out of the closet 2009
After having been for several years the secret author
of several virtual persons, I decided to come out:
I am claiming the authorship the works of art. To
understand my own situation, I am conducting a research
on authors who also had multiple identities.
Having created this separation with my characters allows me now to tell
the stories of the virtual persons as seen by an insider, to reflect
on the situation of the “multiple identity author”
and to create a new form of autobiographical observations
and commentaries based on the digital medium that I am using.
I must embrace in a consistent way the task of the maintenance
and preservation as if it had to be done by someone else because
one day, it will be.
VIRTUAL PERSONS and their websites
(a young girl of nearly 13) has started in 1996 and she has become one
the most famous website in the history of net-art. Through her I created
many innovative works of art I am still working on her website daily.
She is in the curriculum of several universities when new media art
is studied (see Taschen book)
CV gathers many links of works she has done outside of
her website, and links to many important texts written about her. Her
entry, written by a totally unknown person is an excellent
analytic survey of her work. There are also several academic studies
to be found online, like this one from Dartmouth.edu
hate Mouchette, her anti-fan website, a work of art made
is an interface that lets you use the personality of Mouchette.
In 2007 Mouchette
had a show in the museum
of Siegen in Germany where she hung works on the walls
(online sketches: court….arch
Recent online articles: Poptronics…
Rose … Universitat
Oberta de Catalunya …
Ethnologie Française 2008 …
Still (created in 2001) allows you to use his online personality,
his email, his life. He has won prizes, has created new works for several
years, archived on his CV.
After being kicked out by 3 different webhosts, I had to disable some
is a chinese virtual character, an artist who creates virtual characters,
Yuming or Shaxpir.
was a virtual person in Marseille, an algerian girl who wears a headscarf.
The website was forbidden by the police before it could even be created.
is an interface (content management system) which I created in 2008
to let people make their own virtual character with a combination of
pictures and texts.
(2009, still in construction) Since my virtual characters no longer
have to be made by an anonymous author, I launched this site to document
all the works together, virtual characters and public commissions all
made by the same author. The last public commissions made in 2001/2002
bear a strong influence of the virtual characters (Inconnus and Vergezichten).
is the website where I documented my public commissions until 1999.
“coming out” has slowly started in Spring
2008, for obvious reasons:the characters had entered the history of
net.art, the anonymity of the author was not a part of the artistic
value of the work anymore, so I decided to give it up. But the situation
proved much more upsetting and disorientating that I would have imagined.
I felt exposed and embarrassed, as if I’d lost a protection and a freedom.
To understand the situation I started a research on the phenomenon
of the multiple-identity author. I have been reading many books:
the works, poetry or novels, the autobiographies, biographies and theoretical
studies of two literary authors: Fernando
Pessoa and his heteronyms (portuguese poet of the 1930’s),
Gary and his double Emile Ajar, french novelist from the
50’s until the 80’s. The phenomenon is seen from the insider or outsider
viewpoint in a very different. Comparing the two approaches is very
In May and June 2008 I have been teaching a
seminar in the masters’ program in visual arts at the University
of Quebec in Montreal (UQAM) exclusively on the subject of virtual persons.
My students created their
own virtual persons. They tested my new creation VirtualPerson.net
and some used my interface to create their own works of art, (Helena
Martine created Utopica). They also made a study and published
a consistent interview
about all my virtual persons (in french).
In a manifestation for participative works in Shanghai,
Intrude 366, I recently (December 2008) held a workshop
using VirtualPerson.net interface. My new online software created by
Roberto Valenti and Felix Hageloh, using Ruby on Rails (a new computer
language). It is in a beta phase and I want to continue the developement
of this interface, while I am using it to write my own stories.
The research runs parallel with the project and feeds
it all throughout the realization. I continue reading the two authors
and they are becoming the companions of my quest (Pessoa and Gary) and
collaborate with researchers in the field of history of esoterism (Marco
Pasi) and new media preservation, Annet Dekker.
Annet Dekker is already part of my research while she’s
doing her own research (a PHD in media arts at the Goldsmith institute,
London) on the subject of participation in media art. She came to Shanghai
to collaborate to the workshop and to document the situation of the
preservation of media arts. She interviews me and documents the archival
of my work. Her input contributes greatly to my own reflection.
A part of the research is triggered by the informal conversations and
stories I share on a private basis with people interested in the situation
who ask questions about how it feels, or what happens in the backstage.
The stories are the same but everytime but I always narrate them in
a different way for each person.
core of this project is to record my experiences with being
a multiple author in a mix of storytelling and cultural analysis,
and to do so using a medium that fits the subject,
a digital medium, online and offline, with a combination of texts, images,
interviews with relevant persons, personal memories and cultural analysis.
related to the exceptional situation of an artist and the birth of the
medium internet need to be recorded before I forget them. It’s a precious
part of the art but an invisible part: the backstage.
-I was submitted
to police investigation in Marseille for the website Mouchette and I
was forbidden to create the website Halima. I want to write about censorship,
digital control, social and political action on internet.
-I received twice the same price in Dresden Germany (BodyBites) by a
jury unaware that they gave it to the same author. I saw it as a triumph,
they saw it as a deceit.
believed the author of Mouchette was a man (I participated in circulating
the rumour) who probably had a pedophile inclination, but those who
took her for a woman regarded her as a feminist.
taken for granted that the author of David Still was a man, if not necessarily
himself, no one imagined it could be a woman.
persons sincerely fell in love with David Still, one of them even planned
to flee with him to Mexico (all the love correspondance is kept on the
-and much more…
shed a particular light on the society of its time, the birth of internet,
how it was experienced in the early days in general, and in particular
as an artistic medium, how it changed and how different systems of control
and repression changed its nature.
Fictions and reflections: the inner life of a multiple
author is a subject of an intense curiosity, people often ask me about
it, they are fascinated by what I tell them and advise me to write it
down and I promise I will. I hear it from personal friends, as well
as from academics familiar with the subject. But I am not a literary
author and I need to use and develop a form which is specific to my
subject and to weave together the form and the contents.
A specific form for digital storytelling. I have created
the interface VirtualPerson.net to provide a tool for a specific layout
for a digital narrativity, to connect texts and images in a fluid composition.
So this will be my first tool. Originally meant as a participative interface,
with a few minor adaptations I can get started on it, but not for long
because very soon I will need to improve this tool. VirtualPerson.net
is still a beta-version, maybe sufficient for a first draft, but too
limited (no sound, no movies etc…) and I really need to develop the
form and the contents at the same time.
Besides this, I need to create a new form of digital recording
of conversations and interviews. This might prove to be complex
video editing with several channels, a field in which I have no experience.
Recording conversations on Skype, using webcam images, editing the contents,
publishing it, I want to learn how to do this, collaborate with experienced
people and take the time to achieve a good result in order to be able
to produce and store spoken content.
purpose of this project is not only to record the experience of the
author but also to preserve the works of art. Preservation is
a crucial problem on internet, the obsolescence is
incredibly fast, the scripts and the java code deteriorate with each
new version of a browser, of a platform and the funny mouse-tricks are
blocked, the scripts stop running, the works decay… (ex: squint)
With my internet persons, I am the museum and the museum gard,
besides being the creator. I am in charge of the accessibility of the
sites for the public, I run the server, and maintain the domains and
the database every single day.
I know my public: Mouchette receives an average of 100 visitors a day,
50% are art students who study media art because Mouchette as a main
reference for identity creation. I like my public and I do a lot of
work, maintaining the site daily, keeping good access and good quality
of the content. I do it with pleasure, but the work load blocks me from
new creations. Some tasks are above my competency: many works need to
be fixed and I need a technician for that, a real programmer.
My dream of the perfect archival is to leave the sites
in somebody else’s hands as if I had disappeared. I have never done
that before, and I would like to try it for a certain time. I would
still monitor the maintenance and and at the same time archive that
invisible part of the art: the constant contact with the public executed
by a “real-life person”.
This archival is not only important for the artist and the public, but
also for the scientific community. Sites like Mouchette
have a historic value. Restauration and preservation of digital art
is an important research topic for institutions such as Goldsmith University
of London, Fondation Daniel Langlois in Montréal, Canada, and
Virtueel Platform in Amsterdam, I have contacts these 3 institutions,
they follow my work and would participate in the preservation and in
the reflexion about it.
Roberto Valenti and Felix Hageloh
They programmed VirtualPerson.net with Ruby on Rails.
Both PHD students in computer sciences and active in the bussiness world,
they know the newest of the newest in digital technology and they can
appreciate working with an artist for a relatively low price. With them,
I will improve and develop VirtualPerson.net.
Marc Boon The computer programmer of Mouchette since
the first hour. Thanks to him, Mouchette was the first artist to have
a database and dynamic pages with PHP (the ancestors to our blogs) as
early as 1998. Everything he has created is still working well. He knows
the work of Mouchette from the early hour and can help fix the old scripts
while still keeping the original feeling.
José-Nuno Pereira is a web programmer. He transcribed
flash works into DVDs, and has the experience of video weblogs and the
transcription of videos for an internet environement. Together we develop
a practise of screen capture onto DVD (but not the editing). He is a
regular help for webhost problems, running the server and the database.
Annet Dekker is a researcher doing her PHD in Goldsmith
University on the subject of digital and participative art, and especially
the preservation of it. Formerly curator at Netherlands Institute for
Media Arts (NIMK, or Montevideo), she now works for Virtueel Platform
where she is organising among other things an international symposium
over the preservation of digital art in May 2009.
Josephine Bosma is an art theoretician specialist of
early net.art of international reputation. She is writing a book on
the subject and several important articles.
Marco Pasi is an academic, professor in the history
of esoterism. He wrote a book on the meeting of Fernando Pessoa and
Alistair Crowley (a star in esoteric fiels in the 1930’s)
restauration of Mouchette code (350x4days)
the maintenance process with a helper (10 weeksx150 )
video recording, montage, online publishing, DVD publishing
Peirera and a video editing specialist
my equipement for the new tasks, external hard disk, video-editing
documentation, small expenses
and FUTURE PLANS
project will be developed between now and April 2010. The outcome will
-several websites related to VirtualPerson.net (subdomains of separate
domains) telling different stories
-DVD editions of conversations with video screen captures the works
– a launch event
for an international residency in Montréal, Quartier
éphémère, in order to develop a part
of the storytelling in french and to collaborate with their institutions
for digital art (Fondation Daniel Langlois)
Van Speykstraat 91B
1057 GR Amsterdam
tel: 020 618 66 87
mob: 06 28 14 78 99
MEDIA ART by Taschen
-KNOTENPUNKE 2007 (catalogue of the museum exhibition in Germany)
-ETUDES PHOTOGRAPHIQUES October 2008
-DOCUMENTS 35 oeuvres (acquisitions in the collection of Territoire
de Belfort, France)
-THE UNDECIDABLE, Gaps and displacement of contemporary art, Montréal
-CYNET ART 2006