There Is No Copyright On Laws Public Commission for the Rechtbank Roermond
Article 11 of the Dutch Copyright Act states that, under the law, once a text has been edited, it enters the public domain. On the basis of this, a text can be altered as long as the spirit of the wording remains intact. A fact of which the art works created for the court rooms of the new court building of Roermond District Court take full advantage. Stripped of their formal legal language, legislative texts engage in a dialogue with the public and the users of the space.
Installations of meaning
Here, light and language are the materials that reveal the spirit of the space and restore this meaning to the legal texts in a very unusual way. The art works are installations of meaning that call upon all the interpretative faculties: the wording of the legislation is interpreted by using other forms of language but also through widely diverse graphic styles that serve the meaning of the work. The light itself “interprets’ the visual aspect of the work and projects its shadow on the wall.
The collection of the ZKM | Karlsruhe ranks among the largest media art collections in the world. It exemplifies the transformation of art in the face of changing technologies of production, reception, and distribution. Artists react to changes in media and sometimes anticipate developments that only years later will be taken for granted by society as a whole: they write the history of the future.
Media determine to a great extent how we express our thoughts and feelings, how we communicate, and how we remember the past. Johannes Gutenberg’s movable metal letters fundamentally changed Europe’s culture of knowledge in the middle of the 15th century, just as photography changed the fine arts in the middle of the 19th century, and the Internet transformed our entire private and public communication at the end of the 20th century. The development of art went from moving letters to moving images and moving viewers; from the book page to the website, from the canvas to the screen.
“Writing the History of the Future. Part I” looks at art from the middle of the 20th century onwards. The exhibition shows aesthetic experiments with script and language that engage with different media. It presents the first attempts at computer-generated graphics and poetry as well as contemporary works dedicated to the automation of the creative act. It also addresses the material conditions of individual and cultural memory – between erasing and forgetting, storing and remembering.
New technologies provide the individual with ever new means to create images, texts, and sounds. They expand her or his scope for action. The exhibition provides a precise insight into the history of viewer activation – from Op-Art to physical interventions in variable pictorial objects to the instructions for action of the art of the »performative turn«.
Ooit, which in English means something like ‘ever’, was designed for the newly built faculty of Economics of the Hanzehogeschool in the City of Groningen. The shape of the work was inspired by the bubbles used by cartoonists to show an idea taking shape. The oval and round shapes contain a digitally manipulated image of the Wadden area (a flat stretch of coast subjected to the continuous cycle of high and low tides). The word ‘Ooit’ or ‘ever’ has no set meaning – it refers to an indefinite, undefined time. Hence its connection with the marshy landscape which, with its vast spaces, summons up similar connotations. The landscape shown in the image seems to be hinged onto the horizon, reflecting clouds in the water’s surface.
The work seems to rise up out of the central hall of the building. The last oval is on the roof and forms a point of contact with the world outside the faculty building, also at night when the work lights up. Ooit’s contemplative character and its correlation with the advanced technology of which it is made, refer to the scholarly activities of the economics faculty.
The digitally manipulated images have been sprayed by airbrush technique onto canvas through which light can pass. The canvas is spanned on an aluminium construction within which neon lights have been attached. The image is visible on both sides of the ovals. The large oval is 300 cm wide, the other three shapes are round with a diameter of 160 cm, 120 cm and 90 cm respectively.
The newly built Faculty of Economics of the Hanzehogeschool is situated on the outskirts of the City of Groningen. Ooit’s is located in the central hall of the building.
Idee & execution: Martine Neddam Commissioned by: Hanzehogeschool, Groningen Completion 1995 Construction: Neon Weka, Holland
“these are a few of my favourite things…” is the title of this show.As part of the event Home Sequence, I have invited Michelle Son and Maartje Smits to exhibit in my house on 27/28/29/30 june 2019. I’m also showing some (text) objects in my house which I consider art, signed or unsigned.
Thursday 27 June 19/21:00 OPENING HOME SEQUENCE Friday 28 June 14/19:00 Saturday 29 June 14/19:00 Sunday 30 June 14/19:00
Here is my favourite version of this famous song. In the lyrics it says that the mere thought of the things you like makes you feel better. And I add: provided you can summon a beautiful list of them from your memory… or inside your own house. Added to my list of favourite things normally present in my house, are the works of Maartje Smits and Michelle Son.
The matter of mothers and mud An installation and intimate chatbot performance about motherhood and what happens if a writer or artist creates a baby. This performance will be taking place in the safe space of a spare bedroom. For optimal experience a smartphone is handy but it’s no necessity.
Performances on: Thursday the 27 th of June (time: 20:00) Friday the 28th of June (time: 18:00) Saturday the 29th of June (time:15:00) Max. 12 – 15 people per performance.
Maartje Smits is a poet in image and language. She investigates topics like ‘girliness’ and ‘nature’ by observing and infiltrating, operating in the limbo between art and literature. Her work consists of films, performances, texts and intimate confessions. Her books of (visual) poetry When you’re a girl and How I started a forest in my bathroom were published by publishing house De Harmonie.
“oh, na, na, na”
M’s largest room
“oh, na, na, na”
sticks that look like sketches of sticks
“bom bomm!… bom bomm!”
Scripting spaces is an activity that shapes Michelle Son’s artistic practice. Her interest in the paradox of language has developed into visual and experiential practices. This forms the structure for multiple media to activate a space, through sound, performance interventions, video, object-making or hybrid writing practices. Other subjects of interest stretch across notions of self-care, suburbia, cinema, flâneury, womanhood, wildness, diaspora and (in)direct communication.
“these are a few of my favourite things…” Your own house has something comforting and familiar, just like a song you might hum to yourself. It hosts some of your favourite things. They might happen to be works of art, made by others or by yourself, or not even works of art, but just things or objects that you like having around. Things that bring you warmth, just by thinking of them. I’m inviting Maartje Smits and Michelle Son to show their art in my house, to mingle with the space, shake off the dust, or blow it away with new words or new things.
Martine Neddam is an artist who uses language as raw material. Speech acts, modes of address, words in the public space were always her favourite subjects by which she had several museum and gallery exhibitions and large scale public commissions. Since 1996 she has created virtual characters on the internet who lead an autonomous artistic existence in which the real author remains invisible, Mouchette among others. She has also built several online participatory interfaces. To obtain my address, and the hours of the show, follow the rules of the Home Sequence project: To receive the list of home addresses and the events schedule please RSVP to the email address: firstname.lastname@example.org We kindly ask you not to circulate this document in order to keep overview of who obtained the list of private addresses of the participating artists. The list will be distributed few days before the opening. Home Sequence was initiated by Sascha Pohle and Tao G. Vrhovec Sambolec in 2018
Views of the opening at my place on 27 june
Internet Art and Agency : The Social Lives of Online Artworks Karin De Wild Doctoral Thesis › Doctor of Philosophy University of Dundee
exposition peut-elle être conçue par une intelligence artificielle
défi a été relevé par Madja Edelstein-Gomez pour son exposition
“Les Recombinants”. Des algorithmes ont choisi des œuvres parmi
les centaines de propositions recueillies au cours d’un appel à
en temps réel, l’exposition propose un mix hypnotique d’images, de
vidéos, de sons et de textes proposés par les artistes et qui se
recombinent perpétuellement à l’écran.
chez Les Recombinants, l’exposition du futur.
que leurs œuvres d’art, la personnalité des artistes, leur
biographie, la manière dont ils se décrivent eux-mêmes, dont ils
montrent leur visage ainsi que leur travail, fait elle-même l’objet
d’une recombinance. À l’écran des perspectives diverses s’offrent
au visiteur et sur un clic, leur apparence se révèlent lentement,
mettant au jour l’arrière-plan de la scène. Sur un clic encore,
leurs mots génèrent de nouveaux discours sur l’art et sur l’oeuvre.
le web, vous pourrez expérimenter le traitement des données en
temps réel par les algorithmes de l’intelligence artificielle.
découverte individuelle est offerte à votre patience, curiosité et
sagacité. En ligne, chaque visiteur verra un spectacle différent,
parcourra divers espaces et perspectives des artistes invités par
l’intelligence artificielle. Vous pourrez aussi consulter leur
présentation individuelle. Assistez à l’oeuvre de ces incroyables
robots et découvrez leur pouvoir de calcul instantané ! Devinez
leurs mouvements, repérez les œuvres et anticipez leurs
combinaisons ! Attention, cela pourrait secouer le navigateur de
votre ordinateur et faire fondre votre processeur !
que l’intelligence artificielle démontre est l’extrême
compatibilité des artistes. Tous les styles, tous les médias, tous
les genres artistiques ont été sollicités et sélectionnés pour
être recombinés. Aucune œuvre n’a été jugée trop singulière,
exceptionnelle ou hors norme. Aucune n’a été jugée trop démodée,
trop laide, trop médiocre ou trop inauthentique. La “sagesse” de
l’intelligence artificielle est de rejeter les catégories
esthétiques attendues avec leur surcharge historique et sociale et
de faire resurgir l’intuition et la sensibilité. Elle réconcilie
les spectateurs avec la perception pure. Elle invite les institutions
artistiques à s’ouvrir au nouveau monde de l’art, à remettre en
question leurs préjugés sur l’art et à repenser ce que peut être
une exposition à l’ère du web.
la présentation d’Art-O-Rama Madja Edelstein-Gomez a choisi
d’enregistrer trois captures d’écran de quinze minutes chacune. Ces
vidéos vous invitent à créer votre propre visite et à découvrir
et à expérimenter votre propre spectacle sur votre ordinateur.
Madja Edelstein-Gomez (née en 1960 à Montevideo, Uruguay) est une commissaire d’exposition indépendante , qui a réalisé plusieurs expositions internationales (Bangalore, Buenos Aires, Prague, Tbilisi, Toronto…). Elle vit actuellement à Kuala Lumpur et Paris. Elle est aussi une militante reconnue et engagée auprès de plusieurs associations humanitaires. Site personnel: http://madja.net
en ligne est produite par Zinc (Marseilles), avec le soutien
financier de : Dicréam-CNC, Château Ephémère
(Carrières-sous-Poissy), Espace Gantner (Belfort), Rhizome (New
The Digital Canon (1960–2000) of the Netherlands. Experts from the field of digital culture selected twenty of the most prominent and influential works made on Dutch soil by artists who lived or worked here over a long period of time. The works and their makers are not all equally well known, yet this does not detract from their lasting influence on digital art and culture. Each of the works makes use of or responds to digital culture’s increasing impact on art and society. Discover these exceptional works of art here.
The project has been carried out by a core group (‘the expert group’) and in collaboration with numerous experts from the field. The core team consisted of Josephine Bosma (researcher and critic), Martijn van Boven (artist and tutor), Annet Dekker (researcher and curator), Sandra Fauconnier (art historian) and Jan Robert Leegte (artist and tutor). The project was coordinated by LIMA and supervised by Gaby Wijers (director) and Sanneke Huisman (curator). Additional national and international experts were involved in various international meetings. Together with them, a broadly supported selection was made, while the often authoritarian selection procedures that lie at the basis of canonization were critically reflected upon.
The result can be seen on a website dedicated to the project: www.digitalcanon.nl. The twenty canonical works here each have their own page with images, excerpts, videos, quotes from the artists and texts. The works have been researched for this purpose. In addition, the website also contains clear insight into the development of the selection presented and some critical texts about canonizing digital art. The design emphasizes this dual nature by dividing the website into a front and back. This innovative design is made by Yehwan Song. Song is a South Korean designer, web designer and web developer. She designs and develops experimental websites and interactive graphical interfaces. Song is known for her playful design in which she reverses and challenges the general understanding of web design both conceptually and visually.
Follow-up The canon is by no means an endpoint, but is the starting point for further investigation of the selected works. The first follow-up steps are already being taken. In addition to the website, an exhibition concept will be developed, which involves various relevant issues. For some of the selected works, for example, only documentation material is left and for other works restoration is needed. The canon is also a starting point for discussion and critical reflection, whereby canon formation and the selection procedure are critically examined. The title of the conversation between Josephine Bosma, Martijn van Boven, Annet Dekker, Sandra Fauconnier, Jan Robert Leegte and Gaby Wijers is significant from this point of view: “Canonization as an Activist Act”. The traditional form of canonization is used to open a conversation. The expert group invites the field to make its voice heard. The first external text has already been published on the website: Re-writing the Present: To Inhabit the Inhabitable by Willem van Weelden looks critically and philosophically at (the lack of) historical awareness in the field of canonization and preservation of digital art.
A conversation between Martine Neddam (M) and Annet Dekker (A)
A: When looking back at the website Mouchette.org one could say that it was one of the first fictional personal blogs, a diary of a young girl. But moving beyond that first impression, and looking at the development through the years it has become much more. What does the character of Mouchette mean to you, what does it do?
M: Mouchette was about creating a form and not so much about storytelling. When I started Mouchette I wanted to use the notion of a character as something that transcends mediums, I saw the character as something that can be used as a form, or a container. Using a character as a metaphor allowed me to gather and structure information. I have always believed that a character, a person or an identity is a good metaphor. They can assume the identity of an institution without actually existing. In this sense, I see characters as containers that carry units of meaning.
I was very interested in exploring that idea. At its base, Mouchette shows that identity is a social, mental, or artistic construction. It’s something that you put together. The idea that identity is one thing, ‘Me is one,’ is also an illusion, or a very totalitarian obligation.
A: How did you develop Mouchette? How has it been branded through the years?
M: Many things happened, depending on the works that I put up on the site, but it has never lost popularity. It has a sort of street credibility; in a way people really believed in it and the fake became reality. But the question of whether you’re a real or fake person has become less important now, which is interesting. When I started Mouchette the idea of an alternate persona was still seen as a bizarre phenomenon, so it attracted a lot of attention. Many people posed as characters, for example, mothers would go online pretending to be their daughters, but you only heard of it when they ended up in court, which seldom happened. Through the years and with the rise of popular sites like Second Life it became less and less unusual. It is quite normal to have several e-mail addresses: a work e-mail, a private e-mail, and an old one full of spam, and they represent different personalities in each of us. Everybody has these multiple identities but they didn’t create them in a deliberate way, it just happened.
Whereas in the beginning the question of whether Mouchette existed or not was very important for me, I ended up revealing the true author, but only recently and in quite a low-profile way. Secrecy was a very important part of the work; it really called on the imagination of the reader, the websurfer. While designing the work I kept wondering if the receiver would guess or imagine who was behind the character. For example, I could pretend that Mouchette was a man, but how then could I play out the sexual elements without them becoming perverted? I really emphasised the secrecy and the moments of revelation. I would send a phantom e-mail and pretend that the real author had to reveal his identity and therefore I would name an actual place, a well-known art institution, for example, so that people would believe it.
A: Can you talk a little bit more about these physical presentations? How did you translate the virtual work into the physical world?
M: It was natural for me because I‘ve worked for many years as an artist in public spaces and galleries. It surprised me that when I started Mouchette I was suddenly propelled into the closed field of digital media. This was very limiting for me. I always wanted to present Mouchette in as many ways as possible, always with the website at the centre, and within the context of her personality. Mouchette became the brand through which I presented various projects. I think it had an effect because I know of at least two instances when I was awarded a prize and the jury discussed the secrecy of the artist’s identity, and it really attracted additional attention to the work.
A: Yes, I participated in one of those discussions. It was absolutely fascinating that after so many years, even professionals still discussed Mouchette’s true nature.
M: Yes indeed, but this also happened with writers, famous writers like Romain Gary. And of course it works both ways – it has an influence on the receiver as well as on the author. Hosting another being inside yourself creates certain possibilities that trigger something. I felt it very deeply when I decided to reveal Mouchette’s secret. Mouchette enabled me to escape my grown-up self, to express myself less with words and allow the story to be told more through images. It also allowed me to share parts of my own character that otherwise would not have come out, and to acknowledge that what I wanted to achieve with my art was simply to be famous and loved by everyone.
Sometimes I think that characters exist beyond us; we are merely temporal vehicles or carriers. There were often times when I wanted to get rid of Mouchette because all the work was taking over my life; in a way I was her slave. Martine Neddam the artist was taken over by Mouchette the character, which didn’t even belong to me. Mouchette first appeared in 1937 in a book by Georges Bernanos. Later, in 1967, Robert Bresson made a movie called Mouchette, about a French teenager who commits suicide after she is raped, and I loosely based Mouchette.org on these characters. Others have also used Mouchette.org. So it’s come from somewhere and is going somewhere else and I’m the carrier in between.
A: Is this, for you, also a space where playfulness and irony come into play, the fun side of doing things? Something that is reflected in the projects you create, the coding, the tricks, but also on a conceptual level, a play with language, an urge to transform things, and push limits?
M: Yes, absolutely. It all started with the use of English as a foreign language. In the early days of the Internet people communicated in text spaces, the MOO [ed. MOOs are network accessible, multi-user, programmable, interactive systems, used for the construction of text-based adventure games, conferencing, and other collaborative software and communication platforms]. When I talked with people, I would tell them that English was not my mother tongue, but they would forget this quite quickly, and then my language would come across as very childish. So, there I was in the MOO communicating with MIT people, who were really academic, working on code and text. I was interested in talking to them through a sort of playful interface, which the MOO was. I had this awkward feeling that they would soon forget my ‘accent’ and after two sentences I was just communicating in baby talk, while they were using academic language. Quite unconsciously I was training myself to find simple way to express complex ideas without emotional barriers.
So I decided to take that strategy further with the creation of an online character, Mouchette, who is emotionally very direct but still can communicate ideas about art. This experience was very liberating for me. If I had used my mother tongue it wouldn’t have worked because, like every educated adult, my emotional inhibitions are very strongly rooted inside the language. Using this kind of direct language in a specific way triggered something in me I didn’t know I had. For example, I would say simple phrases like ‘Art is what you say Art is’ using the ‘Duchamp approach’ in a very cheeky way. If I had expressed it in French, I would have used more complex language. Mouchette gave me the opportunity to leave intellectual authority behind. This was important because I wanted to reach another audience that was present on the Internet and move beyond the art gallery and the institutional scene.
For me the irony revealed itself through the aesthetics of the site. Perhaps I can explain it with something I used to say: ‘Can you be pink and conceptual at the same time?’. In the 1970s and 1980s artists from the Art & Language and conceptual art movements were very style driven, even though they pretended that appearance and personality were insignificant. But when look back, it was elegantly black and white, very stylish. Pink at that time, and even now in many cases, wouldn’t be acceptable. Pink is frivolous, not serious; it’s playful and certainly can’t be conceptual or political.
Sometimes this attitude towards the non-pink in art makes me very angry. For example, Mouchette would never be called a political work of art, or even art that engages with the social. At best many art critics and curators see it as a funny little story, non-political and not socially engaged. This has annoyed me at times, because it is political and it does engage with the social on many levels. The idea of alternate identities is very political, as are the notions of multiple identities, and shared identities, which I provided through Mouchette. It’s even more cynical because I’m perhaps one of the few artists who have had to deal with the legal system when I was taken to court. But I also never claimed that it was political or social. I don’t think that’s my role, and it’s not the way the work functions either.
A: Mouchette seems indeed to elude the radars of politics, new technologies and networks, which is regrettable.
M: Yes, it is, but with Mouchette I wanted foremost to create a social space, a space where people could communicate and help other people. Of course, that these things have been sorted, edited and published is in itself a political act. It’s still a sort of repository of thoughts and emotions that wanted to be shared, and finally have been shared. Mouchette shows that art can penetrate people’s private lives, and I believe that is a good thing.
A: You’re pushing the limits of art critics and curators even further, firstly with a Fanclub and now a Guerrilla Fanshop…
M: As soon as I had a mailing list of 20 people I named this list a Fanclub. Over time I noticed that the number of visitors kept growing and that the audience also changed. New people keep on discovering the site. I believe that it’s because of Mouchette’s youthfulness, her combination of energy and anger that is also present in classics such as The Catcher in the Rye. People recognise and identify with Mouchette. For me the Fanshop is a continuation as well as a new step. I like the idea that it is situated in real life. It’s another interesting form for making contact with people. I try to investigate the Fanshop as a social form and an artistic form, including the notions of fake and real. And again, it plays with the idea that an identity can be shared and also be used to offer a platform for different ideas and groups of people.
A: How do you balance between the idea of Mouchette as an identity and as a space where social exchange can take place?
M: The Western world has developed a very limited form of identity, I think. We believe that we can own ourselves, which is absolutely untrue. You’re always a part of something and you switch between different identities. The Western idea of identity needs to be re-examined. I was very aware of that when I created Mouchette. I didn’t want to describe someone, but I wanted to re-examine the conditions of identity as a form of social exchange. I’ve always seen Mouchette as a platform, not as an identity. It, or she, allows me to raise certain issues and also allows others to do certain things. It’s a platform of exchange.
A: And not just of ideas, but also the sharing of identities?
M: Yes, I wanted to put forward the idea of identity as a composition. As I said the notion of a single identity is very artificial; furthermore, whatever identity you do have does not necessarily only belong to you. Its also part of, or even belongs to, everyone who interacts with it. Whatever you do to yourself, for example, if you cut your hair and a friend comes by the next day and is surprised and makes some kind of remark, then that remark could be understood as: ‘You changed yourself without my permission’. I very much like the idea of identity as something that is shared. So I created an identity-sharing interface that made it possible to use or copy Mouchette. Unfortunately, it backfired after the terrorist attack in New York in 2001. I was creating David Still at the time, and was very excited about inventing another character that could be taken over by others. But after terrorism struck, anything that dealt with other identities became suspect. Terrorists could hide behind my characters. Each and every façade was suspect. What was once playful and seductive was made into something to strike out at, something to erase. I really felt that the attack on the Twin Towers and the way America reacted to it threatened my art.
A: How do you see in this light the rise of Facebook? Do you think it might become a way of dealing with different identities again, or a place where people can play with identity?
M: No, exactly the opposite. The whole idea of alternate identities was banned on Facebook. Someone had set up a Facebook page for Mouchette but Facebook shut it down very quickly. They do accept the pseudonyms of famous writers, but if you create three different people with three different e-mail addresses, at some point they will become suspicious and shut down the pages. I’m not entirely sure how they track everything, but building alternate identities is definitely discouraged. Facebook actually started as a virtual dating site, so it’s based entirely on the concept of real identities. If anything, it reinforces the very limited idea of a single identity.
A: What is Mouchette’s next adventure?
M: I’m still fascinated by made-up characters, especially those that people accept as real. In this line I just finished a work ‘Turkmenbashi, mon amour,’ an animation in which Mouchette shows us Turkmenistan and highlights the presence of its ex-dictator, the late Saparmurad ‘Turkmenbashi’ Nyazov. Even though he’s dead, his personality is still very prominent in the capital, Ashgabat. The city is home to numerous huge golden statues and images of this extremely repressive dictator. At the same time there is a strange atmosphere of non-communication. That tension between his ubiquitous ‘presence‘ and the silence about it was something I wanted to address. So I made a sort of reportage, a documentary with photos and texts, where Mouchette describes and comments in her typically playful and ironic way, addressing the dictator as if she admires him and writing a love letter starting with ‘Turkmenbashi Mon Amour’. Here the play between fiction and reality is to identify these fictional elements in reality, like these crazy self-promoting dictators who are really fictitious characters.
I think I’m bound to continue experimenting with fictitious characters in many different ways, with the ones I invent and with the ones who are already here among us. Once you’ve created one, you realise that our lives are full of them. They are like an army of shadows.
You studied literature, language, architecture / décor and sculpture and you have a long career in public sculpture. In the early days of the Internet you created your first virtual character, Mouchette. What made you choose this medium and what interested you so much in the Internet?
My background has
always influenced my work, especially the literature studies I
undertook in France. I started working as a stage designer after my
studies and together with a group of friends we made abstract
theatre. The plays were not about the situation, but focused on the
presence of the actor and speech. This idea of language, of the act
of speech transforming the space is still something I strongly
believe in and I have continued working with. For the public
commissions I was given I also worked with language and text. As with
a theatre play I didn’t necessarily go into what the play said, but
interpreted and imagined another perspective for the situation. For
example, the space of a square or roundabout is a given and spatially
you can’t change much, but by simply renaming the space with a sign
you can change the mental perspective people have on it. I also
applied this way of working in the gallery and the museum space.
Language was my material. I would use expressions and stage them in a
certain way. For example, I would write a text on the floor that
would only make sense when someone walked on it.
I was quite particular
in the type of texts I used, because I was interested in modes of
address. I didn’t do poetry or narratives, but confronted people by
using the ‘I’ and the ‘you’. Probably affected by my previous
experience in linguistics and in stage design, I was very much
interested in speech acts and what happens between the sender and the
receiver of the message. At times I used offensive text with the
purpose of analysing something – not the meaning but the mode of
address. I wanted to trigger an emotional response within the safety
of the walls of the art institute. Public space was of course much
more restricted. But there I very much enjoyed the first hand
reactions from people. To me public space has always been about
public and less about space. Everything that I made and designed was
in relation to a certain public. I regard a public space as a public
situation. The work of art is the relation you create between you and
And then the Internet came…
It was fascinating; it
was a dream come true. All of a sudden you could address and be
addressed. When you create a work you can more or less imagine
people’s response in your imagination, but you’re not there when
they are doing it. And suddenly there was the possibility of being
there when they talk back; being there and not there at the same
time. That was utopia, one of very few moments in one’s life when
How do you see your
position in those early days, within that community?
Many people were
creating tools to transform the web and they also made them available
to others. The web was exciting because it was something you
received, and that you could also pass on. It resembled a gift
economy and art was more than an aesthetic enterprise. My personal
interest was less in creating technical tools and more in analysing
forms of communication. I made my first, very primitive web pages in
Mouchette in HTML. When users wrote back I would edit that into HTML
pages and post them into my site. In 1998 I commissioned an interface
with PHP and that result very much resembled a hand-made blog – one
of the first blogs. Artists were really on the frontline.
Something I still
preserve as precious was the invention of navigation in a text by
means of ‘links’, and in that way going from a web page to another
web page. ‘Hypertext’ was a word people often used at that time. It
showed how much the web was perceived as a modification inside the
structure of a text, breaking its linearity. After a while more
features were introduced, for example ‘frames’. This made it possible
to organise circulation in several pages. I wanted to get the viewer
lost in a very complex navigation, where the placement of the links
was invisible or unexpected. To me it was very important to keep the
web navigation very organic, a mixture of the expected and the
This search and
interest in the unexpected is something that I don’t see much any
more. In the beginning it was everywhere because everything was a
surprise. At the moment it seems that few people are on the net to
have an unusual experience or to be surprised.
It seems the Internet has lost much of its
original energy and optimism. How would you describe the internet at
Ruled by commercial
purposes, with very little private initiative and over designed. Of
course it has reached a certain development, especially in the
network features and in the way people communicate with each other.
But the visual quality and diversity is poor. It is also evolving in
a dangerous way because users don’t own their content on most
public platforms and it often ends up being used for commercial
purposes. Few people are aware of the consequences of Facebook owning
their content. Web pioneers were extremely aware of these things. We
were asking ourselves moral questions about every interaction because
they were new and every action could become an issue and raised
questions. That is why it is so important to keep these origins alive
because it preserves the traces and the original dreams.
Very few people
recognise why the commercial tools are made and to what end. Maybe
the role of the artist is to show that. I still see a lot of creative
tools made by individual artists and some are very interesting, but
they are hardly discussed in fora, even though they are easy to use
and could be useful for designers or a general public. Nobody seems
to be interested. The biggest problem is the invasiveness of the
large companies. The voices of non-commercial innovation are too
small to get heard. This is where the small creative networks have to
find a solution because huge networks are swallowing them; they get
pushed aside and become invisible.
If you look at your different characters,
Mouchette, David Still and so on, what is the relationship between
With Mouchette I
didn’t really have any plans, I just started from scratch: what
name do you want to give yourself? Something everyone experiences
when you choose an email for example. Starting from that and building
up was completely organic. Mouchette was really a mixture of my own
fantasy and what the web was becoming. The element of the unexpected
was very important in the site and still exists because it has this
confusing navigation and it is based on playfullness and surprise.
David Still (2001) was
a consciously designed tool for a public I knewi.
I wanted to observe how people would use this tool. I created David
Still both as an online and offline character, as if he lived in the
real world. Originally it was a work I did as a public commission for
the city of Almere as a representation of the public sphere there . I
used certain aspects of the city, like buildings – David Still lives
in a street called ‘De Realiteit’ [the reality], which is an
architectural experiment in Almere. So it was both reflecting on the
public space in Almere as well as on the public space on the
I had to end David
Still’s main function, sending emails from his email address, in
2005 because spam has become such an overwhelming phenomenon that it
made it impossible to send messages from an unknown source. Spam
started to rule our email exchanges and from that point on David
Still was no longer viable – nobody wanted to hear about an unknown
person. Different web hosts around the world came up with different
legislations against spam and I had to change hosts three times,
eventually disabling the send function.
The Virtual Person
project that I started in 2008 is also a tool; an experiment with web
design and personal expression. The Internet is very much developed
as far as networking, dialogue and exchange goes, but there are very
few tools for personal expression. Virtual Person.net is a limited
tool, because I wanted to make it as accessible and usable as
possible. It focuses on certain visual features that I think are
meaningful to develop, for example fading one image into another
instead of linking them. When you make something with many functions,
people use the one by default because there is too much choice, blogs
for example are a clear example of this. People who design it say you
can do many things with it but users ultimately only use default
functions. The result is uniformity.
Most of all by
creating VirtualPerson.net I wanted to offer the use of visual
features that haven’t been explored; a mixture of text and image in
a visual composition. I believe this is an area with huge potential
but at the moment texts and images are still treated as separate.
They never really merge onto the same surface, contradicting each
other or intertwining in a way that creates a different meaning. In
Facebook and blogs you can upload image and text separately but it is
not possible to combine them in more sophisticated ways. These
interfaces are not designed as creative tools. I want to explore the
relation between the two in a consistent way. It follows my previous
works in the public space and the visual design of Mouchette.
In a way your online work is emblematic of the
Internet; reacting to communication systems, issues of identity,
spam, image and narrative tools, etc. But also the technical side is
highly developed, even though the websites look very easy in set up
and design, they were made with state-of-the art technology, mostly
adapting and programming existing or new programs and software.
Whereas most net_art is known for its innovative use of technology
your work is never really mentioned in this respect nor did others
ever reflect upon it. Why do you think that is?
I never liked to use
technology as the subject of my work. But indeed if you are not
interested in technology you can’t work with the web as a medium.
From the start I was very close to the new technological
developments. Web editing was available to everyone, and when new
features appeared in the browser, artists were the first to use them
while commercial sites had to wait six months before they could
implement them. Artists could create something within half an hour,
giving it a certain creative spirit. That may not be the case
anymore. At the moment large companies invest huge sums in
experimenting and are much faster in finding new solutions than
before. But I wouldn’t say that this is innovation: Innovation is
not necessarily building on something but it is about questioning,
for example how you to not use something. You try to think of
something in a different way, that is where innovation comes in.
You made work especially for the Internet, but
could you see the work presented on other platforms – pubic (urban
screen / mobile phone) or private (gallery/black-white cube)?
Mouchette has always
existed in the public space as a collection of different works of
art. It wasn’t always easy to exist simultaneously on the Internet
and in the world of art. Sometimes I was invited as Martine Neddam
and I would ask the museum to present it as Mouchette and to become
the accomplice so as to keep the author anonymous. Not everyone
accepted, because these were not easy or obvious conditions. But some
did and I created installations in the gallery, soundworks, a
shopping bag as part of an art manifestation in a shopping mall,
etcetera. I used all the existing media and materials available to
communicate. I don’t see the Internet as separate from other media,
it is just one of the tools. But it still depends very much on my own
energy to keep Mouchette connected to the world of art. Most curators
don’t think about the possibility of showing art created for the
Internet, let alone in another media.
What about using mobile phones, a communication
medium that has integrated, text, photo, video and internet, as a
platform? It seems an ideal combination.
It is tempting to make
special work for mobile phones, but it is still difficult to
integrate and to circulate it through various mobile networks. You
used to have WAP and Palm, but after one year the technology
disappeared. The thing with these mobile devices is that they are
enormously controlled and you have to go through so many layers in
order to get something out to the public: the whole system is build
to limit the possibilities and the creativity of the user. The web
wasn’t like that. Suddenly, from one day to the next it was in the
hands of the user. That particular freedom is essential if you want
to create something.
And what about Urban Screens? People are also
referring to them as large communication platforms.
Yes, I would love to
experiment with that. For Virtual Person I was tempted to bring it
into the public space, and billboards and other screens in the public
space seemed a logical place. But there are so many limitations.
First of all it would be really difficult to carry out tests and
secondly I realised that I would lose intimacy. The physical distance
from the body to the screen for example is very important to take
into account. It makes a huge difference in impact and experience on
the body if you have 1.50m (the television distance) or 50cm for a
computer screen, 20 cm for mobile devices or 20 meters minimum with
Urban screens have
totally different parameters; it is a medium in itself – the
distance to the viewer, the scale, the lack of sound, etc. It relates
more to billboards and advertising than to internet or mobile phones.
Artists have to be commissioned for the situation. Because the
advertising space is expensive, it becomes very difficult to
experiment freely with the medium and develop a specific language.
How do you see the relationship between the
virtual and the real – also in a more bodily/emotional sense? David
Still to me was almost tactile, someone very close to you, maybe
because he addressed you in a very personal way. Virtual Person is
now a tool for making your own Virtual Person.
Virtual Person is
about text and image correlation and I would like to make that
relation more physical. I am very interested in using touch screens.
I would love to embody the connection between texts and images. The
act of touching a screen generates a completely different experience
than the use of a mouse, even though the use of a mouse is a tactile
experience, it emphasizes more directly the bodily experience of the
net. I don’t believe that the internet excludes our bodies. Nobody
teleports, we still look at the screen using our physical body, with
our spine straight or crooked, and with our hand moving and touching.
We use our body to inform us about our non-body experience.
Mouchette for example
is very much designed from the body on. I would mirror my own
situation, my body to the screen, posing an imaginary situation where
the viewer and I are mirrored on both sides of the screen, like in
the work ‘Flesh&Blood’. When I used sound I recorded it close to
the microphone to create that intimacy. The low volume involved the
body of the viewer in the act of listening. The Internet is an
extension of the body and an out-of-the-body experience, all in one.
People tend to say that their body vanishes in the net, but this is
precisely that experience that we act out with our body! The fact
that your gender is invisible online is a body experience; when does
that happen in real life? Many of the early Internet works play
precisely with the physical experience of the disappearance of the
body. This is why I think it is so important to keep the old examples
alive because they bear the trace of the most important discourse on
Internet which is still valid but might disappear in the evasiveness
of the internet.
As said before, the biggest challenge for the
internet today is finding these ‘invisibilities’.
Yes, and in that way I
would say that the institutions are not doing their work. They should
keep track of these early creations. Some do, like Rhizome,
Turbulence or Eyebeam, but there should be more attention in renewing
the interest of the public, for example by presenting works again in
new contexts or wider contexts.
Another concern is the
missing link between the works of net_art and the public. In the
beginning the artists did everything by themselves but at the moment
that has become more difficult, leading to unstructured relations.
This should be one of the tasks of the museums and art institutions
and it is not that much work; posting one item a day would suffice.
Valuable works of art are already disappearing. Work that I
bookmarked two years ago has been taken off because someone did not
pay the server costs or the domain registration or couldn’t keep up
the maintenance. These are simple things, much cheaper and easier to
do than storing a painting or a sculpture in a storage room, and need
to be done otherwise many creative possibilities disappear from our
landscape and our memory.
How do you deal with the speed of change on the
Internet, especially for your older sites like Mouchette?
There are different
levels. Some of the changes are very hard to keep up with, for
example the scripts; by changing platforms and operating systems the
scripts become less compatible. Suddenly a certain script doesn’t
work on a new version of a browser for a certain platform and then
some viewers will not see the work as it was meant to be. This is not
a new phenomenon, compatibility has always been one of the main
issues of the net, but the changes are hard to keep up with. To have
a 100% successful viewing you need to create a different version for
each configuration, which is a highly technical solution and needs to
be re-adapted constantly. I would love to have it done, but I can’t
pay for it and at the moment there is no funding for pure
maintenance. One year ago I stopped creating new works for Mouchette
but I am still working 10 to 15 hours a week to keep it alive,
maintaining domains, re-registering etc. If nothing happened the art
would die. I have complex scripts that address people one by one and
they still function because I know their failures, I keep an eye on
it and fix the little mistakes by hand when they happen. It is a very
personal use of low technology; everything is made with small pieces
of fabric, like a patchwork.
People also regard the
internet as virtual, and they believe it means ‘immaterial’ but it is
not. Your imagination transforms into actual matter: bits on a
server. A computer changes matter into visuals and words. The virtual
world consists of bits and pieces: the internet is material, you can
break it and make it disappear; that is the reality of the virtual.
When you realise how much data Google is saving, that is an enormous
conservation of hard disks in large rooms. Maybe when people start to
see that the internet is material they might value it more, or treat
it in a different way.
iPeople could send emails coming from David Still to others, thus using his identity.
usually receive several reminders from your registrar warning you
about the impending expiry date of your domain name. The first one
arrives three months before the date, which is much too early to
spend any time on, so you delete that e-mail until, a few weeks
later, another warning from your registrar suddenly feels like an
emergency threatening to stop everything you’re doing. You grab
your credit card and try to renew your registration online.
warning message, which should have come at just the right moment,
never arrived because you had suppressed that old e-mail address,
which you thought was only full of spam anyway.
you remember the expiry date just one day before it’s due. You want
to log onto the registrar’s site but you don’t remember which
registrar it was. Network Solutions? The one from the Origins?
Directnic, the cheapest, you know? Your own webhost? (Most webhosts
handle domain name registrations but transfers from other registrars
don’t always work.)
finally work out which of your five different registrars is the
correct one, but can’t find the necessary login code and password
because you last used it two years ago. You eventually manage to
enter the registrar’s interface, but when you want to pay for
renewal (three years, that’s the maximum here), your credit card is
rejected, and after three attempts, concerned that your credit card
number is being hijacked, you stop trying, while your domain name
shows no sign of having been renewed.
domain name has now expired, and you receive regular warnings, but
you can’t find a way to contact this particular registrar, except
via the website that refuses your credit card. There, you can use a
support page, which sends back automatic replies with a very long
code number in the subject header, but this is never followed by a
real message written by a human being responding to your complaint.
domain name has finally fallen into the hands of
‘domain-name-snatchers’, the resellers of domain names. Now
you’ll find a porn site under your domain name, or a webpage
promoting the sale of expensive domain names (why isn’t yours
included in the list?), or a portal redirecting you to different
commercial sites organised by categories.
All your content is still exactly in the same place on your server at the webhost, but nobody will ever be able to find it without your domain name. Search engines won’t be able to find it either, and because of their long-term memory and archives, will remember the old domain name forever. How long will it take you to rebuild your linkage under a different domain name and have the same ranking in the search engines? Will your domain name ever become available for a new registration?
connect to database’
are browsing your site, clicking on a link to review the next entry
on a board and suddenly the message ‘couldn’t connect to
database’ appears (or a much more obscure message with the same
meaning). Your site is there, the top of the page is there, but the
dynamic content is no longer accessible.
become aware that your dynamic content – in other words, the
entries of all your users – is stored on a different server, the
MySql server, which might be down while your http server is still up
and running. You realise that your website is hosted on two separate
servers, on two separate hard disks, which doubles your chances of
the years go by and your users’ participation continues and your
database expands, becoming the most precious part of your art, you
are constantly confronted with the many complexities of having a
have a local copy of your website on the hard disk of your personal
computer, including all the html pages, images and Flash files, which
is normal since you created all of them on that computer. But your
database only exists online on the database server. You can only
display your website through an Internet connection and not from a
your webhost went down while you were presenting a lecture about your
website at a conference about art on the Internet. Out of desperation
you tried to browse your site from your local copy but the pages
displayed all the PHP codes instead of the dynamic content.
Confronted by all this code and your evident confusion, your audience
became really impatient and didn’t even believe you really were the
author of a virtual character. Later, you ask your database
programmer if you could keep a copy of the database on your hard disk
– just in case, even if it’s not up to date – but he explains
that the only way to do this is to run a local server, which is far
too complicated for you to sort out, especially if you’re using a
Mac and it’s pre-OSX, with OS9 not being able to run a local
You try to accept the situation but sometimes your relationship with the Internet feels like you are a child depending on its parents, being disconnected for brief moments each day. Sometimes you feel like you are a part of the Internet in the same way that an unborn baby is part of its mother, nourished by the umbilical cord while resting inside a soft bubble.
don’t accept online documentation
are assembling your documentation to apply for a grant from the
Netherlands Fund for Visual Arts (Fonds BKVB). In their guidelines
you read that they accept digital files and websites, but only on a
CD-ROM and not online. You call them and insist that your site has a
database with important user-generated content and can only run
online. They explain that it’s their archival policy to keep and
store the information and material from all the artists they sponsor,
which is why they requested your website on a CD-ROM. Besides, they
want to be 100 per cent certain that the documentation is available
for the jury which only meets once a month, so they don’t want to
run a risk with your information on a website.
you decide to make screen snapshots of the database, a large series
of pictures that you edit to a proper size in jpg format. You add
reference titles and descriptions of the contents and combine all of
this in a multiple window website (not online) that you design for
the occasion, and it ends up being quite an elegant simulation of the
user-generated content that can be browsed online. It is
time-consuming work, but the results are good enough and the grant is
you work out that this visual simulation might prove useful, and you
decide to always keep a copy of this CD-ROM with you, in your bag, so
that you can provide an offline impression of your website at any
given moment, on any computer.
the next time you want to use that CD-ROM, only a year later, you
function anymore; they have become outdated and are now incompatible
with most browsers.
nobody at the Fonds BKVB archives will ever look at the contents of
your CD-ROM again.
database programmer once made a mistake in which the time-stamp of
your entire database was destroyed. All your users’ entries and all
the text in your database was still there, in the right categories,
but all under one date: 1.1.1970.
was an incredible disaster, but a very ironic one: you would rather
have lost the entire database than just this small ‘piece of time’,
which was, you realised, the backbone of a very heterogeneous
collection of snippets of texts.
the webhost had a policy of a completely backing-up data every two
days and could retrieve a two-day-old version of your database with
the time-stamp intact. Just in time, because few hours later the
back-up system would have overwritten a new back up with an invalid
when you realised the value of having a back-up system of your own
and should no longer rely on the webhost performing miracles.
do you have a good automatic back-up system of your own now?
be honest, you don’t really know….
good back-up system would automatically store a version of your
complete database on a different hard disk every two days, and
perhaps save one extra version each month in case of unnoticed
damage. You discussed it with Zenuno, a very gentle database
programmer who helps you run your server on a volunteer basis. Zenuno
works for a Portuguese government website in Lisbon but is based in
Amsterdam, and has a great deal of experience in security and back-up
issues. You were reassured by his knowledge and his promise that he
would set up your back-up system.
writing this, you realise that you haven’t discussed this
particular problem with Zenuno since you first raised it, as each
time you contacted him since, it was because you needed help with a
different emergency, and the back-up issue wasn’t part of that
you’re not certain if you have a database back-up system or not,
and if you do, you don’t really know what it does.
updates and user complaints
of the content provided by users of your site is published
automatically. Everything you receive, all the reactions to the
different works of online art, enters a customized moderator’s
interface where you read, classify, publish or delete the entries.
When an entry is published the author receives an e-mail informing
him of its publication, with a link that enables him to delete his
e-mail address from your database, all this wrapped inside a special
narrative by Mouchette, written in her house style and related to
each online narrative.
never publish immediately, you always want to wait a few days before
you put the text online and notify the author. Your intention is to
shape your online relationship with the participating user in order
to increase the attention span from a few minutes to a few days. If
the delays last too long, a week for example, the attention might be
lost and your e-mail becomes a message from an intruder at best; in
most cases it is marked as spam and is blocked by the spam filter.
you go on holiday and decide to avoid all computers for a couple of
weeks – which rarely happens – you hope that your users will
forget about you in the same way you try to forget about them, but
what usually happens is the reverse: you are flooded with complaints
and insults about a ‘dead site’ which is ‘never updated’.
It’s comforting to know you have such faithful participants. To
thank them for their loyalty you immediately publish the complaints
about a ‘dead site’, tongue-in-cheek, classified in the
‘favourite’ category, long before you publish the more serious or
realise that a number of your participants are ‘hooked’ on your
website and you wonder what would happen if you died. How long would
it take for them to give up on your site? You think that this could
be the measure of the attention span of a dedicated contributor.
the Internet nobody knows you’re dead…
all human beings you’ve doubtless fantasised about your own death.
In which ways would you be missed, how you would be remembered, etc.?
a virtual person you fantasise about how long Internet access to your
site and your database system would survive your actual death.
you died, how long would it take your contributors to realize that
nobody is maintaining the site anymore? If they send complaints about
a ‘dead site’ nobody will publish them, so the information about
the lack of maintenance will not alert anyone. Nobody will know
you start to calculate mentally: ‘My webhosting is paid by the year
and is due for renewal in August. My domain registration is paid for
two years and is due for renewal in February. The registrar will
delete the domain name immediately after expiry but at least the
webhost will tolerate one or two months of unpaid hosting before
deleting the site. My credit card number is in their system and the
webhosting can be renewed at least one more year without my
intervention. My credit card is renewed every two years, in January.
If I die now, how long will my site stay online and what will be
my death how many people will have surfed my site before it is
removed?’ This is an easy question and it can have a precise,
numerical answer through your web statistics, and long after your
site has disappeared, the free statistics (webstats-motigo) site you
are using will still provide this information to anyone requesting
has the codes, or your website, database and server IDs, and who may
use them after your death?
you leave a will concerning all digital data?
much of your digital data will stay in the public domain and how much
of it do you want to remove?
you already be erasing your traces?
kind of peace will you find in your digital afterlife?
prevent unwanted comments from entering your database you can use
‘captchas’ (titbits of warped texts, little visual riddles that
can only be solved by a human mind) to block access to automatic
scripts. You don’t have them because you couldn’t implement them
in your database system, as it was built long before captchas
existed. Consequently your database is trashed by several entries
arriving automatically each day containing links to Viagra sites or
online casinos. None of these are published on your site since you
moderate all the entries, and manually delete many of these unwanted
entries everyday. Sometimes they arrive as full pages, so you need to
read the entire text and recognize that one entry written by a human
being among all the spam.
become infuriated by the amount of time you waste deleting spam. You
think that the love of art cannot justify such an absurd daily
activity. You sigh…. But sometimes, while doing this, you picture
yourself as a gardener sweeping away dead leaves or pulling weeds,
and then you smile. Since the battle against spam and nasty scripts
is lost and you don’t believe any amount of codes can cure this
evil, your last resort is your limitless imagination. While cleaning
your database garden you start wondering if any of these unwanted
messages have ‘worms’, or are ‘worms’, self-replicating
themselves inside your database or replicating the spam message. You
groan, your smile has disappeared and you spend the rest of your day
reading anti-virus websites finding out about the ‘worms’ in your
it art or is it spam?
were one of the first to integrate the use of e-mail within your
artistic practise. To advertise a new work online, your virtual
character would send an e-mail recounting a personal story about her
life, addressing each recipient by his or her first name.
second virtual character was designed to share his identity, and to
freely allow the use of his e-mail. He had a website from where you
could send his personal stories using his e-mail, and the interface
allowed you to personalise the e-mail by placing the name of the
intended recipient in the subject line or inserting it in the body of
some point in the history of the Internet this type of personally
addressed e-mail became a very popular device for spammers, who had
also noticed how easily they could attract a recipient’s attention
by inserting their name everywhere, using this to simulate a
one-on-one relationship. After spam filters were improved, they could
easily detect this type of subterfuge and many of your art-related
e-mails were dumped in your recipients’ e-mail junk folders. And
although you had no commercial intentions and your bulk e-mails were
very, very modest in quantities, it became very difficult for your
art not to pass for spam. And if your webhost received a complaint
about spam abuse, he would remove your website. Explaining to your
webhost that your e-mails are art, and not spam, couldn’t save the
situation. The only option open to you was to move your content to
another webhost, until the same problem happened again. Each time the
delay before your removal became shorter and after the fourth time,
you resolved to stop sending e-mails.
server space available on earth
is a common misconception to think of cyberspace as independent of
countries or a physical location. Nothing could be farther from the
truth. You often think that if your art were destroyed it wouldn’t
be because of censorship or related to the content of your
information, but because of unfortunate local circumstances: an
asteroid could fall precisely where your data is stored at the
webhost, and that would be the end of your art. Very unlikely, you
admit. But a fire or accident at the place where your webhost has
their servers is a possibility, so is criminal destruction, if not
targeting you, then possibly someone else who stores their data on
the same hard disks. Google is said to have hidden the computers
where they save all their users’ data in a secret underground
bunker, which makes perfect sense because there must be many people
who would like to bomb that location and you could probably imagine
yourself as one of them.
first webhost, Widexs.nl, was Dutch, located somewhere close to
Schiphol (Amsterdam airport), and the servers were probably there
too. An airplane never fell on their building, but because all the
communication with the technicians was in Dutch, it sometimes added
to your worries, especially when a complaint for spam abuse arrived
and you had to defend your case with diplomacy. You failed. But you
were rescued by a French art group who run their own servers in their
own venue. They hosted you for free, being honoured to offer refuge
to a banned Internet artist. They said they could afford to ignore
the complaints of spam abuse since they ran the servers on their
private computers. But one day the server failed. Someone had gone on
holiday, leaving his computer on, but locked in a closet for safety’s
sake, and everyone had to wait until this person returned from his
holidays to re-boot the server. Being hosted on servers run by
artists wasn’t the safest option either.
this episode all you wanted was to go back to a commercial webhost.
You combined your efforts with one of the dissatisfied artists from
the group who had rented a ‘virtual server’ at Amen.fr, a
commercial French webhost. You paid for all the server space while
only using a small part in exchange for the artist’s help in
running your database and setting the server configurations for you.
At the time, you believed you couldn’t cope with these tasks;
moreover, the webhost server panels were all in French, which happens
to be your mother tongue for everything, except computers.
territorial specificities became an issue again some time later when
the French police started investigating you for promoting suicide
through Mouchette.org. That took place in Marseille, the official
address of the French artist renting the ‘virtual server’ where
you were hosted. You hired a lawyer in Marseille to defend your case,
which was the closest you ever got to real crime in your entire life
because you were sure the lawyer was more of a criminal than you
could ever be. The lawyer wanted to address the question of territory
because the accusation and search warrant were issued by the French
authorities, but the supposed crime of promoting suicide was
committed on Dutch territory where you had a residence permit and
created your website. Lawyers in Marseille love crime so much they
would use any kind of twisted reasoning to confirm its existence,
including jurisprudence on the extraterritoriality of an Internet
crime. Ultimately the investigating judge ruled that no crime had
been committed and no charges were pressed. The lawyer still billed
you for a considerable amount of money on the grounds that he had
found the evidence that the servers of Amen.fr were located on German
soil (but he didn’t know why).
you run your own ‘virtual server’ at Dreamhost.com, an American
Internet hosting company based on the West Coast, where business
likes to define itself as being a dream – meaning their own, of
course. They wouldn’t let you fulfil your own dream of using e-mail
functions as a part of your art, because they are a business, after
‘virtual server’ is called ‘Bernado Soares’, one of the
heteronyms of Fernando Pessoa, the author of The
Book of Disquiet.
When you’re in trouble with the server or the database, you ask the
help of Zenuno, the same Portuguese programmer who helped you before.
This new constellation of people and places has a certain sense of
poetic ‘disquiet’, bringing you closer to a type of ‘Zen and
the Art of Database Maintenance’.
is not the ultimate database configuration.
many times have you dreamt of leaving everything behind, everything
that made you who you were, and move to a new, unconnected life,
escape the tyranny of your ego and find new love?
made up a new set of database configurations in charge of saying ‘I’
for you, a virtual character. And then another one. And another….
was left behind (and never disappeared) was something you could call
a ‘you’, a database system exchange of characteristics.
is a handy grammatical configuration that can be used for internal
monologues since you’re the addressed and the addressee all in one.
writing a text about personal experience such as this one, ‘you’
embraces the reader inside the experience as if it had happened to
him or her.
all, doesn’t everyone run a database system?
Martine Neddam authors and maintains 9 websites (in 2011)
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