Interview I
Ellen Røed, Michelle Teran, Sher Doruff
Moderated by Scott delaHunta

Scott: You wanted to come in here in the beginning. Why is that?

Michelle: Because I wanted to infiltrate local spaces. And here we have a local pirate radio station already in place. So we use the material.

Sher: Airwaves

Scott: It is that. I hadn't thought about doing that initially. In my mind infiltration was more physical presence which we've been trying to do. But the one reason that I wanted to chat with you guys is primarily about your KeyStroke experience. Because you are working together and working so much and working on pieces. And that was one of the areas I thought we could cover. Have you guys done a KeyStroke performance together? Or several?

Michelle: Yes, but just between Ellen and me. When it's happening there is nobody witnessing it. There is just stuff that is exchanged and you only have access to the artefacts, to the documentation.
Scott: Were you guys working on that project were you were just sending things and changing them?

Ellen: We call it "Grrls Meet in Different Ways Now". And it's not a performance, it's mostly an online visual jam session. We work with webcams on a live input and we make different kinds of visual expressions and we've scrambled them into a very randomized website that people have been able to see and we've exhibited as photography with two pictures and we've also exhibited it as a slide show.

Sher: That's interesting. So you see it as a kind of generative medium that sends for recycling to other mediums?

Michelle: It was beautiful actually the photographs. Taking screen shots and transcribing them into negatives. It was presented in this interior design show.

Sher: I find that really lovely. I didn't realize that that was what you were doing.

Ellen: And the slide show was just taken with a normal photo camera of the screen. So it's not screen shots, it's photography which makes this really nice, not patterns, but it transforms the pixels into more organic.

Sher: More continuous blend of colour, colour saturates a bit.

Ellen: I really love those.

Scott: I hadn't realize the extent that it had been realized in other places. So galleries, slide shows,

Michelle: Website...

Ellen: And then we wanted to do another one with Amanda joining in as another person doing video documentation. And she wanted to do an edited video, but we didn't do that yet.

Scott: Are there any other Grrls meeting in different ways now?

Michelle: But Grrls with in different ways all over the world.

Scott: Maybe we could say something about what KeyStroke is.

Sher: But I don't want to define it. I think that someone else should.

Michelle: I think that it is a realtime, multi-user, multi-media, cross-media synthesis tool that enables realtime collaboration over a local area network or over the internet.

Ellen: I can see why they had you write the manual.

Scott: But I think that that way of using it is fantastic, as a process tool. I'm wondering to what extent is KeyStroke being used in university programs right now?

Sher: It isn't at the moment. In 2002 I hope it will be. There are a number of universities that have expressed interest in having workshops and also possibly in having courses with their students. And it is really a perfect environment for us because they generally have high speed networks and so within the schools themselves they should be able to have an optimal experience with the technology. And also if the teachers who are part of the workshops are a bit committed and have a bit of excitement after the workshop then it will grow. People will use it and get back to us and help us debug it. Add functionality and all those things that we want to do. We don't get enough response back from our beta testers at the moment. So, I'm trying to find a new strategy.

Scott: Ellen, when you were in Trondheim, were you using it in the curriculum course work. You were definitely using it in your own work, but was there any way that KeyStroke was integrated as part of the program. I'm sure Jeremy must have been interested in it.

Ellen: Jeremy definitely paid a lot of attention to me and hc after the first Hot Wired Live Art. Really curious about KeyStroke and we did workshop at the institute of the university, I don't remember the exact name of the institute, but it's for programmers and the teacher there is very strongly related to MIT. We presented KeyStroke there and it was very fascinating, because they had an incredible knowledge of anthropological terms and sociological terms. Their main goal was dealing with trying to get away from the screen, so they would use i-cubes and sensors. And they had all these terms from sociology and anthropology and really fit into KeyStroke and they were very interested in it.

Scott: Michelle are you involved in any initiative that involve getting KeyStroke into any classrooms and university?

Michelle: Well, during the Momentum festival which took place in Moss, Norway, we set up a three way connection between Toronto and Amsterdam. In Toronto, in order to gain access to the facilities (at Ryerson University) I was presenting this project and describing different things we would be taking into the university. Part of it involved me giving an artist talk, so I was talking about a range of things including this type of tool as a method for collaboration. And so introducing that to the university in that way. There were a few students that got access to it, and knew about the software. But after that Niels Bogaards and I put together a workshop at InterAccess Electronic Media Arts Centre and that took place in July. And after that I've just been involved in other discussions. There is a professor at Ryerson who's really interested in it....

Scott: How do you think it fits in with .... at Darlington for example they make a choice of going with an Adobe platform or Macromedia platform. But we're going to choose between a range of platforms because these are the only ones we can support. Somehow I couldn't imagine KeyStroke being selected as a tool that they are going to support. That kind of a program wouldn't be right for KeyStroke anyway.

Sher: No, it's more the initiative of individual teachers who are going to be teaching courses in either net art or you can imagine all kinds of classifications where this might fit in. And the teacher would say "I'm interested in this tool and I would like to find ways to use it". It would not be an institutional initiative but a more personal initiative from somebody who would think it is valid for their students.

Scott: I think you're right. One example would be Anya (?) wanting to make a connection with CAIISTAR (?)

Scott: Thinking about the ways that you two were using KeyStroke, back and forth, call and response, gathering materials and then collaging materials on the desktop and then using them in other places. Were you creating the visual image together.

Michelle: Yes, because you meet in the middle. The interface of KeyStroke, it's about meeting in the middle. What she's seeing is what I'm seeing, so she's responding to what I'm sending and I'm in turn responding to what she sends back. So it's an accumulated experience over a period of time. So it's not like we have our own interpretation, we are both seeing the same thing. That finished middle is a combination of those two inputs.

Sher: Actually, this was a bit of discussion that happened during the Human Generosity Project which we were part of. And it got talked about a little too much, but I do find it interesting because Lev Manovich brought it up about the distinction between collage, montage and remix. And actually I'm very interested to see from your points of view where you think it fits.

Ellen: It's quite hard to say it as either or. We've been using the term jam very much because we are only dealing with live cameras, no precollected imagery. We have our webcams, we send our still every 20 seconds. We remix, yes remix is probably the proper word for that kind of process.

Sher: Yes it is remix without the intention of meaning. Which is what montage is more described as.

Ellen: Well that's maybe the hard nut to crack. Everytime that we have been doing this, it always turns out that we are doing it for very different intentions. We're cross talking and it is very strange to see these kinds of collapse that we've been experiencing twice, when we realize that we are trying to do two different things. And then we both get very frustruated and then we skip the intentions and then just go on and then things start to happen. It's very important to try to get rid of all intentions and interpretations before anything can happen.

Sher: So you think that that is the prerequisite of collaboration. Of finding that in synch middle point in a collaboration.

Michelle: I don't know. I think each experience is different but we've just found if we start with a meaning, it we start with intent, then it just screws it all up.

Sher: Which is very interesting because we keep trying to define the collaboration now because we have all these online virtual collaborative environments and what always comes up is trust and taxonomies and defining and knowing what that is, and what you are actually saying is no. You're saying, "don't have any preconceived intentions and then the collaboration is going to be more synchronized".

Michelle: We're still setting up parameters. We work with the live camera. We both have been working with environments but how we treat the environments is completely different. Ellen is very interested in having the projection being part of the environment and then layering it and I, mostly because of the time difference, ....hers takes place in a dark room and totally isolated from any type of light and I have a studio that has south and west windows so there is no way that I can avoid light. So my second monitor is a television monitor and so if I'm sending feedback, I'm capturing the television monitor. There's no way in my studio to match the environment that Ellen has created.

Sher: Because you'll have a six hour time difference which means that you are going to be in lightness and Ellen is going to be in darkness. Which also must play some kind of role of how you meet.

Michelle: It's a matter of aesthetics too. I asked InterAccess once if I could be there for the whole weekend. They gave me the projector, they gave me everything. So I was in this empty space with just this projection and I couldn't deal with it. It's just not the way that I feel comfortable. So I couldn't immerse in the experience as readily.

Ellen: Which brings us back to the whole collaborative aspect. It's not about getting rid of intention, it's about keeping hold of your original starting point. Because if you attempt to impose some kind of thing that we are going to do then she doesn't feel comfortable. As soon as we get rid of the umbrella, I can go back to my starting point, and my interest in this and then we can meet and then we can collaborate. I think it's very important and I think that we've been seeing it a little bit in this workshop as well. Whenever we are doing something it is the person that is genuinely interested that can contribute. And I think that this is the essence to the whole Hot Wired Live Art collaboration as well. We get to keep our starting point within the group.

Sher: Have you thought about anything at all. Having had the chance to work with KeyStroke as a collaborative tool but with others that you have used, you've used IVisit and others, but the more you work and the more you try to work in these kinds of spaces, how much does this inform or start to change your personal work that is not collaborative. Does it have any effect?

Ellen: Oh yes, it definitely has an effect in the whole way of thinking about work.
Scott: I just made a link. Jean Claude, the french philosopher that was here for Unforgiving Memory. A couple of times he proposed his theory about the way the individual operates in a community. And the analogy was with the phoneme where the individual only makes sense in close context with others around. So trying to get away from trying to adhere identity to a single unit that keeps that identity whereever he or she is but that identity changes. I think that was my interpretation of it.
Michelle: But also within the course of that discussion is that you don't want to be too much of an alien at the same time, amongst your peers. There still has to be some stability in that difference. It's not too far, so displaced that nobody gets you.

Scott: But it opened up something for me that I hadn't thought of before and when you were just describing this starting point, being able to feel some sense of stability and being able to contribute to a group, that seems to me really important. It's not easy to negotiate that all of the time, but we've been going back and forth with that. We started with some sense at the beginning with people, beginning with everybody saying what we wanted to do and we do seem to have these machiines that do seem to engage people in this world out there, and then to go in and then encouraging them to....where it makes sense or where it seems like you can turn around and link to something that you can relate with. And I think that it has been easier for some than for others.

Sher: Well maybe Michelle can answer this. But it seems that most of your work is collaborative. But I haven't known you to do one that isn't or doesn't use these kinds of tools.

Michelle: Well most of the pieces that I have been doing in the last few years has involved some level of collaboration. I have done some work that has just been my piece and have then invited people in to participate in it, but there is always some additional support. So some of these projects are co-authored and some of them I'm the sole author and others are participant in it. But I just wanted to say that part of this process of this workshop, because there's been two additional people that have been introduced into this network. Jeff and Amanda I have more familiarity with their process and I think there has been some difficulty for other people to understand where these two artists are coming from. So I felt a lot of times sort of in the middle trying to interface two processes. When you meet a person for the first time and say "well, this person is an architect and you have to go through some time before you understand what that person's practice is. Is her practice making things all ordered and nice? Or is there something underlying it? So that means that an artist can offer more input than the more hardcore tools that they bring in. Making the motor go.

Per: (over the walkie talkie) That hasn't been a problem at all. I think to a certain extent we have to interface in different ways. I mean we don't see each other very often anyways even though we are quite familiar with our work, well it's the level of interfacing that goes on a human level and not on a professional scale. You have to talk to the different people on a personal level before you can actually interface in a group.

Michelle: I totally agree with that Per.

Scott: It's very wierd. Per talking via a walkie talkie which is sitting on the table looking like a little head out of which your voice is coming. It's very funny.
(bios and introductions at approx 30 minutes)

Scott: Describing the use of KeyStroke in performances and using it as a communications tool, we presented KeyStroke as a screen for people to watch without having them participate. I mean a couple of times at the party and also in the bar, which was party social and partly constructive but KeyStroke also finds itself sometimes in situations like we found at O+E where an audience came and watched an event that was organized around ....and that was sort of a central feature that .....I have a question about watching a collaboration. Let's say I was watching you two collaborate, and you had the same questions, I would perhaps be watching this animated painting.

Ellen: No you wouldn't because we didn't do that. And that's why we never did it.

Scott: Why wouldn't you do something like that? I come from a practice that when they describe a telematic performance as I was just doing at Arizona State University what they are talking about are two stages, one at a distance from another and using a high speed link. And they are pushing that information to each other. And maybe this is just academic because I think that we are all on the same plane here but why wouldn't you find that interesting.

Ellen: Well, I think we have to go back to that communication tool thing because our project most of all it is about communication, it's not about being in a performance and it is definitely not about being on a stage. I'm not saying that we would never to that but then it would be something completely different and would be the result of wanting to do something particular, create a common space in a performance setting, but that is not what we are working on. If I were to do that it would be very crucial that the whole mediated space be applied onto the stage in a way that it would make a difference. And I think that would have to come from a demand within the performance and not just as a starting point.

Sher: We did a presentation at Doors of Perception and there was a person there who works with Peter Sellars (spelling?) and is his video person and she said "oh wow, Peter is just mounting this opera. Part of what he is doing in this opera is dragging people off the street and they were doing video interviews. So in the opera they have these video tapes and it's pre-edited and these things come up and it's a man on the street interjection to this whole libretto or whatever is happening at the moment. She said wouldn't it be great if we had a tool like this we could really grab people off the street, it would be live there would be excitement that we couldn't get in another kind of way. That's just a for instance, you could come up with lots of these examples.

Scott: But why would that we exciting? Because it was live?

Sher: That was her interpretation, as a video person. She said, "I would like to have a way and then also have a way to be able to change it". Or that maybe it might be changed by the music in the opera itself.

Michelle: How do you know it's live then? What's the difference between...cause it's the stage thing, nobody could tell where it was coming from. One of the problems was that nobody had a sense of where it was coming from and where the liveness was.

Scott: Well I thought it was quite nice your description about how you would apply the mediated space to the stage and that it really did make a difference, because that difference when we sit off from the stage during a telematic performance then the fact that we are maybe informed prior that this person is located at some other place in the world, when in fact it could be pre-recorded or in fact it could be located around the corner in the room. I have pretty much rejected the notion that you could have a stage performance with telematic work and interactive work and sit away from that and have that.... unless it is specifically used in ways, have that be something that really made a difference in the performance piece. But I did open up a theoretical angle on that when I was in Arizona because I felt that perhaps part of the problem was that it is firstly a communication medium. when you make a connection between San Francisco and New York, the fact is you are opening up a communication channel between people and the problem is and this is the crisis in theatre about what is it communicating. It has already mangled that set up possibilities and it doesn't know what it is doing. So to feed into it something that is so clearly communication....I was sitting on the stage at Arizona State and I thought "What these people were doing on this stage right now is they are actually blocking that communication". They are essentially diverting that.

Sher: I find it is too heavy handed to say with any kind of genre "No, you shouldn't do it there". I don't think these artists should say "no you shouldn't bring communication into the stage". Why not? You can experiment with it and maybe it will work and maybe it won't work. I'm meaning to say that I am open to testing these kinds of things in any kind of genre. Ceramics if you can find a way.

Scott: I have to differ in this a bit. I feel that I have tested these things by observation in a sense. I feel like I have been looking at this work for six years and I'm more interested in how it moves out of those spaces. And I think that this kind of work is more effectively uses what is powerful about that medium.

Ellen: There is another way to see it as well. That you have to make a difference, and there has to be some sense, but if you do the complete opposite and that it is just a naturel way for us to work and you would just bring that type of technology into the stage and that kind of presence into the stage and as a naturel way to work. Then I think you could probably achieve something.

Scott: Part of my problem has been that we have been tangling with places with no good connections. Just to mount these things is such a massive effort and then in the end you go "why did I do that?" But in fact that is a very nice proposal because in five or ten years as I'm experiencing here now, it is just going to loop back.

Ellen: We have been having a series of completely analogue performances in Trondheim, a concert, ambient theatre performance where most of the time where we've had eight different groups playing for five minutes each. What has been special about these nights is that all artists have come to the space three or four hours before, it has been really improvised, we just set up the stage, do all of the connections and do some sound check and here we go. And nobody will know what will happen. I have often been on the balcony with the light and just a piece of cardboard in front of the projector. In these kinds of settings it would have been perfect with these kinds of telepresence, in this playful improvised, it would have worked very well, without having to have a reason.

Michelle: I was just thinking about a similar experience, but not involving performance. A place in Toronto that was called the Moneyhouse. Every month you would have an exhibition that would take place over one night. You would invite a whole range of artist and you would say "okay this month it is going to be the style show or some other theme" and you can't spend more than 25$ on your project. And people would put something together and there would be performance and installations and video and it would be a social evening with no preconceptions. It would be this shared moment and then you would move on. It was short lived as many of these things are but still really important to be part of that.

Scott: There was that collage remix discussion that we had earlier and I'd like to get back to that. This notion that it is difficult to apply collage because it suggested more stable media, it seemed to imply taking them out of their familiar locations and rearranging them in an unfamiliar way but in fact they are already defamiliarized so often that the remix seems to be so much more....it might appear to be collage-like in the sense of its form, but in fact interms of the way that you would understand it. It's hard for me to imagine how those early forms of collages in the early part of the 20th century were read given that they were destabilized from their normal contextual sets of meanings. Like the early days of films when montage came out, it must have been so much of a shock. Because we are so far beyond that historical moment it seems to be much more about remix.

Ellen: But I think that it has to do with the level of abstraction as well. Because it had to do so much with the abstraction and the surrealism and the way to distract the meaning and we are talking so much about reassembling meaning and how to make things meaningful. And that's probably the reason because we can't really use collage any more anyways.

Sher: And according to Lev, that's the definition of montage. So then, what is remix for you, a distinction between montage and remix.

Michelle: Well I was talking to Amanda Steggell about being at a dj event. And there was a remix of some seventies song from a television program when I was a child. And all of us clued in because we were all from the same age bracket, mid 30s. But the djs were in their early 20s and they are remixing but there was a possibility that they didn't know what the original source was and so you take a remix and then you have a dj that makes a remix of the remix.

Sher: But there you just have said the original source.

Michelle: So it assumes an original source then

Sher: So there is the distinction.

Per: (via walkie talkie) Can I comment? I think that remix applies more a musical or maybe linear way of seeing things and collage and montage are visual and not necessarily linear. Sher can you comment on that? You've been to art school?

Sher: We're in this cross-media landscape. I actually think those things apply accross the board both to visual and to audio. For me I was having a kind of difficultly in terms of montage in a theoretical kind of way and remix, but I think that this is stylistic because I don't think that there is one style of remix. There are many styles of remix from what I know about dj culture. And from visual culture I think of artists here. I see it has there being stylistic differences. For example, Ellen might choose to start with one source and then fragment that source and bring other sources into it, whereas another artist might choose to have 20 sources and it's combining those twenty sources to an end, or maybe not to an end, in a improvisatory kind of way which to me is a kind of collage. With meaning towards an end is a sort of montage as I'm trying to understand and arrive at a definition for myself.

[sept 2001, BANFF, Canada]