HWLA 2 [AIRWAVES]
PIRATE RADIO INTERVIEWS, PART 3

Interview 3
Amanda Ramsos, Amanda Steggell, Jeff Mann
Moderated by Scott delaHunta


Scott: You know this whole notion of collaboration. We've all been involved in a lot of collaborating, situations of various types. I've been around some people that want to really deconstruct the collaborative process, even while it is happening. Create certain times where you say "how is it working?", and "how are people communicating?" "what are some of the blocks", "what are some of the emotional relationships". I've always thought that collaboration happens as a consequence, of a situation rather that in of itself. Because we came together for these two weeks from diverse backgrounds to collectively be making things or describing processes then to in fact take collaboration aside and in fact look at that. It's a bit like Lev Manovich's analysis of the interactivity of the computer, that the computer, because of its nature, is interactive. To call it an interactive machine is to create a useless repitition. Here we are not discussing collaboration. If we have things we need to work out then...it doesn't strike me that, as a group, we have been looking at these collaborative processes. We've been looking at the notion of prototypes, we've been looking at KeyStroke, we've been looking at other things with our lenses.

Scott: Jeff, what is your relationship with InterAccess?

Jeff: Michelle and I are doing a project there coming up in the next couple of months called LiveForm:Telekinetics. It's about using networks and telerobotics.

Scott: It's the Art and Robotics Group that I'm actually thinking about. That's the group that you have set up and, more or less, organized those activities.

Jeff: Yes, I started that a few years ago. And we've had three or four projects now. A couple of exhibitions.

Scott: I think my interest from what you showed me briefly 10 days ago was a couple of projects that involved a large number of people working together it seems to me. Is that right?

Jeff: No. The group we had meetings and workshops and exhibitions, but it wasn't a collaborative work. There was another project that was done called "Sensebus" that was a collaborative piece.

Amanda S: Speaking for myself and our Motherboard works, we base our collaborations on social aspects. We like to work with people that we gel with socially because at some point you have to make a connection to the other person. There has to be a collective consensus of what one is working on. And so you have to have some connection with them in order to do that. And to look into that process, for us to do that and analyze that process of collaboration which is great and then it can swing down, isn't possible. I think it would be possible for someone looking in from the outside maybe to make some conclusions, but actually reflecting on the collaborative process in that way doesn't really come up unless we come across really big difficulties. But I think that when you are an artist group getting to know each other, getting to respect each other's skills, approaches to their work, and approaches to life then one can make a kind of consensus about how to work. It's a very different process if you are getting an exhibition up, or if you are working in a kind of free fall situation, or that free fall situation is a kind of performance. But I think that if the social aspects are there then generally you can work through the difficulties. So I'm not into analyzing the collaborative process.

Amanda Ramos: I guess I can speak based on the experiences I've have working within collaborations. I could probably say that I only work in collaboration. Maybe it's because of the scope of my work and the desire to always involve other people and it can happen at different levels where you are collaborating with an audience within the project so that it a kind of collaborative situation. Or you are collaborating with some other people to make something and that is a kind of productive collaboration. And I think what I'm really excited about what has surfaced during this workshop is another whole form of collaboration that I've never really experienced where we are all in a productive environment and we are exploring things and we all have different backgrounds. The collaborative opportunities that I've been involved with others have been instigated because of the desire to have an interdisciplinary group. And that starts to yield a really interesting projects. So I think that one of the things that I'm really intrigued by and enjoyed being a part of is this idea of having a space that fosters different kinds of collaborations. Our work lab we've really set it up so that there's time where we can work in collaboration, or there's times where the space becomes collaborative or we are just helping each other out and it's a really a casual opportunity to collaborate. I've really enjoyed this format as a whole other different situation. And to me it's always so much more satisfying working in collaboration because there's so much more that gets brought into the process.

Jeff: Well I almost never work in collaboration. So this is kind of a different situation for me.

Amanda S: But you are collaborating with Michelle now.

Jeff: Well, we did a residency in Amsterdam which was a lead on to this project. So yes it is a bit different. I've done things that were, like I said about the Art and Robotics Group, more like a group show where there is this kind of group environment, but still people kind of working on their own projects. Hot Wired Live Art has still been a little like that, there have still been a number of individual projects that have been going on, but it's all kind of happening together and there is a lot of back and forth kind of things, ideas bouncing off of each other. I find that there is a lot more energy than there is if there is just one person. I guess the question is how to focus on that energy, lot of different ways of working.

Amanda S: When we are working in this space and we have this outside space, also the social aspect comes in that you continue discussing things, you continue the collaboration over a beer or over a pool game, maybe not over a pool game because it gets too intense, but over dinner. That aspect of it is kind of a gathering of information from different people with different skills is very important.

Scott: It's one thing to be working on something quite specific and going to ask Jeff or someone for a bit of information that is going to make this thing go which is a little bit like Niels and the patches. There are those transactions going on. And those transactions seem pretty cool. It's an easy sharing of information. On one hand we're working together, we've come together, and we came together without explicitly stating that we would make a piece. And yet on Monday we had circumstances where we ended up having to corral energies to make an event that was essentially a bit like that and most people, whether they wanted to or not, did find ways to energize that and make that thing happen. So if you set up a situation and generate energies and get work done. In this situation we did it in the middle and then we have these few days and things are kind of winding down. I've found these conditions really interesting. I've learned a lot from it.

Amanda S: I also think in this kind of whirlpool of thise kind of input with the information that it's been everything from going up to the gondola to the top of the mountain and talking to the beach group who were not swimming at all and all this kind of information. One could make an analysis and see what is going on. In this kind of group you can't know everybody's experiences so, for example, you can't pick up that Ellen and I were collaborating for the first three days and Niels was coming in there and we were looking at your lively things. This is also an exchange that influences the work. There's been developments after that and when you say that Niels comes in and fixes things what actually it leads to other discussions. And what is that thing, what does that open up?

Jeff: I was just saying that we hadn't and I don't think that we wanted to, that everybody work on one single piece. With 11 people that is a little too hard to handle anyways. So there seems to be a kind of a natural way of working with things.

Amanda S: But at the same time Amanda has her plan of how or has been giving her thought about how these could be, how the different little prototypes have come out in the last week could somehow be put together as an experience. So, without that having been said before, it just opens up.

Amanda R: Well one of the things that happened in the early stages of developing what might the theme be within the worklab and what has been valued since the first worklab was this notion that we all worked in these networked scenarios so being in a networked condition there's always these kinds of interactions and social relationships and and sharing and communicating and if that's the venue for our work why not also work under that kind of condition. And just thinking about the lab and how all of a sudden you start to layer a production situation that is site specific and trying to foster group work in a certain level, depending on what people want, and then you also have the work itself that is coming out of it, you are always creating these really interesting networked compositions. And so everything is all part of the work, it all starts to layer on top of each other. And so these kind of more casual interactions and the experience I will have coming in on the morning and seeing something, sitting down and watching someone else, all of these things are part of what I'm really enjoying and experiencing as part of the project. So I think that this project at InterAccess that's coming up is another kind of situation where you are working through something, specifically dealing with a network, but at the same time you are working within a network. So I think it really fosters it, and you start to do things more intuitively, when you start to talk about things over coffee, but that really starts to foster the work as well, so we all value both of those.

Jeff: Some of the more interesting artworks that I've seen around are works that focus on not so much the work as object or the work as work. The works that we've done, and they are all prototypes, none of them you would really say "this should be in a gallery" and it should have a catalogue and all these things. I think it is really acknowledging that so much of it is experience of being with people and having some fun which is sometimes lacking in gallery situations. I'm thinking about some of the work that has been happening in Toronto, like at The Moneyhouse.

Amanda R: I think that is also why the term "performance" has always felt more comfortable than "sculpture". Michelle and I have always been playing with this idea of "performance installations", these kinds of combos that start to imply that there is a different level of audience participation or there is incorporating live, like live has also been a word that has been really important as a way to describe the situation. The situation has these kinds of dynamics that are more along the lines of "live" and "performance" and "installation" and "social space" and so there is a whole set of terms, not really one but ways to describe the possibilities and also art interest at the same time.

Scott: It's rather obvious that some of our tactics must be similar to the late fifties and the early sixties when they were doing happenings and all those. Although the political context, the contemporary context is completely different that we're working in. My background in dance, I think William Forsythe's choreography and my wife Susan is some of the most amazing artwork that I have ever seen. I still have a passion for that kind of work. And I have made a few dance performances on the stage in the last few years. I loved doing them. It is amazing to me that now I'm beginning to..and I haven't felt comfortable moving into, even with my research, areas of more social settings, or breaking down those barriers between the audience and the performers, between the gallery object and the video clip. It's partly because of my moving into what the possibilities are for these technologies, these networked technolgies, these wireless technologies. It's as if by following those threads, those wires, and then those non wires, I suddenly find myself in a bar, in a situation which is sort of constructed, sort of performance, sort of made, but also not breaking around the borders, not inviting people to come in to disruptive. But I'm ready to be there, it's amazing to me. I never anticipated that I would be personally ready to engage with those sort of things. And this lab has really done that for me more. I find myself surprised. I also feel ready to critically engage with that as well. And it's been really great for me. And also not really moving towards something final, rather being more dispersed, and being more vague around the edges and then all of a sudden, something happens there to look at or to be in, so that has been really useful for me.

Amanda R: Before you were talking about the internet as a place to do work and thinking about all different kinds of venues as public space and thinking about who's there and what happens there and then as soon as you start to engage in performative situations, or an intervention or some kind of transformation of that environment, all of a sudden you have a really fantastic opportunity to create an experience for people outside of the confines of the institution. I've always been intrigued with finding all kinds of places in which to do that. I think there's a whole set of things that become available if you are in that kind of situation and the dynamics are really, liking talk about all the kinds of uncontrollable, or the reality of it really fosters the projects as opposed to it being an extremely controlled situation. That has been my intrigue, working in these multiple formats where the site of the project can be in lots of different places. We had the bar dynamics, but there are so many others. I've been doing works in bathrooms where it's been a really exciting thing for me. Just a really kind of satisfying situation where you can do the work, and then go to the bathroom. There's all these kinds of things that can happen that are just a part of life.

Amanda S: Coming a bit more from Scott's background, I actually enjoy the variety of work, but try to be clear about the intentions and the spaces. Going out into the social space, for me it's important to try not to make a construction of a social thing that could happen, but to be involved in the environment that is there. I think that there is a difference. And sometimes, like we were talking with Ellen who made a piece for a subway station which requires the public to move in front of the camera and they can become part of it without being conscious of the movement. But without the human movement in front of that camera nothing happens. And one girl she wanted to see this piece, but she wouldn't stand in front of the camera. She didn't want to stand there so she stood behind the camera for 10 minutes waiting for something to happens. So there are challenges in that kind of work to give some kind of signification, if you want. Or maybe that's great that she's standing behind the camera for 10 minutes, maybe that is a kind of spectacle for somebody else. But I think that Ellen described that she was a bit disappointed that nothing happened.

Ellen (via the walkie talkie): I wasn't disappointed, I just was really intrigued. I think it is really interesting that the amount of response that you get from an art piece is the amount of input that you put in yourself.

Jeff: I just wanted to make a comment about playing games. There is this whole kind of gaming culture that is really around, with the playstations and the online gaming. I think that is also informing a lot of performance. So it's a lot less about work as work and more about work as play. We talk about the "multi-user environment" which is a gaming environment. I think that is also about moving away from and industrially based economy to this idea of an information age so that maybe that artworks are going to be less about physical manifestations and more about thinking about language and information and roles (rules?) and all those kinds of things that are a lot more involved with games.

Scott: In the RADICAL conference in Amsterdam in July we had three pieces of software that we were looking at. One was KeyStroke, one was Linker. Linker is a piece of software by Graham Harwood that allows you to easily create an interactive multi-media piece, a kind of authoring tool. Graham is an artist who creates works from a very political stance and so Linker has 3% interface and that allows for 97% content. In other words the form that you fill in, rather than Director with all these menus, it's just these little square boxes that you can map things into with very thin lines. Anyway, we had that to work with and then we had Age of Empires, the strategy game. And the one remark about Age of Empires was the way that it taught you to play with the game. There were seven pedegogical phases that you went through, they led you slowly into this world, almost compelling you step by step. That was fascinating to me because suddenly you emerge into the experience of the game at a level where you felt you could participate in. So I think (gaming) is really worth looking into that. And we had some games here too. And the notions of games.

Jeff: Well in a way you could think about the whole worklab here as a game. And we're trying to figure out the rules and make up the rules. It feels to me very much like that.

Scott: The thing that I would like you to comment on is this notion of the prototype. I didn't anticipate it until Michelle emailed me. We were going back and forth and the nature of the documentation and things. I knew that she was thinking about quick pieces, working quickly, but somehow the notion of building the prototype. I have found that idea intriguing for a few years but I hadn't really had a chance to mark it as a key feature and go for this notion of prototypes. I think it is interesting that some of us go, people refer to the "prototype" as if it is in quote marks. And other people say, "oh that's the prototype there" as if it is actually...and so there is a whole range. And I said a little bit about the prototype on Monday and I think I've said before my interest in ....I'm very interested in this notion of the recipe, or set of instructions that somebody else can take on and use. I've very interested in the idea of notation and the relationship between musical notation and other forms of notation. The musical score is traditionally something that one writes. It's essentially a set of instructions. You write a set of instructions that then somebody else can use. And that is considered standard practice. With other sorts of art practices, something that is so concretely transferrable, that doesn't really quite exist. So I'm really interested in playing with this notion of the recipe or set of instructions that are passed on. But that to me also, the prototype, suggests that that is possible. And that's my world, that is my trip around the project. What do you think about all this?

Amanda S: Well I like cooking but I never follow the recipe. I have recipe books, but I kind of scan over them and get a general feeling for it, but I'd rather go out and eat in those restaurants and ask them what kind of ingredients that they are using, and then go home and play around with the knowledge that I had before. I can think up of thousands of brilliant prototypes, not necessarily realizable, some of them really. But I think that this prototype idea you can't empty it really. For me it's more about documentation, sharing of ideas. What's come out. In a way we are making recipes, connecting things together and sometimes hacking in to connect something that wasn't before compatible. For a type of documentation in a worklab situation with a number ofpeople that working together over a short period of time, it's excellent.

Scott: I think that sounds really realistic. I feel like really leveraging this concept into some kind of box where I can understand. I have other reasons for doing that that I won't get into that right now.

Amanda S: I've been experiencing this thing about scale here. The scale of the mountains and the work that is being suggested and tried out with the antennas and the distance, the walkie talkies and everything, which has actually made me go into a more micro way of working. I've working with this space game which is connected to "Airwaves", it blows but I can imagine doing it on a large scale, I can imagine doing it on Mars where the input can be coming from space rockets. You can just freak out in your head about it. And that has been a kind of prototype. Of revisiting old tools and really concentrating and really trying to make them work in this litte microworld. So I've been shrinking my area.

Amanda R: The fact that you can start to create and start to build scenes or environments and you can use things like footage of the mountain and then you could use a small needle and you can also use a small piece of paper and a huge giant backdrop in the same composition to create something. And so, for me bringing all these materials, the first thing is the prototype situation or the kind of work we are making always involves sets. Sets of things like: a KeyStroke patch, a moving image and this object that is blowing in the wind. There are these combinations and compositions. The prototypes lend themselves to just taking a couple of things and putting them together in an interesting way and doing this experimentation with these types of materials that we have brought. And then the materials that we have brought are of different scales. Ideally what I tried to do is bring materials that would lend themselves to playing around with "Airwaves" . So the materials tend not to be heavy, tend to be able to float. They can move quite easily with very little energy. And the fact that they are not all the size of the mouse. And so all of a sudden to navigate and to have this giant air mattress, you can't sit at your computer any more. And so, all of a sudden you shift where you are building and what you are doing and it starts to use the environment that you have to use. So I think that there are two things there were the prototypes are really interesting because they are components that they have certain types of intentions. I'm going to connect these kinds of things together so that I can talk to that person in the other room, as a simple example. And then what are the things that I need to do that. So it's been fun in that sense, just to be quick and to have minimal intentions and almost fractions of a project that you can really explore and really push quite far

Jeff: I think that the focus of Hot Wired Live Art is the "live art" so it's really about being live and being improvisational. Not coming with prepared ideas, not coming with prepared media, not coming with prerecorded video, sound samples, or systems or whatever. We're just bringing in mostly raw materials and some tools and things. I think the prototype idea was more to do with that. It should be spontaneous and we're trying things out and experimenting. Of course we're going to learn things, how we can do this and why we can't do that and here's a new idea. If we document that and keep a record then it's useful, but I don't think that it's not the intention of this project to come up with a lot of recipes that are going to be used by a lot of people. It's a result of what we have been doing but it's not.

Amanda S: But Scott just wanted to publish a book and make lots of money.

Scott: The thing that is interesting to me with the materials, the kinds of materials the lightness of the materials and the speed that you can put them together reminds me of visual material and the speed that you can rearrange certain visual materials using the computer. And once you start to get a bit behind with the software and things and that takes some more time and Jeff has to hack in a do the antennas. The time that we have each spent doing certain things. At one point I was really aware of that. I lost that a little bit during the conference which derailed me a bit. At one point I was really aware at how much time people were spending on one thing. And that was an interesting point that I lost.

Amanda R: Because we all have different paces.

Scott: And the objects kind of predicted or predetermined the pace.

Amanda S: Well I spent quite a bit of time getting this camera to fly, getting the bouancy (spelling) right. Then I connect it to what I'm doing in the swimming pool. I mean I'm swimming every day. We've done synchronized swimming and suddenly I'm thinking, "where is my kind of buoancy (spelling) " which I think is great. Not that it has any kind of practical consequences for anybody else, but it has been a bit of enlightenment for me.

Scott: My idea of the recipe has a little bit to do with the notion of arts research. Because I'm involved within the context of higher education. In the UK it seems to be picking up a bit like a snowball this concept of arts research that doesn't involve products but involves processes. There are points along that terrain that people try to figure out how to evaluate that type of arts research. Then there are boards of people sitting and evaluating research. So the strategies for doing that are very disappointing in most cases. Extraordinarily subjective and you get a real mish-mash of things and I've occasionally been asked to look at those strategies and make those kinds of comments. And at one point I said "if an arts process in order to generate a piece which then in some sort of odd way evaluated by a set of judges trying not to be subjective". You know what I mean? I mean that is what is happening now. There's a dance performance at the end of a Master's degree that gets looked at at evaluated. And because it is being shifted to practice as reseach, they simply allocate 80% to the piece and 20% to your writing. To me that all seems a bit boring. What if the results of your research were to generate materials that could be disseminated that other artists could use. In other words it would be the openness of your process. The way in which it might manifest would be something like sets of instructions and blocks of instructions which could be recombined by some artist in some other way. So you would be evaluated in the ways you could open up some of those processes. Do you see how that compares to some of my interest in this? I think after this I'm really ready to move away from the term prototype. I think that there are other ways that this could be described.

Jeff: Well I'm going to be completely immersing myself in the prototype idea. Because that's what this project that's coming up at InterAccess is all about. It's very much focused on prototype and recipe. Providing things that are designed to be used by other people. It's a project basically to make a reference application in a newly designed electronics lab. So it's definately a research project where a piece is produced. It's partly about the process, but it's also quite a lot about research and documenting that.

Amanda S: This thing about the prototype. You can put practical information together in a prototype. At the same time you can't separate...you guys were talking about the politics, you were talking about the tools. It just depends on the work being made and what it is about. if your work is simply about "I'm in that room, you're in that room, we're talking together", but then for other people it might be important to know what is the object, have you got a headset, what company makes it, is there any imagery on the wall.

Scott: It's interesting attempting to be generative in the higher education. How can I generate ideas that might knock down these not resilient spots. But at the same time knowing if you get down into the nitty gritty, trying to also set up something that is also flexible and fluid. The complexities of processes. It's hard.

Amanda S: If you are talking about a prototype as a strategy. Mark Amerika describes the word strategy as to simulate, to draft, to sketch, to fashion. Somehow prototype and strategy works together. To fashion can also be kind of negative. This somehow started to resonate backwards and forwards for me.

Amanda R: But one of the things that intrigued me to do installation work is that for me installation served as a prototype for these kinds of concepts that I feel like, as an architect, I'm always trying to develop. And so creating an installation that fosters an experience and that combines these situations and small elements at a certain scale can start to prototype new ways of living or new ways of being in a space with a lot of people. Whatever I've been doing I've always been thinking about this as a kind of prototype for possibilities and that has always been really exciting for me. This is a very specific kind of prototype that is based on a construction type of prototype or a systematic prototype or a network prototype and then you can take it further and build and installation which is still a kind of prototype. And within the discipline of architecture, the opportunity is not really presented to me and within the field of art that is what it's all about. It's about putting out that potential. That imagination.

Amanda S: But I'd like to ask you Scott when you think about the notion of prototype and reproduction, the fact that you can reproduce and reproduce and reproduce.

Scott: Not the idea of reproduction but I do like the idea of copies. One of my favorite artists is Robert Smithson and to take some of the things that he would do in the environment and then just do exactly the same thing. Like "The Mirror Displacement" where he would take these little mirrors and just place them around in the Yucaten and during other travels. What I've found, especially with students that the authenticity of the practice is still slightly precious. So when you just recapitulate somebody's work in that way then, the discussions end up a little derailed for me with students with discussions about what the problem is about being authentic arts practice or not. Which I don't find to be an issue.

Jeff: The thing with the game though, if you make up a game it's for everyone to play. It's like you are playing the mirror game and you're thinking "Oh, I'm copying something that some artist did".

Amanda S: You set up conditions for something to happen.

Jeff: Yes, it's a social thing.

Scott: I actually like that a lot Jeff, you make up something for everyone to play.

[sept 2001, BANFF, Canada]