial-2010/tehching-hsieh-one-year-performance,-1980-1981.aspx

Resolution Disputes: A Conversation Between Rosa Menkman and Daniel Rourke

In the lead-up to her solo show, institutions of Resolution Disputes [iRD], at Transfer Gallery, Brooklyn, Daniel Rourke caught up with Rosa Menkman over two gallons of home-brewed coffee. They talked about what the show might become, discussing a series of alternate resolutions and realities that exist parallel to our daily modes of perception.

iRD is open to visitors on Saturdays at Transfer Gallery until April 18th, and will also function as host to Daniel Rourke and Morehshin Allahyari’s 3D Additivist Manifesto, on Thursday April 16th.

Rosa Menkman: The upcoming exhibition at Transfer is an illustration of my practice based PhD research on resolutions. It will be called ‘institutions of Resolution Disputes’, in short iRD and will be about the liminal, alternative modes of data or information representation, that are obfuscated by technological conventions. The title is a bit wonky as I wish for it to reflect that kind of ambiguity that invokes curiosity.

In any case, I always feel that every person, at least once in their grown-up life, wants to start an institution. There are a few of those moments in life, like “Now I am tired of the school system, I want to start my own school!”; and “Now I am ready to become an architect!”, so this is my dream after wanting to become an architect.

Daniel Rourke: To establish your own institution?

Credits: Rosa Menkman, Institution #1, 2015

RM: First of all, I am multiplexing the term institution here. ‘institutions’ and the whole setting of iRD does mimic a (white box) institute, however the iRD does not just stand for a formal organization that you can just walk into. The institutions also revisit a slightly more compound framework that hails from late 1970s, formulated by Joseph Goguen and Rod Burstall, who dealt with the growing complexities at stake when connecting different logical systems (such as databases and programming languages) within computer sciences. A main result of these non-logical institutions is that different logical systems can be ‘glued’ together at the ‘substrata levels’, the illogical frameworks through which computation also takes place.

Secondly, while the term ’resolution’ generally simply refers to a standard (measurement) embedded in the technological domain, I believe that a resolution indeed functions as a settlement (solution), but at the same time exists as a space of compromise between different actors (languages, objects, materialities) who dispute their stakes (frame rate, number of pixels and colors, etc.), following rules (protocols) within the ever growing digital territories.

So to answer your question; maybe in a way the iRD is sort of an anti-protological institute or institute for anti-utopic, obfuscated or dysfunctional resolutions.

DR: It makes me think of Donna Haraway’s Manifesto for Cyborgs, and especially a line that has been echoing around my head recently:

“No objects, spaces, or bodies are sacred in themselves; any component can be interfaced with any other if the proper standard, the proper code, can be constructed for processing signals in a common language.”

By using the terms ‘obfuscation’ and ‘dysfunction’ you are invoking a will – perhaps on your part, but also on the part of the resolutions themselves – to be recognised. I love that gesture. I can hear the objects in iRD speaking out; making themselves heard, perhaps for the first time. In The 3D Additivist Manifesto we set out to imagine what the existence of Haraway’s ‘common language’ might mean for the unrealised, “the powerless to be born.” Can I take it that your institute has a similar aim in mind? A place for the ‘otherwise’ to be empowered, or at least to be recognised?

RM: The iRD indeed kind of functions as a stage for non-protocological resolutions, or radical digital materialism.

I always feel like I should say here, that generally, I am not against function or efficiency. These are good qualities, they make the world move forward. On the other hand, I do believe that there is a covert, nepotist cartel of protocols that governs the flows and resolutions of data and information just for the sake of functionality and efficiency. The sole aim of this cartel is to uphold the dogma of modern computation, which is about making actors function together (resonate) as efficiently as possible, tweaking out resources to maximum capacity, without bottlenecks, clicks, hicks or cuts, etc.

But this dogma also obfuscates a compromise that we never question. And this is where my problem lies: efficiency and functionality are shaping our objects. Any of these actors could also operate under lower, worse or just different resolutions. Yet we have not been taught to see, think or question any of these resolutions. They are obfuscated and we are blind to them.

I want to be able to at least entertain the option of round video (strip video from its interface!), to write inside non-quadrilateral, modular text editors (no more linear reading!) or to listen to (sonify) my rainbows (gradients). Right now, the protocols in place simply do not make this possible, or even worse, they have blocked these functionalities.

There is this whole alternate universe of computational objects, ways that our data would look or be used like, if the protocols and their resolutions had been tweaked differently. The iRD reflects on this, and searches, if you will, a computation of many dimensions.

DR: Meaning that a desktop document could have its corners folded back, and odd, non standard tessellations would be possible, with overlapping and intersecting work spaces?

Credits: window_pile.mov, a non-rectilinear still of jon satroms 'QTlets' to be

RM: Yes! Exactly!

Right now in the field of imagery, all compressions are quadrilateral, ecology dependent, standard solutions (compromises) following an equation in which data flows are plotted against actors that deal with the efficiency/functionality duality in storage, processing and transmission.

I am interested in creating circles, pentagons and other more organic manifolds! If we would do this, the whole machine would work differently. We could create a modular and syphoning relationships between files, and just as in jon Satroms’ 2011 QTzrk installation, video would have multiple timelines and soundtracks, it could even contain some form of layer-space!

DR: So the iRD is also a place for some of those alternate ‘solutions’ that are in dispute?

RM: Absolutely. However, while I am not a programmer, I also don’t believe that imagining new resolutions means to absolve of all existing resolutions and their inherent artifacts. History and ecology play a big role in the construction of a resolution, which is why I will also host some of my favorite, classic solutions and their inherent (normally obfuscated) artifacts at the iRD, such as scan linesDCT blocks, and JPEG2000 wavelets.

Evil Media Distribution Center. YoHa Transmediale 2013

The iRD could easily function as a Wunderkammer for artifacts that already exist within our current resolutions. But to me this would be a needles move towards the style of the Evil Media Distribution Center, created by YoHa (Matsuko Yokokoji and Graham Harwood) for the 2013 Transmediale. I love to visit Curiosity Cabinets, but at the same time, these places are kind of dead, celebrating objects that are often shielded behind glass (or plastic). I can imagine the man responsible for such a collection. There he sits, in the corner, smoking a pipe, looking over his conquests.

But this kind of collection does not activate anything! Its just ones own private boutique collection of evil! For a dispute to take place we need action! Objects need to have – or be given – a voice!

DR: …and the alternate possible resolutions can be played out, can be realised, without solidifying them as symbols of something dead and forgotten.

RM: Right! It would be easy and pretty to have those objects in a Wunderkammer type of display. Or as Readymades in a Boîte-en-valise but it just feels so sad. That would not be zombie like but dead-dead. A static capture of hopelessness.

DR: The Wunderkammer had a resurgence a few years ago. Lots of artists used the form as a curatorial paradigm, allowing them to enact their practice as artist and curator. A response, perhaps, to the web, the internet, and the archive. Aggregated objects, documents and other forms placed together to create essayistic exhibitions.

RM: I feel right now, this could be an easy way out. It would be a great way out, however, as I said, I feel the need to do something else, something more active. I will smoke that cigar some other day.

A Vernacular of File Formats, Rosa Menkman at Born Digital, Moti, Breda, 2014

DR: So you wouldn’t want to consider the whole of Transfer Gallery as a Wunderkammer that you were working inside of?

RM: It is one possibility. But it is not my favorite. I would rather make works against the established resolutions, works that are built to break out of a pre-existing mediatic flow. Works that were built to go beyond a specific conventional use.

For example, I recently did this exhibition in The Netherlands where I got to install a really big wallpaper, which I think gained me a new, alternative perspectives on digital materiality. I glitched a JPEG and zoomed in on its DCT blocks and it was sooo beautiful, but also so scalable and pokable. It became an alternative level of real to me, somehow.

DR: Does it tesselate and repeat, like conventional wallpaper?

RM: It does repeat in places. I would do it completely differently if I did it again. Actually, for the iRD I am considering to zoom into the JPEG2000 wavelets. I thought it would be interesting to make a psychedelic installation like this. It’s like somebody vomited onto the wall.

JPEG2000 wavelets

DR: [laughs] It does look organic, like bacteria trying to organise.

RM: Yeah. It really feels like something that has its own agency somehow.

Rosa Menkman, Crop from A Vernacular of File Formats, 2010.

JPEG2000 waveletsDR: That’s the thing about JPEG2000 – and the only reason I know about that format, by the way, is because of your Vernacular of File Formats – the idea that they had to come up with a non-regular block shape for the image format that didn’t contradict with the artifacts in the bones and bodies that were being imaged. It feels more organic because of that. It doesn’t look like what you expect an image format to look like, it looks like what I expect life to look like, close up.

RM: It looks like ‘Game of Life’.

Game of LifeDR: Yes! Like Game of Life. And I assume that now they don’t need to use JPEG2000 because the imaging resolution is high enough on the machines to supersede bone artifacts. I love that. I love the effect caused when you’ve blown it up here. It looks wonderful. What is the original source for this?

RM: I would blow this image [the one from A Vernacular of File Formats] up to hell. Blow it up until there is no pixel anymore. It shouldn’t be too cute. These structures are built to be bigger. Have you seen the Glitch Timond (2014)? The work itself is about glitches that have gained a folkloric meaning over time, these artifact now refer to hackers, ghosts or AI. They are hung in the shape of a diamond. The images themselves are not square, and I can install them on top of the wallpaper somehow, at different depths. Maybe I could expand on that piece, by putting broken shaped photos, and shadows flying around. It could be beautiful like that.

Rosa Menkman, A Glitch Timond, 2014.

DR: It makes me think of the spatiality of the gallery. So that the audience would feel like they were inside a broken codec or something. Inside the actual coding mechanism of the image, rather than the standardised image at the point of its visual resolution.

RM: Oh! And I want to have a smoke machine! There should be something that breaks up vision and then reveals something.

DR: I like that as a metaphor for how the gallery functions as well. There are heaps of curatorial standards, like placing works at line of sight, or asking the audience to travel through the space in a particular order and mode of viewing. The gallery space itself is already limited and constructed through a huge, long history of standardisations, by external influences of fashion and tradition, and others enforced by the standards of the printing press, or the screen etc. So how do you make it so that when an audience walks into the gallery they feel as though they are not in a normal, euclidean space anymore? Like they have gone outside normal space?

RM: That’s what I want! Disintegrate the architecture. But now I am like, “Yo guys, I want to dream, and I want it to be real in three weeks…”

DR: “Hey guys, I want to break your reality!” [laughs]

RM: One step is in place, Do you remember Ryan Maguire who is responsible for The Ghost in the MP3? His research is about MP3 compressions and basically what sounds are cut away by this compression algorithm, simply put: it puts shows what sounds the MP3 compression normally cuts out as irrelevant – in a way it inverses the compression and puts the ‘irrelevant’ or deleted data on display. I asked him to rework the soundtrack to ‘Beyond Resolution’, one of the two videowork of the iRD that is accompanied by my remix of professional grin by Knalpot and Ryan said yes! And so it was done! Super exciting.

DR: Yes. I thought that was a fantastic project. I love that as a proposition too… What would the equivalent of that form of ghosting be in terms of these alternate, disputed resolutions? What’s the remainder? I don’t understand technical formats as clearly as you do, so abstract things like ‘the ghost’, ‘the remainder’ are my way into understanding them. An abstract way in to a technical concept. So what is the metaphoric equivalent of that remainder in your work? For instance, I think it depends on what this was originally an image of. I think that is important.

RM: The previous image of JPEG2000 does not deal with the question of lost information. I think what you are after is an inversed Alvin Lucier ‘Sitting in a Room’ experiment, one that only shows the “generation loss” (instead of the generation left over, which is what we usually get to see or hear in art projects). I think that would be a reasonable equivalent to Ryan Maguires MP3 compression work.

Or maybe Supraconductivity.

I can struggle with this for… for at least two more days. In any case I want the iRD to have a soundtrack. Actually, it would like there to be a spatial soundtrack; the ghost soundtrack in the room and the original available only on a wifi access point.

DR: I’m really excited by that idea of ghostly presence and absence, you know. In terms of spatiality, scan lines, euclidean space…

RM: It’s a whole bundle of things! [laughs] “Come on scan lines, come to the institutions, swim with the ghosts!”

DR: It makes me think of cheesy things you get in a children’s museum. Those illusion rooms, that look normal through a little window, but when you go into them they are slanted in a certain way, so that a child can look bigger than an adult through the window frame. You know what I mean? They play with perspective in a really simple way, it’s all about the framing mechanism, the way the audience’s view has been controlled, regulated and perverted.

RM: I was almost at a point where I was calling people in New York and asked, “Can you produce a huge stained glass window, in 2 weeks?” I think it would be beautiful if the Institute had its own window.

I would take a photo of what you could see out of the real window, and then make the resolution of that photo really crappy, and create a real stained glass window, and install that in the gallery at its original place. If I have time one day I would love to do that, working with real craftspeople on that. I think that in the future the iRD might have a window through which we interface the outside.

Every group of people that share the same ideas and perspectives on obfuscation need to have a secret handshake. So that is what I am actually working on right now. Ha, You didn’t see that coming? [Laughs]

DR: [Laughs] No… that’s a different angle.

RM: I want people to have a patch! A secret patch. You remember Trevor Paglen’s book on the symbology of military patches?

Paglen, Trevor. I Could Tell You But Then You Would Have to be Destroyed by Me:

DR: Oh yeah. Where he tries to decode the military patches? Yes, I love that.

RM: Yeah, I don’t think the world will ever have enough patches. They are such an icon for secret handshakes.

I have been playing around with this DCT image. I want to use it as a key to the institutions, which basically are a manifest to the reasonings behind this whole exhibition, but then encrypted in a macroblock font (I embedded an image of Institution 1 earlier). There was one of Paglen’s patches that really stood out for me; the black on black one. The iRD patch should be inspired by that.

Hito Steyerl - how not to be seen

DR: Hito Steyerl’s work How Not to be Seen: A Fucking Didactic Educational .MOV File, centres on the grid used by the military to calibrate their satellites from space. The DCT structure looks a lot like that, but I know the DCT is not about calibration. It contains all the shapes necessary to compose any image?

RM: If you look up close at a badly compressed JPEG, you will notice the image consist of macroblocks. A macroblock is a block organizations, usually consisting of 8×8 pixels, that posses color (chrominance) and light (luminance) values embedded via DCT (discrete cosine transform).

Discrete Cosine Transformaztion used by JPEG CompressionsBasically all JPEGs you have ever seen are build out of this finite set of 64 macroblocks. Considering that JPEGs make up the vast majority of images we encounter on a daily basis, I think it is pretty amazing how simple this part of the JPEG compression really is.

But the patch should of course not just be square. Do you know the TV series Battlestar Galactica, where they have the corners cut off all their books? All the paper in that world follows this weird, octagonal shape? Or Borges Library and its crimson hexagon, that holds all knowledge. I love those randomly cryptic geometric forms…

DR: It reminds me of a 1987 anime film, Wings of Honneamise, that had a really wonderfully designed world. Everything is different, from paper sizes and shapes, through to their cutlery. Really detailed design from the ground up, all the standards and traditions.

RM: Like this Minecraft book too. The Blockpedia.

The Blockopedia

DR: Oh that’s great. I love the Minecraft style

and the mythos that has arisen around it.

RM: So Minecraft and Borges follow a 6 corner resolution, and Battlestar paper has 8 corners… Discrepancy! I want to reference them all!

DR: So these will go into the badges?

RM: I want to have a black on black embroidered patch with corners. Don’t you think this would be so pretty? This black on black. I want to drop a reference to 1984, too, Orwell or Apple, the decoder can decide. These kind of secret, underground references, I like those.

DR: A crypto exhibition.

RM: It’s so hot right now (and with hot I do not mean cool). Since the 90s musicians encrypt or transcode things in their sounds, from Aphex Twin, to Goodiepal and now TCF, who allegedly encrypted an image from the police riots in Athens into one of his songs. However, he is a young Scandinavian musician so that makes me wonder if the crypto design in this case is confusingly non-political. Either way, I want to rebel against this apparent new found hotness of crypto-everything, which is why I made Tacit:Blue.

Tacit:Blue uses a very basic form of encryption. Its archaic, dumb and decommissioned. Every flash shows a next line of my ‘secret message’ encrypted in masonic pigpen. When it flickers it gives a little piece of the message which really is just me ranting about secrecy. So if someone is interested in my opinion, they can decode that.

Casper Electronics, Nova Drone

Actually, the technology behind the video is much more interesting. Do you know The Nova Drone? Its a small AV synthesizer designed by Casper Electronics. The the flickr frequency of this military RGB LED on the top of the board can be altered by turning the RGB oscillators. When I come close to the LED with the lens of my iphone, the frequencies of the LED and the iphone camera do not sync up. What happens is a rolling shutter effect. The camera has to interpret the input and something is gone, lost in translation. In fact, a Resolutional Dispute takes place right there.

DR: So the dispute happens because framerate of the camera conflicts with the flicker of the LED?

RM: And the sound is the actual sound of the electronics. In Tacit:Blue I do not use the NovaDrone in a ‘clean’ way, I am actually misusing it (if there is such a thing when it comes to a device of dispute). Some of the sounds and disruptions of flow are created in this patch bay, which is where you can patch the LFOs, etc. Anyway, when you disconnect the patch it flickers, but I never take it out fully so it creates this classic, noisy electric effect.

What do you think about the text? Do you think this works? I like this masonic pigpen, its a very simple, nostalgic old quiff.

DR: It reminds me of the title sequence for Alien. Dave Addey did a close visual, sci-fi etymological, analysis of the typography in Alien. It went viral online recently. Did you see that?

The typography in Alien

RM: No!

DR: It is fantastic. Everything from the title sequence to the buttons on the control panel in the background. Full of amazing insights.

Tacit Blue in flight' by DoD photo

RM: Wow, inspiring!

So with any cypher you also need a key, which is why I named the video Tacit:Blue, a reference to the old Northrop Tacit Blue stealth surveillance aircraft. The aircraft was used to develop techniques against passive radar detection, but has been decommissioned now, just like the masonic pigpen encryption.

DR: This reminds me of Eyal Weizman. He has written a lot on the Israeli / Palestinian conflict as a spatial phenomena. So we don’t think about territory merely as a series of lines drawn on a globe anymore, but as a stack, including everything from airspace, all the way down beneath the ground, where waste, gas and water are distributed. The mode by which water is delivered underground often cuts across conflicted territories on the surface. A stacked vision of territory brings into question the very notion of a ‘conflict’ and a ‘resolution’.

I recently saw him give a lecture on the Forensic Architecture project, which engages in disputes metered against US Military activities. Military drones are now so advanced that they can target a missile through the roof of a house, and have it plunge several floors before it explodes. It means that individual people can be targeted on a particular floor. The drone strike leaves a mark in the roof which is – and this is Weizman’s terminology – ‘beneath the threshold of detectability’. And that threshold also happens to be the size of a human body: about 1 metre square. Military satellites have a pixel size that effectively translates to 1 metre square at ground level. So to be invisible, or technically undetectable, a strike needs only to fall within a single pixel of a satellite imaging system. These drone strikes are designed to work beneath that threshold.

'beneath the threshold of detectability'In terms of what you are talking about in Trevor Paglen’s work, and the Northrop Tacit Blue, those technologies were designed to exist beneath, or parallel to, optic thresholds, but now those thresholds are not optic as much as they are about digital standards and resolution densities. So that shares the same space as the codecs and file formats you are interested in. Your patch seems to bring that together, the analogue pixel calibration that Steyerl refers to is also part of that history. So I wonder whether there are images that cannot possibly be resolved out of DCT blocks. You know what I mean? I think your work asks that question. What images, shapes, and objects exist that are not possible to construct out of this grid? What realities are outside of the threshold of these blocks to resolve? It may even be the case that we are not capable of imagining such things, because of course these blocks have been formed in conjunction with the human visual system. The image is always already a compromise between the human perceptual limit and a separately defined technical limit.

RM: Yes, well I can imagine vector graphics, or mesh based graphics where the lines are not just a connection between two points, but also a value could be what you are after. But I am not sure.

At some point I thought that people entering the iRD could pay a couple of dollars for one of these patches, but if they don’t put the money down, then they would be obliged to go into the exhibition wearing earplugs.

DR: [Laughs] So they’d be allowed in, but they’d have one of their senses dampened?

RM: Yes, wearing earmuffs, or weird glasses or something like that. [Laughs]

DR: Glasses with really fine scan lines on them that conflict with TV images or whatever.

RM: [Laughs] And I was thinking, well, there should be a divide between people. To realise that what you see is just one threshold that has been lifted to only a few. There are always thresholds, you know.

DR: Ways to invite the audience into the spaces and thresholds that are beneath the zones of resolutional detectability?

RM: Or maybe just to show the mechanics behind objects and thresholds.

DR: Absolutely. So to go back to your Tacit:Blue video, in regards the font, I like the aesthetic, but I wonder whether you could play with that zone of detectability a little more.

You could have the video display at a frequency that is hard for people to concentrate on, for instance, and then put the cryptographic message at a different frequency. Having zones that do not match up, so that different elements of the work cut through different disputed spaces. Much harder to detect. And more subliminal, because video adheres to other sets of standards and processes beyond scan lines, the conflict between those standards opens up another space of possibilities.

Takesi Murata, Untitled (Pink Dot) 2007It makes me think about Takeshi Murata’s Untitled (Pink Dot). I love that work because it uses datamoshing to question more about video codecs than just I and P frames. That’s what sets this work apart, for me, from other datamoshed works. He also plays with layers, and post production in the way the pink dot is realised. As it unfolds you see the pink dot as a layer behind the Rambo footage, and then it gets datamoshed into the footage, and then it is a layer in front of it, and then the datamosh tears into it and the dot become part of the Rambo miasma, and then the dot comes back as a surface again. So all the time he is playing with the layering of the piece, and the framing is not just about one moment to the next, but it also it exposes something about Murata’s super slick production process. He must have datamoshed parts of the video, and then post-produced the dot onto the surface of that, and then exported that and datamoshed that, and then fed it back into the studio again to add more layers. So it is not one video being datamoshed, but a practice unfolding, and the pink dot remains a kind of standard that runs through the whole piece, resonating in the soundtrack, and pushing to all elements of the image. The work is spatialised and temporalised in a really interesting way, because of how Murata uses datamoshing and postproduction to question frames, and layers, by ‘glitching’ between those formal elements. And as a viewer of Pink Dot, your perception is founded by those slips between the spatial surface and the temporal layers.

RM: Yeah, wow. I never looked at that work in terms of layers of editing. The vectors of these blocks that smear over the video, the movement of those macroblocks, which is what this video technologically is about, is also about time and editing. So Murata effectively emulates that datamosh technique back into the editing of the work before and after the actual datamosh. That is genius!

DR: If it wasn’t for Pink Dot I probably wouldn’t sit here with you now. It’s such an important work for me and my thinking.

Working with Morehshin Allahyari on The 3D Additivist Manifesto has brought a lot of these processes into play for me. The compressed labour behind a work can often get lost, because a final digital video is just a surface, just a set of I and P frames. The way Murata uses datamoshing calls that into play. It brings back some of the temporal depth.

Additivism is also about calling those processes and conflicts to account, in the move between digital and material forms. Oil is a compressed form of time, and that time and matter is extruded into plastic, and that plastic has other modes of labour compressed into it, and the layers of time and space are built on top of one another constantly – like the layers of a 3D print. When we rendered our Manifesto video we did it on computers plugged into aging electricity infrastructures that run on burnt coal and oil. Burning off one form of physical compressed time to compress another set of times and labours into a ‘digital work’.

RM: But you can feel that there is more to that video than its surface!

If I remember correctly you and Morehshin wrote an open invitation to digital artists to send in their left over 3D objects. So every object in that dark gooey ocean in The 3D Additivist Manifesto actually represents a piece of artistic digital garbage. It’s like a digital emulation of the North Pacific Gyre, which you also talked about in your lecture at Goldsmiths, but then solely consisting of Ready-Made art trash.

The actual scale and form of the Gyre is hard to catch, it seems to be unimaginable even to the people devoting their research to it; it’s beyond resolution. Which is why it is still such an under acknowledged topic. We don’t really want to know what the Gyre looks or feels like; it’s just like the clutter inside my desktop folder inside my desktop folder, inside the desktop folder. It represents an amalgamation of histories that moved further away from us over time and we don’t necessarily like to revisit, or realise that we are responsible for. I think The 3D Additivist Manifesto captures that resemblance between the way we handle our digital detritus and our physical garbage in a wonderfully grimm manner.

DR: I’m glad you sense the grimness of that image. And yes, as well as sourcing objects from friends and collaborators we also scraped a lot from online 3D object repositories. So the gyre is full of Ready-Mades divorced from their conditions of creation, use, or meaning. Like any discarded plastic bottle floating out in the middle of the pacific ocean.

Eventually Additivist technologies could interface all aspects of material reality, from nanoparticles, to proprietary components, all the way through to DNA, bespoke drugs, and forms of life somewhere between the biological and the synthetic. We hope that our call to submit to The 3D Additivist Cookbook will provoke what you term ‘disputes’. Objects, software, texts and blueprints that gesture to the possibility of new political and ontological realities. It sounds far-fetched, but we need that kind of thinking.

Alternate possibilities often get lost in a particular moment of resolution. A single moment of reception. But your exhibition points to the things beyond our recognition. Or perhaps more importantly, it points to the things we have refused to recognise. So, from inside the iRD technical ‘literacy’ might be considered as a limit, not a strength.

RM: Often the densities of the works we create, in terms of concept, but also collage, technology and source materials move quite far away or even beyond a fold. I suppose that’s why we make our work pretty. To draw in the people that are not technically literate or have no back knowledge. And then perhaps later they wonder about the technical aspects and the meaning behind the composition of the work and want to learn more. To me, the process of creating, but also seeing an interesting digital art work often feels like swimming inside an abyss of increments.

DR: What is that?

RM: I made that up. An abyss is something that goes on and on and on. Modern lines used to go on, postmodern lines are broken up as they go on. Thats how I feel we work on our computers, its a metaphor for scanlines.

non-euclidean spaceDR: In euclidean space two parallel lines will go on forever and not meet. But on the surface of a globe, and other, non-euclidean spaces, those lines can be made to converge or diverge. *

RM: I have been trying to read up on my euclidean geometry.

DR: And I am thinking now about Flatland again, A Romance in Many Dimensions.

RM: Yeah, it’s funny that in the end, it is all about Flatland. That’s where this all started, so thats where it has to end; Flatland seems like an eternal ouroboros inside of digital art.

DR: It makes me think too about holographic theory. You can encode on a 2D surface the information necessary to construct a 3D image. And there are theories that suggest that a black hole has holographic properties. The event horizon of a black hole can be thought of as a flat surface, and contains all the information necessary to construct the black hole. And because a black hole is a singularity, and the universe can be considered as a singularity too – in time and space – some theories suggest that the universe is a hologram encoded on its outer surface. So the future state of the universe encodes all the prior states. Or something like that.

RM: I once went to a lecture by Raphael Bousso, a professor at Department of Physics, UC Berkeley. He was talking about black holes, it was super intense. I was sitting on the end of my seat and nearly felt like I was riding a dark star right towards my own event horizon.

DR: [laughs] Absolutely. I suppose I came to understand art and theory through things I knew before, which is pop science and science fiction. I tend to read everything through those things. Those are my starting points. But yes, holograms are super interesting.

RM: I want to be careful not to go into the wunderkammer, because if there are too many things, then each one of them turns into a fetish object; a gimmick.

Holographic StorageDR: There was a lot of talk a few years ago about holographic storage, because basically all our storage – CDs, DVDs, hard drive platters, SSD drives – are 2D. All the information spinning on your screen right now, all those rich polygons or whatever, it all begins from data stored on a two dimensional surface. But you could have a holographic storage medium with three dimensions. They have built these things in the laboratory. There goes my pop science knowledge again.

RM: When I was at Transmediale last year, the Internet Yami-ichi (Internet Black Market) was on. There I sold some custom videos for self cracked LCD screens.

DR: Broken on purpose?

RM: Yes, and you’d be allowed to touch it so the screen would go multidimensional. Liquid crystals are such a beautiful technology.

DR: Yes. And they are a 3D image medium. But they don’t get used much anymore, right? LEDS are the main image format.

LCDRM: People miss LCDS! I saw a beautiful recorded talk from the Torque eventEsther Leslie talking about Walter Benjamin who writes about snow flakes resembling white noise. Liquid crystals and flatness and flatland.

I want to thank you Dan, just to talk through this stuff has been really helpful. You have no idea. Thank you so much!

DR: Putting ideas in words is always helpful.

RM: I never do that, in preparation, to talk about things I am still working on, semi-completed. It’s scary to open up the book of possibilities. When you say things out loud you somehow commit to them. Like, Trevor Paglen, Jon Satrom are huge inspirations, I would like to make work inspired by them, that is a scary thing to say out loud.

DR: That’s good. We don’t work in a vacuum. Trevor Paglen’s stuff is often about photography as a mode of non-resolved vision. I think that does fit with your work here, but you have the understanding and wherewithal to transform these concerns into work about the digital media. Maybe you need to build a tiny model of the gallery and create it all in miniature.

RM: That’s what Alma Alloro said!

DR: I think it would be really helpful. You don’t have to do it in meatspace. You could render a version of the gallery space with software.

RM: Haha great idea, but that would take too much time. iRD needs to open to the public in 3 weeks!

* DR originally stated here that a globe was a euclidean space. This was corrected, with thanks to Matthew Austin.

Drones: Eyes From A Distance. An interview with Dave Young

Introduction

These days, drones are everywhere: conducting military strikes across Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Afghanistan; as the underpinning technology for public health infrastructure; for sale to delighted kids in Hamleys toyshop; or as D.I.Y kits and readymades from the Internet. Amazon has proposed to sell fleets of drones, offering super-fast deliveries to its customers.[1] In Haiti, Bhutan, Papua New Guinea and the Philippines, drones have helped rescue natural disaster victims – and transport medical samples and supplies[2] and the Aerial Robotics Laboratory at Imperial College London is  developing networks of drones to deliver blood supplies to rural health clinics in Africa[3]. The new ubiquity of drones in these contexts means that we need to think carefully about the personal and political impacts of the emerging drone culture?

Drones: Eyes From A Distance will be the first gathering in Berlin- April 17-18 2015 – of the Disruption Network Lab. This two day symposium presents keynote presentations, panels, round tables, and a film screening held in cooperation with Kunstraum Kreuzberg /Bethanien, with the support of the Free Chelsea Manning Initiative. The event is being held at the Sudio 1 of Kunstquartier Bethanien. And this conference would not be happening if it wasn’t for the tireless dedication of Tatiana Bazzichelli, founder of the Disruption Lab.

As part of Furtherfield’s partnership with the Disruption Network Lab I will chair a panel with Tonje Hessen Schei (filmmaker, NO), Jack Serle (investigative journalist, UK), Dave Young (artist, musician and researcher, IE).This interview with Dave Young is the first of three, in the lead up to the Berlin event.

The Interview: Dave Young

Dave Young is an artist and researcher based in Edinburgh. His practice follows critical research into digital culture, manifested through workshops, website development, and talks on subjects varying from cybernetics and the Cold War history of network technologies, to issues around copyright and open source/free culture. He is founder of Localhost, a forum for discussing, dismantling and disrupting network technologies. Past events have focused on Google’s entry into media art curation, and the role of analogue radio as a potential commons in the digital age.

Marc Garrett: Hello Dave, I first met you in London when you hosted the Movable Borders: The Reposition Matrix Workshop’s at Furtherfield Gallery in 2013 as part of a larger exhibition called Movable Borders: Here Come the Drones! I remember it well, because the exhibition and your workshops were very well attended and a cross section of the local community came along and got involved. Could you tell us what your workshops consisted of and why you did them?

Dave Young:  The workshop series came out of my own research into the history of cybernetics and networked military technologies while I was studying at the Piet Zwart Institute in Rotterdam. The US Military’s use of drones in the War on Terror had been officially acknowledged by the Obama administration by this time, and I was becoming increasingly curious about the apparent division of labour and accountability involved in the so-called ‘kill chain’ – that is, the structure and protocols that lead from identification of a potential target to a ‘kinetic strike’. As the use of drones was still largely a covert effort, there was much speculation in the media about where and how they were being used, so the idea of exploring these issues in a workshop format seemed to be a good way to create a public space for considered discussion and debate.

The workshops had quite an open format, with outcomes largely dependent on the interests and knowledge of the participants. The central task of each workshop was to collectively research a particular aspect of the military use of drones, and through the process of charting this research on a world map, we could then begin to discuss various geopolitical patterns and trends as they emerged. Rooting the workshop in this act of collaborative mapping provided an interface for discussing drones in specific terms, and helped situate their use within the reality of an incredibly complex historical and geopolitical narrative. To me, this provided a useful alternative to the mainstream media reporting styles that seemed to often rely on the same metaphors and controversies in the absence of real information coming through official sources.

MG: What are the specific concerns you have regarding the development of drones and how do you think these conditions can be changed for the better?

DY: This is a question I was more sure of before I started the workshop series – I feel the more I’ve gained an understanding of the way they’re used, the less sure I am of what needs to change. I see the drone as a symbol for the way conflict is understood post 9-11. It is part of the language, aesthetics, and transnational politics of the War on Terror. What is most concerning to me is the idea that the drone allows a state to fight a war while apparently sidestepping the otherwise necessary apparatuses of legality and oversight. As a covert weapon, it can be implemented in exceptional, extra-judicial ways that have not been legislated for as yet. The “targeted strike” and “signature strike”, while distinct from each other in protocol and circumstance, are particularly problematic – the former amounts to what many journalists describe as an assassination, although this word is rejected by the US government.

The CIA Torture Report released at the end of last year was an important acknowledgement of institutional subversions of legal and moral codes. I’d expect that a similar report into the use and effects of military drones would create space for an informed public debate about how they might be used in the future.

MG: Regarding you own relation and interests around drone and military culture, what are your plans in the near future?

DY: The outcomes of The Reposition Matrix have led me to approach this issue in a different way, looking for alternative ways of instigating conversations around this difficult subject. I’m still quite occupied with issues around the collection and presentation of data – during the workshops we covered a lot of diverse subjects, but always situating research outcomes on the surface of a world map. The question for me right now is what information is important to work with, and how can it be usefully represented? I’m looking at alternative methods of “mapping”, perhaps based in mapping technologies/software but using them in more disruptive non-geographic ways. I’ve been quite inspired by Metahaven’s ‘Sunshine Unfinished’ and the recently published book ‘Cartographies of the Absolute’ – both works have brought me back to some possibilities that went unexplored in the initial run of workshops back in 2013.

MG: What other projects are you involved in?

DY: Aside from this research, I’m currently collaborating on a project titled “Cursor” with Jake Watts and Kirsty Hendry as part of New Media Scotland’s Alt-W fund. We’re investigating current trends in fitness tracking technologies, and attempting to uncover and critique the way such intimate personal data is produced, distributed, and commodified. You can follow our research as it evolves on http://cursorware.me

I’m also running a space here in Edinburgh called Localhost, with the aim of stimulating discussions around the political aspects of digital art/culture. I run regular workshops and more occasionally special events, but I’m also very happy to provide a platform for others who wish to share their thoughts & skills on related subjects. Check http://l-o-c-a-l-h-o-s-t.com/ for more information and how to get involved.

Thank you very much 🙂

References and notes…

[1] The Takeaway. Blocked in the US, Amazon drones go north of the border. By Arwa Gunja and T.J. Raphael. April 01, 2015.

[2] http://www.pri.org/stories/2015-04-01/blocked-us-amazon-drones-go-north-border

[3] Drones’ new mission: saving lives in developing countries. Tim Smedley. Guardian. 9 January 2015.

[4] I did an excellent and informative interview with Tatiana Bazzichelli last year titled, ‘We Need to Talk About Networked Disruption and Business: An interview with Tatiana Bazzichelli’ – it’s worth a read.
http://bit.ly/1CxQlRb

Interview With Domenico Quaranta

Daniel Rourke: At Furtherfield on November 22nd 2014 you launched a Beta version of a networked project, 6PM Your Local Time, in collaboration with Fabio Paris, Abandon Normal Devices and Gummy Industries. #6PMYLT uses twitter hashtags as a nexus for distributed art happenings. Could you tell us more about the impetus behind the project?

Domenico Quaranta: In September 2012, the Link Art Center launched the Link Point in Brescia: a small project space where, for almost two years, we presented installation projects by local and international artists. The Link Point was, since the beginning, a “dual site”: a space where to invite our local audience, but also a set for photographic documentation meant to be distributed online to a global audience. Fabio Paris’ long experience with his commercial gallery – that used the same space for more than 10 years, persuaded us that this was what we had to offer to the artists invited. So, the space was reduced to a small cube, white from floor to ceiling, with neon lights and a big logo (a kind of analogue watermark) on the back door.

Thinking about this project, and the strong presence of the Link Point logo in all the documentation, we realized that the Link Point was actually not bound to that space: as an abstract, highly formalized space, it could actually be everywhere. Take a white cube and place the Link Point logo in it, and that’s the Link Point.

This realization brought us, on the one hand, to close the space in Brescia and to turn the Link Point into a nomad, erratic project, that can resurrect from time to time in other places; and, on the other hand, to conceive 6PM Your Local Time. The idea was simple: if exhibition spaces are all more or less similar; if online documentation has become so important to communicate art events to a wider audience, and if people started perceiving it as not different from primary experience, why not set up an exhibition that takes place in different locations, kept together only by documentation and by the use of the same logo? All the rest came right after, as a natural development from this starting point (and as an adaptation of this idea to reality).

Of course, this is a statement as well as a provocation: watching the documentation of the UK Beta Test you can easily realize that exhibition spaces are NOT more or less the same; that attending or participating in an event is different from watching pictures on a screen; that some artworks work well in pictures but many need to be experiences. We want to stress the value of networking and of giving prominence to your network rather than to your individual identity; but if the project would work as a reminder that reality is still different from media representation, it would be successful anyway.

Daniel Rourke: There is something of Hakim Bey’s Temporary Autonomous Zones in your proposal. The idea that geographic, economic and/or political boundaries need no longer define the limits of social collective action. We can criticise Bey’s 1991 text now, because in retrospect the Internet and its constitutive protocols have themselves become a breeding ground for corporate and political concerns, even as technology has allowed ever more distributed methods of connectivity. You foreground network identity over individual identity in the 6PM YLT vision, yet the distinction between the individuals that create a network and the corporate hierarchies that make that networking possible are less clear. I am of course gesturing towards the use of Twitter as the principal platform of the project, a question that Ruth Catlow brought up at the launch. Do you still believe that TAZs are possible in our hyper-connected, hyper-corporate world?

Domenico Quaranta: In its first, raw conceptualization, 6PM YLT had to come with its own smartphone app, that had to be used both to participate in the project and to access the gallery. The decision to aggregate content published on different social platforms came from the realization that people already had the production and distribution tools required to participate in the action, and were already familiar with some gestures: take a photo, apply a filter, add an hashtag, etc. Of course, we could invite participants and audiences to use some specific, open source social network of our choice, but we prefer to tell them: just use the fucking platform of your choice. We want to facilitate and expand participation, not to reduce it; and we are not interested in adding another layer to the project. 6PM YLT is not a TAZ, it’s just a social game that wants to raise some awareness about the importance of documentation, the power of networks, the public availability of what we do with our phones. And it’s a parasitic tool that, as anything else happening online, implies an entire set of corporate frameworks in order to exist: social networks, browsers, operative systems, internet providers, server farms etc.

That said, yes, I think TAZs are still possible. The model of TAZ has been designed for an hyper-connected, hyper-corporate world; they are temporary and nomadic; they exist in interstices for a short time. But I agree that believing in them is mostly an act of faith.

Daniel Rourke: The beta-tested, final iteration of 6pm YLT will be launched in the summer of 2015. How will you be rolling out the project in the forthcoming months? How can people get involved?

Domenico Quaranta: 6PM Your Local Time has been conceived as an opportunity, for the organizing subject, to bring to visibility its network of relationships and to improve it. It’s not an exhibition with a topic, but a social network turned visible. To put it simply: our identity is defined not just by what we do, but also by the people we hang out with. After organizing 6PM Your Local Time Europe, the Link Art Center would like to take a step back and to offer the platform to other organizing subjects, to allow them to show off their network as well.

So, what we are doing now is preparing a long list of institutions, galleries and artists we made love with in the past or we’d like to make love with in the future, and inviting them to participate in the project. We won’t launch an open call, but we already made the event public saying that if anyone is interested to participate, they are allowed to submit a proposal. We won’t accept anybody, but we would be happy to get in touch with people we didn’t know.

After finalizing the list of participants, we will work on all the organizational stuff, basically informing them about the basic rules of the game, gathering information about the events, answering questions, etc.

On the other hand, we have of course to work on the presentation. While every participant presents an event of her choice, the organizer of a 6PM Your Local Time event has to present to its local audience the platform event, as an ongoing installation / performance. We are from Brescia, Italy, and that’s where we will make our presentation. We made an agreement with MusicalZOO, a local festival of art and electronic music, in order to co-produce the presentation and have access to their audience. This is what determined the date of the event in the first place. Since the festival takes place outdoor during the summer, we are working with them on designing a temporary office where we can coordinate the event, stay in touch with the participants, discuss with the audience, and a video installation in which the live stream of pics and videos will be displayed. Since we are expecting participants from Portugal to the Russian Federation, the event will start around 5 PM, and will follow the various opening events up to late night.

One potential reference for this kind of presentation may be those (amazing) telecommunication projects that took place in the Eighties: Robert Adrian’s The World in 24 Hours, organized at Ars Electronica in 1982; the Planetary Network set up in 1986 at the Venice Biennale; and even Nam June Paik’s satellite communication project Good Morning Mr Orwell (1984). 


Left to Right – Enrico Boccioletti, Kim Asendorf, Ryder Ripps, Kristal South, Evan Roth

Daniel Rourke: Your exhibition Unoriginal Genius, featuring the work of 17 leading net and new media artists, was the last project to be hosted in the Carroll/Fletcher Project Space (closing November 22nd, 2014). Could you tell us more about the role you consider ‘genius’ plays in framing contemporary art practice?

Domenico Quaranta: The idea of genius still plays an important role in Western culture, and not just in the field of art. Whether we are talking about the Macintosh, Infinite Jest, a space trip or Nymphomaniac, we are always celebrating an individual genius, even if we perfectly know that there is a team and a concerted action behind each of these things. Every art world is grounded in the idea that there are gifted people who, provided specific conditions, can produce special things that are potentially relevant for anybody. This is not a problem in itself – what’s problematic are some corollaries to our traditional idea of genius – namely “originality” and “intellectual property”. The first claims that a good work of creation is new and doesn’t depend on previous work by others; the second claims that an original work belongs to the author.

In my opinion, creation never worked this way, and I’m totally unoriginal in saying this: hundreds of people, before and along to me, say that creating consists in taking chunks of available material and assembling them in ways that, in the best situation, allow us to take a small step forward from what came before. But in the meantime, entire legal systems have been built upon such bad beliefs; and what’s happening now is that, while on the one hand the digitalization of the means of production and dissemination allow us to look at this process with unprecedented clarity; on the other hand these regulations have evolved in such a way that they may eventually slow down or stop the regular evolution of culture, which is based on the exchange of ideas.

We – and creators in particular – have to fight against this situation. But Unoriginal Genius shouldn’t be read in such an activist way. It is just a small attempt to show how the process of creation works today, in the shared environment of a networked computer, and to bring this in front of a gallery audience.


Left to Right – Kim Asendorf, Ryder Ripps, Kristal South, Evan Roth

Daniel Rourke: So much online material ‘created’ today is free-flowing and impossible to trace back to an original author, yet the tendency to attribute images, ideas or ‘works’ to an individual still persists – as it does in Unoriginal Genius. I wonder whether you consider some of the works in the show as more liberated from authorial constraints than others? That is, what are the works that appear to make themselves; floating and mutating regardless of particular human (artist) intentions?

Domenico Quaranta: Probably Museum of the Internet is the one that fits best to your description. Everybody can contribute anonymously to it by just dropping images on the webpage; the authors’ names are not available on the website, and there’s no link to their homepage. It’s so simple, so necessary and so pure that one may think that it always existed out there in some way or another. And in a way it did, because the history of the internet is full of projects that invite people to do more or less the same.


Left to Right – Brout & Marion, Gervais & Magal, Sara Ludy

Daniel Rourke: 2014 was an exciting year for the recognition of digital art cultures, with the appointment of Dragan Espenschied as lead Digital Conservator at Rhizome, the second Paddles On! auction of digital works in London, with names like Hito Steyerl and Ryan Trecartin moving up ArtReview’s power list, and projects like Kenneth Goldsmith’s ‘Printing out the Internet’ highlighting the increasing ubiquity – and therefore arguable fragility – of web-based cultural aggregation. I wondered what you were looking forward to in 2015 – apart from 6PM YLT of course. Where would you like to see the digital/net/new media arts 12 months from now?

Domenico Quaranta: On the moon, of course!

Out of joke: I agree that 2014 has been a good year for the media arts community, as part of a general positive trend along the last few years. Other highlighs may include, in various order: the September 2013 issue of Artforum, on “Art and Media”, and the discussion sparked by Claire Bishop’s essay; Cory Arcangel discovering and restoring lost Andy Warhol’s digital files from floppy disks; Ben Fino-Radin becoming digital conservator at MoMA, New York; JODI winning the Prix Net Art; the Barbican doing a show on the Digital Revolution with Google. Memes like post internet, post digital and the New Aesthetic had negative side effects, but they helped establishing digital culture in the mainstream contemporary art discourse, and bringing to prominence some artists formerly known as net artists. In 2015, the New Museum Triennial will be curated by Lauren Cornell and Ryan Trecartin, and DIS has been announced to be curator of the 9th Berlin Biennial in 2016.

All this looks promising, but one thing that I learned from the past is to be careful with optimistic judgements. The XXI century started with a show called 010101. Art in Technological Times, organized by SFMoMA. The same year, net art entered the Venice Biennale, the Whitney organized Bitstreams and Data Dynamics, the Tate Art and Money Online. Later on, the internet was announced dead, and it took years for the media art community to get some prominence in the art discourse again. The situation now is very different, a lot has been done at all levels (art market, institutions, criticism), and the interest in digital culture and technologies is not (only) the result of the hype and of big money flushed by corporations unto museums. But still, where we really are? The first Paddles On! Auction belongs to history because it helped selling the first website ever on auction; the second one mainly sold digital and analogue paintings. Digital Revolution was welcomed by sentences like: “No one could fault the advances in technology on display, but the art that has emerged out of that technology? Well, on this showing, too much of it seems gimmicky, weak and overly concerned with spectacle rather than meaning, or making a comment on our culture.” (The Telegraph) The upcoming New Museum Triennial will include artists like Ed Atkins, Aleksandra Domanovic, Oliver Laric, K-HOLE, Steve Roggenbuck, but Lauren and Ryan did their best to avoid partisanship. There’s no criticism in this statement, actually I would have done exactly the same, and I’m sure it will be an amazing show that I can’t wait to see. Just, we don’t have to expect too much from this show in terms of “digital art recognition”. So, to put it short: I’m sure digital art and culture is slowly changing the arts, and that this revolution will be dramatic; but it won’t take place in 2015 🙂


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Cyberformance in the Third Space: A Conversation with Helen Varley Jamieson

“Overlapping and fluid spaces… spaces emerging between physical realities and the ethereal digital / electric space: a third space grafted from the real-time confluence of the stage + remote locations.” – Helen Varley Jamieson

Cyberformance artist Helen Varley Jamieson is creating a new Internet performance work, “we r now[here]”* for the Art of the Networked Practice | Online Symposium (March 31 – April 2). The title and description of the work poetically articulate her thinking on networked space (third space) as a medium for online theatrical experimentation: “‘we r now[here]’ is about nowhere and somewhere: the ‘nowhere’ of the Internet becomes ‘now’ and ‘here’ through our virtual presence.” (* Special thanks to Annie Abrahams who provided the title for the work: “we r now[here],” and to Curt Cloninger who inspired it.)

To set the “stage” for this new work, we discuss Helen’s pioneering achievements in the genre she has coined as cyberformance: the combination of cybernetics and cyberspace with performance. Helen has created a rich body of online theater work dating back to 1999, when dial-up modems were still the operable connection, long before Skype and Google Hangout became popular Web-conferencing tools. As one of the founders of UpStage, an open source platform for online theatrical presentation, Helen is a leading catalyst, researcher, director, and maker who for years has been reimagining the Internet as a global space for theater and performance.

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Randall Packer: You coined the term cyberformance in the early 2000s after discovering the potential of the Internet as a medium for live performance. What were your first steps in rethinking live theater for ethereal, networked “third space?”

Helen Varley Jamieson: When I first started working with Desktop Theatre and experienced the intense liveness of our interactions despite being physically separated by thousands of miles, I understood that it was possible to feel a quite visceral sense of presence and real-time connection via the internet. We were improvising and performing in The Palace, a graphic-sonic chat application, and our audiences were mostly other “Palatians” – who weren’t always particularly interested in what we were doing. I began to think about how we could bring this work to a theatre audience, people who wanted to see a performance. The first time I tried this was at Odin Teatret in Denmark at a Magdalena Project festival, with a short performance that aimed to demonstrate the possibilities of cyberformance. Adriene Jenik and Lisa Brenneis from Desktop Theatre were performing with me from California, in The Palace which was projected onto a screen. I was using someone’s mobile phone for the internet connection as this was 2001 and there wasn’t internet throughout the building at that time. Afterwards, a heated debate erupted amongst the audience (who were theatre practitioners) about whether or not this could be called theatre. This experience challenged me to question whether or not cyberformance was “theatre” (which of course required first answering the question, what is “theatre”?): how is technology changing our definitions of “theatre”? and what place does cyberformance have within theatre?


Online meeting preparing for the CyPosium – organisers discussing facilitation and moderation (2012). From left to right: Annie Abrahams, Helen Varley Jamieson, Suzon Fuks and Christina Papagiannouli

RP: You define cyberformance as “utilizing Internet technologies to bring remote performers together in real-time for remote and or proximal audiences.” How does the distributed nature of cyberformance differ from live, traditional theater that situates actors and audience in a single, physical location?

HVJ: Obviously there are many interactions that are not possible, and the entire context is different: instead of sitting together in a darkened auditorium, hearing the rustles and breathing of your fellow audience members and smelling whatever smells, you are (usually but not always) alone in front of a computer. There are time and seasonal differences, as well as cultural and linguistic, for individual audience members. There might be a knock at the door or a phone call or other outside events that intrude on someone’s experience while online. So there is much more variety in how the performance is received than there is in a proximal situation. To give one example, during the 101010 UpStage Festival, one performer and some audience were located at a museum in Belgrade; it was the same day as the gay pride march there, which was disrupted by rioting anti-pride protestors, and the museum staff had to lock the doors to keep everyone safe – cars were burning in the street outside. Inside the locked museum, the performer kept going and the festival continued with the riot raging outside, and those of us online were getting updates about the situation from those in the museum.

There is also a different kind of relationship between audience and performers, at least in performances using platforms such as UpStage, where the audience have the possibility to chat with each other and with the artists. There is a level of familiarity and equality, as opposed to the separation of the 4th wall in traditional theatre. Different codes of behaviour apply – for instance it can happen that the online audience might start chatting about something unrelated to the performance, which then becomes a part of the performance; people seated in a theatre auditorium wouldn’t normally strike up a general conversation, audible to all, in the middle of a play. The response from the audience to the performance is in some ways more direct – they can comment in the chat and will often be very honest in their comments; and in other ways more distant – a standing ovation has to be typed into the chat, which is less of a loud emotional outpouring.


Dan Untitled streaming a DJ set from Wellington, New Zealand (top left) for the After Party of the 121212 UpStage Festival of Cyberformance (December 2012)

RP: I find it ironic that you named your performance group “Avatar Body Collision,” which seems to complicate the idea of net space as a virtual medium for disembodiment. How do you see “avatar bodies” colliding on the Internet?

HVJ: I don’t think of virtual space as being disembodied. We are still in our bodies, we are using our bodies to create the performance – primarily our hands and fingers (digits – we say “break a digit” before our shows instead of “break a leg”). The collision in the name is not about bodies colliding with bodies, but avatars colliding with bodies. Where does my body end and my avatar begin, and vice versa? And how do other bodies, e.g. the audience, respond to my avatar? The collision is one of flesh and technology, sweat and pixels.


“Dress The Nation” by Avatar Body Collision, 2003,
The Palace (response to the USA invasion of Iraq)

RP: Online, the audience or “cyberformience” plays a participatory role in the event, like the early Happenings from the 1960s. How does this non-hierarchical approach to theater impact the works you have created for the medium: how do you incorporate the audience into the work?

HVJ: It varies from show to show; some are designed for the audience to watch and respond, while others aim to actively involve the audience (cyberformience) to the point of co-authoring. One example at the first end of the continuum is “a gesture through the flames“, which was a webcam performance I created in 2008 for Annie Abrahams‘ “Breaking Solitude” series. I used a Victorian toy theatre and a soundscape to tell a story, and the online audience improvised a narrative in the chat. I didn’t interact with them during the performance (I was too busy to type) and it was fascinating to see how they read what I was doing. At the other end of the spectrum are works like “make-shift” or the series “We have a situation!” which can’t happen without the active participation of the audience. In “make-shift” (2010-12, with Paula Crutchlow), the audience were involved in writing texts, operating the webcam, answering quiz questions, building kites from recycled plastic, and ultimately performing on webcam. The event was structured so that they were “warmed-up” for their participation, and because we were located in someone’s home there was a very informal and comfortable atmosphere which made it possible for people to do these things.

RP: You are currently creating a new work entitled “we r now[here]” for the Art of the Networked Practice | Online Symposium. The title can be read as no(where) or now(here). Tell us about your concept of Internet space and time.

HVJ: Space and time in the online world are very fluid for me. I frequently work with people in different time zones, and travel physically between time zones myself as well, so I’m often calculating time differences and negotiating meeting times around all of this. In some ways time is irrelevant. In other ways, it’s highly significant – for example, precise timing is very difficult to achieve. Lag is unpredictable, sometimes it can disrupt a carefully planned sequence but at other times it can make something unexpectedly brilliant.


Helen Varley Jamieson performing “make-shift,” Brisbane, 2012; photo by Suzon Fuks

RP: A recent work, “make-shift,” unites domestic environments via the Internet in live, free-form conversation between online and onsite participants. How do you achieve a sense of intimacy and play in the online social space of the work despite geographical separation?

HVJ: I think of cyberspace as a space; apart from all the common spatial metaphors that are applied to it, when I’m working or communicating with people online in real-time it feels to me that we create a space through our shared presence, words, and whatever else we are using. It’s a space that extends into and absorbs a little bit of the physical environment of everyone present. “make-shift” did this very explicitly – we asked the audience (online and on site) to describe where they were, and this built a collaborative space or environment that everyone had a shared sense of.

In “make-shift” we created intimate and playful environments in two separate houses. the participants in the houses arrived half an hour before the show began, and during this time we warmed them up with a few activities and explained things about what was going to happen. Usually there was also food and drink, and often the people already knew each other so it was already quite friendly and informal. At the start of the show we began by introducing everyone. Each house called out a greeting to the other house and the online audience (which we’d practiced as part of the warm-up activities), and then we invited the online audience to tell us “what’s it like where you are?” This question was deliberately a bit open-ended, so people could describe their surroundings, the weather, their day, their mood and so on. The online audience are already seated at the keyboard and ready to interact; often they would make jokes, add other comments and respond to each other. We had regular online audience members who knew the format so inserted their own commentary or embellished others’. From this beginning, we continued throughout the piece to give the audience tasks that encouraged their sense of empowerment and ownership within the piece, such as operating the webcam, and we encouraged those in the house to interact in the chat with the online audience. Some people were a bit shy or worried about doing the wrong thing, but they usually got into it fairly quickly and became so involved in the piece that they lost any self-consciousness. In the final scene, the group in each house performed a song to the webcam and created a tableaux vivant of a painting we had referenced throughout the performance, and when we reached this point in the show they were always keen to do this.


Performance of Samuel Becket’s “Come & Go” by Avatar Body Collision,
070707 UpStage Festival (2007)

RP: With the Avatar Body Collision performance group, you have restaged Samuel Becket’s minimalist theater work “Come & Go.” Your approach to cyberformance has always been very free and open, and yet Becket is the opposite: highly structured with precise directions for actors. How do you reconcile these differences?

HVJ: It was a lot of fun to do “Come & Go“; from the outset we accepted that we had a strict set of instructions to follow, and made that our task – to render Beckett’s directions in cyberformance as faithfully as possible. So we didn’t reconcile those differences, rather we saw it as an opportunity to work differently for a change. We worked on small but precise avatar movements, which is harder than you might think, and used simple gestures that very effectively added emotion, such as a turn of the head or holding a hand up to the mouth. We played with the text2speech voices of our avatars: I was Flo, who at one point has the line, “Dreaming of … love”, and we discovered that the “…” created an emotional quaver in the computerised voice when it said “… love”. This was both funny and tender. So having a script and such precise directions meant that we spent time on details like this.

RP: You have produced your own online symposia, the Cyposium, the latest from 2012 culminating in CyPosium the Book, an edition of essays and transcriptions. How has your experimentation with the online symposium format altered your view of what a conference gathering can fulfill given global access via the Internet?

HVJ: The CyPosium was very successful and generated an exciting buzz. I think one reason for this was that everyone was online. When there is a stream from a proximal conference, it’s very easy for people at the physical venue to forget about those online. It takes very thoughtful planning to ensure that the online participants are fully included. So in the CyPosium, everyone was online and therefore equally included. Most people commented quite freely – at times it was quite dizzying to see the chat scrolling up at great speed, there was so much discussion. This made it quite difficult for the moderators to field questions – we had planned as best we could for this and it went pretty well, but there were so many people actively engaged in the discussion that at times we couldn’t keep up. Many people stayed online for most of the 12 hours, and the response was very enthusiastic the whole way through, which made it clear that there is a desire for this kind of event.


From the launch of “CyPosium the Book”, Munich, Dec 2014, Helen Varley Jamieson presenting and Annie Abrahams on webcam; photo by Andrea Ass

RP: In your years of performing and creating online performance, what do you think is missing in the liminal space of the online medium due to distance and non-corporeality? What do you yearn for? What do you still want to accomplish?

HVJ: At an absolutely practical level, I yearn for better funding, for funding opportunities that are not tied to geographical locations, as nearly everything still is. The distributed, non-corporeal and ephemeral nature of this work means that it’s always on the periphery – which in some respects is a wonderful place to be, but it’s usually the least-funded place.

There are many things that I imagine and would like to realise but can’t technically; some of these things may become possible if/when we manage the rebuild of UpStage that we are planning. But often what interests me most is experimenting with the resources I have and discovering what’s possible; what tricks or hacks I can do, what surprises there are when we push a technology in a way it wasn’t intended to be pushed or when we use a tool differently.

What I would still like to accomplish in my work is to further develop the intentions of shows such as “make-shift” and “we have a situation,” where a creative process shared by audience and artists can ultimately effect real change, at the individual level and socially/politically. I’m interested in how cyberformance can facilitate meaningful discussions and encourage people to think about alternatives and make actual changes in their lives. I’m interested in how connections between remote and apparently unrelated people and contexts can open up new possibilities.


“swim – an exercise in remote intimacy,” Avatar Body Collision, at the City of Women Festival, Ljubljana (2003), photo by Nada Zgank


Randall Packer is an artist, composer, educator, and writer. He is currently Visiting Associate Professor in the School of Art, Design & Media at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, and the co-chair of the Art of the Networked Practice | Online Symposium. You can follow him at Reportage from the Aesthetic Edge, his blog critiquing the unfolding media culture.

It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World – Review: Sonic Acts day 1

Trans-gender theorist Jami Weinstein has compared the flocking behaviour of academics and artists around the concept of The Anthropocene, to the adoption by the Hipster of a given locale or fashion appendage. The creative flock, she suggests, can perform a gentrification of concept through uncritical adoption and ‘hyper-consumption’, just as it does of neighbourhoods or workwear. The Anthropocene is indeed the place to be seen, or the guise in which to dress the body of your work, this season. The term is proposed as a way of describing the explicit ‘age’ in which human kind, post-1945 (although possibly since the Industrial Revolution, or stretching right back to the advent of tool use), has come to define the geophysics of the entire earth.


A bearded man built a pavement outside the Paradiso theatre while we waited to be allowed in. He picked cobbles one by one from a large heap, and wedged them into the sand at his knees. He was, we probably all thought, literally building the surface of the Earth, and in doing so reducing it to the status of a man made object.

The Anthropocene, combining geology with sociology through a few slights of hand, therefore collapses the distinction of human and nature which is core to basic understandings of our being in the world. If this wasn’t enough, an immanent vote affirming the accuracy of the term The Anthropocene by the scientific community worldwide has also been touted as a gesture which will provide the rhetorical turning point by which the Western powers will acknowledge, and begin reparations for, the ecological sins of the past, potentially saving the human race from mass extinction. Fertile ground then, for readings, interpretations and responses – but as Weinstein suggests, there is a deeply complex responsibility implied when we approach and engage with something as ontologically vulnerable as a concept.

It is this responsibility Sonic Acts assumes when it takes The Anthropocene as its central theme. The four day music festival and conference takes a collection of essays titled The Geologic Imagination as a gathering point for a strong line-up of some of the most influential men working across philosophy, music and the arts today. I attended the first day of the festival, which included a talks and a round-table by Object Oriented Ontologists maverick Graham Harman and his icemanTim Morton, geologist Mark Williams, and art theorist Douglas Kahn, followed by a performance/installation by Florian Hecker featuring work by Reza Negarestani, and a night-time programme of music by M.E.S.H and TCF, Vessel, and finally, as if from outer space, the sole female agent of the programme, Karen Gwyer.

GENDERED APPEARANCES
I use the term agent, to distinguish from ‘appearance’ or ‘voice’, because there were several female bodily appearances and women’s voices in evidence onstage during the conference and club. The problem was that they were routinely either denied the right to articulate their own words, for example when The Geologic Imagination editor Mirna Belina was reduced to acting as an interlocutor for Lukas Marxt during a poorly thought out artists presentation section; or worse, used as sound/image material to be cut into, destroyed, and literally degraded for surface affect by male artists. Example of this included the snippet Kurt Hentschläger showed of his work Modell5, during an inexplicable tour of his online portfolio – and the violent envelope-ing of Charlotte Rampling’s vocal performance in Hecker’s audaciously dense new materialist sound opera Script for Machine Synthesis. Certainly none of these phenomena may have stood out as malicious in themselves, but in the context of a festival whose line-up consists of 75 men and only 7 women, and whose female curators are entirely absent from the staged elements of the show, a motif in which women’s bodies and voices are a pretty fabric to be torn and disabused begins to gain the qualities of something else entirely. The ‘glitch’ too must take into account its gender dimension.

This unfortunate gender play reached its misogynistic anticlimax during the closing stages of the club event as the trashy, industrial techno of Vessel was backed by a huge split-screen visual (film created by Pedro Maia) of a woman crying in a bathroom, lying in a corridor naked, kissing another woman in a body bag, and finally being pulled limb from limb in an ambiguous mix of sex-scene and analogue-digital disintegration. What does the complicity and collectivism of a rave space do with images/sound combinations like this when they are conducted by men?

Early in his presentation, delivered with Tedtalk panache, Tim Morton used the fact that literary theory reads gender into texts even when they do not ostensibly mention gender, as an analogy for the way OOO recognizes that objects often ‘withdraw’ from us some core aspect of their being. As Morton affirmed, the Anthropocene is itself a “subcendent” object, being ‘much less than the sum of its parts’ – its parts being of a scale and complexity which must necessarily withdraw from us in order that the concept-as-object here can be revealed. This is explicitly not to infer that the concept-as-object can be emptied of its cultural and social identity and worn with Nikes like a naval overcoat, but rather that it requires a subtle and supple mode of thinking which is capable of excavating ‘that which withdraws’. The gender comment then, was prescient – directly illustrating that the curators, Lucas van der Velden and Annette Wolfsberger undermine the moral agenda of their project by failing to consider, or dismissing, the gender dimension. It might have been a calculated risk, that by not paying attention to gender during their deliberations they might elide that concept altogether from the consideration of the festival, but I think that when a risk backfires like this, the result should be called out for what it is – misguided and arrogant. At times, it felt like rather than proposing ways in which we might retreat from rampant, destructive territorialisation of the Earth, the festival projected a future in which the masculine regime of ownership and domination as ruinous could be helpfully extended and repeated onto womanhood as well – with all the faulty binarism and barbarism that implies.

The one audience question of the day, delivered from under a spotlight and with the barely subdued fury which gave him the air of Rasputin. His question, directed at Harman and Morton, I think picked up on some of the air of hypocracy of the event, but concerned the application of OOO specifically, and its relationship to Accelerationism. As my friend put it, “OOO qua Accelerationist gateway drug”. Needless to say, the question was expertly fielded and evaporated almost without trace.

Despite the regularly fascinating philosophical and cross-disciplinary gestures being made across the discourse/music strands, then, Sonic Acts was articulate through the voices it chose to exclude.

CROSS-DISCIPLINARY CONVERSATIONS
Not that the work itself, or the conversations happening across the theoretical and art strands was insubstantial. For example the way in which electronic artist TCF’s sound work performed the ontological flattening of objects as diverse as a helicopter, a computer circuit, and a Euro-house drop reflected brilliantly on the ideas proposed by Harman, Kahn and Morton, and gave a very tangible way of understanding the new materialist connotations of all. Another highlight included the Reza Negarestani double-bill, in which his notion of the incompatibility of given systems and the resulting philosophical imperative for ‘mixed-level reconfiguration’ through analyzing as both ‘that we can perceive’, and ‘that which we know’, for example, was first purposed as philosophical libereto, and then delivered as an almost equally dizzying Skype lecture.

During the deeply cerebral and attention-demanding ‘Script…’ performance, in which the audience were all seated on the floor, someone tall in mirrored sunglasses did a Jameroqui type dance while people filmed him on their mobile phones.


Also during this performance a gentleman-ironist refuted Negarestani’s assertion of the inaccessibility of the pink ice cube by walking to the front, handling it and shrugging before walking out.

In Script for Machine Synthesis, (and previous works, such as Chimerisation) Florian Hecker has found in Negarestani’s philosophy a fantastic foil for his ‘dramatization of auditory synthesis’. Script used the motif (and the ‘occasion’) of a melting pink ice cube to enact a simultaneous synthesis and dematerialisation, bringing audio and scent (a specially commissioned perfume by Editions De Perfumes ‘materialised into a rubber trophy presented to each audience member in a foil envelope which made me think of space rations) into play as operators in the field of deconstructing the object-as-concept.

As an audience member completely new (but predisposed) to Negarestani’s work, following this hour-long performance with a lecture via Skype in which he laid out a the chiasmic twisting across neurological-phenomenological and mathematical-physical poles of experience and knowledge, led to a dizzying sense of having been teleported and improperly put back together.

But, despite of these admirable folds in the art/thought continuum, it was impossible to shift the unnerving sense of hypocracy and lack of critical rigour at play in Sonic Acts programming. To return to the central unspoken chimera: The Anthropocene is gendered. In its simple form, it refers to a catastrophic situation resulting from the actions of a patriarchal Western society, and the effects of masculine dominance and aggression on a global scale. This was this subject in withdrawal which dominated my experience – meaning that a curatorial oversight not to include women, presumably in order to include more ‘famous’ names from these male-dominated spheres, was allowed to resonate and mutate into an experience of pervasive, almost hedonistic, misogyny I experienced during the Vessel performance.

The notoriously affluent European festival circuit benefits from a dense network of national and EU funding schemes, coupled with the neoliberal ease of intra-continental transport, cheap flights etc., and leverages this in an arms-race of fees for a mostly-male mostly-white cohort of mostly-electronic music artists. This context, plus that of the ‘lavishly illustrated’ book of essays which sets the scene for this year’s Sonic Acts, and the mode of staging in which the expert-community of the audience was silenced from contributing, in favour of a series of pronouncements from master-rhetoriticians, seems to me in direct opposition to the kind of ‘challenge to the status quo’ and subsquent reversal of the Earth’s fortunes which was frequently advocated for. The blurb for The Geologic Imagination does in retrospect seem to revel in the kind an uncritical adoption of concept Weinstein critiques, making of ecological disaster mere concept for further consumption:

“This new publication by Sonic Acts is inspired by geosciences and zooms in on planet Earth. Fundamental to The Geologic Imagination is the idea that we live in a new geological epoch, the Anthropocene. (!) Human activity has irreversibly changed the composition of the atmosphere, the oceans, and even the Earth’s crust. (!) Humanity has become a geological force. (Huzzah!)” [Exclamations mine.]

Image: DJB

Finally, Karen Gwyer’s techno set – devoid from any descernable link with the festival themes, and so in a way also silenced somehow. But nonetheless, experienced like finally being able to breathe. The bass subdued among a mesh of pulsating synth and crystalline threads. Tim Morton’s frenetic big-box-little-box dance moves notable in the throng, somehow saying something indiscernible but very real, about the opportunities missed by this most-preeminent of European festivals. As Gwyer herself notes, in an interview not at all about the Anthropocene: “those forces have testicles.”

@nathmercy 

[imgs Jon Davies]

Tapestries? – Patrick Lichty Interviewed by Tilman Baumgärtel

The American artist Patrick Lichty is best-known for his works with digital media: as part of the activist group RT Mark and as designer of digital animation movies for their follow-up The Yes Men, he has been recognized as a net artist with a political bend. He has been working with digital media since the 1980s, and has created works with video, for the Web and for Second Life.

At his solo show “Artifacts” at DAM Galerie in Berlin however, the artist, who is teaching at the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee and has recently published a book with theoretical essays, does not show media works, but tapestries.

Patrick Lichty, A Profound Lack of Comprehension, 2013, Tapisserie, 152 x 203 cm
Patrick Lichty, A Profound Lack of Comprehension, 2013, Tapisserie, 152 x 203 cm

Tapestries? In the following interview Lichty talks about his return to traditional art techniques.

Tilman Baumgärtel (TB): Patrick, you are known for your work with media, and you have created 3D animations, Internet and Second Life works. But at your recent shows both in Berlin and New York you show works in much more traditional artistic media: drawings in New York, tapestries in Berlin. Why the return to these time-honoured modes of production?

Patrick Lichty (PL): I’ve been sitting in front of the screen for almost 30 years, and I’ve been blind several times in my life. This leads me to my belief that, “Mediation is reality.” I have artificial lenses, and I don’t know whether I see the world as it is. I feel like I have this cyborg vision, like I am slightly alien. I’ve had this feeling all my life.

So on the one hand, I have tried to create an alternative reality through mediation, or maybe to see the world for what it is through mediation. That is what happens with the Yes Men for instance: I am helping Mike and Andy to create alternative realities for our fictitious corporate campaigns. And on the other hand I am interested in what Marcus Novak from University of California Santa Barbara calls “Evergence” where virtual things that never existed except in the virtual manifest in the physical. It is almost like William Gibson’s novel “All Tomorrow’s Parties”, where the “printed” virtual J-pop idol Rei Toei idol jumps out of the nano-replicator, and says “Hello”, even though she never existed. I am interested in the tangible digital that manifests from the potential virtual…

TB: The tangible digital?

PL: Well, the idea of taking code, and turning it into 3D-objects, or taking things from Second Life and creating artifacts, and I use the US spelling as a double reference to “artifacting” or pixelization of an edge. The whole show here in Berlin is meant to introduce people to this gigantic body of work that I created in the realm of the digital as a cultural explorer, and that the contemporary art world doesn’t know much about, a bit at a time. What we have in the show are artifacts based on some of my more art world-friendly works. Some of my other pieces are definitely not art-world-friendly. I have done tons of prints and tons of video, that can be presented in a show, but a lot of my web work utterly and completely resists any kind of exhibition.


Patrick Lichty, Orange Alert, 2014, Tapestry

In the show in New York I have ten Roman-Verostko-like plotter prints of random internet cats, which is sort of my answer to post-internet art. By the way, you know what sold? The kitten swatting at the drone flying over it.

Patrick Lichty, Random Internet Cat vs. Predator #1, 2014

TB: How did you pick the motifs for the tapestry that is on display here in Berlin?

PL: This images come from certain key points in my practice in the last ten years. I send these files to a mill in South Carolina, and they fabricate the tapestry based on my image. These images are the ones that resonate with me very strongly. There is one that is called “Orange Alert”, which has the Space Invaders from the computer game attacking the White House, that I translated into this huge tapestry. It is based on a painting that his since been destroyed, and I think it is actually more interesting that way. We used to have this color code system in the US. “Orange” meant “You better be really scared”, and “Red” meant “You can kiss your ass good-bye.” Five years after 7/11, all the airports in the US were on Orange Alert, and nobody cared.

TB: Weaving was among the first crafts that were mechanized, and the mechanical looms were among the first machines that were controlled with early forms of punched card that in the early days of computing were the first form of memory storage. Is that the reason why you translated these images into tapestry?

PL: On the one hand I am referring to the old, grand art of tapestry weaving, and, maybe, playing a little bit to the gallery. It is a way to express the digital in a very certain kind of materiality that I find interesting and that is historically relevant to our heritage. They are simply a beautiful way to express digital content. And they are easy to display.


Patrick Lichty, Fail, 2014, Tapisserie

TB: The next thing we know is that you will be sitting on the loom again, rather than having these tapestries made for you…

PL: Well, I did that as a child. My mother was an artist and I worked on a loom with her. So there are specific incidents in my life that logically led me to create this work. I am not doing it, because it is hip, or cheap…

TB: …or could be shown in a gallery…

PL: No. There have been specific moments in my life that lead me to this, it was not merely a gallery move, although it made things easier.

The other thing that I am doing is that I am starting to place Augmented Reality on them, but that is not in this show. With the other Augmented works, like my Kenai Tapestry, you can take a device, bring up an app, and you look at it through the device, which recognizes the piece and then the virtual content comes out. The only piece like this in the DAM Berlin show that is like this is one piece that has a QR code on it that just says http:// and it sends you to a 404-error page. It is a Jodi-like piece. I don’t have to keep a server. It is something that actually does engage with technological devices, but I do not have to do this horrible upkeep.


Patrick Lichty, 404: File Not Found, 2013, Tapestry

I did a piece called “Grasping @ Bits” in 2000 for which I got a honourable mention for the Golden Nica at Ars Electronica. It was this terribly complex hypertext-essay with hyper browsers and multiple reading paths, that had to do with activism and net art. I did this 15 years ago, and it is almost broken. Unless QR codes become totally defunct, I hope the 404 piece will work for a long time. We still have barcodes after how many years?

TB: In the 1990s, people were thinking that we would somehow upload ourselves into “cyberspace”, as in the “Matrix” movies. What seems to happen now is exactly the opposite: The virtual seems to re-materialise by manifesting itself in physical space, via 3D printers, smartphones etc.

PL: Instead of “The Matrix” it is more like in “All Tomorrow’s Parties” or “The Diamond Age”, in which we have machines that turn everything into what Bruce Sterling refers to as “gomi” or clutter/trash in Japanese. We have this whole explosion of digital content becoming physical again, but to quote Sterling again, most of them are meaningless technical exercises, or “Crapjects”.

This whole issue of re-materialization and corporeality from media to physical objects is of growing importance to me. We are made of material/flesh (points to his arm) rather than this (points to a computer). Moravec hasn’t come true yet; we are not uploading ourselves anytime soon…

I had a phase around 2005, where nobody heard from me much for a year or two because I wanted to reconcile myself with material. I didn’t do much media art, it was mostly material practice. That was when I started to work with iron casting and weaving. I have been interested in the Jacquard loom and 3D printing since 2004, but I am only showing much of that now. I did a 3D representation of a gif in 2005, where the black and white value determine the height of the different pixels. White is high, black is low. I had that cast in iron. It is from a series called “8 Bit Or Less”, that reflected on my blindness. I took samples from the different series of my work and experimented with translating them into a physical form. The idea is that mediation becomes physical reality, and the format of this show is a survey of various works. I thought that was the most logical way yo introduce people to a substantial body of work quickly but in an accessible way.

TB: Let’s talk about your involvement with groups like RTMark, the Yes Men or Second Front. You said that you were interested in creating alternative realities. Was that the reason why you ghelped create these groups?

PL:  I have always been a leftist, who – ironically – tries to survive on his work. That´s why I was attracted to the anti-corporate bent of RTMark and the Yes Men.

A little bit back-story is in order here: Imagine an electrical engineer raised by artists and then taught how to do Critical Theory by Ph.D.s in Sociology and Theatre History, and what you get is me.

I actually worked an electronic engineer for a while, and did not go to art school until I needed a degree to be an academic, as a lot of early New Media artists did. My mother was an artist, she trained me in the arts. I got my first electronics kit in 1970, when I was eight years old. And then I got my first computer and started drawing on it in 1978 – that was an Atari 800 (I still have it). And I got on the internet in 1983, 11 years before the web. So who is the “digital native” here?

I was doing computer art in the 1980s, but only started showing my work in 1990. By that time I had fallen in love with a theatre historian and through her I had fallen in love with theory. My best friend even to this day, Jonathon Epstein, is a sociologist, who got me interested in visual sociology. We started a collective called Haymarket RIOT that made Social Theory proto-meme gifs in 1990-94 which Baudrillard loved, by the way. Later, we did these post-modern social theory-based industrial rock videos that were all 3D-animated. And I send these to Jacques Servin and Igor Vamos, when they were about to found RTMark. They did a cross-country tour across the US as Igor moved to Troy, NY, and they came to meet me in Ohio. They told me what they wanted to do, and I said: “Wow, you’re weird!” So we started RTMark, and the rest is history.

RTMark then turned into the Yes Men. I am not so central any more, but I still do all the animations for the movies and interventions. I think they became so noted that it is hard for them to do direct actions any more. Their actions became sort of theatre rather than activism. I think that’s why there’s much more emphasis on things like The Yes Lab and The Action Switchboard, so they can empower other people. The “Action Switch Board”, by the way, reminds me a lot of a much more refined version of RT Mark’s “Mutual Fund”, but much more robust.

TB: RT Mark, The Yes Men, Second Front – it seems like you prefer to operate in groups rather than developing your own personal Oeuvre.

PL: Not really, but certainly that is what is more visible to the public. Because I live in this world of mediation, it’s almost as if these groups have been my social groups. And I have always felt that in regards to getting traction in the cultural milieu, there has been strength in numbers. In groups, there are more people to jump on the soap box.

However, since the time when we founded Second Front, I’ve been very vocal in keeping the group into an almost ego-less form, patially from my experience with collectives, partially by the Zen/FLUXUS influence Bibbe Hansen brought to the group. I wanted a way to keep our group as logistically “flat” as possible. Which is ironic, because now Bibbe Hansen is one of our members, who has this huge legacy. Right now we are doing performances of Virtual Fluxus. We are also exploring Al Hansen´s (and other historical FLUXUS artists) work in Second Life.

TB: Are you “re-enacting” them, which is a trend in the art world right now?

PL: I would say “re-mediate”. What we are actually doing is performing un-produced texts by Al, pieces that could have never been done in real life. So we are not re-staging, we are creating works that have been unrealized. That is pretty exciting. One piece we have been doing is “Car Bibbe II”, a successor to his performance “Car Symphony” from 1968 that was never realized because of liability issues. He wanted to explode some Cadillacs.

TB: Why are you using Second Life? There has been a lot of criticism because this system leaves little liberty to the users…

PL: It is actually very fluid. It has a huge amount of possibility. Yet, we are currently investigating “Open Sim”, the open source alternative to Second Live. Any of the money that we are earning with the videos I have editioned at DAM will go to buy a permanent server and a static IP. I don’t want to go to another server farm. I want a modem in my living room with our world on my computer. It will be cheaper, and then we do not have to deal with Linden Labs’ oppressive policies any more.

TB: The attractive thing about Second Life was that at one point there was a ready audience, because it was so popular. But I do not think that this is the case any more…

PL: The important thing is that we used to do it as a function of community, and now we are using it as a representational tool. So the main results now are prints and videos. We want people to hear the tree fall, and this the way we get people to hear the tree fall in the woods: We take videos of it. The community has changed so much, it isn’t as important to us as artists any more.

TB: Second Life seems like Atlantis these days – a sunken, forgotten continent…

PL:  It is kind of a necropolis for old technocrats. It is actually a very cyber-punk-thing. It is “Snowcrash”, 15 years later. But I am very interested in using Jurassic technologies and doing Media Archaeology. I also work a lot with pixelization, because at this point we don´t have to have it any more; it’s a choice. I did these pixilated nudes, that are barely recognizable as figures any more. You know, every artist needs to have a phase, where he is doing nudes, you know? (laughs) So I wanted to make them materially manifest a couple of years ago by laser cutting them into wood, expressing their materiality as surely as flesh does.

For the past ten years I have been doing media archaeological research into reviving Slow Scan Television as an art form. It is a video art form from the early days of Telecommunications Art. It is very low res, it only has four grey scales and a resolution of 120×120 pixels. It is a pretty specific and anachronistic art form. I am working with Hank Bull and Western Front right now to decode the audio track of the Slow Scan “Wiencouver” interventions of the 1980’s. I think I am one of the few members of my generation that knows how to run this equipment and how to repair these things. Many of my colleagues, who talk about dirty media and low tech, are still relying on the web… Well, they can have the Web. I am going back to networked art before the web. I am going back to the telephone network, but I use Skype now!

Painting with Data: A Conversation with Lev Manovich


Lev Manovich’s upcoming keynote, along with the entire Art of the Networked Practice online symposium, March 31 – April 2, 2015, will be free, open and accessible via web-conference from anywhere in the world. Visit the Website to register. The symposium is in collaboration with Furtherfield.


While big data has infiltrated our everyday lives, Lev Manovich and his collaborators have explored the data of everyday life as a window on social transformation. We discuss his latest work: The Exceptional and the Everyday: 144 Hours in Kiev, a portrait of political upheaval in the Ukraine constructed from thousands of Instagram photos taken over a six day period during the revolution in February of 2014. The project evolves from Manovich’s recent manifestations, Phototrails (2013) and SelfieCity (2014), metamorphosing social media into data landscapes.

Randall Packer: How do you view social media as illuminating a broader understanding of crisis in times of political upheaval?

Lev Manovich: When the media covers exceptional events such as social upheavals, revolutions, and protests, typically they just show you a few professionally shot photographs that focus on this moment of protest at particular points in the city. So we were wondering if examining Instagram photos that were shared in the central part of Kiev would give us a different picture. Not necessarily an objective picture because Instagram has its own biases and it’s definitely not a transparent window into reality, but would give us, let’s say, a more democratic picture. So we’ve downloaded over 20,000 photos shared by 6,000 people, and using visualization we created a number of different views of reality with patterns contained in the data. And we were particularly interested to see how the images of the everyday exist side by side with images of extraordinary events: how images of demonstrations, confrontation with government forces, fire, smoke, and barricades exist next to selfies, parties, or empty streets.


144 Hours in Kiev
: a selection of images shared during the protests, arranged by time

RP: Is it possible to think of what you are doing as taking an activist position in terms of revealing truths about a political situation?

LM: We have to be careful because obviously what you are seeing in 144 Hours in Kiev is a relatively small part of the population. Because the people who do use Instagram create tags mostly in English, they are, maybe, pro-Western people. But it allows us to get a sense of, not necessarily of a truth, not necessarily of what’s real, but let’s say a different kind of picture, a different place of reality then what the journalists would get. Because journalists may go, talk to a few people, and then come up with a report. But here you have “quotes,” so to speak, of thousands of people.


144 Hours in Kiev
: map of Kiev with cluster of photos in Independence Square

RP: Do you also see the collections of visualizations from user-generated images as an aesthetic realization?

LM: Perhaps one thing we can highlight is the idea of expressive visualization. As an artist I am also interested in the question of how can I present the world through the data. So let’s say a hundred years ago I would be taking photographs of a city. Now I can represent the city through 2 million Instagram photos. Thinking about landscape paintings in Impressionism, Fauvism, or even Cubism, how could I represent nature today through the contributions of millions of people? So I think of myself as an artist who is painting with data.


Phototrails
: Radial image plot visualization of 33,292 photos from Tel Aviv

RP: But I’ve noticed that there is a focus in your writing on scientific methodology, you don’t talk very much about the renderings from an artistic perspective.

LM: It’s very clear that we’re taking ideas and techniques that have been used by modern artists. The difference is that we are pulling out data and writing open source tools. We’re taking in this case social media, works that were not created by us, and then putting them through different kinds of combinations. If you think about modernist collage of the city from the 1910s or 1920s, using pieces of newspaper and other existing media, what we’re doing exists in the same tradition.

RP: In many ways, the works can be fully appreciated as collage or composites, which I imagine goes against what you are trying to say through data analysis.

LM: No, it doesn’t go against what we are doing. It’s a matter of speaking to different parts of society. So you don’t just talk to designers or artists or like-minded people, you also talk to scientists. But ultimately what drives me is that I can I create something expressive, something unique, that isn’t just simply a data visualization, but creates an image that finds visual forms, that finds the right metaphors, which allows me to talk about modern society as consistent with its millions of data points. To me I think it’s a successful metaphor for how to speak about society today, when you think about all the traces you leave on social networks. I am trying to find the static visual forms to represent our new sense of society from seemingly random acts of individual people.


Phototrails
: plots showing locations of photos shared by the most active
Instagram users in Tel Aviv over 3 months

RP: Talk about the idea of “collective stories,” which are revealed in the composite of hundreds of thousands Instagram photos, each of which is a story in and of itself.

LM: We bring all these narratives together and try to make a kind of composite “film.” The connection to documentary, such as filmmakers like Dziga Vertov, for me is very clear. When Dziga Vertov, for example, was making his films in Kiev, he would have several cameramen in different parts of the Soviet Union shooting everyday, and they would send it to him and he would put it all together. So my “films” are made up of downloaded visuals, in which you can then make multiple “films” out of.

RP: Is it possible that the individual stories, the individual voice of expression, might get lost in this broad swath of data mining and cultural analytics?

LM: People are documenting what they think is interesting and important in their lives. But because there are very particular behaviors, what you get is a kind of pattern. I would say that patterns are not the same thing as a story. I don’t think of it as traditional narrative art, but rather a pattern of certain repeating behaviors.


The Exceptional and the Everyday
: six days of photos taken
in Kiev’s Independence Square in red vs. all photos in grey, plotted over time

RP: How do you position the work you are doing in the context of the current crisis of invasive surveillance and the loss of privacy resulting from big data analysis?

LM: When we started thinking about these ideas in 2005, these issues were not on the table. In the last two or three years they have become central and to be honest they keep me up at night. I consider whether or not it’s OK because there are histories of governments using photographs of protests of honest people. I think the first time it happened seriously was in Prague in 1968 when it was raided by the Soviet Union. You had bystanders taking pictures, and when the pictures were found they were used to arrest people. So we thought a lot about it. When you start to individualize stories, when you start following particular people, then it gets really dangerous.

RP: In this sense its a very political project. What you have done is revealed that in the 21st century of social media it’s difficult to hide anything. What have you learned about contemporary life as seen through the lens of social media?

LM: This is a deep question. I’m basically trying to say that as opposed to a journalist who thinks about the “data” as a kind of truth, that it’s a way to find out what happened, what I’m thinking about is its own reality. It’s not a question of truth, it’s a question of making interesting connections.


144 Hours in Kiev
: selection of images from late evening of February 18, when government forces attacked protesters at Independence Square

RP: That’s the difference between an artist and a journalist or even a scientist. You’re absorbing and you’re finding the connections but you’re not trying to say: this is it.

LM: I think the main answer is this: we can produce different visualizations out of the same data. Everyone views a different idea. It’s like when Monet paints another cathedral, there is not one painting that is correct. He makes a dozen paintings where every painting represents a different color, different atmospheric conditions, to show that in fact there are only the subjective views. So the goal is perhaps not to give people a new interpretation, but rather to challenge what they may be thinking is the correct one.


The Everyday and the Exceptional: 144 Hours in Kiev is a project of Lev Manovich in collaboration with Dr. Mehrdad Yazdani, Alise Tifentale, and Jay Chow.

Digital Iconoclasm: Antonio Roberts interviewed by Nathan Jones

Introduction.

First things first, Antonio Robert is a great guy. He is literally the happiest and most lively artist I’ve ever worked with, his online postings contribute in a full and proper way to both digital art and open source code communities, and he finds space in his wetware for the feedership of cats. He has top-notch glitch credentials, and is hooked into some important ideas about where that field is going – being the most active, if not only ‘glitch artist’ currently showing work in the UK. His work is rooted in glitch aesthetics and ideas, but constantly pushing at its edges. He’s performed and presented at Tate Modern, Databit.me in Arles, France, glitChicago, and he has his first solo show coming up at BOM (Birmingham Open Media) later this year.

Beside his happiness and energy, the first thing you notice about Antonio is that he has this geeky thing going on, like some kind of 90s Spielbergesque computer wizz – I’m sure I heard him call his computer ‘baby’ once as he goded it into action – but when he came to perform as part of our Syndrome programme in Liverpool, he literally ripped his tee-shirt off in the middle of the room, just as he was about to start.

He is the embodiment, in many ways, of the kind of volatility and fun in lots of great glitch art. I hooked up with Antonio online, where we spoke about glitch, and how it relates to his new iconoclastic work on copyright.

Interview.

NJ: So… first question… You’re kinda out on your own in the UK it seems, as ‘the’ representative of the Glitch Art movement. I can see that that has been really great for you, for example with trips to Chicago etc… but does it also feel a little lonely?!

Antonio: Yeah, definitely. Ever since I helped bring the GLI.TC/H event to the UK/Birmingham in 2011 I’ve been getting questions about giltch art. I’m happy to impart my knowledge and experience to anyone that’s curious and my usual response is “you can do it too!”. That is, if you want to do glitch art there are so many tutorials about it. And, if you want there to be more events focused on glitch art all you need is an idea and some motivation.

NJ: There’s certainly an appetite for work which can reveal the systems underlying digital production – which is what good glitch art does. Do you think it is the term itself which is beginning to feel dated – as a result of an appropriation of its aesthetics? So fewer and fewer artists use this term now because its central modes are being used in a non-critical basis.

Antonio: I think it has become a bit dated through appropriation. That isn’t to say that glitch art has to be a specific thing and made using community-approved techniques, but now I see art that is just noisy or digital-looking that is described as glitch art.

NJ: I want to draw attention to some works of yours – or others – which seek out new (or different) systems which which to destructively engage. Because I think your work is still very much exploring and finding new territories opening up with this trope, while remaining within the ‘glitch’ genre. The work you made for the EVP website, “spɛl ænd spik:” modulated the construction of speech with phonemes. Where does the error enter into this, and do you consider it a departure from your work previous?

Antonio: It’s definitely a departure in terms of aesthetics.

NJ: It is not multicoloured!

Antonio: Hahah yeah. Even my clothes are plain. I wanted the focus to shift from the aesthetics of glitch. Glitch art incorporates many themes including randomness, error, helplessness, the unexpected, machine driven operations. And for the EVP piece I wanted to focus on randomness. I think the error lies in the perceptions of the viewer. When it was exhibited publicly at the Next Wave Exhibition at the RBSA many people thought that it was my voice and, at times, they could hear English words, so, the thing “glitching”, or experiencing an error in this case is their perceptions.

NJ: The tension between the random sounds and the possibility of speech is certainly unsettling.

Antonio: Then there’s the fact that those random sounds are coming from a human image… Digital and “New Media” art is still a new thing for many audiences and institutions, so confusion or bafflement is to be expected. I just hope that this then turns into curiosity. I hope that audiences then begin to ask questions about what it is they’re seeing and how it fits into their ideas about art, creativity and everything else.

NJ: There is something which Bifo Berardi says in “The Uprising: On Poetry and Finance”, where he is noting how ‘political decision has been replaced by techno-linguistic automatisms’, and it seems like ‘glitch’ art has a role to play here which is analogous to the one he assigns poetry in this book. Do you think that the kind of work you do with error is innately political or have revolutionary potential in this way?

Antonio: There is the overtly political work that I have made in the past. For example, Copyright Atrophy, which uses scripts and programs to challenge notions of ownership and copyright, was made specifically to be challenging, as was the work What Revolution. Another theme that interests me is copyright and free culture. And it’s always been there in my work, just not the core message. Now, for example, there is also the work about copyright which is currently being developed (as Archive Remix) as part of my residency at the University of Birmingham. It fits a long tradition of artists remixing artworks and appropriating culture. I’m hoping to bring about a change in attitudes at the university through my work with them.

                                     from Copyright Atrophy, Antonio Roberts

                                           from What Revolution, Antonio Roberts

NJ: Just looking at the work you’re doing at University of Birmingham, it seems to deal with the same theme as Copyright Atrophy, which is a kind of horizon of ownership – which relates also to the horizon of meaning… between meaning and meaninglessness, between owned and apprpriated. So there is a point in the logo-gifs of Copyright Atrophy, and the Archive Remix animations, where they are operating simultaneously as a symbol, or original – and as a new, catachrestic symbol for something yet to be defined. I’m taking the term catachresis here from the way Lee Edelman uses it in his literary and cultural criticism such as No Future, to describe how ‘misuse’ of given words leads to an opening up for heretofore undiscovered territory – also similar to what Rosa Menkman describes as Glitchspeak.

Antonio: Indeed. Although in Copyright Atrophy I am “destroying” the logos, in some way I’m evolving them too. I want to show that a piece of artwork is never truly finished as it may be reinterpreted and remixed by people, and also that we should let this natural evolution happen. Another example to illustrate this evolution is Comic Sans Must DIe.

Yes, I’m destroying each glyph of Comic Sans, but some frames of that might make a good new typeface in itself. The short animations I’m making for Archive Remix are, at the moment, acting as case studies that I will take to the university to show good things can happen when you have more liberal licensing on images. As you may have seen, I also do a version of the animations with the copyrighted material censored. I want to show the perils of censoring. So underneath each “new” gif is one with the copyrighted material blacked out. Imagine if DJ Shadow’s album Entroducing only had works that had been cleared for usage!

NJ: They are sad images, for sure. There is a melancholy at work here, which makes me think of the ‘death’ of the work, being the moment it has to stop evolving.

Antonio: Indeed.

NJ: I feel that way sometimes when I perform a poem, or even read it out to someone on the phone, that somehow its limitations have been reached as potential. Do you think it’s this attitude of a work always being open to interpretation which creates an exit from the inevitably melancholy ending of a completed artwork? I guess that’s one reason why an open platform for the code you produce is attractive.

Antonio: I can see the performance or exhibiting of an artwork as limiting because what has to be presented is something finished. However, sometimes I see this as a chance to exhibit one iteration of the work. It’s always open to myself or others to remake or build on from. There have been people that have built on the code and programs that I make and I’m thankful for this. The best example of this was the method I created for generating jpgs from random data, which was in itself inspired by HEADer Remix by Ted Davis. David Schaffer greatly extended this into his own tool and Holger Ballweg ported the code into SuperCollider. If any code I write inspires others who am I to stop them from using or building on it?

NJ: A year or so ago, I proposed that art forgery should be legalised. I feel, along with many others, that the ‘art market’ has very little to do with the community of artists most worthy of admiration and respect. But perhaps it is ownership itself that is the problem. What is there in ownership ‘authorship’ which is valuable to retain? Attribution, I suppose – but what value in attribution?

Antonio: Yes, attribution is the important thing. All people should rightfully own the thing that they make. But problems arise because they then want to own everything that comes after it. So yes, remixes, reinterpretations are important and should be allowed, just as long as the original author is attributed for their work. It’s all a confusing and scary time for artists and the art world. Everyone’s wondering how they can make money and sustain their practice whilst still reaching as many people as possible. I hope that through my work I can show that these new approaches (open source, free culture, liberal licensing etc) can yield positive results and won’t necessarily result in the loss of earnings or opportunities.

NJ: It’s kind of ironic though, isn’t it, that digital artists like yourself who actively question and disrupt the basis of the apparently ‘infinite flows’ of digital content, finance… are part of a scene whose infrastructure itself is crumbling, and who generally suffer a very real stress and insecurity as a result. This is exacerbated as well by the kind of funding environment which might be offsetting this instability somewhat, but where digital artists are co-opted ecosystem of ‘digital economy’ — rather than a ‘cultural economy’ — itself formed around ideas of efficiency, and hence ‘labour savings’? Do you think this might actually be harmful?

Antonio: Yes, I think it’s dangerous focusing just on digital economy and making everything digital. Sure, it’s exciting that technology brings us all of these opportunities, but it leaves behind everyone that doesn’t work in that way.

NJ: Finally, on this subject, I thought you might like to highlight some contemporary work which influences you, which comes from outside the ‘digital art’ scene (if this is even possible!) and thus contributes to the ecosystem of digital innovation, in more traditional forms.

Antonio: One of my influences was Arturo Herrea’s 2007 exhibition at the Ikon Gallery. I loved the way there was order in the chaos. Outside of that it’s really difficult to find examples of influential work that isn’t in some way digital. A lot of the live performance, sculpture and video work that inspires me is often not only made using digital technology – 3D printing, projection etc – but is about digital and internet culture.

You can follow Antonio on

http://www.hellocatfood.com/

http://hellocatfood.tumblr.com/

and https://twitter.com/hellocatfood

and Nathan is at https://twitter.com/nathmercy

Glitch Expectations: A Conversation with jonCates


jonCates upcoming keynote, along with the entire Art of the Networked Practice online symposium, March 31 – April 2, 2015, will be free, open and accessible via web-conference from anywhere in the world. Visit the Website to register. The symposium is in collaboration with Furtherfield.


jonCates in Conversation With Randall Packer

we need to humanize ourselves + our systems, to recognize that we are amidst failed futures, broken tools + glitched environments made from media, mediums, mediations + filtered through failures. – jonCates

 


Image from ANIMATED GIF SELF-PORTRAITS: http://systemsapproach.net

Describing the world of new media/glitch artist jonCates is a labyrinthine task. You might begin with his spontaneous and inventive word-language actions reminiscent of William Burroughs cut-ups; or the hypnotic .gif animations made from seemingly incongruous, discarded fragments of media; or perhaps his “dirty new media” aesthetic that brings to the surface the aberrations and raw imperfections that are typically verboten in “high-end” digital circles.

jonCates has ironically and quite cleverly co-mingled punk and pirate media with thoughtful theoretical discourses. Based in Chicago, he is Chair of Film, Video, New Media and Animation at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago by day, prowling the sub-culture of the alternative spaces by night. Cates is at the center of a glitch scene in Chicago, now referred to as the “birthplace of dirty new media,” a movement he has in large part catalyzed: spawning the international GLI.TC/H Festivals and other assorted hactivist events and DIY workshops.

In my conversation with jonCates we discuss his unique synthesis of language and media, his critique of technology, and how glitch, in all of its multifarious manifestations, has powered his work, functioning as a force for uniting artists, students, and communities in collective activity.


Image from CLUSTERFUCK ZOO at TRANSFER Gallery, New York

Randall Packer: I want to start off with the way in which you blend everything – in your life, in your work, your practice, theory, communications, writing, teaching –there is a mélange of language, a spirit and playfulness, that all seems to flow together with glitch. Would you say that glitch is a way of life?

jonCates: yeas, in faxxx, well first off, i would like to say thnxxx for giving the work the level of attn you have. i think that my approach to Digital Arts or New Media Art is 01 that takes a systemsapproach, not in a kind of cold cybernetic way but in a more wholistic sense of systems, those systems might be broken, they might be glitched, + they might be imperfect + noisy, + that might be what attracts us or me to those systems. but still they are functional or rather functioning in one way or another systematically. so they are connected to one another as assemblages.


Image from 4RTCR4X0RZ: Hacking Open Together:
New Media Art, Activism and Computer Counter Cultures: http://gl1tch.us/4RTCR4X0RZ.html

RP: I would say that glitch is a language, spoken by its practitioners, who have co-mingled code with the spoken word, or maybe I should say specific to your work, mixing machine language with human language: accepting the aberration as perhaps more important than the message. Is the aberration the message?

jC: i would def’ly say that there is a poetic embrace of noise && error. my interests are also, continue to be, motivated by the connections between Noise Musics + experimental New Media Art. for me this approach to noise or noisiness, or dirt, or dirtiness, is a way to foreground as you say, an aberrance or perversion of normative msg or what we might perceive to be logical reasoning. b/c there is a poetics to that obviously. ppl who inspired me most directly in that manner would be Netochka Nezvanova, who did this comingling of functional code w/ highly politicized + poetic language.


Image from Furtherfield: https://www.furtherfield.org/blog/joncates/lists-boards-friends-feeds-part-iii

RP: So is glitch an act of undermining the status quo of our relationship to technology?

jC: it certainly can be. i think that there was mayhaps a time recently in witch glitch works were more directly mobilizing that kind of critical stance. but glitch is also folded into aesthetics that are also highly popular so there’s a popularity to the glitch aesthetic which would undermine an argument for saying it is exclusively resistant or exclusively political. it’s just impure.


Image from the tumblr: http://pre-glitch.tumblr.com

RP: I see many resonances with avant-garde figures both in art and in technology, such as Dick Higgins, for example, in his concept of intermedia. The idea of closing the gap between art and life, media and things, and in your case between language and machine language, art and theory, or as Dick Higgins might have said: art and everything else.

jC: the discourse on art/life, on performance, performance art, those were topics i studied when I was younger: thinking about how technologies that we use are all social. they’re techno-social. we live inna techno-social culture. these technologies are also socially performed, + that means that there are these performative aspects. for instance there is a corporate performance of cleanliness + purity. + then there is the performance of everyday life that we’re all doing all the time w/ all of our technologies. so, we’re making them human, in the sense that we are making them part of our lives.


Image from “2012: Year of the GLI.TC/H panel” at SXSW Interactive: https://vimeo.com/61774410

RP: In regards to your idea of “dirty new media,” my response is that the dirtiness implies there is a human quality in new media, that it is not perfect, it’s not sterile, it’s not removed from real life, but it contains its imperfections, it’s impurities, in a way, it’s organic qualities, that get closer to our “wet” lives, rather than our binary ones.

jC: abs’ly! that’s abs’ly a part of the goal in terms of using this term, Dirty New Media OR d1Ɍ+y̶ ̶N̶3WWW_M3DI∆, to foreground all those faxxx. but also that there is a non-neutrality of techno-social artifacts + contexts, that our technologies are not neutral, also that they are embedded, they are part of our lives, + that embeddedness has the word bed in there, we are in bed w/ them also, so they’re embedded in ways that are complex. they are not sterile, they’re imperfect, they are not clean, b/c they exist in the world, which is also imperfect. + so, i do believe that d1Ɍ+y̶ ̶N̶3WWW_M3DI∆ as a way of lyfe + as an approach to artmaking is a way of foregrounding these faxxx, these realities, of our lived exxxperiences, + acknowledging how situated we all are w/ all of these systems, + artifacts that we have made, unmade && remade together.


Image from the exhibition: http://gl1tch.us/GlitchArt-wit-jonCates.html

RP: A lot of people at first glance might look at your work and think that it has been completely usurped by machine language, by a kind of technological sensibility. And so, I am wondering in view of this convergence between human language and machine language the question then might become: where does the machine end and the artist begin.

jC: that’s a gr8 question… well, the machine world is machined by us out of the world + we have literally machined the world. it’s our world, in the sense that we have crafted it. + we’re constantly uncrafting && re-crafting it. it produces errors, mistakes, breakdowns, glitches, noise, + from a Computer Science perspective, what you would want to do would be debugging + refining. but from a d1Ɍ+y̶ ̶N̶3WWW_M3DI∆ perspective, what you might want to be doing is “rebugging,” && pushing different aspects of the machinewwwhirlds to see their thresholds, exxxperiment, + play.


Image from the tumblr: http://post-glitch.tumblr.com

RP: Ultimately there is a playfulness that I think undermines the dystopic view that we sometimes have towards technology. jC: i rly hope that is the case. that’s constantly a goal that i am working on. there are those in my immediate community, + in Glitch Art communities in general, who i am also responding to, who are in fact dystopic, && who are also Discordians, + who are intentionally exploring Chaos Majik or who have aspirations to Kaos Magick, + those kinds of Discordian approaches. && that’s not my intent.

RP: I like the way that you counter the dystopic questions that you get, with an even greater barrage of glitch. For example, there is a comment that Sterling Crispin made when he said: “the glitch/noise fetish is an inversion of humanity & symbolic embrace of death & rampant infectious nihilism.” OK… And your response was:

“thnxxx @sterlingcrispin, my work is an axxxual process of: #glitch #fetish #noise #dirty #newmedia from a #humanist #perspective.”

jC: (laughs) yea, i thought that was funny. i took his comment vry srsly && vry pointedly + it motivated me to write an essay, which is up on the GL1TCH.US Unstable Book for Unstable Media that i am constantly working on. he uses keywords that i am connected to + that have motivated me. he was using fetish, but he was using it in a negatively valenced way + i wanted to reclaim fetish && say, yea, of course fetish is part of what i do b/c fetish is punk + its part of “originary” punk from the SEX shop run by Malcolm McLaren + Vivian Westwood. so, yea, of course, fetish is in my work, but its in this way that’s consistent w/ my art/life inna way that’s dirty, in the sense of being impure, but also (hopefully) sexxxy && exxxciting!


Image from the tumblr: http://dirtynewmedia.tumblr.com

RP: Maybe counter to the world that we live in today with our corporate environment, in which the technology companies encourage a fetish with the slick, clean design of technology. What you have done, is through the construction of a language and a world that you have created, you’ve attempted to break that down and show us what our relationship to technology could be and perhaps should be.

jC: thnxYou! abs’ly! + openUp possibilities, potentialities for ppl, as well as for myself, but also for a community that can mobilize around these approaches, these ideas. it’s counter-intuitive to the rampant, hyper-individualism that lays waste to so much effort that emerges from group practices, communities, to shared or Open Source cultures. this idea of building community, building tools + systems, && sharing those tools + systems w/in the community so that the community can org around all of that + then share work && work goes back out into the communities, to keep it alive. i think i just sketched out a pedagogy! 🙂


Image from ↘↘↘sǝʇɐɔuoظ ʎq ʇɹɐ ǝןqɐʇsun uɐ ɹoɟ ʞooq ǝןqɐʇsun uɐ ˙˙˙ sn˙ɥɔʇ1ןb http://gl1tch.us/cDPKtYgT.html

RP: It’s a wonder to me how you balance your personal, artistic and academic life.

jC: it’s a healthy friction for me, it gives me inspiration to work outside of the institution, to work in bars, clubs, DIY/DIT spaces, alternative spaces, it’s a good, healthy dynamic for me. in glitch communities there’s a lot of sharing of technique, + a lot of open sourcing or at least sharing of approaches + practices. so that can have the effect of people learning to reproduce certain styles, or certain aesthetics. but a way to not be stuck on repetition is to focus on glitch as a form of surprise + as a way of glitching ppl’s exxxpectations.


Image from The Breath of Charybdis curated by Amelia Ishmael: http://ameliaishmael.com


jonCates has several current projects, including the online publication of “Dirty New Media: Hyperthreaded @ GLI.TC/H 2012” by jonCates and Shawne Michaelain Holloway (2014). For more information, visit his Website.

Capture All_Play – An interview with McKenzie Wark

Marc Garrett and Ruth Catlow interview McKenzie Wark ahead of his keynote speach for Transmediale 2015 in Berlin this year.

It’s ten years since McKenzie Wark published his influential book, A Hacker Manifesto. Divided into 17 chapters, each offers a series of short, numbered paragraphs that mimic the epigrammatic style of Guy Debord’s The Society of the Spectacle. Wark then published, amongst others, a series of critically engaging books such as Gamer Theory and the Spectacle of Disintegration. Ruth Catlow and Marc Garrett from Furtherfield ask Wark how things have changed since these publications, focusing on the way our everyday lives have been infiltrated by competitive game-like mechanisms that he described more than a decade ago.

Furtherfield: You published the experimental writing project Gamer Theory first as a book in 2006 and then in 2007 with a specially revised 2.0 version online.

                           McKenzie Wark’s GAM3R 7H30RY 1.1, the networked book launched May 22, 2006.

Mckenzie Wark: Yes, although I think the network book version is mostly broken now. Good thing there’s a dead-tree format back-up!

F: In it you argue that we’re living in a world that is increasingly game-like and competitive. Also that computer games develop a utopian version of the world that realizes the principles of the level playing field and reward based on merit; whereas in the world, this is promised, but rarely realized.

MW: Yes, I think one way of thinking about certain games is that they are a fully realized neo-liberal utopia, which actually gives them some critical leverage of everyday life, which is a sort of less-real, only partially realized version of this, where the playing field is not level, where the 1% get to ‘cheat’ and get away with it.

F: You also talk of the “enclosure of the world” within the “gamespace” where the logics of the game are applied as the general patterns of organization in the world. And this happens as we adapt to the allegorical forms of contemporary games media.

How do you think this situation has changed since you wrote Gamer Theory?

MW: Well, to me it looks like the tendency analyzed in Gamer Theory became even more the case. GamerGate looks among other things like a reactive movement among people who really want the neoliberal utopia in all its actual neofascist and misogynist glory to not be exposed as different to everyday life. When women gamers or game journalists stick their hands up and say, “hey, wait a minute”1, they just want to mow them down with their pixelated weapons. So the paradox is that as gamespace becomes more and more ubiquitous, the tension between promise and execution becomes ever more obvious.

Feminist cultural critic Anita Sarkeesian faced death threats after
releasing a new Tropes vs. Women in Video Games video.

Game developer Zoe Quinn was the original target of the harassment campaign.

F: Do you see the term Gamification that many theorists use currently as an elaboration of the ideas you developed in Gamer Theory? Or are there significant new ideas being explored?

MW: Ha! Well no, gamification was about celebrating the becoming game-like of everyday life. So I always saw that as a kind of regression from thinking about the phenomena to sort of cheerleading for it.

F: The software developer and software freedom activist Richard Stallman, when visiting Korea in June 2000 illustrated the meaning of the word ‘Hacker’ in a fun way. During a lunch with GNU fans a waitress placed 6 chopsticks in front of him. Of course he knew they were meant for three people but he found it amusing to find another way to use them. Stallman managed to use three in his right hand and then successfully pick up a piece of food placing it into in his mouth. Stallman’s story is a playful illustration of “hack value,” about changing the purpose of something and making it do something different to what it was originally designed to do, or changing the default.2

Stallman was highlighting fun and the mischievous imagination as part of the spirit of what he sees as hack value.

Where do you see lies the hack value in games culture? What has happened to the fun in games? Who’s having it and where is it happening?

MW: Stallman is one of the greats. Sometimes, people have this experience of scientific or technical culture as one of free collaboration, where there’s a real play of rivalry and recognition but based on producing and sharing knowledge as a kind of gift. JD Bernal had that experience in physics in the 30s and Stallman had, I think, a similar experience in computing. I think it’s important for those of us from the arts or humanities to honor that utopian and activist impulse coming out of more technical fields.

J.D.Bernal and Dorothy Hodgkin. http://bit.ly/1JzXNBh

There’s a lively, critical and even avant-garde movement in games right now. That’s part of why it has provoked such a fierce reaction from a certain conservative corner. The culture wars are being fought out via games, which is as it should be, as it’s one of the dominant media forms of our times. So there’s certainly some sophisticated fun to be had alongside the more visceral pleasure of clearing levels.

F: “Our species’ whole recorded history has taken place in the geological period called the Holocene – the brief interval stretching back 10,000 years. But our collective actions have brought us into uncharted territory. A growing number of scientists think we’ve entered a new geological epoch.”3 And, this new geological epoch has been proposed as – the Anthropocene.


In your essay ‘Critical Theory After the Anthropocene’4 you say “At a minimum, the Anthropocene calls on critical theory to entirely rethink its received ideas, its habituated traditions, its claims to authority. It needs to look back in its own archive for more useful critical tools.”

What are these ‘useful critical tools’ and how might theorists, new media artists, game designers and society at large put these to work?

MW: The ‘cene’ part of Anthropocene (from the Greek kainos) means a qualitative break in time. If time is in a sense always different, then kainos is the differently-different – a new kind of time. Those like Paul Crutzen who have advocated the use of the term Anthropocene to designate a new geological time have issued a major challenge as to how to interpret such a possibility. I leave it to the scientists to figure out if such a claim is scientifically valid. As someone trained in the humanities, I think the generous, comradely, cooperative thing to do is to try to interpret what our friends and colleagues in the sciences are telling us about the times. So in Molecular Red that was what I set out to do. Let’s take seriously the claim that these times are not ‘like’ other times. That I think calls for a rethinking of what from the cultural past might be useful now. I think we need new ancestors. Which is why, in Molecular Red, I went looking for them, based on the question: to which past comrades would the Anthropocene come as no surprise? I think Alexander Bogdanov, who understood a bit about the biosphere and the carbon cycle, would not be surprised. I think Andrey Platonov, who wrote about the attempts and failures to build a new kind of infrastructure for the Soviet experiment in a new mode of production would not be surprised. There are others, but those I thought were particularly helpful, not least because their Marxism remained in dialog with the sciences and technical arts. I don’t think the more romantic anti-science side of Western Marxism and continental thought is all that helpful at the moment, not least because it rules out of court exactly the kinds of scientific knowledges through which we know about the Anthropocene in the first place. The anti-science critique has been captured by the right, so we need new tactics.

Hand-made zine containing a conversation with McKenzie Wark, author of “The Hacker Manifesto.”

F: Who’d be empowered by an encounter with your ideas and where do you see the potential for agency in the current economic and environmental contexts?

MW: Not for me to say really. Writers are usually the last people to have any clues as to what their writing says. There’s a sort of idiot quality to banging away on a keyboard. We’re word processors. Its always surprising to me the range of people who find something in what I write.

My hunch is that the future is in the hands of an alliance between those who make the forms and those who make the content: a hacker and worker alliance. It is clear that this civilization has already become unreal. Everyone knows it. We have to experiment now with what new forms might be.

F: And, where in the world do you see examples of individuals, groups and organizations, and or companies – who are putting into action some of the critical questions that you’re exploring in your writing?

MW: Besides Furtherfield? I never like to give examples. Everyone should be their own example. To détourn an old slogan of the 60s: be impossible, do the realistic!

F: In your later essay ‘The Drone of Minerva’5 you continue to write about the Anthropocene. But, you also bring to the table the subject of the Proletkult.6 The Proletkult aspired to radically modify existing artistic forms of revolutionary working class aesthetic which drew its inspiration from the construction of modern industrial society in Russia. At its peak in 1920, Proletkult had 84,000 members actively enrolled in about 300 local studios, clubs, and factory groups, with an additional 500,000 members participating in its activities on a more casual basis.

You are writing about the Proletkult in your latest book. Could you tell us a little something about this and how it will connect to contemporary lives?

MW: Proletkult was influential in Britain too, during the syndicalist phase of the British labor movement, up until the defeat of the 1926 general strike. After that the dominant forms were, on the one hand, the ethical-socialism and parliamentary path of the Labour Party, or the revolutionary Leninist party. Well, those paths have been defeated now too. I think we have to look at all of the past successes and failures all over again and cobble together new organizational and cultural forms, including a 21st century Proletkult.7 What that might mean is trying to self-organize in a comradely way to try and gain some collective charge of our everyday lives. It does not mean just celebrating actually existing working class cultures. Rather it’s more about starting there and developing culture and organization not as something reactive and marginalized but as something with organizational consistency and breadth. Since the ruling class clearly doesn’t give a fuck about us, let’s take charge of our own lives – together.

Thank you McKenzie Wark – Ruth Catlow & Marc Garrett 😉

Ruth Catlow will be at Transmediale 2015 CAPTURE ALL, moderating the keynote Capture All_Play with McKenzie Wark, on Sat, 31 Jan at 18:00.

Ruth is also participating in two other events, Play as a Commons: Practical Utopias & P2P Futures and The Post-Digital Review: Cultural Commons – http://www.transmediale.de/content/ruth-catlow

 

References:

[1] Wark, M. 2013a. “A Ludic Century.” Public Seminar, November 22.

[2] Garrett, M., 2012. Revisiting the Curious World of Art & Hacktivism. Futherfield. 2nd March.

[3] Anthropocene. The website is a collaborative project between researchers and communicators from some of the leading scientific research institutions on global sustainability.

[4] Wark, M. 2014. Critical Theory After the Anthropocene. In Vol. 1, Iss. 2.

[5] Wark, M. 2014. The Drone of Minerva. November 5th.

[6] Proletkult

[7] Mally, Lynn. Culture of the Future: The Proletkult Movement in Revolutionary Russia. Berkeley: University of California Press, c1990 1990.

What I choose it to mean: an interview with Andrea Judit Tiringer

‘I love kitsch. I adore bad taste. I fall for the maladroit.‘ – Andrea Judit Tiringer

In a recent book ‘What Photography Is’ – and just what it is seems to be akin to the meaning of a word for Humpty Dumpty – “just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less” – the critic and theorist James Elkins savagely lays into the users of the photography sharing site Flickr. There’s a page or so of magisterial denunciation delivered in a scornful tone not unlike Humpty Dumpty’s: “Nothing is more amazing than Flickr for the first half hour, then nothing is more tedious” and “…each group puts its favoured technology to the most kitschy imaginable uses”.

1.

It’s not that Elkins hasn’t hit on something – all the sins he bemoans, and more, certainly exist on Flickr but his is a superficial, lazy and tendentious view which evinces a shocking lack of curiosity and imagination for one so exalted in art academia. (Indeed so incensed did Elkins’s tirade make me that I started a Flickr group entitled Bollocks to James Elkins: https://www.flickr.com/groups/bollocks_to_james_elkins/rules/  please consider joining if you’re active on Flickr.)

Flickr gets lambasted too, from the opposite perspective to Elkins, by the proponents of a kind of “bottom up”, “anti-elitist”, account of art, by those who dislike its corporate ownership and by those, too, who believe that one should build such communities with pure free and open source software. To be fair to them there is here, too, much to agree with; Yahoo, Flickr’s current owners, are clearly more interested in maximising advertising income than the welfare of their users.

And yet, and yet… a little looking, a little thought and, hardest of all it seems, a little intellectual humility reveal  – perhaps only the embryonic stage of – something rather marvellous too. The sheer scale of the network of users (which one must point out here could only be a utopian hope for an alternative network, at least under the current social and economic system), the fact that it is impossible that the art world as it currently exists can (or might want to) present to us every piece (or even a small percentage) of work worthy of our attention and, further, that there are many people for whom the impetus to make work is a stronger imperative than getting on in life, or becoming celebrities or making money – akin to Marx’s “Milton [who] produced Paradise Lost in the way that a silkworm produces silk, as the expression of his own nature” – means that careful sifting reveals artists every bit as worthy of our attention as those who please the art-world gatekeepers.

I’ve found hanging out on Flickr enormously nourishing both in terms of intelligent feedback on my own work but also in terms of the diversity of interesting and engaging work by others, some of whom even employ the “favoured technologies” – which largely seems to mean software manipulation – Elkins finds so risible, but in such a way that any honest accounting would find far from such.

It is true that one is tempted on occasion to conceptualise some of this work in terms of “outsiderdom” and this can be a helpful starting point; but there is a quantity/quality dialectic at work in the sheer size of the Flickr database and in the dialogues between the highly focussed outsider, the odd art world figure who doesn’t fear to rub shoulders with those not in the charmed circle, the family snapshot taker and even, though admittedly rarely, the amateur photographer who takes “well-made” photos but doesn’t forget to make them interesting too. There is a wider point contra Elkins here which can be expressed succinctly as – no form, no technique is in and of itself ruled out from the process of making art. Indeed the greatest artists have often taken the lowly, despised and out of fashion and given it a magic twist to create previously undreamed of possibilities.

I venture to suggest that the beginnings of something qualitatively new are here stirring.

That’s a long preamble to some showing, rather than telling. I want to look at a single and in my view very interesting participant on Flickr. First to introduce her work and then talk to her about what it means to her to make and post it.

  2.

nem sáℜa  (Hungarian – ‘not Sara’ – the odd typography for the ‘R’ is a personal quirk and not a language feature ) is the name under which Andrea Judit Tiringer posts work to Flickr. Her body of work is at the same time highly consistent and extraordinarily varied. There are, at the time of writing, 252 images on her Flickr stream – all of them are 444 pixel squares (although I gather she retains larger versions offline). Of the images the vast majority feature a face or figure and this is usually Tiringer herself, a strikingly good-looking but usually (only three or four of the self portraits have smiles) melancholy presence. The focus of the images is variable and the colours are largely muted and pastel. A number of the images feature text, mostly in Hungarian (and occasionally other eastern and central European languages and once or twice even English) and most of them are clearly the product of some process of collaging. What is striking about these images is how sophisticated the use of the space is – there is no sense whatsoever of any “algorithmic” approach to the making of these works – no recipe – each one feels thought through from the beginning and one can linger on each and find new and interesting content (by which I also mean marks, variations of focus or colour, absences, difficult to decipher sections) and relationships within it.

Some are funny (or perhaps lugubrious is a better word) with the kind of tinder dry poker faced humour I particularly associate with Eastern Europe (Nikolai Gogol… Jaroslav Hašek… István Örkény)  and which seems to have further fermented as a regional characteristic during the period 1945 to 89. A number of the images either appear to be entirely drawn from albums of snapshots (maybe family, I’m not sure) or to feature components drawn from this kind of source.

A number of the images have drawings or written text added either by superimposition or in a separate space. Sometimes this takes the form of ink stamps or documents such as receipts or other official formats. Many images are divided into sections; sometimes of the same, repeated proportions, at others into something less structured. The sense of internal barriers marking off distinct sections is a strong one. These barriers are created in a number of ways – repetition, addition and the use of drawn or printed line.

The meaning of the texts, as much as I can make out the non-English ones, seems at least on the surface completely unrelated to the image content but, of course, the viewer naturally seeks such connections.

Many pieces employ “traditional” symbols of femininity – flowers, dolls, a killer dress sense. This also seems tied up with a summoning of the experience of growing up – we see a number of images of young girls. Again I’m unsure whether these are of a young Tiringer or simply found images. What does seem clear is that they carry some autobiographical charge. They are never twee (or if they do tread close, the surrounding work pulls them back from the brink and they become “about” tweeness – and if I can put it that way, the “whyness of tweeness” rather than exemplars of it). Equally the femininity cited above is certainly not inconsistent with strength and confidence. A number of the images allow us an intimacy which many self-portraitists would baulk at. Older women appear with relative frequency and are treated with tenderness and respect, as are images of daily household routines, of “women’s work”. Men appear in only two of the 252 images.

This image series is complex, subtle, sophisticated, mysterious and very beautiful. It is structured with a high level of intentionality by someone who is technically clearly completely in control of the visual language they are using but also open sudden dispatches from the unconscious. Whilst I’m always chary of ascribing “meaning” to works one can clearly delineate here a central set of concerns/hauntings/ pleasures/what-have-you which crop up repeatedly. Femininity, ageing and transition, female solidarity, day-dreaming and play, humour, storytelling, dressing-up (both the childish and the older sort) forming a kind of core around which other rarer, more peripheral themes appear and disperse.

This is not minor work.

3.

I interviewed Andrea Tiringer in English by e-mail over a couple of weeks in late August and early September 2014. Her responses appear largely in the order she sent them although I have interpolated some purely factual responses from an earlier exchange for clarity and I also corrected any (very few) errors of English usage. She checked the final interview text to ensure I had not altered the sense of any of her comments.

Could you tell us a bit about how you came to start making this very distinctive body of work and what you feel you are trying to accomplish with it?

I prefer to exist unrecorded. I take comfort in the temporary nature of things. I am always impatiently anticipating the new…. everything, I never want to hold the moment, yet somehow this photographic urge crawled into my life, without me taking notice.

The first step must have been years ago when I suddenly wanted to capture my grandma’s life. We had weekly sessions: her, me and my tape recorder. She was indecipherable. I tried to capture her essence. I needed her stories to be mine forever, figure out how to have a little ‘Róza mama’ transplanted into me. She expected me to be impossibly glamorous, the way she never could be. As far as she was concerned, that was my task. I was born at a time when girls could be scientists, astronauts, writers, but she did not want me to be a scientist, astronaut or writer, or only maybe as a side project to the grand life. She would look at my shoes and ask: were they expensive? The only acceptable response was: very.

Fast forward to about 2010 when for some reason I found myself chasing a nun on the street because I wanted to take her picture with my cell-phone. I have no idea why. I had no camera to my name, I had never before taken a photo on a whim. I caught up with her (she stopped to look at a shop window, my favourite kind of nun behaviour!) and at home I turned the poor thing, with the help of some online editing tool, into an unsightly shade of purple. I was pleased.

Some weeks later I threw a camera I found at home into my handbag, thinking, ‘Maybe I will run into something that I can take a picture of’. I saw a shabby garden through a ramshackle door. It was obvious right from the start that reality does not circumscribe me in any way.

I love kitsch. I adore bad taste. I fall for the maladroit.

So how did the very singular topics and imagery in the photos you post to Flickr came about? I’m particularly thinking of the repeated self portraiture which must be a feature of 90% of the pieces…

When I was a little girl I was convinced that just as we watch the people on TV someone somewhere is watching us, so we always have to show our best side. In my mind it worked like this: the interesting and good looking are on the telly, the rest on the radio. I would dress up to the nines and sing, because I figured if you did not have a good voice you only got to give the weather report,.

These auto-portraits are quickies. Passport photos, accessorized. Captures of what I am not but maybe could be. They are like a colourful puzzle. I never plan anything. (Actually I have planned to stop for about the last 100 images yet still I keep taking another one. I like them for a couple of days, even weeks sometimes, then forget about them, or they start to annoy me. I am a happy deleter.)

About a year ago I made an air freshener out of one. I adored that! I decided that if they are ever to materialize they will be just that: fake cherry scented tiny fake me’s dangling away in a cube shaped space and challenging visitors’ olfactory and visual endurance.

You say: “Captures of what I am not but maybe could be. They are like a colourful puzzle.”

Could you expand on both of these points? Could you say something about how the other content in any particular self portrait relates to the portrait itself and also what is happening in the pieces that don’t include a self portrait?

It’s extremely hard to describe a scheme as to how they are conceived. When I first started to create these images I haven’t taken a self-image for years. I did not even consider it, I captured what I liked, added my touch, altered them to the best of my abilities. I was getting familiar with the editing software through the process on my own, meaning there were many, many mishaps. Those were always welcome.

At some point the first auto-portrait must have happened, and of course I had all those traditional expectations: look good, appear interesting etc.

I started to think about scenes, but my goal was to create something that cannot be named, that is not easy to place, to find a category for. I avoided obvious symbols. No hearts, no crosses, no stars, nothing that could serve as a clue to the… who knows what?

When I choose the constituent elements, my decision is based only on the colour and geometry of each. This includes my attire and surroundings. For example, I look at the front of my blouse and it reminds me of ovaries; this leads me to a vintage anatomical model I printed the image of weeks ago, the colour of which somehow reminds me of a tiny burn I had on my skin at that time, so I took pictures of these and assembled an image from them..

Each has such individual stories, I never premeditate, it is such a quick process. As for the words, it amazes me the way sentences, taken out of their original context, suddenly stand bare: the absentminded cruelty in the prim cookbooks for proper ladies, the description of a slip-up from a madcap novel for teens that suddenly reads like major romantic poetry. I always photograph texts that catch my attention and if I find a loose connection I may add them to an image. Again, each one’s story is so unique, it’s hard to describe any rule or pattern.

I think there is no difference between the photos with me and the ones without me. I just haven’t found my place in each of them yet …

You’ve described quite lyrically and also humorously some of the personal sources and feelings behind the work. What I’d like you to do now is to talk us more clinically through the way, technically, that you set about making each image. Do you have, after so many, any set approach? What software do you use? How long does it take to make an image and do you make sketches or drafts before settling on the final version? Is there anything else about your approach you think is distinctive?

I use a point and shoot Nikon Coolpix, a simple, simple people-camera, I am not even sure of the exact make. I use GIMP to edit/composite.I have never made a sketch, I do not plan and plot. Something happens and I register that and this results in an image. I am presented with a pear and I casually place it beside me and notice it could belong to the pattern of the dress I am wearing. I look at items from a past exhibition at the medical museum in Budapest and as I catch sight of my reflection on the screen I perceive a concordance between me and the disfigured fetus in formaldehyde. If in those situations I can reach my camera I take a quick photo and it may become part of one of my squares. I try to avoid any set method, the only rule being the square shape.

I love taking photos of strangers. I love happening upon strangers that I want to take photos of. I love happening upon anything at all that I want to take photos of but I noticed that I got pickier over the years.

The found images come from everywhere and anywhere. Family photos, my huge box of vintage snapshots, movie stills, random Google Earth takes. My only rule regarding these is that I have to take a photo of them. No scans, no screen caps… This enables me to add my own mishaps, to “destroy” the originals with my technical shortcomings.

Of course there are schemes I could use. If you tell me to create a photo I will tell you to come back in half an hour and I’ll have it. To you it will look like the rest of them. But if I wait for my moment it can be in ten minutes or never (and I do not care, this way it is extremely personal, diary-like).

The reason I feel like stopping after each one is because their increasing number makes it a challenge to make new things, not to find myself in a rut.

So finally, given the fact that you post your work to Flickr I want to know how you view yourself? An artist? Someone with art as a hobby? An outsider artist? Some completely other category? And I want to ask too, if you had the chance to show this work in an art world context  – galleries &c – would this interest you? Who is the work for? Do have any thoughts on Flickr as a place to show your work?

Leaving you to chew all that over that I’d like to say a big thank-you for your time & for the care with which you have considered and answered these questions!

I absolutely adore this time, the now. Flickr and other interactive/social media sites, in my view, are like any non-virtual public space. Similarly to our sartorial choices and general behaviour, it is a place for quick exchange of personal information, the possibility of sending  perceptible signals about who we are, how we see everything and how we ourselves are related to that everything, so this is a very natural extension of my presence.

I do not really seek a label to describe my relation to the pictures. Definitions provide reassurance and security, but they also mean restriction and responsibility and it is such a relief to have tiny spaces in my life without those.

Who are they for? Hard to tell. At one point I was thinking ‘How wonderful, my son will look at them and think, great, my mum so enjoyed being.’ At the moment this looks quite unlikely, I am too alive. I get the quick attentive glance, the like on Facebook and I am happy and then he heads right back to his world of scalpels and detached limbs in formaldehyde. It is kind of reassuring that nothing about them worries a young doctor.

I will happily display them in any context where they match (or clash) perfectly, and of course that includes the art world and any other world too…