... maybe this interview can be interesting for the list. it is new
media curating, isn't it?
A silent, ironic criticism. Interview with Aram Bartholl
First published in "Spawn of the Surreal", Wednesday, September 26, 2007
Second City – the show “curated” (reading on you will understand why I
use the quotation marks) in Linz by the German artist Aram Bartholl -
has been - no doubts - one of the cardinal points of Ars Electronica's
last edition, Goodbye Privacy. The show disseminated through the city
was highly representative of the “nice side” of surveillance in the age
of digital exhibitionism, an issue that was at the core of the Festival.
“Showcasing ones customized persona, staging ones own image is the order
of the day. Feature yourself or its GAME OVER, dude!”, wrote the
curators Christine Schöpf and Gerfried Stocker.
As one of the first big shows raising the issue of art and virtual
worlds, Second City has been an important show, and a point of departure
for further research. In the same time (and for the same reason), it has
been an highly problematic show, too. People liked the idea to bring the
exhibition to the city and the streets, but there was a lot of mumbling
and discussion about an approach that, for many, was superficial and
looked like promotion. As you may guess from the previous post, I agree
with this criticism, but what Bartholl is saying below made the show
more clear to me – and made me more indulgent to the show. Hopefully, it
will be the same for you...
DQ.How is the project born?
AB. Ars Electronica asked me this spring if I was interested in doing a
concept and design for Second City - Marienstrasse. The idea of going
into public space and Second Life as a topic of Marienstrasse existed
already then. I was quite excited about the idea and developed several
workshops and projects. In the beginning I was not sure which role I
should play: curator or artist. I decided to put emphasis on being
artist showing several projects at Marienstrasse related to Second Life.
Which means I didn't curate Marienstrasse although I brought in some
artists in cooperation and had some influence. In the end my name was on
top for whole Marienstrasse, which is an honor but also a great
responsibility, as I realize now. My interest has been more into
developing and showing, rather than “curating”.
DQ. Did you encounter any difficulties in organizing it?
AB. Of course there have been many difficulties in organizing. Very
basic elements like electricity infrastructure in Marienstrasse took a
lot of time. So in the end when the festival started Marienstrasse was
as buggy as Second Life. But also the process of choosing and decisions
in developing projects took quite some time. It has been the first time
that I worked on a project of this size and I think I learned a lot.
DQ. Are you satisfied of the results?
AB. Good question. First of all I was happy that in the end more or less
all the parts were put together and things worked. But with some
distance after the exhausting week of Ars I questioned this myself. I
think you made a good point in your article on Second City
(http://www.domenicoquaranta.net/blog/2007/09/second-city.html), which I
already also noticed. I do work in a very simple way of transferring
elements or situations from virtual world to physical space. Every
single of these projects has its own quality and is contrasted by public
space. But adding too many of these transformations up in one spot takes
away the effect. I tried not to rebuild a complete scenario. But in the
end, yes, maybe we had too many of these virtual elements in Real Life.
DQ. What did you like more in the project?
AB. The moment when a new project comes alive is always most exciting.
Does it work? Do people react to it? Testing Chat
(http://www.datenform.de/chateng.html) for the first time on the market
place was really fun. To see how four trees are build and set up is very
exiting. The Synthetic Performances of Eva and Franco I did like a lot.
Despite the rain I think the concept of putting an exhibition in a
street worked out very well. The chinese restaurant / blumenberg food
cooking in the yard was my favorite place.
DQ. What would you change in the project if you could put together a
AB. There is a lot which could be done different, sure. Yes right, the
in-world part involving Second Life inhabitants and artists was missing.
There have been some attempts but not serious enough to set up a
parallel program in SL. I concentrated mostly on Real Life interventions
developing installations and workshops. I am aware that one general
Second Life panel is not enough to discuss all aspects of the
development. All my projects involve a critic view on digital worlds
including Second Life. But they do it in a silent and ironic way. This
is probably not enough in a context like Second City. More criticism and
discussion is needed. Next time I'll make sure what position I am in.
DQ. How can we organize a show about virtual worlds without making it
seem corporate advertisement?
AB. Difficult. In general this question fits to many of my projects. A
giant Google pin is perfect advertisement. Sure, this kind of topic
should also involve other virtual worlds than just Second Life. We had
the plan for an overview on Metaverses and history for the exhibition
but unfortunately it hasn't been realized. On the other hand Second
Life polarized a lot this year. People love it or hate it. For me it is
just a tool and a new development. I am curious about when Google will
enter the market...
DQ.Can you say something about your new project, Sandbox Berlin?
AB. I developed the sandbox concept for Second City, where the beach at
Pfarrplatz was realized instead. I think the possibility of creating and
collaboration are the most important parts of Second Life. I love the
bizarre Sandboxes. These and some very view other places are totally
different to what we know or are used to. Quoting from the introduction
of the project (http://www.datenform.de/sandboxeng.html): “The Sandbox
in Second Life is a place where all conventions are abandoned. It is the
real wild west of the already untamed Second Life. The Sandbox is like a
three-dimensional sketchbook. Every day, thousands of users leave their
tracks here: abstract forms, digital building sites and house-car-plane
clichés form a collective surrealistic dream scenario. In a world
without rules, inventive users programme swarms of screaming Sponge Bobs
which other users pursue. Anti-gravitational bubbles or whole fields of
alarm sirens impede concentrated work. The Sandbox is a kind of black
market emporium of digital objects and their programs.
The formal chaos and absurd situations generate a particular atmosphere
of digital roughness and originality that can only be found here.”
Sandbox Berlin translates this field of experimentation into public
space in Real Life. In a three-day workshop, production of custom
objects in a spontaneous and collaborative process will be tested in
Real Life. Everyone is invited to join us on a deserted area, formerly
part of the Berlin Wall, in the Mitte district, to build whatever they
want. Tools, wood and other materials will be provided by Sandbox
Berlin, so that flexible groups can quickly design and materialize
objects.” Everyone can take part in the project, simply registering by
e-mail. Spontaneous participation and visits to the workshops are
welcome, completely in the spirit of Second Life.
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