Research intern Patricia Black examined the net art performance Mouchette (1996) by Amsterdam-based artist Martine Neddam, focusing on the ethical and aesthetic aspects as well as the preservation and documentation of identity. Black’s essay Can “Mouchette” be preserved as an identity?” has been published and is available to read by clicking here. For a case study report on “Mouchette” by Patricia Black as well as a case study and summary from last year’s Documenting Digital Art workshop, please click here.
Participating artists: LaTurbo Avedon, Petra Cortright, Harm van den Dorpel, Miron Galić, Yael Kanarek, Jan Robert Leegte, Cassie McQuater, Martine Neddam, Marisa Olson, Jonathan Puckey, Sabrina Ratté, Akihiko Taniguchi and Damon Zucconi
“A show about our awkwardness, aches and astonishment with our mediated selves. Do our avatars share our dreams at night?”
“It’s like being in an aquarium” – Josephine Bosma mentioned during a Jitsi gallery opening, observing 20 people side by side looking at each other, not knowing what to say in this precarious but novel condition. The Lockdown has accelerated our forced embrace with our mediated selves. Headaches, loss of focus, but also experimentation, resulting in new and exciting ways of communicating.
Our history with computers is also a history of our real-time representation within computers. It being an interactive medium, the machine needs our presence in some way; a mouse pointer, the typing of letters in a text field, a voice, moving avatar or video stream. But how deeply related we are with our representation, it operates in a different realm. The mirror or echo of our actions has a flavour of its own. This dissociation brings in a digital weird that becomes a new space.
This exhibition showcases works from 1998 to 2020, that all navigate this space, reflecting on how our disembodied selves echo back their unique presence.
MARTINE NEDDAM: DIGITAL FLESH & BLOOD (1998)
Manthos: In what way is the energy of virtual life passed on to real life? Or the other way round? Mouchette: Virtual life is a form of death. The body must be annihilated completely. Everything organic, biologic has to disappear from the communication: no more voice, no more breath, no more flesh, no more eyes… a perfect and total disembodiement! No wonder you hear so much about suicide on my site. Virtual life is a technologically complex form of suicide. Of course, subsequently, one can be reborn on the net as a new entity, in a form that one would choose and fabricate, as a living being with no teeth, no saliva, no skin, no smile. Instead of that, this being would have pixels, code, text characters. Here is my portrait, my spitting image: all I am is words and pixels put together by means of codes and viewed on a monitor. Once the suicide is successfully accomplished, real life comes back to haunt virtual life. The teeth and the smile return under the pixels, the kiss resurfaces under the screen. I made a work called Flesh&Blood where the viewer has to come closer and kiss the screen, lick the glass surface of the monitor and try to believe that there is a real living body in front of him/her. Is the illusion of life successful? Is the glass of the computer monitor cold or warm when you kiss it? My viewers are divided on this question… Rape, Murder and Suicide are easier when you use a keyboard shortcut in Leonardo Journal, volume 38, June 2005, MIT Press, extract of an interview of Mouchette by Manthos Santorineos
Mouchette.org is an interactive website created in 1996 by a virtual person, a pseudonymous character, an Amsterdam based artist who calls herself Mouchette. With her innocent salutation and claims to be “nearly thirteen” greeting us from the introduction page, what initially appears as a personal website of a pre-pubescent female artist, evolves into darker themes in the subsequent pages. The creator of the website has been a closely guarded secret. While the use of taboo subject matters are what initially provokes heated reactions, the manipulation of cyber-identity and the ability of the creator to maintain anonymity for so long are the significant reasons this website has garnered its international reputation in the internet art community.
About mouchette.org by Anik Fournier
Mouchette.org marks a pivotal transition in Neddam’s work from the
actual to the virtual realm. Created in 1996, Mouchette.org exists as
the personal, interactive website of a self-proclaimed ‘almost thirteen
year old’ artist living in Amsterdam. The work is now internationally
recognized as a key work in the history of Internet art.
Making use of the basic online tools available pre-web 2.0, such as
question and answer and multiple-choice forms, Mouchette.org incites
users to navigate the pages and interact with the seemingly innocent
girl, in order to discover her corky, sexualized and dark sides.
Mouchette’s virtual persona is roughly based on the movie by Robert
Bresson by the same name.
Since its inception in 1996, Mouchette.org has morphed and has been
exhibited in various forums internationally. Interest in the work spans
the art world, academia and internet users and fans worldwide. The
artwork is the subject of much critical discourse and heated commentary
on the construction of identity and anonymity enabled by the internet.
The recent attribution of the work to Martine Neddam has not weakened
the lure of the virtual persona. Mouchette remains in contact with
daily visitors to her site and Mouchette.org continues to emerge in
various forms in a wide-range of off and online exhibitions and events.
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.
Mouchette.net emerged after Neddam had observed unexpected turns in the use of Mouchette.org. Whereas Mouchette.org masquerades as an individual blog, its interactive narrative tools open up a site that extends beyond the me – you relation, to include a third party. Presenting itself as an individual portrait, the site is in reality a masque that users appropriate in order to communicate, and hence to present something about themselves.
Mouchette.net follows up on this idea of an identity-sharing interface that allows users to both communicate via a virtual persona and to share in the construction of its identity. In this manner, Mouchette.net functions as a big laboratory where a tertiary space is opened up and renegotiated collectively.
See here one of the pages created by online members, Stephanie, or Lidaand integrated as parts of Mouchette’s website.
This second platform was launched through an official ceremony in 2003 in New York. While Neddam was the invited artist at the Franklin Furnace residency and Postmasters Gallery, the supposed artist behind Mouchette.org came forth to meet their fans, reveal their identity, and talk about their motives and intentions. The event took place within an inflatable environment especially constructed with New York artist Anakin Koenig at Postmasters Gallery: see “Inside Mouchette” at AKAirways. Most importantly, the ceremony provided an opportunity for Mouchette to give the website away, leading to the creation of Mouchette.net. After functioning very successfully for several years, today Mouchette.net is described by Neddam as a castle that users can visit but in which they can no longer live, because many of the internet features used to construct the site are no longer operating properly. Mouchette.net lead to the creation by Neddam of the virtual persona of David Still and XiaoQian.
Text: Anik Fournier
“Mouchette.org version 01″ has just been acquired by the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam.
Press Release Amsterdam, 14 december 2016 – The Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam and MOTI in Breda are jointly acquiring 17 top digital works by contemporary artists in the Netherlands and abroad who are among the pioneers of digital art. This collaboration is spurred by MOTI’s change of course: it is due to reopen in the course of 2017 as the Stedelijk Museum Breda, where the legacy of the city of Breda will have a more prominent role. In the short space of time that it existed, and under the management of Mieke Gerritzen, MOTI – founded in 2011 – has managed to build a remarkable collection of digital works by leading artists. The joint acquisition with the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam means investing in a national collection in the field of digital art. This merging of curatorial vision transcends local museum policy. The course taken by MOTI in the collection of digital art coheres perfectly with the policy of the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, which is always geared to new forms of art with a particular interest in the cross-over between graphic design and visual arts. MOTI initiated the collaboration with the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, as a cultural institution with a strong reputation and immense public reach. In a time where museums are increasingly expected to show artistic distinctiveness and to operate as a cultural enterprise, collaboration at the national level is an obvious step. With this joint acquisition, the two museums seek to enhance the visibility of digital art for the general public, and to give digital art a permanent place in the national art collection, Collectie Nederland. In compiling this joint acquisition, the two curators Ward Janssen (MOTI) and Bart Rutten (Stedelijk Museum) specifically sought to acquire art works that examine the changing role of visual idiom in the internet era, as an art work on the internet or as a critical response to the computerisation of society.
The acquisition consists of works by the leading contemporary Dutch artists Constant Dullaart, Rafaël Rozendaal, Floris Kaayk, Rosa Menkman, Geoffrey Lillemon and Jan Robert Leegte; pioneers of digital art in the past decades JODI, Vuk Ćosić, Martine Neddam (under the pseudonym of Mouchette), and Olia Lialina; and the international artists Jon Rafman, Petra Cortright, Jonas Lund, UV Production House and Michael Mandiberg.
On the side of the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, the acquisition is supported by the Tijl Aankoop Fonds and a private benefactor, with the Bankgiro Lotterij supporting MOTI.
To preserve and present the digital art works, the two museums will jointly develop a policy to manage the digital material in the best possible way for the future. This is a challenge faced by museums around the world. The museums will work with organisations including LIMA, an international platform for media art and specialised in the preservation of digital art works. MOTI’s digital collection already contains works by artists like Moniker, Rafael Rozendaal, John Maeda, Pinar & Viola, Persijn Broersen & Margit Lukács, Studio Smack, JODI, Olia Lialina & Dragan Espenschied, Rosa Menkman and Robert Jan Leegte. In the past year, MOTI Museum presented the exhibitions Born Digital, Planet Hype, New Delights and Welcome to the Imagesphere, examining developments in media culture and digital art.
Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam was quick to devote attention to digital art, with exhibitions such as Next Level – Art, Games and Reality (2006) and Deep Screen – Art in Digital Culture (2008), and its collection contains digital works by artists such as Brody Condon, Persijn Broersen & Margit Lukács, Jochem van der Spek and Jon Rafman. Recently, the Stedelijk has presented solo exhibitions by artists addressing the digital society such as Ed Atkins, Avery Singer, Jon Rafman and, at present, Jordan Wolfson. In terms of quantity, this is largest joint acquisition by the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, after similar ventures with Centraal Museum Utrecht, Van Abbe Museum in Eindhoven, Museum De Hallen in Haarlem, and Museum Arnhem.
This screen capture of Mouchette.org website (14 minutes) was created for the exhibition “Electronic SuperHighway 1966-2016”, in the Whitechapel Gallery in London January/May 2016. It was made by Rhizome, using one of their emulators (therefore showing the work in a browser versions prior to 2016)
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