Constant Dullaart on the Upcoming Performance "Terms of Service"

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Contant Dullaart: Premiere of Terms of Service will see the artist release a new series of works as a response to new Terms of Service conditions of several internet services.  The event is part of the New Silent Series at the New Museum on Thursday, May 24th, 2012 at 7 p.m. Rhizome spoke with Dullaart over email in advance of the event:

Rhizome: The performance you will premiere on the 24th relates to terms of services of various websites. You've been working online for a significant amount of time, why are you focused on the politics of this now?

CD: A while ago a good friend compared http://therevolvinginternet.com to a (vertically) revolving library building. To continue with that analogy, my intention with this series of works was not to write a book to put in the library, but to change the perspective on that particular library (in this case Google Inc). The seeming lack of political positioning of these large corporate entities is something that benefits the approachability, the cleanliness of the image, emphasizes fake neutrality and the overall reputation that the companies build to gain the users' trust . But this does not mean that very important political decisions aren't being made by these commercially oriented multinational companies, involving everyone's access to information. The interests of corporations supplying tools that are used by everyone like water, but are being designed to make a profit have fascinated me for a long time. And the politics behind it become even more clear through vaguely described Terms of Services open to legal interpretation. Do we need to feel responsible for our online behavior in a context that is defined by enormous commercial interests, why wouldn't we stretch, bend, brake and play with these strange new laws that were put into action without any democratic process? 

Rhizome: So much of your work, whether it is a website, video or curatorial project as in Lost and Found contains a performance component. Can you describe your approach to performance, and how it will manifest in Terms of Service?

CD: Like JODI I too like to think of online artworks as sharing traits with performative art, as if the computers on the network are actively mediating the users experience in a manner that I designed and set to work, but have no final control over. As if I instructed an actor to go out into the streets and converse with strangers in a semi scripted manner. Most of my online works involve a sequence of actions that take place mostly within a personal atmosphere (at home or in an office cubicle) on a computer. And these activities function clearly and inseparably within a larger social and technical context (the rest of the internet), mostly within a short period of time where the technical options were available for these works to exist. Next to this my physical relationship to this ever evolving technical medium landscape interests me. What is my position in this whole thing, am i just an active user that is slaving away regurgitating content through these brave new media, or am I seeing myself, my online representation as material to perform with? And how does my body actually relate to all of this dissociation juggling? Can I humanize this perfectly designed fake neutral corporate online space? And what is my position in this social commodification process? Mixing the performative behaviors of online art, performing with online content, actual live performing, and performing on the social web, within the grey zones of many terms of service agreements.

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