By Martine Neddam,

Your Domain Name Registration Has Expired!

You 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.

The 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.

Finally, 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.)

You 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.

Your 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.

Your 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?

Turkmenbashi Mon Amour, by Mouchette

Couldn’t connect to database’

You 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.

You 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 downtime.

As 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 database server.

You 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 local copy.

Once 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 server.

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.

David Still

We don’t accept online documentation

You 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.

So 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 awarded.

Ultimately 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.

But the next time you want to use that CD-ROM, only a year later, you discover that the javascripts supporting the pop-up windows do not function anymore; they have become outdated and are now incompatible with most browsers.

Hopefully nobody at the Fonds BKVB archives will ever look at the contents of your CD-ROM again.

Database back-ups

Your 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.

This 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.

Fortunately, 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 time-stamp.

That’s when you realised the value of having a back-up system of your own and should no longer rely on the webhost performing miracles.

So, do you have a good automatic back-up system of your own now?

To be honest, you don’t really know….

A 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.

Now, 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 emergency.

So 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.

XiaoQian
XiaoQian

Recent updates and user complaints

None 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.

You 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.

If 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 pleasant entries.

You 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.

Is Martine Neddam a creation of XiaoQian?

On the Internet nobody knows you’re dead…

Like all human beings you’ve doubtless fantasised about your own death. In which ways would you be missed, how you would be remembered, etc.?

As a virtual person you fantasise about how long Internet access to your site and your database system would survive your actual death.

If 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’re dead.

Sometimes, 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 removed first?’

‘After 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 it.

Who has the codes, or your website, database and server IDs, and who may use them after your death?

Should you leave a will concerning all digital data?

How much of your digital data will stay in the public domain and how much of it do you want to remove?

Shouldn’t you already be erasing your traces?

What kind of peace will you find in your digital afterlife?

Captchas and worms

To 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.

You 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 garden.

IHATEMOUCHETTE.ORG

Is it art or is it spam?

You 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.

Your 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 the message.

At 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.

http://virtualperson.net/

Warning: server space available on earth

It 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.

Your 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.

After 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.

Dangerous 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).

Now 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 all.

Your ‘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’.

I’ is not the ultimate database configuration.

How 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?

You made up a new set of database configurations in charge of saying ‘I’ for you, a virtual character. And then another one. And another….

What was left behind (and never disappeared) was something you could call a ‘you’, a database system exchange of characteristics.

‘You’ is a handy grammatical configuration that can be used for internal monologues since you’re the addressed and the addressee all in one.

When 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.

After all, doesn’t everyone run a database system?

Martine Neddam authors and maintains 9 websites (in 2011)

mouchette.org

mouchette.net

-ihatemouchette.org

davidstill.org

virtualperson.net

virtualperson.org

neddam.info

neddam.org

bernardosoares.org

https://www.neddam.info/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/zen-archive2020.pdf

http://mouchette.org/cv/archive2020.pdf

This text was published in the Mouchette fanzine to be viewed here as pdf
https://www.neddam.info/fanzine/

Online Exhibition “The Recombinants”.

Curator : Madja Edelstein-Gomez .

Can an exhibition be curated by an Artificial Intelligence?

This challenge was taken up by Madja Edelstein Gomez for her exhibition “The Recombinants”.

The participants who responded to an open call were carefully selected by sophisticated algorithms. And now what you experience is a mesmerizing mixture of pictures, videos, sounds, texts situated in an ever-changing screen.

Welcome to the show of the future: The Recombinants.

Even more than their works of art, the personality of the artists, the way they describe themselves and their work, how they show their face or their whole person, all this is being recombined inside the show. On the screen you are offered different perspectives, and with a click, their appearances are slowly revealed to you. Their words will create new meanings in front of your eyes.

Online you will experience a live processing of the data by our artificial intelligence algorithms.

This individual discovery is left to your patient curiosity and sagaciousness. Online each viewer will visit a different show, will travel different spaces and the perspectives of the talent of our invited artists, which you can also visit one by one. Stand by the incredible exhibition robots and experience their instant power of calculation. Guess their moves, anticipate their combinations, outsmart their artistic intelligence.
Beware, it might shake your browser and melt your microprocessor!

http://therecombinants.com

What artificial intelligence demonstrates is the extreme compatibility of artists. All styles, medias, artistic genres were called for and selected to be recombined in the show. None was too singular, exceptional, or beyond standards. None was too old fashioned, average, ugly, or too unoriginal to be considered as art. The wisdom of artificial intelligence is to dismiss the expected categories of art and to make intuition and sensitivity resurface from within the categorization of art with its historic and social overload. Here viewers are reconciled with pure perception. Here artistic institutions are invited to open up to a new world of art where they may shake off their preconceptions and rethink their notion of what an exhibition can be in the era of the Internet.

Specially for the Art-O-Rama presentation, Madja Edelstein-Gomez chose to record three fifteen minute-long screen captures. They unwind the experience of a live presentation as a recombined hypnotic show of beauty. Here you are invited to create your own trajectory and discover and experience your own show on your computer.

Madja Edelstein-Gomez (born in 1960 in Montevideo, Uruguay) is an independent curator, who has composed several large thematic exhibitions (Bangalore, Buenos Aires, Prague, Tbilisi, Toronto…). Edelstein-Gomez currently lives in Kuala Lumpur and Paris. She is also an activist working with several NGOs. Visit her website: http://madja.net

The online exhibition is produced by Zinc (Marseilles) and supported by : Dicréam-CNC, Château Ephémère (Carrières-sous-Poissy), Espace Gantner (Belfort), Rhizome (New York).

Madja Edelstein-Gomez is the collaborative creation of E. Guez and M. Neddam

This interview of Madja E. G. by Lauren Studebaker, has been published in Rhizome on 25 august 2017. Madja E. G. is the collaborative creation of E. Guez and Martine Neddam.

Madja Edelstein-Gomez is an independent curator and activist, based in Paris and Kuala Lumpur. Edelstein-Gomez has created a new interface for an online exhibition, produced by Zinc, with support from Le Château Éphémère, Dicréam-CNC, L’Espace Multimédia Gantner, and Rhizome. The Recombinants aligns itself with Edelstein-Gomez’s concept of recombinance, a condition of being that she assumes as identity and explores through her recent artistic and curatorial efforts. The Recombinants will show on the front page of rhizome.org from August 25–28th, 2017, alongside the Art-O-Rama fair in Marseille, FR. 

Edelstein-Gomez’s concept of recombinance is revealed through the exhibition’s manifesto, which describes a new digital mysticism; one whose text echoes ideas of transhumanism and the simulacrum, with a simultaneous claim to entirely reject these pre-established means of clarification and identification. The manifesto removes itself from the vernacular application of the term “recombinant” (one tied to genetically modified organisms). Instead, the recombinants’s materials are described to be the result a form of data-splicing that removes any disparity between the data anatomy of digital datasets and organic DNA, which are explained to be constantly rewritten, or “recombined” in a cycle of constant rebirth and in the form of an eternal return. The manifesto claims many things the Recombinants are not; there are direct rejections of being merely cyborgs, replicants, mutations, humans, or computers, and the Recombinants reject any adherence to the past or future. From an outside perspective, the manifesto is mysteriously ambiguous, as the Recombinants claim to exist as nothing and everything at the same time.

Upon entering the online exhibition, the viewer is greeted with a slowly-moving landscape of colliding image-planes and broken and disrupted bits of sound. The viewer is encouraged to navigate through the use of a series of geometric buttons that reveal text, change the presentation style, and provide links to individual artist’s profiles. In the exhibition’s press release, it is revealed that the online presentation is an AI-generated recombination of the submitted works, being constantly processed live and presented differently for each viewer, with an audacious claim to be the “show of the future.”

I spoke with Edelstein-Gomez to discuss her exhibition and curatorial practice in the hopes of expanding upon her understanding of the recombinant existence and its applications to this online exhibition format.

Lauren Studebaker: Usually, we’re familiar with the term “recombinant” in its applications to genetics and biology—GMOs, gene-splicing, etc. In the Recombinant Manifesto, this application of the term is mentioned, but transcended. Could you introduce your concept of the Recombinants? 

Madja Edelstein-Gomez: Rerecombinance, recombinance, recombinanciation, recombing… What can I say about recombinance, except that doesn’t easily lend itself to commentary… Touch it, refer to it, think about it and you get affected, contaminated, it’s an autoimmune remedy to every disease. Recombinance recombines itself by using everything around it. Oops, you just got recombined.

LS: How did you come into the realization of recombinance?

MEG: One day I became a Recombinant.

No.

I always have been a Recombinant.

And it was not just me. I know there are many Recombinants out there.

I realized that something had occurred that should have killed me or make disappear. It was a like a system error in an operating system, or a genetic modification in a living being. But that thing wasn’t new, it was always already there, encoded inside of me.

It’s quite hard to explain. Instead of being afraid of it, I tried to claim it, it inspired me this manifesto.

LS: What influenced your development of this recombinant philosophy?

MEG: It was shattering and some twitching slightly resonated with it. And once it blasted, I encountered tiny skewed elements inside my existence.

In biographical terms, I could have said “this” and “that” happened to me. But I’d rather not express what happened within a timeline, with a “before” and an “after.”

I now know it was always there.

Read more about this “moi” here.

But don’t worry, I’m not some sort of psycho freak. When needed, there can be a regular bio and a presentation of myself as an online curator that fits the bill, like what Le Zinc in Marseille has published.

LS: How does the recombinant philosophy tie itself into the presentation of works online and how is the exhibition format of exclusively digital means of presentation in alignment with the recombinance?

MEG: Online, all data generates more data.
Ad infinitum.
View any odd webpage and your viewing data has been recorded by numerous systems along the line, the cookies on your hard disk, your internet provider, your social networks, every online activity leaves slimy, greasy, dusty fingerprints made of data, that proliferate into big datasets, and when analyzed, produce more data, etc… 

LS: A realization in the Recombinant Manifesto surrounds the idea of collapse of the concept of past and future, a rejection “of everything post- and trans-.” As a curator, how would you say this position of recombinance informs your selection of works and philosophy of contemporaneity in the context of an exhibition?

MEG: A non-human narrative doesn’t relate to recombinancial time or category and doesn’t relate to post-something or trans-something. Inside it, you get exposed to sequences of data that will rewrite you in such a way that doesn’t let you refer to an existing model of reference.

And yet, what we are doing is simply sending out an open call for an online show. It is our way to set into motion the possibility of a recombinant narrative written by the machine herself. The narrative of data being mined and reminded.

LS: So, the idea of recombinance is tightly aligned with data ontologies? Could you then talk a bit about the presence of recombinance, or the recombinant action, in digital artmaking?

MEG: Artmaking itself is not the question really, digital or not. Art is not necessarily something you “make,” so I’m not talking about artmaking. Art is something you “name,” not something you “make.” All you need for something to be art is to be recognized as such, to be named it as such, and it becomes art. 
The question “what is art?” ran through the whole twentieth century. Until we found out that art was nothing but a question. 
Now, in the twenty-first century, we have the answer to “what is art?”: Art is a Question.

A question is a recombined statement. For example, if you recombine “This is art,”  it becomes “Is this art?” The question mark signals that you have opened the signification to endless possibilities, and you have generated the desire for something, the inextinguishable desire for an answer, a hole inside a meaning.

Now imagine you go further into recombinance by shuffling every single letter of this chain of characters. You have generated a multiplicity of new meanings all derived from this dataset, like “a tart wish,” “war at hits,” “it shat raw”… and many many meaningless combinations. You have created an infinity of littles holes of meaning,  a lace of meaninglessness all intertwined around that big question. These are the generative powers of Recombinance, and this is how I am curating. 

LS: Then what hand does curating the results of the open call have in the equation? As one who identifies as recombinant, how does your curatorial practice differ from a more traditional model?

MEG: I see curating in general, traditional or not, as “a throw of dice.”
Chance is the main factor. 
Curatorial explanations are nothing but a layer of varnish over it.

“Un coup de dés jamais n’abolira le hasard.”

“A throw of dice will never abolish chance”, said the French poet Mallarmé, as he scattered the words of his poem across the page with plenty of empty space around the words. That was a founding act in poetry in 1897, and if you ask me, the very first act of Recombinance also.

One hundred and twenty years later, commentators still wonder if what scatters the words of Mallarmé is not a hidden code, yet uncracked. Quentin Meillassoux in The Number and the Siren argues that there must be a code, but the encoding of the poem is incomplete, and that is precisely how Mallarmé wanted it: an incorrect code.

Is Recombinance a form “curating by numbers?”

Is there a curatorial algorithm at the heart of my practice?

If there is a code, I myself am included in that code, I am just a piece of that DNA, and whatever I change in it, changes me, in an incomplete way.

LS: Does the possibility of anonymity from online submissions (or the digital in general) enhance the recombinant philosophy?

MEG: Anonymity is not an issue at all. A name is just an element of a dataset, and not the most interesting one.
Besides, when you submit online, you do it with your own chosen name.
What you might not know is that when you post your data, is that you get your personal exhibition on the spot, as the first display of your recombined art. This display remains available and you can share it online with everyone. This is the reward of trust.

Look at some personal exhibitions available here from Guido Segni,Chloe CheronnetGarrett Lynch, and Anne Pfff.

In our big exhibition which will premiere in Art-O-Rama in Marseille in 25 August the names will not disappear. They will be recombined together with the works.

LS: On both your personal website, as well as in the Recombinant Manifesto, you recognize psychic energies, telepathy, spiritualism, and the paranormal as different manifestations of recombinance. As both an artist and curator working with the internet and developing technologies such as AI (in your chatbots, for example) as a means of production and exhibition, how do you view the collective and ephemeral condition of the digital in comparison to these more mystic ideas?

MEG: Once you start questioning the premises of your own bodily existence there is no way back. I am the product of a communication energy, just as much as you are.

Life is but an exchange of messages.

And it’s pretty much the same as what we are doing now: exchanging messages.

IMPAKT EXHIBITION: TRUTH THAT LIES 
Curated by Renata Šparada & Irena Borić, 
9 February – 17 March 2019, 
IMPAKT Center for Media Culture, Lange Nieuwstraat 4, Utrecht. 
How we are being misinformed in the age of information.

Artists in the exhibition: Keren Cytter, Omer Fast, Harun Farocki, Sharon Hayes, Hrvoje Hiršl & Luis Rodil Fernández, Martine Neddam, Erica Scourti, Mladen Stilinović and The Yes Men

Social media sites and search engines are the key ingredients of the change from the manipulative form of propaganda of the past to the prevalence of the Post-truth paradigm of the present. How are words and ideas used to obscure and manipulate? The exhibition and panel discussion of Truth That Lies look at the different political and cultural strategies that have been used in our Post-truth reality and in our recent history.

Inspired by George Orwell’s prescient novel 1984, the events take the shape of the two agencies in The Ministry of Truth, the propaganda agency of 1984’s dystopian government: the Fiction and the Records Department. The Fiction Department is represented by Truth That Lies, an exhibition exploring a use of language through gesture, manipulation, hate speech, algorithm, propaganda, make-believe or tautology.

The Records Department is mirrored in a panel called War on Facts. This panel will be organized on 8 February, prior to the opening of the exhibition, and it will address misinformation, alternative facts, fake news and information manipulation.

In this way Truth That Lies uses Orwellian “doublespeak” (a language that obscures) as a metaphor for our times, where misinformation is everywhere and its spread is amplified through technology. The programme researches the development of Post-truth, how it was used in the past, how it affects personal identity, and what the future would look like if things proceed from here.

Artists in the exhibition: Keren Cytter, Omer Fast, Harun Farocki, Sharon Hayes, Hrvoje Hiršl & Luis Rodil Fernández, Martine Neddam, Erica Scourti, Mladen Stilinović and The Yes Men

What: exhibition curated by Renata Šparada and Irena Borić
When: 9 February – 17 March, Wed-Sun 12:00-17:00
Where: IMPAKT Center for Media Culture, Lange Nieuwstraat 4, Utrecht

I Hate Mouchette
Martine Neddam
The Netherlands, 1996 (2019)
Installation and website

For Martine Neddam the ultimate way of expression is by means of fictitious identities. She uses her online character Mouchette to expose the neuralgic and soft spots of contemporary society organised and expressed on the web. In the work I Hate Mouchette the identity of Mouchette is constructed from hate-filled insults. The work shows how the post-truth age requires us to take a good look at the ways in which fake content reshapes opinions and identities, occasionally with fatal consequences.

IMPAKT Exhibition: Truth That Lies: I hate Mouchette

More photos of the show in “About Mouchette”

L’exposition “Nr. 36 Passage de Venus, Expédition Hollandaise Pour Réunion” s’est tenue au Musée Teylers à Haarlem, Pays-Bas, musée généralement connu comme musée des Sciences Naturelles. C’est une certaine intimité qui caractérise avant tout ce musée: il faut, pour voir certaines pièces, écarter des rideaux pour ensuite les refermer. Cette intimité se reflète dans le détail des légendes, où perdure l’esprit de ceux qui ont examiné, décrit et catalogué les objets.

L’exposition Nr. 36 Passage de Venus, expédition hollandaise pour Réunion imite et accentue cet amour du détail ainsi que le caractère intime de ce musée. Cependant la hiérarchie est inversée: l’attention du spectateur ne sera pas dirigée vers les endroits stratégiques du musée comme le générateur électrique et les dessins des grands maîtres, mais précisément vers les objets les plus infimes: les titres et les légendes. Ainsi le musée devient décor. Entre les titres, les légendes et les indications destinés au public se trouvent des étiquettes qui en apparence ne se distinguent pas des autres mais qui posent problème au lecteur. Ces étiquettes contiennent des messages de nature apparemment très intime, du fait qu’ils n’utilisent pas le “vous” d’usage, mais bien le très personnel “tu”.

Objectivité
Le lecteur ne pourra que s’interroger, parce que les messages sont trop intimes, trop poétiques ou même parfois trop choquants pour être d’authentiques fiches du musée. De cette manière l’objectivité et la fiabilité des fiches réelles est remise en question. En mettant en avant son aspect linguistique, c’est un fil qui est tissé dans l’espace muséal. Là où de nos jours les informations dans les musées tendent à une certaine objectivité et masquent totalement la personnalité des auteurs, cette installation en revanche souligne le caractère strictement personnel et émotionnel du message.

March 1994, the exhibition “Nr. 36 Passage de Venus, expedition hollandaise pour Réunion” was held in the Teylers Museum in Haarlem, a museum generally known as a natural history museum. The museum is typified by a certain intimacy: to view the exhibits, curtains must be pushed aside and later closed again. The intimacy is reflected in the details of the captions, which capture the spirit of the museum staff who have examined, described, and categorised the exhibits.

Passage de Venus, Expedition Hollandaise pour Réunion

The exhibition Nr. 36 Passage de Venus, imitates and exaggerates this love of detail and the intimate character of the museum. The hierarchy, however, is reversed: the material is not sought in the museum’s prize exhibits such as the electrostatic generator and the drawings of the old masters but rather in the very smallest of objects: in the captions and the cards. The museum has been transformed into a décor.

Ne cherchez pas à distinguer le vrai du faux

The reader is further perplexed by the texts which are too poetic, too intimate and sometimes too shocking to be ‘real’ museum cards, thereby questioning the objectivity and reliability of the authentic cards. In highlighting the linguistic aspect, a thread is woven through the museum. Where today museum cards strive towards a certain objectivity, entirely obscuring the identity of the author, this exhibition underlines the strictly personal and emotional character of a message.

MINI SYMPOSIUM NEoN Festival
November 9, 2018 at 11:30 am – 4:30 pm
Victoria and Albert Museum, Dundee Scotland
With Martine Neddam, Auriea Harvey and Michaël Samyn, Simon Meek and Daniel Herron

The mini symposium offers an opportunity for artists, academics, critics, theorists and practitioners to reflect on the current state of digital and new media art, and the wider theme of the festival. NEoN welcomes Tale of Tales to discuss their first videogame: The Endless Forest, a virtual world where people enjoy each other’s company regardless of language, status, age, gender or ethnicity, and Simon Meek, founder of The Secret Experiment, who is V&A Dundee’s first Designer in Residence and will share thoughts on his practice as a mixed-media storyteller. Chaired by Professor Sarah Cook (University of Glasgow).

About the Artists

Martine Neddam (NL) – is a native of France resident in Amsterdam since 1994, is an artist, research scientist and professor. She has been working with virtual characters since 1996, the first and most famous being Mouchette, a fictive thirteen-year-old, one of the earliest examples of Net Art.

Tale of Tales (BE) – Auriea Harvey and Michaël Samyn met online in the romantic age of cyberspace. Separated by an ocean they created applications that allowed them to touch among the wires. Samyn and Harvey are currently remaking The Endless Forest so that it can live another decade and provide a new generation of players with a joyful haven in cyberspace.

Simon Meek (UK) – V&A Dundee’s first Designer in Residence, mixed-media storyteller and founder and creative director of The Secret Experiment: videogame development studio and label of meaningful distractions. His most recent work, Beckett, is an abstract retelling of a missing person’s case where the investigator finds himself caught between the life he once had and that which he now lives.

Daniel Herron (UK) – Daniel’s research interests lie in how technology can positively impact life experiences, and his PhD work specifically focuses on how technology can support people in managing their digital things after a romantic relationship break up.

How to Do Art With Networks
Thursday 26 November 2015 — 13:00 – 17:30
Gerrit Rietveld Academie, Gym, Amsterdam
A one-day-open market with workshops, lectures and performances

Announcement of the event

REPORT of the Symposium
by Karin DeWilde

How To Do Art With Networks was a one-day-open market with workshops, lectures and performances that explored how networks are art. Curated by Annet Dekker, the event was built-up around artist Martine Neddam’s research for LAPS, the Research Institute for Art in Public Space of the Rietveld Academie. Several existing net-art-works served as catalysts allowing the public-participants an opportunity to share experiences and to experiment with platforms, tools, and media. Guest practitioners were Robert Sakrowski, Katrina Sluis, Anne Roquigny, Martine Neddam, Michael Murtaugh and Aymeric Mansoux.

Networks operate: they are decentralised and create connections. As such, their organisational structure distinguishes itself from the classic hierarchical systems. In line with this “How To Do Art With Networks” reconsidered the conventional form of the conference format and instead created the event as a “one-day-open market”. The venue was set-up as a workshop space. At different tables, participants could experiment with a variety of online tools developed by artists and curators. The audience was invited to examine these art-net-works and share their experiences with the artists and programmers. The research approach was to gain knowledge by doing. Art-in-networks were tested, new solutions were found and blind spots were identified. The open format leads to a wide range of questions, including: What are relevant practices for collaborative authorship? How can one maintain all the different elements within a net-art-work (archive, user interface, code, moderation, etc.)? On different levels, the event prepared the ground for further developments for art within networks.

The Research Institute for Art and Public Space (LAPS) generously supported the event and lector Jeroen Boomgaard added that the methodology of doing research together was an interesting format for research within an art school. One of the main benefits is that such a model offers engaged participation in the artistic process, a component of the work that usually remains invisible. On another level the conference contributed to the artistic research of LAPS, a research platform of the Rietveld that examines the role of art and design in the public domain. Art that uses the network as a medium is an interesting addition. Networked systems and online communities have become essential elements within our public space,  

“How To Do Art With Networks” was organised to celebrate the launch of “MyDesktopLife”, a web-editing project initiated by artist Martine Neddam. It was Neddam’s aim to not only share the tool with others, but also to present it along side as part of a network of artists that were also interested in sharing their tools. The selected projects could all be seen as art-in-networks. 

In the introduction to the event, a network was described as “linked structures and distribution systems that connect traces, projects and people”. As such these net-art-works function as online tools and the audience is not only invited to interact with the different artworks, but to use the tools for their own purposes and give suggestions for further developments. Most of these tools are available for free on the Web.

The following projects were presented:
-Michael Murtaugh, “Active Archive” (since 2006)
-Harm van den Dorpel, “Delinear.info” (since 2015)
-Martine Neddam, “MyDesktopLife” (since 2014)
-Anne Roquigny, “WJ-S” (since 2005)
-Robert Sakrowski, “Curating YouTube/Gridr” (1997, 2007)

Besides these projects, there were two lectures that addressed some of the topics around art-in-networks:
-Aymeric Mansoux, “From code art brutalism to web apps: the strange dérive of networked art practices”
-Katrina Sluis, “Image Exhaust: Pictures vs. Imaging Systems”


During “How To Do Art With Networks” the net-art-works were not only presented, but more importantly, they all acted as catalysts for exploring different perspectives and potentials for further development. The remainder of this report summarises some of the insightful reflections that were shared during the day.

Robert Sakrowski

Art historian and curator Robert Sakrowski traced the tradition of the grid as a form to work with a quantity of information and comparative viewings. To expand on the traditional concept of the grid, which is usually understood as a collection of static pictures, Swarovski developed a tool that applies the grid to moving images. The online tool “Gridr.org” makes it possible to browse through different screens at the same time. It offers opportunities to not only compare images, but also, to rethink narrative structures. “Gridr.org” can also be used in multiple contexts: curating, creating soundscapes, or live performances.


Katrina Sluis reflected on the functioning of art in networks in her presentation “Image Exhaust: Pictures vs. Imaging Systems”. From her experience as a curator at ThePhotographersGallery (London) she analysed the relationship between photography and fine art and in particular how the value of photography changed with the emergence of digital culture. With the merging of photography and the Web, the image was no longer unique and singular, but absorbed in a stream of data that is continuously circulating. This raised new questions about how to comprehend these ‘networked images’ and how to renegotiate our relationships with them. The network is an apparatus that connects people, inside and outside the gallery, but also on the Web. Sluis emphasised the importance of approaching the digital not only as a tool, but also as a knowledge system and culture.

Anne Roquigny and James Hudson

Media arts curator Anna Roquigny and programmer James Hudson presented the online tool “WJ-S”, which they described as “a mix of the Internet in real time”. Within a collaborative playlist multiple users can add and share their online content (by a simple drag and drop mechanism). The tool was created in order to translate individual or collective surfing towards a physical environment (gallery, conference, festival). This translation from the online towards the offline space turns browsing into a spectacle. Events were organised all over the world in collaboration with artists, curators and participants. All were invited to play and perform with this tool. These events were further used to inform participants on how to use the software and to share experiences in order to improve it.

Alternating workshops and lectures

The web-editing software “MyDesktopLife” originated from Martine Neddam’s artistic practice. Neddam is a pioneer of Net Art. She has experienced how personal creations on the Web are increasingly restricted by formats used in websites like Word Press and Facebook. The tool “MyDesktopLife” gives some freedom back to the users by offering possibilities for web editing, such as  the creation of layered images and narrative structures within the browser. The prototype of “MyDesktopLife” was supported by a research grant from ZKM (Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie, in Karlsruhe). The next step is to share this tool, for which a content management system (CMS) has been made. Anyone can register, use the prototype and become part of the community, which in turn, will contribute to further developing the tool.

Artist Harm van den Dorpel is rethinking the structures of our (social) databases. “Delinear.info” breaks with the linear and chronological organisation of most social media platforms. Users can follow each other and and can expand upon each other’s thoughts. Again, the tool came about through van der Dorpel’s own artistic practice, as he could not find a suitable tool for storing his collection of images, ideas and texts. Jan Robert Leegte described “Delinear.info” as a “multi user image building site”. It is a live database, free and dynamic, and most importantly, connects different knowledge areas and people. In this way, it functions like an ecosystem. Within the database there is no distinction between content and navigation. 


Michael Murtaugh
is a member of Constant Art & Media in Brussels and co-initiator of their project “Active Archives”, which is a project that aims to create a free software platform to connect various (institutional) practices. Constant critically reflects on which software cultural institutions use and what implications that has, in terms of authorship, copyrights, etc. Murtaugh offered valuable reflections on online collaborations and how we can reclaim the tools we use such collaborations rely on. Among others he creates his own local networks with PirateBox.
A PirateBox is a portable electronic device for storing information and for creating a wireless network that allows users who are connected to share files anonymously and locally. This device is disconnected from the Internet. For the conference Murtaugh created a hotspot with a dead drop interface, which could be used as an intranet within the Rietveld building.

Artist, musician and media researcher Aymeric Mansoux shared his reflections on the theme “How to do art with networks?” and suggested the rephrasing “How to do art within networks?”. He emphasised that networks are not only about “making” something, but also about the relationships between humans and non-humans, and about the power struggle between different rules. He then went on to examine how art was made within or outside existing systems. Artists have always been forced to develop their own systems, but is it possible to truly escape the existing ones? He took the manifesto of the art movement “Copyleft” as an example of how escaping a system is extremely difficult, especially since we do not have a relationship with one, but many systems.

“How To Do Art With Networks”is curated by Annet Dekker and co-organized by Martine Neddam. Production support was done by Sietske Roorda (LAPS). Alina Lupu and Vitya Glushchenko were responsible for all the designs.

 “How To Do Art With Networks”has been made possible thanks to the generous support of Lectoraat Art & Public Space (LAPS).

“My Desktop Life”has been made possible by a grant from the Creative Industries Fund NL, Rotterdam.

Facade poster by Alina Lupu and Vitya Glushchenko


References

LAPS (Lectoraat Art & Public Space)
How To Do Art With Networks

Harm van den Dorpel
Delinear.info (since 2015)


Michael Murtaugh
Active Archives (since 2006)


Martine Neddam
MyDesktopLife (since 2014) 


Anne Roquigny
WJ-S (since 2005)


Robert Sakrowski
Curating YouTube / Gridr (1997 / 2007)

Follow this link for the Flash version of this work

Turkmenbashi Mon Amour is a filmic-composition of image, text and sound, which portrays the cult of personality built around the figure of Turkmenbashi in Ashgabat, the capital of Turkmenistan. The piece is a response to a three-day visit by Neddam to Ashgabat during travels along the Silk Road.

Vimeo registration of the Flash work with japanese subtitles

The piece has a striking audio-visual structure. Photographs that Neddam took while in the city, documenting the many colossal monuments depicting Turkmenbashi, and which were erected during his presidency (from 1991 when Turkmenistan gained independence, to 2005, the year he passed away) serve as a theatrical stage, a background on which a non-linear dialogue between figures takes place.

Mouchette appears in all her naivety, addressing herself directly to Turkmenbashi declaring how she has fallen in love with the image of a God-like, yet human, father of the people (bashi means father) that is presented of Turkmenbashi throughout the city. Appearing on stage in turn in the form of these various representations, Turkmenbashi preaches to Mouchette of the many accomplishments he achieved throughout his presidency.

His proclamations take on a defensive tone in relation to a third figure, one that functions much like the chorus in Ancient Greek tragedy, a non-individualized voice that offers a commentary on the dramatic action. In this instance, the chorus fills in the image of Turkmenbashi with additional information such as how he banned political opposition and public media, gave dress “tips” that were to be taken as law, was a president whose government was steeped in corruption deals with foreign companies, and who spent much of the money made from the exportation of the country’s oil on the creation of monuments and splendor.

What the sound-scape brings to the composition of image and text is precisely a registration of the overall oppressive atmosphere palpable in the photographic images of monuments seen by no one, of the large boulevards driven on by no one, and of the empty hotels and luxury apartments, inhabited by no-one.

Only the figures of Mouchette and Turkmenbashi are seen on this barren colossal stage, where as Mouchette poignantly points-out, what they both share is how they exist purely in the form of representations, they are nothing else than fictive images.

Unlike most of Neddam’s artworks, Turkmenbashi Mon Amour, is meant to be viewed on a large screen in a dark room. It was premiered at the Montreal Biennial in 2011, and has been screened at the “City of Women” festival in Ljubljana in 2012, and the Kitakyushu Biennial World Tour in 2013.

Text by Anik Fournier

More info in “About Mouchette“: Turkmenbashi in Ljubljana and Mesto žensk – City of Women

Video TURKMENBASHI, MON AMOUR / Martine Neddam Japanese) from *candy factory.

TURKMENBASHI, MON AMOUR as a Flash work

Information pdf archived here: KItakyushu_Biennial2013.pdf

Neddam eut l’idée de créer le Network de Mouchette ayant constaté que les internautes se servaient du nom ou de la personnalité de Mouchette de manière tout à fait inattendue, pour leur propres intentions. Tandis que le site de Mouchette se fait passer pour une innocente page personnelle, les outils interactifs mis à la disposition des membres du Network vont permettre d’introduire des tiers dans le jeu. in d’être le portrait d’un individu, le site est en réalité un masque, que les usagers s’approprient pour se présenter et ainsi communiquer entre eux.

http://mouchette.net/

Le Network de Mouchette met en oeuvre l’idée de l’Interface de Partage d’Identité qui permet aux internautes de partager une identité fabriquée, et d’échanger entre eux par l’entremise d’un personnage. De ce fait, Mouchette.net fonctionne comme un laboratoire qui ouvre un espace de renégociation collective des identités.

gauche, contribution de Stephanie, droite contribution de Lida

Ci-dessus, des pages créées par usagers du Network de Mouchette : Stephanie, ou Lida et qui furent intégrées au site de Mouchette.

Le Network de Mouchette met en oeuvre l’idée de l’Interface de Partage d’Identité qui permet aux internautes de partager une identité fabriquée, et d’échanger entre eux par l’entremise d’un personnage. De ce fait, Mouchette.net fonctionne comme un laboratoire qui ouvre un espace de renégociation collective des identités.

La plateforme du Network de Mouchette fut inaugurée lors d’un lancement officiel à New York en 2003, au cours de la résidence artistique de Neddam à Franklin Furnace. Dans la Postmasters Gallery, l’artiste supposé être l’auteur de Mouchette venait à la rencontre de ses fans en révélant son identité et ses intentions. Pour cet évènement, un bulle transparente gonflable conçue par l’artiste de New York Anakin Koenig à l’intérieur de la Postmasters Gallery accueillait les visiteurs, ceux-là même qui étaient venus pour s’approprier le site de Mouchette. Ainsi dans une cérémonie artistique fut lancée l’interface du Network de Mouchette. Voir “Inside Mouchette” at AKAirways.

Après plusieurs années de fonctionnement ou les membres ont crée des pages intégrées au site, l’interface est à présent, selon les dires de Neddam, un château qui se visite mais que l’on habite plus vraiment, car de nombreuse fonctionnalités ne sont plus en usage.

Cette expérience de partage d’identité en ligne inspirera Neddam pour la création des personnages virtuels suivants, David Still and XiaoQian.

Texte: Anik Fournier