Interview II
Moderated by Scott delaHunta
Per Platou, Niels Bogaards, Gisle Frøysland

Scott: So where are you Ellen?

Ellen: In bed with my coffee.

Scott: For those who are listening out there in radio land. We're here participating in a project under the auspices of the New Media Institute, a co-production with Hot Wired Live Art and The Banff Centre for the Arts. This is the second hwla workshop that we are participated in.

Scott: We had this opportunity to use radio 90 to broadcast this chat. Out beyond the building and the perimeter of The Banff Centre, which is very much in keeping with the concept behind this version Hot Wired Live Art, which is Airwaves. Which is the focus of a lot of the work that we have been doing since the 18th of August. Ways that we can wirelessly communicate between spaces and people. And today we have our last experiment today where I understand we will be setting up homemade antennas between one mountain top and another.

Scott: Yesterday we had Michelle, Ellen and Sher talking about, quite a bit of chat about KeyStroke. But at the end of the conversation we began. (gets interrupted by walkie talkies)
One of the things I was thinking. At the end of the discussion yesterday about programs, different kinds of artists' programs, I think I mentioned an interest in the tool. There are so many artists and programmers building these kinds of tools, KeyStroke is a kind of tool, and then spreading that kind of tool out amongst the artistic community to use in different ways. And it reminds me of a quote from one of our favorite Human Generosity quote, the Brian Eno quote where he talks about the future of artmaking where art tools and and art making will become more integrated as an art practice and I wonder if anybody had any thoughts. Per Platou?

Per: Yes I do because what he actually said was that in the future artistic tools were going to generate generators of some kind. But what Jim Andrews failed to mention that he said that on the occasion of the launch of his Koan tool. Since then he's kind of gone back on that and is kind of laughing about it. We never get rid of the brush and the piano and the violin. There will be everything from automatic art to pencil and brush kind of art. I mean, it's been like that and it's going to stay like that. So this is slightly a critical remark towards embracing that comment. I don't believe that future tools will be these self making art tools because that is not what art is about. If that is what it's about then it's about making the tool. And in that case I would agree to it being a piece of art.

Scott: I think that is a good clarification. I don't think either that there will be. The generative tools, the tools that generate through machine processes artworks, they're are interesting to me and I find them intriguing but I'm thinking more about the processes of making the tools and tool like devices out of a combination of hardware and software that then people [use]. And in a way Jim's online, for whatever way you think of them are essentially providing for the user a kind of tool to work with and there is a lot of that. We saw The Collage Machine (Andruid's), lots of people making these often internet based sites where people can come in (The Apartment) as a kind of artmaking tool. So I'm just curious in that shift of the practice of making something of maybe a way for the object or even the performance into this thing that you can then so quickly disseminate over the net.

Gisle: I think it is interesting what Per is saying in that the art is in the making of the tool. But that goes for a lot of those programs we have seen emerging today like in particular Nato where you have this whole huge concept that surrounds the software and also you get a lot of...the software itself sort of makes you go into certain directions, artistically, and it is really hard for the users to break out of that and do totally different things because the software wants you to go in certain aesthetic directions.

Per: But that is partly true, but not entirely. I was talking with Ellen the other day about what happened at DEAF in Rotterdam last November where she took part in a workshop with 30 other Nato artists and they were basically showing each other the same patch. They wrote the different codes but they were actually doing the same thing. But that is an aesthetic, but one should be really be...you have to twist your head to get around that aesthetic. And KeyStroke is the same, I mean I've seen that butterfly in the media folder a thousand times and some people when they see it think that this is what KeyStroke is really about.

Niels: Yes, but I think it's mainly about interfacing. It's which inputs and which outputs are the ones that you see first. I'm not sure that you can really blame the software for making certain things easier or obvious. As long as it is open enough to experiment. With Nato or Max or KeyStroke the number of instruments that you may build is so enormous that I don't you can say this is Nato and this is KeyStroke. You can if you use all the defaults. But using all the defaults on the guitar brings you boring music. I always like to see what Hendrix did, he took a tool which was a fine tool and just went for all the limits and that is where the really interesting things happen. If you don't want to dive into it at all, it you don't want to explore of course you are going to end up with the defaults. Of course the default is the only thing that is identical for every user. But I'm not sure if you should blame the tool for that.

Per: Yes, but a little bit because KeyStroke has some features that Nato hasn't and so on. If you buy a digeridoo, you are probably going to make different music than if you buy a double-necked electric guitar. Both of these instruments applies to a different kind of music, or by default it does. But then Hendrix could play the digeridoo I guess (laughs)

Niels: Yes, well this is a style. I think what we are really looking for is the level of quality in the art piece than the style. I think that the fact that many Nato people look the same. That has happened because there are not so many of them anyway and they all came out of the same mailing list the same environment, so they are very likely to be very similar. They don't have to be I think if just anyone would pick up Nato and have an idea then it could very different and original.

Gisle: That's what I mean too because, especially with the Nato, I think it is a piece of art on the part of the maker because of the concept around it. If you are a Nato user then you have to get involved in this community. Because, of course Nato in itself can be used in many different ways, but you are constantly being projected to the nn kind of aesthetics through the mailing list and the website and these quicktime movies that he or her puts out all the time and it kind of imposes that this is the way to use Nato and very many do.

Niels: I'd like to say one more tiny thing about this. When I began making music and digital art it was cubase which was the only tool out there. And there as well you can go with all the defaults. It could always be in 4/4 time and I could copy and move whole bars, but you don't have to and I could still use this and make highly original things. And so it's up to the level of interest of being original of the artist.

Scott: Well I guess there are none of these programs come close to doing... Well these is the obvious flash aesthetic and there's photoshop, these kinds of aesthetics that seem to role through our extremely mediated advertising world which all of these similar types of animations and graphics until the next filter comes along. But I feel these are quite different to allow more room for individualized or customizing when making something.

Per: But you can't really talk about Photoshop aesthetic. You can't do it for generalizing purposes like we are doing now. The Photoshop aesthetic would be the one that you see on the box when you buy it. Kind of completely ugly, tacky, multi-layered._ That's the Photoshop aesthetic, but people don't use it that way.

Scott: So it's possible to break out of that aesthetic, but

Per: Yes, absolutely and of course Flash and all that sort of things.

Gisle: Yes, but there are some that just use the filters as they are and you get this kind of photoshop aesthetic and it's also the same with all these other 3-D programs. (3-D studio Max) where you really have to know a lot about how a program works to be able to break out of the rules. Because the program does a lot of stuff automatically that you don't really get to know a lot about. For instance, movement in these 3-D programs is usually interpolated and stuff, you don't really know what the program is doing. By default, it's hard to break out of that.

Niels: Do you think it would be a working option to make defaults random? Because they are defaults so they are not giving any....they are not expressing any interest in "okay I would like it this way". Would it work to make it random?

Gisle: Not really. I think the only solution is to make your own program. Every artist should make their own program. Because then you know every aspect of what that program really does. Because with commercial software, you don't really do that.

Per: Well, not really. You can buy shareware programs where you know quite a bit of what that program is doing. Standalone Max patches, freeware, shareware, you see exactly what they are doing.

Per: I was going to say about what you put in. I mean if you put in a default picture then it will definitely look like a default picture. But if you put in something else. It's a huge difference between putting in some really slick ad type graphic that you've scanned with your new scanner and putting in some bit map photo that you've taken using your cuseeme camera.

Gisle: There's also...Scott mentioned the Flash aesthetics that appear on the net. There are very few people that use Flash in a very non glossy way.

Per: Yes but have you seen Trashart.ru? (Scott I dont' know if this is the correct url) And that is bad art which is really good.

Scott: I think it appears to be a very not-usual time where we have artists making tools then we have this tension between artists who will be using these tools, the discussion about "well you haven't made the tool, to what extent are your processes and projects defined by the artists that made these tools" as we agree that artists are making the tools and providing them. I'm just trying to think about another time in history where, because of the nature of software, artists were able to produce their own tools

Per: i think the shift happened in the sixties or in the seventies, actually you can go back to the twenties according to Lev Manovich.

Scott: Producing your own kind of tools? In the sixties and seventies that are then used by other artists?

Per: Yes, when you start producing your own stuff. The DIY stuff, punk, at the end of the seventies it was the same thing because you could start creating your own tools, setting up your own venues, set up your own record labels, you find new ways of playing the instruments and it's a whole new aesthetic and language connected to that. You saw that in the sixties with the video generation, the late sixties, the early seventies when the portapack (spelling?) came. You start not depending on the big manufacturers. That was tv studios in those days. And you see the same things now, in video, film...

Scott: At that time if you got a hold of a Portapak, you might possibly hack into it and work with its materials, with its ability to, its video signal, but I don't know to what extent you might say "look now I've taken this apart, I've reconfigured it into a tool that I now want to give to other artists to use. That's what I mean.

Per: Look at Woody Vasulka and what he did with his things and how they collaborated, and The Kitchen in New York in those days. I wasn't there but apparently, maybe you were Scott, but it was exactly the same I think. Networking and taking tools in your own hands, and creating software or creating possibilities. I would say even creating this setup, this workshop or the last Hot Wired Live Art, is kind of the same thing. Because you set up a set of possibilities, tools, social screens between people in different ways. So I would say that software is not radically different than other parts of our lives.

Scott: I suppose the extent of the blend of systems, thinking and formalism, people working with materials and breaking them down into structures and sets of instructions that can then be picked up and reconfigured by other people. I don't think the 19th century had the same art possiblities, probably more in science and making scientific tools for measuring. I think that is were a lot of the heavy duty creativity was in the 19th century. There was tool making but for scientific purposes.

Niels: But also for artistic purposes because they were very much linked, but the big difference nowadays, especially with the internet, is that everyone is able to join. That's the real evolution, that things aren't expensive anymore and there's not that much difference in where you are if you have an idea then you can do it. This is again in Nato is very apparent. You don't know where they are, who they are. Could be anyone and the fact that you can be so independent, that's a whole new thing I think. And this began in the punk era when you were allowed to be independent.

Per: The paradox of course being that we have all been involved in online kind of streaming for a couple of years on the internet. Most of us realizing that although you have potentially a 100 million viewers or listeners, you might just get two and those are your friends or friends of friends. So it's more like it's a media thing, I very rarely go into other people's streams. I sometimes do it actually, I do it for listening to the radio. Radio on the internet is great, but looking at performances on the internet, it's pretty boring actually. But it's an interesting concept for ones in the space. I mean hc said in his catalogue for his Berlin exhibition that it has to be one physical occasion and he said explicitly one. That is, in his experience, the best way. The main focus in one place and letting others throw in.

Niels: Yes, but this is maybe again a default issue. If you have a software that is made for multiuser like IVisit then you will want to be distributed and you can focus on that and make really nice things with it. When I see what Ellen and Michelle have done I think it's really cool. And I'd rather have that on the internet than in one space.

Per: This is why, for KeyStroke, as it is now is not a kind of public space. It will be limited to a couple of users that know the program. But like going into IVisit and making some kind of performance, going into a public space and taking off your clothes or whatever you do, that is a kind of performance.

Niels: That's a default.

Per: Yes, but in KeyStroke that won't be interesting. Because that's like, I'm phoning you up and start sending you dirty words. It's like very much this two way thing.

Niels: I think there is this inexperience with making appointments for these online collaborations.

Per: I disagree. I've been doing that for five years. Really trying to set up, and sometimes it works. Like last time we did a Zagreb/Oslo combination and both spaces worked locally. But making things publicly on the internet, it's not really public, it's in a back alley.

Niels: But I don't think that is a necessary feature. For example, I didn't know about this Zagreb/Oslo thing. But if I would have known and it was one a Friday night I would have watched.

Per: But you are a friend, so you would have watched because you know me.

Niels: It's now that. It's how reliable is the information before the event. If you get news of a performance from a friend you would rely on that, or maybe a mailing list that I would rely on.

Gisle: Yes, but the artistic use of the internet is still a very small percentage. But if you want to do something on the net with a wider audience then you have to use these public spaces like IVisit. Then you can do it. Use that situation for a base for doing performance work. Which is what (can't pick up the name of the artist) did in Bergen. Because otherwise it is just one or two artists communicating with each other and especially with software, it's a completely different situation.

Per: For those of you that don't know (artist's name) what she did was go into a public room, IVisit space, and kind of tease all the men sitting there with big dicks and masturbating. She said I'll show you my tits if you masturbate. So she was surrounded by 6 to 8 men who were showing their dicks and wanking.

Scott: That is a characteristic of the IVisit and any of those reflector sites. CuSeeme was the same way. If you travel in that space as if it is public they tend to be dominated by men who are there for their own reasons. I think one of the difficulties is trying to make an internet performance resonate more in terms of its impact. When you make a performance in a theatre you go in with all the knowledge and conventions of theatre that people already implicitly understand. So you are able to work with those codes. When you go into an installation space you are already working with a fairly rich set of codes. If you go outside to a site-specific performance, when we went out and did the Jornada in the Bar, we are already familiar with those codes. I think the internet space, people have tended to use metaphors, the virtual performance space. But we haven't developed enough of the rich codes and in fact going in those rooms and hacking into that code, there is something going on there, whether some people might call it deviant or not. So that seems like quite an interesting piece of work with the social codes that are emerging on the net, because the net is a free space for sex. They are there, they can't be seen, they can't be traced (well they can be now), but it poses an interesting kind of work. Possibly the net is too thin now. I'm wondering if that is why you tend to push them out into real spaces when you want to emphasize the things that are happening (Zagreb/Oslo).

Niels: I think this maybe because there is no timetable for the internet. If you do a theatre show then you know it is in a town, at night, there is people that will go to every show. On the internet there is no such thing and I think that this is mainly the reason that there are not so many viewers. Why there is not so much interaction yet. Just the "how do you know what is on when?".

Per: I think it is that the internet has up to this point been a representational space. Like we discussed at the conference. Representational space vs communication space. And the internet is trying to represent another performance space which isn't really there.

Niels: But if you look at chat or newsgroups. I go to a certain newsgroup once I discovered and I know "hey" this is where it is happening.

Per: But that is not a performance.

Niels: But it's about the communication.

Scott: There has to be dozens and dozens of interesting internet project that we are not mentioning. There are actually a fair number that is rich with communication possibilities. There are people that have worked in chat spaces before and done interesting works. I'm not intimately familiar with a lot of those. I tend to be more familiar with the work that has a live space (then you say something that i don't really pick up)

Per: I think that the works on the internet now, even people doing the so-called old school performances they're representing the chat of the internet. They are not actually going in there live, because they don't dare to. It's too unstable, and people don't use that instability for artistic purposes. Instead they try to save what might have been some interesting situations in the chat rooms or some other events and then they recreate it in a very safe way. Maybe even record it onto a video file or then play it back where they know that they have a script, this is how the chat goes, and then they perform it. And it's all smooth.

Niels: Yes, but that will change.

Per: I'm not sure because I don't think that people dare to use that instability that is there now. I think that this is the major reason why things go wrong with this internet performance. This is the reason why we all stick our finger in our mouth when we hear the word "internet performance". We all know what a default internet performance is and we don't like it. At least I don't because it is such a fake thing. Some thing some new media wankers do to get attention and publicity and they manage. And you see the critics in the papers? They are uneducated, there is no critical language connected to this medium yet. This is a big flaw.

Gisle: I think that this is the biggest problem. There is no critical understanding of what is happening. It's all very new and everybody just embraces whatever is out there. Because there are different strategies. Very many artists use that kind of language that you are talking about. But there are some that work with the more conceptual framework of networking. And I think Netochka is the best at that.

Niels: Absolutely. It is getting away from being necessarily live as well. the time lag on the internet is just very interesting because it allows you to view the thing in your time. I can read the Lev list once a week or I can read it everyday, if I want to get these artistic expressions from Netochka. And I don't like this separation of the time of making and the time of viewing.

Scott: It's interesting what you said about there being no time table on the internet. Some of the presentations that we saw at the conference were about different methods for creating agents, because the internet is so large, that use machine processes for sending your personal profile around and then sending back information, metatagged information. And I don't really know where any of that is going. It's hard to tell, and I'm sometimes seduced by that idea because I'm seduced by machine processes. I would be interested to skip the information back from some clever machine process that somebody had developed for me. But I have yet to stumble across anything that I have felt to be particularly interesting. Everytime it gets to the bottom you feel like categories and the ways they are trying to essentialize your person or your profile are a bit distressing and disturbing.

Per: And the early days of the interent when we were kind of surfing and the thought of surfing was the biggest thing about it. You arrive in a shoemaking store in New Zealand and you go "Oh is this how they make wooden shoes, that was really interesting." And it gets harder and harder to get off the highways. It's like the roads these days. If you miss your turn you are just stuck on this highway for hours or you can be. And the little detours. We should really take care of those back alleys. It's important to remember the alternative space has grown exponentially as well even if it is more difficult getting there. The landscape there is vast, it's huge and it is growing. So we shouldn't give up that internet space because it's not actually only Coca Cola and MTV and Apple and Microsoft.

Niels: I think that for the first time in the Internet you can make your own roads very easily. Any kid in India can make an index of art centres for free.

Per: Well, actually that is a notion that I'm critical of because to say the whole world. The Internet is still a relatively small population.

Niels: Yes, but, relatively to any other medium. It's so much more global and so much more equal. Must more than radio or something.

Per: That's a political discussion ... It's much more expensive to buy a computer than to set up a pirate radio station like this one in India.

Niels: But you don't have to buy it. That's the whole thing. You can go in there, into an Internet cafe for one hour every week for half a dollar and make your website.

Per: If half a dollar is what you earn per week then you don't do that, you buy food.

Niels: But relatively to any other means of expression.

Per: Yes you might be right.

Gisle: But anyway, most people don't do that. They just stick to the default. And then it depends on which browser is preinstalled on your machine.

Per: And all people are not artists.

Scott: There are a lot of sides to this story, but there are two things that make me curious and intrigued. One is all the popular places along the classical tourist's paths that the 20 year olds, kids in Universities in England they get a year out and they travel along mostly the Indonesian pathway, Thailand and all of those. And they have put in all the internet sites that they use to get back home, so it is used by a hugely growing tourist industry. So the internet is used as a service there in that context so it is easy enough for them to get a hold of as you say. The other is a possibility of something that I have read on occasion. Some place out on Africa didn't even have telephones and they dropped a radio dish in to give them internet and I was thinking what does that do to a culture to skip tv and skip telephone.

Per: But I have the impression that kids today think internet, that's for the 35 year olds. Because it is a static thing that is actually now connected to sitting in front of the fucking computer in a boring office with a mouse and a keyboard. This is interesting what we are doing now, in Europe and in Asia, I mean sms and this mobile communication. I'm dead sure in five years this is what the internet is about

Scott: This same feeling was expressed yesterday as well. But this workshop as an extension of the Athens workshop. It's such a pleasure to be finally beginning to think concretely about wireless and wearable or non-screen based, to be playing with these Jornadas.

Per: That's still screen-based...

Scott: Then physically the space in which you sit.

Per: It's the gameboy culture, it's the sms culture, it's the same. They'll all have big thumbs. You'll see a whole new species.Becoming like claws again.

Scott: Yes, I agree that it's a bit much to think that voice recognition and other kinds of systems are going to come in and at least disseminate in a kind of mass media context. It is going to be these small screens. I tend to think of them much more as pages. You can move them around, they are light, you can wear them, you can carry them around, you hardly notice their presence until you pull them out.

Per: But wearable computing is a kind of negroponte kind of thing and I'm not really sure it will catch on. Mobile phone, cell phone is wearable and you can have it on your watch, I don't know where it will be in five years. But it won't be in your underwear and in your shoes.

Gisle: But it is just business decisions that we don't have it already. A mobile phone is essentially a computer, it should be all there. It should be a net connected device that you have everything on. But they don't want to do it like that.

Per: No, not yet.

Scott: They are all waiting for the right moment to converge on those things.

Per: Yes, because the companies have already merged. There the thing with navigation, when we are talking about screens. For navigation for air pilots, they are now starting to work with sound. Apparently its easier (with sound) for a human being to orient themselves in a 3D space with sounds than with visuals because eyes seem to get really distracted in all directions but with sound and closed eyes you can really feel where you are. Apparently that is how they use it now for fighter pilots to navigate or to go in.

[sept 2001, BANFF, Canada]