From real to Unrealtime: A conversation between Mark Amerika and Daphne Dragona

excerpt from the catalogue accompanying the exhibition Unrealtime

D.D.: What’s the essence of time for your writings and works? You are often referring to “Unrealtime”, “make/fake time”, “asynchronous realtime”, and “timeless time,” different notions that negate time’s very nature but reflect our contemporary experience of time in the digital era. How do these notions and aspects inspire your works?

MA: As Borges says in “A New Refutation of Time,” “Time is the substance I am made of,” and then he goes on to say that time is a river that sweeps me along but I am the river too[1]. Still, these material substances and their flowing through metaphorical rivers, or what I think of as the networked space of flows, are subject to all kinds of disturbances, discontinuities and autogenerated hallucinations that distort this notion of being-on-the-clock. Think of what we call jet lag and the way we experiment with our bodies as they pass through the day and then enter alternative states of drifting deep into the night. Most people are oscillating between realtime – that which feels like it is happening now – and unrealtime, that which feels like it is happening in an otherworld, the one we experience when dreaming or losing ourselves in unconscious creative acts as part of a mediumistic encounter with the creative process. There is something to be said for operating in auto-affect or auto-remix mode and keeping your head in the clouds while simultaneously grounding out in acts of perpetual postproduction. I try to play out these alternative time-trips at all times of the day and night and observe how it totally effects the way I process reality.

DD: You were one of the pioneers, one of the first artists that decided to explore the opportunities that were opening up with the Internet in the nineties. to a great extent appeared not only as a new artistic form developed on a new technological ground but also as a critique to the medium itself, calling for the users’ attention but also awareness. What happened to this “movement of art” since then? Can we still speak about

MA: … Net art in the 90s was a great artistic movement, perhaps the most important art movement of the early 21st century. That’s not a mistake. I say the 21st century because like all avant-garde art movements it was ahead of its time. It prefigures what will inevitably become a network based art economy. Did you notice how this early Net art movement, which generated almost as much immediate attention and institutional clout as, say, Sixties-styled Conceptual Art did, never became commercially viable in the gallery scene? This is Net art’s greatest achievement… I find it interesting that you are asking me if we can still even speak of Net art these days. The fact that we can even ask this question indicates to me what has transformed over the last decade. As with the development of other art forms like, for example, photography in the 70s and 80s, the excitement that we felt over the early Internet art works has dissipated. In my seminars, I always ask if we can even speak of photography anymore. There is no question that Net art, like film, video and photography art before it, has experienced its initial boom of interest. My own feeling is that the experiments of early Net art have been absorbed by a follow-up network of artists who practice what I have called Net Art 2.0. These artists tend to work with Web 2.0 technologies, game culture, and mobile media. These emerging artists are much more comfortable integrating their artwork in a variety of institutional, D-I-Y, and social networking contexts. I think the social networking space is ideally situated for new forms of performance art. As far as I can tell, Net 2.0 is less about the continuation of Net art per se, and more about the integration of life on the Net into the art of life…

DD: Postproduction and remix have played a central role in your work. When discussing your approach you refer more to ideas such as the détournement of the Situationists rather than Bourriaud’s or Manovich’s positions on postproduction and remix culture [2]. Could you explain to us how do you understand postproduction and remix with reference to your work’s development?

MA: You could say that my approach to remix and/or postproduction culture is more akin to a philosophical investigation of what it means to be creative, that we are all born-remixers, and as such we are continually sampling from the datum that surround us and innovating new forms of aesthetic viability. I call this datum Source Material Everywhere – it’s literally and metaphorically in the air, ready for downloading, and how we access it, what we do with it once we sample from it, that is to say, how we manipulate it as postproduction artist-mediums, is what makes us unique artists, what Alfred North Whitehead might call “actual entities” … There can be no doubt that the seemingly very banal concepts of “remix” and “postproduction” are being applied to all kinds of contemporary art practice perhaps to the point where the methodologies that are triggered by the concepts start to lose their value as an avant-methodology. If everything in art can be reduced to “remix” then do we risk simplistically applying it to a wide array of media forms where it soon loses its power to intervene in the mainstream meaning-making process? It’s like what has happened to the word “creativity” i.e. there is always the risk of it becoming completely neutered by the corporate behemoth. But for me, there is a deep connection between the desire to create, to innovate new forms of becoming-artist, and the quite natural way we are all operating in auto-remix mode.  The idea of remix has to be more than just a conceptual linchpin that someone reports on as in “hey, look at this, everyone is remixing!” I’m not interested in the commodification of remix theory for a self-referential academic or institutional art audience. For me it’s an alternative way of approaching life, a grand philosophical principle that fuels the development of creative – what I call postproduction – mediums. It just so happens that as a self-conscious performance artist playing with intuitive remix technologies, I am lucky enough to be living in a time of great transformation thanks in large part to the beauty of digitally networked culture.

[1] Jose Luis Borges, “A New Refutation of Time” in Labyrinths: Selected stories and other writings. New Direction Books, New York, 1964.

[2] Nicolas Bourriaud, Postproduction, Lukas & Sternberg, New York, 2002.Lev Manovich, “What comes after remix?”,

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