Matthias Fritsch is an independent artist from Berlin, most well known for his work Kneecam No 1—the live video that brought Technoviking to the internet. Over a decade after he uploaded the clip that went viral, Fritsch now is enduring a long legal battle with Technoviking himself, who sued for the reproduction, proliferation, and unwarranted use of his likeness. In response to the process, Fritsch is making The Story of Technoviking, a crowd-funded documentary that aims to shed light on the legal issues surrounding viral images. Below, Fritsch talks about what it’s like do battle in court with a viking, the ownership of images in the internet age, and hopes for his current project.
My Life Without Technoviking—since the trial began, Fritsch is no longer allowed to use images of the plaintiff's face.
DQ: Matthias, I'm of course curious about the video that originated it all. What was, for you, Kneecam No 1 (2000) before it became an internet meme? Why did you upload it to YouTube? Were you expecting such a viral reaction? What did you think when it happened?
This text has been written for the proceedings of the international conference "New Perspectives, New Technologies", organized by the Doctoral School Ca' Foscari - IUAV in Arts History and held in Venice and Pordenone, Italy in October 2011
The "portal" designed by Antenna Design to show net based art in the exhibition "Art Entertainment Network", Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, 2000. Courtesy Walker Art Center, Minneapolis.
In the late nineties and during the first decade of this century the term “new media art” became the established label for that broad range of artistic practices that includes works that are created, or in some way deal with, new media technologies. Providing a more detailed definition here would inevitably mean addressing topics beyond the scope of this paper, that I discussed extensively in my book Media, New Media, Postmedia (Quaranta 2010). By way of introduction to the issues discussed in this paper, we can summarize the main argument put forward in the book: that this label, and the practices it applies to, developed mostly in an enclosed social context, sometimes called the “new media art niche”, but that would be better described as an art world in its own right, with its own institutions, professionals, discussion platforms, audience, and economic model, and its own idea of what art is and should be; and that only in recent years has the practice managed to break out of this world, and get presented on the wider platform of contemporary art.
It was at this point in time, and mainly thanks to curators who were actively involved in the presentation of new media art in the contemporary art arena, that the debate about “curating new media (art)” took shape. This debate was triggered by the pioneering work of curators – from Steve Dietz to Jon Ippolito, Benjamin Weil and Christiane Paul – who at the turn of the millennium curated seminal new media art exhibitions for contemporary art museums; and it was – and still is –nurtured by CRUMB - “Curatorial Resource for Upstart Media Bliss” - a platform and mailing list founded by Beryl Graham and Sarah Cook in 2000 within the School of Arts, Design, Media and Culture at the University of Sunderland, UK. As early as 2001, CRUMB organized the first ever meeting of new media curators in the UK as part of BALTIC's pre-opening program – a seminar on Curating New Media held in May 2001.
In the context of this paper, our main reference texts will be CRUMB-related publications, from the proceedings of “Curating New Media” (2001) to Rethinking Curating. Art After New Media (2010), a recent book by Beryl Graham and Sarah Cook; and New Media in the White Cube and Beyond, a book edited by Christiane Paul in 2008. Instead of addressing the specific issues and curatorial models discussed in these publications, we will try to focus on the very foundations of “curating new media”, exploring questions like: does new media art require a specific curatorial model? Does this curatorial model follow the way artists working with new media currently present themselves on the contemporary art platform? How much could “new media art” benefit from a non-specialized approach? Are we curating “new media” or curating “art”? ...
The following excerpt comes from the final chapter of my book Media, New Media, Postmedia, recently published in Italian by Postmediabooks, who kindly gave Rhizome permission to republish it in English. The book is an attempt to analyze the current positioning of so-called “New Media Art” in the wider field of contemporary arts, and to explore the historical, sociological and conceptual reasons for its marginal position and under-recognition in recent art history.
- the rule of new media art in the last thirty years of art production;
- the existence of two very different "art worlds", with few possibilities of discussion and exchange;
- the ephemeral nature of new media art, that makes it difficult to preserve and collect;
- the necessity to be a "media savvy" in order to understand media art;
- the usefulness of a different label, whatever it is;
- the necessity to develop an alternative economy;
There is a lot of discussion about these issues. We tried to collect some statements in the debates section of the website, and obviously we are going to have a panel. Maybe this Rhizome thread doesn't mean that the show is good, but it is a demonstration that the issues it raises are hot potatos. But discussions are not enough. Last year I was in a panel about "bio art" hosted by an art fair (again, I don't like the label, but I wrote something about it in the past). I realized that we were talking about a ghost, since there was no "bio art" in the fair, and I told this to the audience. The other speakers were horrified, but many people in the audience nodded in assent.
An exhibition is, in my opinion, a way to bring a debate to a wider audience. I'm not saying that this is a good subject for an exhibition. Sure, it's boring. Maybe unseemly. But it's always unseemly to talk about the emperor's new clothes. I would like to talk about time, neo-pop resurgence or identity. I'll do it in the next future. But NOW I feel the urge to clear away the rubbish from the road. In order to be free to "mingle old media with new media" without putting the latter in "back corridors", as Tom said about Unmonumental, we have - I think - to take this step before. Confront with our taboos, realize which kind of position we have in the art world and try to change it - and do it publicly. We have to join forces. Steven, you say that you have no money to come in Brussels. Help us to bring Holy Fire in the States, create a wider network of galleries, artists and collectors, develop it into an art fair and get in touch with museums, and this little European show will be the beginning of something.
yeah, maybe it is. Many others seem to think in the same way. Surprisingly enough, many people taking care for new media chose to take part in it, in a way or another. Strange. Maybe they were all drunk. Or, maybe, they are celebrating with me the ritual suicide of new media art. Seppuku!
Keep on thinking, Steven. I prefer to make things happen. Even if it means making a counter-productive, boring show. If you are right, I will wear a cilice. But if I'm right, something would have happened. And something is better than nothing, isn't it?
this morning I woke up and I found out in my inbox a plenty of emails coming from Rhizome about Holy Fire. Even if Tom, on his blog, ironically points out that someone already played the "show must be important see how much commentary it's generating" card, I still think that discussion is important, and if a show is able to generate it two weeks before the opening, this is some kind of a success. Not too bad for "a show with a weak premise". ;-)
Many things have been told and I haven't found the time to read them all. What I'm trying to do now is to clarify some points in order to enrich the discussion.
First of all, no surprise that most of the comments are coming to me by night (that is, from the US time zone). Holy Fire is a European show, and some of the things we are talking about make a different sense in the US and in Europe. In the US, a lot of artists stepped up the game, entering the contemporary art scene often without the "new media art" label upon their heads. Cory Arcangel is an example. Brody Condon is another. When I started working on Holy Fire, I contacted Brody. We discussed a lot about the show, and in the end he decided not to be part in it. He told, among other things: "every time you describe these artists by material, you are hurting, and not helping them [...] It's about ideas, not material. I don't give a shit about new media, it's just the material I understand intuitively from my youth." I know that he is right, someway. I had no chance to discuss with Cory, but probably his position is very similar. But I also now that in Europe the barriers between these two worlds (and for worlds I don't mean only "markets" and "exhibition venues", but also "discursive contexts") are very strong. Personally, I'm fighting against these barriers. Is this the right way? I don't know. The first shot is not always the best one, but I have to start in some way...
Tom says: "pair Douglas Gordon's 24 hour Psycho with Cory Arcangel's Slow Tetris. This bootstraps Arcangel into the discourse of a known "media art genius" from the gallery side and he comes off rather better for the comparison, because his piece is more cheeky/fun. The theme is "time in media," not sales." Curiously enough, this is exactly what I'm saying in my essay for the catalogue. One of the things that Holy Fire wants to show is that "new media art" is quite a precarious definition, simply because the Mattes and Casey Reas have nothing in common but the medium. What Tom is pointing out is what I call "the next step". You maybe are ready to take it in the US. What's happening here is that Douglas Gordon goes to Palais de Tokio, and Cory goes to transmediale (ok, this is not the right example, but you may undestand what I mean). After a long and surprising career in the new media context, the Mattes had to start from the beginning when they entered the contemporary art world. For the art market, they were not the big net.art stars they are for us, but just beginners.
Pall made a (partially wrong) reference to a show by Christiane Paul. It was called "Feedback", and was hosted by the LABoral center in Gijon (Spain). Unfortunately, I have not seen Unmonumental, but I've seen Feedback, and it was very important for me. There I realized that the best place for Casey Reas is next to Sol LeWitt, and that you can understand more about Jodi if you see his cheats in front of Nam June Paik. But, again: Christiane Paul is a "new media curator" and LABoral is a "new media center": where is the next step?
One of the ambitions of Holy Fire is to show to both these worlds (new media art world and contemporary art world) that segregation is not simply useless, but meaningless. We are ALREADY talking about the same things, we are ALREADY part of the same context. Most of us can already now this, and find this statement boring. But there are a lot of people who don't usually visit Transmediale: for them, seeing some fresh new works at Artbrussels can be interesting.
Then, obviously, there is the issue of the market. This is a slippery ground, no surprise if we slip on it. What I can say is that the show doesn't take a definite position about it: it just want to start a dialogue. In the beginning, it was no more than a bet: let's try to make a new media art exhibition just contacting private collectors and gallery owners, and let's see what we are able to put together. What we found out was a surprise for ourselves. Commercial galleries specialized in new media, and many others which simply look at new media as an important part of contemporary culture. And a lot of passionate collectors. Putting them in touch, developing this little, rising economy into a network (a system?) is another ambition of this project. This is just the beginning.
I know: too many ambitions for a little, cheap show set up at the periphery of the Empire. That's why Holy Fire took a multilayered attitude, even if we curators have some clear positions about these issues. A multilayered attitude into which different ways of thinking, such as Olia's and Regine's, can be the point of departure of a discussion.
And, finally, if what I get from this show is just to put Vuk in touch with his friends and make him produce some good new stuff, well, this will be a great result indeed!
I'm happy that a discussion is getting started, even if I would expect something more on Rhizome. You are right, this is a boring concept. A boring concept for a not-boring show. You can look at the show without even thinking to the concept: what you see is a collection of interesting artworks that someone passionately started to sell and collect. Keep on calling them "gadgets", you if you like: I call them art works.
Personally, Holy Fire as been exactly the way to get rid of some boring discussions I was involved in the the last few years. New media curators saying "New media art is not exactly something a museum can invest on, because it's immaterial and processual, difficult to show and to collect". Magazine editors saying "New Media Art is out of the market". Art critics who don't even now that New Media Art exists, and has been here for a long time. Also, I'm quite tired to jump across two worlds which don't communicate between each other. Probably, if any of you would have read something more than the press release, or Ed's beautiful review, would have found some interesting statements such as:
“Questions such as: “Are new media art and contemporary art two different things? Is new media art the art of our time? Is it the art of the future or an art without a future?” never fail to exasperate me. It has something to do with the “new media” label which fits the genre like a straitjacket and sends it to a ghetto without even a flicker of compassion. Forget the new, drop the media, enjoy art.”
"We are open for business as long as we have good stuff to sell. If we don’t have good stuff for sale we shutdown the shop. Good stuff for sale is always welcome in a world full of trash. We also like to share, trade and steal from motherfuckers. It’s a complex multilayered attitude, it requires great calm but strong breathing at high altitudes. The higher you go the more blurred your mind is.”
“I consider myself to be at the ‘rear-guard’ rather than up front with the avant-garde in ‘media art’. I guess I score points by saying this, but this is not my intention. Every medium that is labelled - ‘something art’ is heading for a 1000 hurts. At the very worst it can lead to an art ghetto, where artists, whose only common link is that they are faced with the same criticism."
"New media art is a terrific expansion of available tools and the cultural playing field - an addition, not a replacement. Our goal is to actually strip the “New Media Artists” of the New Media part and deliver them to a larger pool where they are known simply as Artists."
Magdalena Sawon & Tamas Banovich, Postmasters Gallery
This is Holy Fire.
About the artists in the show. The exhibition doesn't help to expand the dialogue around their work. They are here just because they are working with galleries, or sold their work to private collectors. THIS, in my opinion, helps to expand the dialogue around their work, setting them in a "wider pool", in front of a wider audience.
Hope to see you all in Brussels!
Saturday, march 15, 18.00 pm
Fabio Paris Art Gallery
via Alessandro Monti 13 - 25121 Brescia
tel. 030 3756139 - Skype: fabioparisbs
From march 15, to april 30
15.00-19.00 pm everyday except holidays
Second Life, Locusolus simulator 9 AM SLT
Second (Real) Audience vs. Real (Second) Audience
Anti-Invitation (No Invitation Needed)
Crash the party! Crash your car! Crash the Sim!
Eat! Drink! Barf! Love! Hate! Sleep! Dance!
Do Art! Think! Fight!
Gazira Babeli is an artist who lives and works in the virtual world of
Second Life, where she was born on 31 March 2006. Like all inhabitants
of virtual worlds she is an identity construction known as an avatar,
but unlike them, she does not acknowledge the presence of a “human”
controlling her. In this short space of time she has earned attention
and respect with her provocative performances which explore the issues
of the body, space and identity in virtual worlds. Babeli acts like a
virus, unleashing earthquakes and showers of icons extrapolated from pop
culture, or spreading epidemics which deform the bodies of other
residents of Second Life. “Gaz” has become a multivalent term, and a
household name in her virtual world. The aura of mystery that surrounds
her has engendered a kind of legend, which quickly moved beyond the
confines of Second Life.
Gazira Babeli is a “virtual” artist, but her work is “real”. She
explores the body, space, identity. She compares her oeuvre with art
history. She talks about us. She is closer than we think, with our
multiple identities, our way of representing ourselves, our lives in
front of the screen. To those who ask her if there is a point in living
in a virtual world, she mockingly responds: “What about you? How’s life
in Microsoft Office?”. Seen in this light her work acquires meaning and
efficacy even outside the world which generated it, as her numerous
appearances in shows and festivals demonstrates. Now, in this solo
exhibition at the Fabio Paris Art Gallery, the artist presents a
selection of works that reflect the two fundamental poles of her oeuvre:
her world and her identity as a virtual artist. Babeli lives in a
simulated world, a realistic, 3D universe generated by castles of
computing code, yet “inhabited” and experienced on a daily basis by
millions of people. Her work explores the conventions and contradictions
of this world, addressing concepts like time, space and the body by
simply manipulating language. Her work is ‘performance’ in the purest
sense of the term: language which generates action. Bodies change shape
and come alive; giant towers collapse and then rise from their ashes
once more; mysterious forces and objects take possession of us. But
Babeli’s main work is Gazira herself, and the knowing manipulation of
her legend, as shown in the video triptych Saint Gaz' Stylite and the
movie Gaz' of the Desert (March 2007), the first high definition film
entirely shot in a virtual world. Babeli mixes hagiography and
slapstick, surrealism and country music, to tell the story of her life
behind the screen, midway between isolation and sociality, asceticism
Gazira Babeli has taken part in festivals and exhibitions in Italy (Peam
2006 - The Diamond, Pescara 2006; V07, Venice) and abroad (Deaf 2007,
Rotterdam 2007); and with the collective Second Front she took part in
Performa 07 (New York). A year from her birth, the retrospective Gazira
Babeli: [Collateral Damage] (10 April - 31 May 2007), put on in Second
Life in a museum-sized venue, represented a definitive confirmation. In
the space of two months the show attracted more than one thousand
visitors. Her work has also elicited the attention of publications like
El Pais, La Stampa, Liberazione, Exibart, Der Spiegel and Kunstzeitung.
Gazira Babeli is her first solo exhibition in the “real” world.
The exhibition will also see the publication of a book, Gazira Babeli
(edited by Domenico Quaranta, with essays by Mario Gerosa, Patrick
Lichty and Alan Sondheim).