MCD #69 | Net art – WJ-SPOTS#2 : Artists take over the network.

Interview to Anne Roquigny for MCD# 69

Picture 38

Who are you ? can you tell us in a few words who you are and what you have been doing these last years ?

Ι am a media arts curator and researcher working and living in Athens and Berlin. I work independently since 2007 and my main fields of interest have  been net-based art, game-based art and emerging forms of creativity related to the digital commons. I have developed exhibitions, workshops, symposia and other events in collaboration with institutions such as the National Museum of Contemporary Art and Fournos Center for Digital Culture in Athens, LABoral in Gijon, Alta Technologia Andina & Fundacion Telefonica in Lima and Transmediale in Berlin. Currently I am also a researcher at the Department of Communication and Media Studies of the University of Athens.

You have been involved in network activities or netbased projects for many years. From an artistic perspective, what has happened in this field? What have you witnessed or found interesting about the internet since its beginning until now ?

The artistic production on the internet follows the development of the medium itself; it observes its structure and functioning, it tackles its vulnerabilities and it tries to change it, open it up or subvert it.Each period of course is different. The 90s were a period of believing, of excitement and of big expectations. The net might have been smaller in terms of participation, but more rhizomatic and open to the imaginary. We only need to remember how people were communicating then, how playful and creative they were or how diverse the first web pages were.

Today we are all stuck on the social media, feeding them with our real personas, our interests and desires, allowing them to make profit from our activity. We know the alternatives but we do not turn to them. We are stuck on new forms of exploitation because we want to be where most of our friends are. And creativity’s role comes just there; that is to intervene, to annoy, to alert but also to help users understand how the networks function.

What to my eyes is the most important thing about net/network-based art is that it does not care too much if it is art. Either we read the “Introduction to Net.Art” of Bookchin and Shulgin written in 1994 or the “Critical Engineer Manifesto” of Oliver, Vasiliev and Savicic written in 2011, we see that in both cases it is not about art; it is rather about critical awareness and action. The voices were and are radical. And today because of the urgency of the networked condition, creativity  provides tools and knowledge to the users; this is the most important point.

From a social, political, artistic or philosophical point of view, what is the impact of this concept of network ? How has the Internet and the idea of network changed your attitude and practice,  your relation to space and time and the way we behave, work, think, share, exchange, collaborate, create?

 Networks are the principal form of organization nowadays, which of course can be problematic as most of the times they have centralized topologies and asymmetrical structures. One needs to understand networks in order to understand society. Networks depend on the power of the central node/s  but also on the possibility to reprogram them. Where there is power there can also be counter-power; where there is control,  resistance is also possible.

Everything that happens today derives from a network. I guess the Occupy Movement is a representative example; how it was formed, structured, spread, full of potentiality, based on the needs and the desires of the multitude inhabiting today’s cities.
The same goes for the arts. In most countries, we are facing a severe problem with funding cuts. To face this, we turn to our will and capacity to connect; we share our problems and interests and we build networks and alternatives. We do this with very low budget or no budget at all and the people respond to these initiatives embracing them. But at the end of the day we still need to ask ourselves what will feed those who feed these forms of networks.

In the future do you think internet will still be an interesting territory to explore ? Do you think it will be a fertile space for creation? Do you think it will produce more interesting artistic mutations where the physical world and the virtual world hybride, mutate, merge, fuse or collide ?

Let’s hope that Internet will remain an – at least to some extent – free territory first of all, that the interests over the internet will not take over and that we won’t progressively start losing the possibilities the medium has been giving us.
I think that after 20 years of net based creativity, we can be sure that there will be more to come. Creators will continue to follow, study and reflect on the medium. And I believe artists and software engineers will more and more work together with a wider group of people which is no longer an “audience”. They are active participants from different backgrounds with skills and competences who want to be involved. The most exciting and promising aspect for the future for me is this; the growth of this creative part of today’s multitude that meets in hackerspaces, artists’ spaces and workshop labs.

I suppose that as technology evolves merging the virtual with the physical, and as constant connectivity has already become the norm, fascinating examples of art will also be developed for the public space. And at the same time, let’ s not underestimate the return that we see to the physical, which involves purposefully low tech technology or no technology at all, combined with grassroots tactics that build human networks beyond the net. I am very much looking forward to this also, this tendency to look back, to return to peer to peer protocols and to connect beyond imposed structures  and constraints.

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