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 first artist to be featured at the MINI Museum, Davis decided to exploit this extraordinary opportunity to turn his interest in circuit bending and hacking systems into a form of “institutional critique”. When you turn it on, if there is no memory card inserted, the MINI Museum displays a default screensaver featuring three kitschy landscape images set, for some mysterious reasons, somewhere in Greece. Davis opened the device to see if it was possible to get those images out of it; but when he realized that, beyond its glamorous surface, the MINI Museum is actually a piece of «ghetto chinese engineering», he decided to simply take photos of the Museum when it displayed those demo images. Then he made «a screwed and chopped remix of Manuel Göttsching's seminal proto-techno track E2-E4»
(1984) and he copied both the track and the photos on the USB pen
drive. The final result has been documented here:
http://vimeo.com/19122996. According to Davis, «the behaviour of the
device in its “default” state is almost identical to this except
for some differences in the image quality which you can notice on
close inspection, and of course Manuel Göttsching.»
«It is exactly what I was expecting from Paul, but still it's a surprise», Domenico Quaranta, the MINI Museum Director, declared. «He could have easily uploaded a version of his wonderful compression videos, but he decided to make a comment on the Museum as both an institution and a piece of crappy technology. With his minimal intervention, he turned the original screensaver - a beautiful example of the vernacular images displayed by default on consumer technologies, from computers to cell phones - into art, hinting back at appropriation art of the eighties in an absolutely modern, post internet fashion.» According to Quaranta, «“01_Davis_Untitled_2010” also works as a tip for the artists who will come next, on the way to approach the MINI Museum.»
Up to now, “01_Davis_Untitled_2010” has been shown in a private exhibition in Room 3148 of the Los Angeles Airport Hilton Hotel in December 2010. A public show will be announced soon.
A founder member of the BEIGE Programming Ensemble together with Joe Beuckman, Cory Arcangel and Joseph Bonn, Paul B. Davis
lives and works in London, UK. In the late 90s he pioneered the use
of hacked video game cartridges as an art practice. According to Paul
Pieroni, «while the materials utilised are ready-made, the use
principle is entirely hand crafted; Davis altering the existing code
while adding nothing new.» He has exhibited internationally and his
work is represented by Seventeen Gallery, London. A recent interview
for “The Creators Project” can be found here:
The MINI Museum of XXI Century Arts (also known as MMAXXI) is a 7'' digital photo frame bought on eBay equipped with a 4GB pen drive. Founded and directed by Domenico Quaranta, the MINI Museum will travel from node to node around a network of artists, and will host temporary solo shows by the artist owning it at the time.
Paul's MINI Museum tutorial: http://www.beigerecords.com/paul/minimuseum/
More informations: http://www.theminimuseum.org/
Stay updated: http://blog.theminimuseum.org/
The MINI Museum flies to London
The MINI Museum of XXI Century Arts is proud to announce that on Friday October 15, 2010, the MINI Museum Director will fly to London to officially entrust the Museum to Oliver Laric, its first temporary owner.
Berlin based artist Oliver Laric (1981) is currently in London to present Versions (2009 - 2010) as part of Frame 2010, the solo-projects selection of Frieze Art Fair (14-17 October 2010. http://www.friezeartfair.com/). Versions is an ongoin project aimed at exploring historical and contemporary ideas relating to image hierarchies, where a largely enthusiastic conception of a digitally driven contemporary age of polymorphous imagery is squared by a series of examples drawn from pre-digital, pre-web culture. The project comprises a constellation of works, including sculptures, a bootleg copy of a book on Ancient Copies, and a video.
As an artist, Laric (http://oliverlaric.com/) is concerned with issues such as copyright, appropriation, versioning and translation. He is one of the founders of vvork (http://www.vvork.com/), an art blog acting as an exhibition space and, occasionally, a curatorial platform that organizes events in brick-and-mortar venues.
«The selection of the first temporary owner is the only act of curatorial control I will indulge in for a long time», Domenico Quaranta, the founding director of the MINI Museum, said. «Since both Versions and vvork had a strong influence on the concept of the MINI Museum, it was quite a natural choice to entrust Oliver with it.»
The MINI Museum of XXI Century Arts (also known as MMAXXI) is a 7'' digital photo frame bought on eBay equipped with a 4GB pen drive. The MINI Museum will travel from node to node around a network of artists, and will host temporary solo shows by the artist owning it at the time. All the artworks shown in the MINI Museum will enter the permanent collection of the Museum itself. The Museum will return to the Director when there is no more storage space left.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
«There is no such a thing as a copy. In the world of digitalized images, we are dealing only with originals - only with original presentations of the absent, invisible digital original. The exhibition makes copying reversible: it transforms a copy into an original.» Boris Groys
«One could of course argue that this is not the real thing, but then - please, anybody - show me this real thing.» Hito Steyerl
The MINI Museum of XXI Century Arts (also known as MMAXXI) is a 7'' digital photo frame bought on eBay equipped with a 4GB pen drive. Founded and directed by Domenico Quaranta, the MINI Museum has been designed to store and display the art of the XXI century - that is art that takes, has taken or can take digital form, at some time in its life, and can thus be stored on a USB pen drive and displayed on a digital photo frame.
The MINI Museum will travel from node to node around a network of artists, and will host temporary solo shows by the artist owning it at the time. All the artworks shown in the MINI Museum will enter the permanent collection of the Museum itself. The Museum will return to the Director when there is no more storage space left. The process is scheduled to start on October 15, 2010, when the MINI Museum will officially be given to its first “temporary owner”.
The MINI Museum addresses issues of copyright, ownership, networking, versioning, sharing, curating, collecting and displaying, but also of space and time, scale, history-making, preserving and forgetting.
A space for XXI century Arts
The architecture of the MINI Museum has been designed employing the most basic display media devices available today. Digital frames are cheap, kitschy, easy to use and understand. They are the ideal gift for your granny. Designed to display mainly digital photos, most of them support many other media formats as well. USB pen drives made both CD-ROMs and DVDs dead media in the blink of an eye. 4GB pen drives are currently the smallest, cheapest format available on the market. Both digital frames and pen drives are beautiful examples of digital waste, since they are both used to store and display absurdly heavy files. The MINI Museum wants to turn this waste into a resource: an architecture to store and display art.
The MINI Museum can display artworks in jpg, mp3, mpg and avi format. Any artwork adopting one of these file formats is eligible to be shown at the MINI Museum and enter its collection. Furthermore, any artwork that, according to its author, can be legitimately translated into one of these formats without losing its status of “artwork”, is eligible to be shown at the MINI Museum and enter its collection. This means that the MINI Museum can virtually store and display any kind of art: digital images, animations, photographs, videos, software, music scores, texts but also paintings, drawings, installations, sculptures, architecture, performances and so on.
This is why the Museum has been called “The MINI Museum of XXI Century Arts”. Many attempts have been made to describe the arts of the XXI century, and much emphasis has been put on the fact that a new art requires new media. Bullshit. If there is any lowest common denominator between the arts of the XXI century, it is not the fact that they are digital, but the fact that they can all be translated into digital form, or exist temporarily in digital form. Not all contemporary art is media art, but all contemporary art can be mediated. Thus, all contemporary art can be displayed via a digital photo frame, or stored on a USB pen drive.
The way the MINI Museum is conceived reflects the shifting identity of contemporary art in a networked, globalized, information-based world. It's light and portable. It can travel. The collection won't be the result of an act of individual selection: it will be the unexpected, dynamic result of friendship connections and casual meetings, fair play and mischief, and dynamic interpretations of its rules. All this will become part of the history of the Museum - and art history in general.
The MINI Museum was directly inspired by the Nanomuseum, founded in 1994 by the Swiss curator Hans Ulrich Obrist, and by the Pirate Paintings conceived in 2009 by the Greek artist Miltos Manetas. The Nanomuseum was a little frame, bought by H.U.O. in a store set up in Düsseldorf by the German artist Hans-Peter Feldmann. Throughout the Nineties it housed many solo exhibitions by the likes of artists such as Chris Marker, Yoko Ono, Gilbert & George, Christian Boltanski, Jonas Mekas, Gabriel Orozco, and the architect Cedric Price. Its final show was supposed to be by the artist Douglas Gordon, who was going to organize its funeral, but then the Museum was lost in a pub. The Nanomuseum was a free museum, without a regular programme and, of course, without a collection.
The Pirate Paintings are oil paintings featuring the logo of The Pirate Bay and equipped with a pen drive or a hard disk full of files (including Manetas' collection of Neen artworks) that visitors can freely download to their laptop or mobile phone.
Further inspiration came from Marcel Duchamp's Boîte-en-valise, the Fluxus boxes and Andy Warhol's Timeboxes.
How it works
1. After buying the digital photo frame and the USB pen drive and setting up the MINI Museum, the Museum Director will hand it over to an artist. From then on, he will have no control over the life of the Museum until the end of the process.
2. The artist will make a work for the Museum, set it up, put it on show for an unspecified length of time, document the exhibition, send documentation to the Director and hand the Museum over to another artist. This is a recursive rule: that is, all temporary owners of the MINI Museum have to follow this one basic procedure.
3. Only the “temporary owner” of the MINI Museum can decide who the next one will be. He or she might choose to lend it to a close friend, or to somebody they just met. But the artist may also choose to pick up a name from a growing list of applicants. If you are interested in joining this list, please send us an email at the following address: firstname.lastname@example.org. With luck, you could be the next one.
4. The process ends when there is no storage space left on the pen drive. The artist adding the last work to the collection is to take care of the MINI Museum until he or she has a chance to give it back to the Museum Director.
5. From then on, the MINI Museum Director will be in charge of curating the Museum - rearranging the collection, lending pieces to other museums or exhibitions, restoring pieces, etc.
6. Before starting the process, the MINI Museum Director will store a README file on the USB pen drive containing additional instructions for the artists. Each participating artist is kindly invited to follow these rules. But since the Museum Director does not have any control over the process, all artists are free to decide, at any time, that they do not wish to follow one or more of the rules: potentially deleting other artists' works, stealing them, selling them, renaming them, reformatting the pen drive, or donating just one 4GB artwork and then giving the Museum back to the Director.
The MINI Museum Unboxing Ceremony:
Director, The MINI Museum of XXI Century Arts
Also, I'm still not sure of the opportunity to talk about new media art as something "different". In chapters 3 - 4 - 5, there is a comparison between dematerialized / time based / participatory works from the contemporary art history and new media art. The comparison is introduced by the title line "How New Media Art Is Different". My question is: is new media art really different? Wouldn't be better to say that new media - whether they are used as a medium or not - are forcing us to rethink the concepts of materialization, time and participation? Can we still think about material and participation in the same way as we did in the 70s after the digital revolution?
The distinction is subtle, but I think crucial - both conceptually and strategically. Saying that "New media art presents the opportunity for a complete rethink of curatorial practice" we are still putting new media art on a throne, in a way that the contemporary art world will never accept.
So, as I said - I have great expectations! Thank you for giving me something able to keep my two neurons alive along this hot summer :-)