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.
«It takes strength to be gentle and kind», the Smiths said in one of Petra Cortright’s favorite songs. It takes strength to take the usual, dumb, stereotyped, commodified imagery of prettiness and kindness and use it in a way that doesn’t look dumb or critical. It takes strength to adopt custom software effects, user friendly tools and vernacular genres and use them to make things that make you talk about art without apparently being anything more than what they are expected to be - a Youtube video or a Photoshop exercise. It takes strength to make art «about beauty and craft», as Ed Halter wrote.
Petra Cortright’s work has this peculiar strength. Take, for example, When You Walk Through the Storm (2009). In this video, a girl - the artist - is looking at you from the screen. Like you, she is sitting down in front of her computer. She looks sad - an impression enforced by the cold palette of the video. Slowly, she starts moving her hand up and down in front of her face. The movement activates a video effect that makes her appear underwater, fading her face in a myriad of pixels. At the same time, the intimacy created by the webcam gaze fades as well: she is close to you, on your computer screen, but the water effect makes the space in between you and her appear physical, and the sound - the song of the title - seems to come from the deep.
Most of Petra’s videos follow the same basic rules. In the diptych Sparkling I and II (2010) the artist wears sunglasses, walks through a garden and scrolls a tree, producing a beautiful rain of sparkling digital symbols; in Footvball/Faerie (2009) she plays football covered with a digitally-added pink cloud; in Das Hell(e) Modell (2009) she dances to the music of a Kraftwerk’s song, while a video filter alters our perception of time and makes her appear more angelic than usual; in Bunny Banana (2009) she eats a banana wearing bunny ears; and in Holy Tears (2009) she sheds digital tears ironically posing as a saint. All these videos are shot with a custom webcam, and use simple effects available to anyone. What makes them different from the amount of ego-clips we can find on Youtube? What gives them the power of a revelation? What makes them significant for the thousands of people that watched them online, but also for people that, for generational or other reasons, don’t share the internet and juvenile culture she refers to (in spare order, cyberpunk, psychedelia, kawaii, electronic music, sharing, exhibitionism)? Probably, the answer is: the way she is able to add all these levels, kindly and gently, to an object that doesn’t lose the authenticity of a teenager’s secret diary, or a student’s sketchbook.
Most of Petra’s gif animations and static images look like sketches, at first sight. They are, again, about beauty and craft. But beauty is unconventional and craft doesn’t mean that she uses image editing tools in the way a professional does. Quite the opposite. In her animated gifs, she either modifies vernacular material or explores animation effects and low-res aesthetics creating her own abstract gifs. In her still image pieces, she creates photo-collages where the complexity of the landscape is contradicted by the geometrical nature of the cuts; she employs different filters for different image layers; and she explores the liquid nature of the digital image literally liquifying found photographs of models, still lifes or landscapes. All this converges in The Infinite Sculpture Garden… (2010), her last and, up to now, most complex work: an abstract, suggestive landscape where geometrics, reflections, patterns, shadows and transparencies all conjure in the development of a hermetic, hyper-textual visual poem.
All these references to layers, effects and tools do not mean that Petra Cortright’s work is formalistic and medium-related. Petra belongs to the first generation of digital natives. For her, referring to internet culture and desktop metaphors is as natural as, for any aboriginal, referring to her traditions. She lives online. Let’s spend half a day on Google searching for her and we will know almost everything about her: that she loves pets and trees, that she hates New York, that her father died of Melanoma, that she had a wonderful love story and that she broke up. Her life is a continuous online performance taking place every day on her Twitter, her Facebook, her Flickr account. Her work is not about the medium: it’s about Petra Cortright. And it takes strength to be Petra Cortright.
Director: Domenico Quaranta
Lecturers: UBERMORGEN.COM, Marius Watz, Trevor Paglen, Oron Catts, Auriea Harvey & Michael Samyn, Paul D. Miller / DJ Spooky
ARCO Art Fair, Forum Auditorium 2, Hall 6.
February 18, 2010, from 12.30 to 2.30 p.m. and from 4 to 8 p.m.
Download the complete program: http://domenicoquaranta.com/public/pdf/ARCO2010\_seminar.pdf
Something is happening in the field of art. Postmodernism seems to have been replaced, but nobody is really able to say by what. Art critics such as Nicolas Bourriaud and Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev explained this change looking backwards to Modernism, but Modernism itself is many things, and it’s still not clear if this new modern, or Altermodern, is rooted in a new utopianism, as argued by Christov-Bakargiev, or in creolisation, globalisation and travelling, as suggested by Bourriaud.
What is clear to both is that new technologies, in the broader meaning of the term, are having a central role in this change. Starting from here, and appropriating Ippolito and Blais’ idea that the change will come from artists operating “at the edge of art” - Expanding the Field will involve artists and researchers that address, with different approaches, various new technologies - from the Internet to videogames and biotechnology - and issues and practices of the digital culture, from media hacking to data mining and surveillance. Some of them developed groundbreaking tools now used worldwide by artists operating in different fields; others - such as Tale of Tales - dropped out from the traditional art world in order to bring their idea of art to a different, possibly wider audience. Some feel more comfortable in labs than in museums, and most of them are strongly connected to online communities. Along the panel, they will be invited to introduce their work, addressing their relationship with technology and digital culture, and explaining how the fields they explore are affecting our culture and our concept of art.
February 17 - 21, 2010
Curated by: Domenico Quaranta
Galleries and artists: [DAM]Berlin, Berlin / BOREDOMRESEARCH; Alma Gallery, Riga / GINTS GABRANS; Art Claims Impulse, Berlin / JULIUS VON BISMARCK AND BENJAMIN MAUS; Arthobler, Porto / JAKUB NEPRAS; DNA Galerie, Berlin / MARIANA VASSILEVA; Fabio Paris Art Gallery, Brescia / EVA AND FRANCO MATTES AKA 0100101110101101.ORG; Gentili Apri, Berlin / JODI; Haunch of Venison, London / RAPHAEL LOZANO-HEMMER.
Press Images (zip folder, 72 MB): http://domenicoquaranta.com/public/PRESS/ARCO\_EB\_2010\_press\_images.zip
More infos on the fair: http://www.ifema.es/web/ferias/arco/default\_i.html
Official press release:
Once again, ARCOmadrid is opening up its own particular “black box” to provide room for renowned international artists using new media in their works. The use of new technologies and digital tools in art creation is no longer viewed as anything strange or exceptional, and in fact a large number of artists have already added it to their everyday practise without further ado. This new addition of electronics to art is reflected in the eight spaces at EXPANDED BOX, in a programme coordinated by the Italian critic and curator Domenico Quaranta, a specialist in digital and net art.
“The idea that new technologies, new media, new ways of addressing vital questions, as well as how cultures have contextualised these technological changes, is constantly modifying not only the way in which we live, but also the way in which we make art and even the very notion of art itself”, the curator explains. The evolution has been so fast and digital media have irrupted into our lives with such force that they are transforming absolutely all fields of culture.
This means a true revolution in terms of cultural production, with a rise of techniques such as photography, film and animation. “Some artists have embraced new media enthusiastically, while others are being forced to reconsider the way in which they work with conventional media like painting and sculpture; and yet others have done both things” and, as Quaranta says, “art has changed beyond all recognition”.
With over a decade under its belt already, the EXPANDED BOX programme has been instrumental in this process and, in this upcoming edition, it will take another step further in order to showcase an art that is looking beyond the creative world, “an art that is growing on Internet, that is made in research centres and laboratories and that has the potential to change our current accepted idea of art”, the curator tells us. The public will find a programme that “will try to make collectors and art lovers lose their fear of these changes”, while at once demonstrating that “in the information society, works of art have as much to say as always”.
The reconstruction of art
To give us a rounded perspective, Domenico Quaranta has selected eight projects “capable of clearing showing the diverse facets of this strange diamond we currently know as ‘New Media Art’” or, in any case, those that the curator considered the most interesting “in terms of cultural urgency”, within a field “whose leadership and reputation has seen an exponential growth over recent years”.
This is the case of the Italian collective comprising Eva & Franco Mattes aka 0100101110101101.ORG. In the space of the FABIO PARIS ART GALLERY, they are presenting a complete cycle of their “Synthetic Performances”, in which they reconstruct legendary performances from the history of art through avatars from virtual worlds like Second Life.
Particularly representative of latest trends in this genre is JODI, a duo of artists and one of the hottest names in Net Art since its inception. They will be showing their work in the space of the Berlin gallery GENTILI APRI. At ARCOmadrid this collective from Holland are presenting one of their latest and most subversive works, which revolves around amateur technology and participative media, rewriting folklore in a particular anthropology through the net.
Also from Berlin, the ART CLAIMS IMPULSE gallery is representing the German collective comprising Julius Von Bismarck & Benjamin Maus. The public will have a chance to catch their latest creation, “Perpetual Storytelling Apparatus”, a machine that translates the words from a text into drawings on continuous paper. Like a 21st century “exquisite corpse”, the result reveals a re-contextualization of ideas and fragments, opening the way to a new narrative, creating fascinating stories and intriguing visual metaphors.
Tradition and innovation
Domenico Quaranta’s selection also includes various projects combining new technology with more conventional media or which use these technologies towards classical ends. The latter is the case of the wonderful installation by the Bulgarian artist Mariana Vassileva, presented by the German DNA GALLERY. The artist, concerned with issues cutting across violence, gender, family and social hierarchies, uses the human being in her work as a source of energy and light, exploring themes of human desires like communication, interpersonal relations, personal introspection and solitude.
The Latvian gallery ALMA GALLERY is exhibiting photonic paintings created by the multimedia artist Gints Gabrāns using a laser ray and then registering them on photographic paper. From a profound concern for aesthetics, this artist’s works are a clear instance of how conventional media can be reinterpreted and adapted to new technologies and languages.
On a similar tack, we find the work by the young artist Jakub Nepraš presented by the Portuguese gallery ARTHOBLER. This Czech artist brings three of his video projects together in one single installation. Through the use of assemblage and the layering of individual sequences, the artist creates movement along various axes, generating dynamic and pictorial rhythms in a temporal loop.
The public can also see an evocative work by the UK collective Boredomresearch, comprising Vicky Isley and Paul Smith, who use new media to portray and recreate artificial life. The new series of informatic objects by this duo who work with software art to fuse aesthetics and biology is on view at the space of [DAM] BERLIN.
Finally, the Mexican artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer is also making a contribution to this summary overview of e-art and new technologies applied to creation. The London gallery HAUNCH OF VENISON is showing one of his latest installations, Reaction Diffusion, which consists of a series of computer-controlled light boxes showing animated images from some of the world’s frontier regions with the greatest migratory traffic and the greatest economic inequality. The social dynamics are, in this case, the object study and reflection for this artist, who uses new media to speak of pressing problems of the moment.
The “black box” at ARCOmadrid\_2010 is, as such, “an attempt to rethink more traditional media -photography, video, performance and even painting and sculpture - through the optic of the digital era and to facilitate a mutual dialogue”, and as Domenico Quaranta claims, one of the founding mandates of his selection for EXPANDED BOX.
I'd not talk about ignorance here. To make it clearer, I post below what I wrote on Will Gompertz's blog:
I had some funny time reading this article and all the reactions it produced, on this blog and around the Web (check out, among other things, Lauren Cornell's contribution on Rhizome - http://rhizome.org/editorial/3282 - and the CRUMB thread at http://www.crumbweb.org/). Personally, as an art critic strongly interested in Net Art, I don't think that Mr. Will Gompertz just needs some links to "hot" web projects, neither informations of any kind. He doesn't write "I can't find any net-based art", but "I can't find any net-based art of note". As the following statement suggests, Mr. Gompertz knows very well what Net Art is: "Duchamp and the Dadaists would have had hours of artistic amusement creating spoof websites, unintelligible Wiki entries and general questioning of the status quo." Well, at least 50\% of the best Net Art is "spoof websites, unintelligible Wiki entries and general questioning of the status quo."
So, if I see a problem here, it isn't a problem of ignorance, but of critical judgement. What we have here is a mid-career art critic - one who wrote for the Times and the Guardian and who ran Tate Online before joining the BBC as arts editor - who claims that, among the many net art projects he came in touch with along his brilliant career, he didn't find anything that can be described as "a significant artwork". This may mean either that Net Art, along the last 15 years, didn't produced anything noteworthy or that Net Art, after roughly 15 years of existence, still challenges the evaluation criteria and critical tools available for a mid-career, traditionally trained contemporary art critic.
Both the options above can be right of course. My little experience in the field makes me believe in the last one. It may help us to understand why, among other things, important art critics not strictly connected with the art market (and thus potentially interested in critical practices), such as Hal Foster or Rosalind Krauss, were never able to get it. And I think that, if we'll be able to focus the discussion on these topics - how Net Art challenges traditional criticism? do we really need "other criteria" in order to understand it and its positioning in the contemporary art field? - Mr. Gompertz's remarks will turn out to be really useful.
WHOLE EARTH CATALOGUE
Video selection for the series “Playlist”, Neoncampobase, Bologna (Italy)
Opening: January 27, 2010
Curated by: Domenico Quaranta (http://domenicoquaranta.com).
Founded by the American writer Stewart Brand in 1968, the Whole Earth Catalogue (WEC) was a catalogue of tools that was regarded as a bible by the counterculture generation - that is, by those who shaped the techno-cultural environment we are living in. Published regularly until 1972 and sporadically until 1998, it definitely died with the rise of the Web, of which it is considered a conceptual forerunner by people such as Steve Jobs (founder of Apple) and Kevin Kelly (founder of Wired). WEC was conceived as an “evaluation and access device” meant to bring power and knowledge to the people. It featured excellent reviews of books, maps, professional journals, courses, and classes, along with objects of any kind, from gardening tools to computers. Everybody could submit a review for the catalogue.
Like the WEC reviewers, the artists in this exhibition are contributing to a shared resource; like them, they love their tools and, like them, they are interested in understanding the world as a whole. What did change, in the meantime - and mostly thanks to the WEC generation - is the world itself.
These artists - WE - live in a world in which media don't just reproduce reality, nor just simulate it, in Baudrillardian terms: they shape reality, improve it, sometimes they build parallel worlds in which we can spend our time. They redesign our way to live, to think, to make and enjoy culture, to eat, to sleep, to die. And to think about God.
These artists use simple tools and editing tricks in order to comment on the current status of the image, to talk about themselves, to edit found material and to improve its meaning; they explore cultures and habits in order to sample, remix and comment them; they use and abuse technologies; they export metaphors, practices, aesthetics and narratives to other situations. This may sound weird if you are not living in their same time slice, but please - don't call them formalists. They are not working within a medium: they are working within a media-implemented reality. They are realists, in the only way that realism makes sense nowadays.
This peculiar realism can bring somebody to go back to when everything started. Notoriously, psychedelic drugs played an important rule in the beginning of digital culture. Without Sun, by Brody Condon, is a mesh-up of various found videos of individuals on a psychedelic substance. Why do people broadcast these materials? Do these “out of the body” experiences have any relationship with other now common forms of projection of the self, such as online videogaming? Some artists, such as Cory Arcangel or Oliver Laric, are interested in the conceptual consequences of technologies, and on the way they are updating fundamental concerns of our culture; others, such as the duo AIDS-3D, explore how technologies are increasingly affecting our spiritual life. In their own words, they want to make “the intangible magic of technology visible”. Not necessarily trough technologies themselves: Constant Dullart's video, for example, turns Youtube's “loading” animation into a suggestive, hypnotic object using light and styrofoam balls.
This concern with magic and transcendence is shared by many of the artists on show, from Petra Cortright to Damon Zucconi, from Harm Van den Dorpel to Martin Kohout. In their hands, a video filter can become the best way to explore how consistent the outer world is, and how consistent we are. It can become the best way to get a better knowledge of the world we live in, whatever we may mean with this word.
AIDS-3D (Daniel Keller & Nik Kosmas, US/DE), Motion Capture Dance, 2008. Video, 08.34 min. Courtesy Gentili Apri, Berlin. Online at http://www.aids-3d.com/motioncapture.mov.
Cory Arcangel (US), Drei Klavierstücke op. II - I, 2009. Video, 04.21 min. Courtesy Team Gallery, New York. Online at http://www.beigerecords.com/cory/Things\_I\_Made/DreiKlavierstucke.
Brody Condon (US), Without Sun, 2008. Video, 15.12 min. Courtesy Virgil De Voldere, New York. Online at http://www.tmpspace.com/video/WithoutSun.mov (excerpt).
Petra Cortright (US), Das Hell(e) Modell, 2009. Video, 03.41 min. Online at http://petracortright.com/das\_helle\_modell/das\_helle\_modell.html.
Paul B. Davis (UK/US), Compression Study #4 (Barney), 2007. Video, 02.49 min. Courtesy Seventeen Gallery, London. Online at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CWG5jqzYsEI.
Constant Dullart (NL), Youtube as a Sculpture, 2009. Video, 00.33 min. Online at http://www.youtube.com/constantdullaart.
Martijn Hendriks (NL), Untitled (12 glowing men), 2008. Video, 04.10 min. Online at http://www.12glowingmen.com/.
Jodi (BE/NL), Mal Au Pixel, 2009. Video, 01.14 min. Courtesy Gentili Apri, Berlin. Online at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KE8VIKXnsQ0.
Martin Kohout (CZ/DE), Close Up, 2009. Video loop, 03.11 min. Online at http://www.martinkohout.com/new/close-up/.
Oliver Laric (DE), Aircondition, 2006. Video, 01.59 min. Courtesy Seventeen Gallery, London. Online at http://www.oliverlaric.com/airconditionvideo.htm.
Les Liens Invisibles (IT), Too Close to Duchamp’s Bicycle, 2008. Video loop, 02.14 min. Online at http://www.lesliensinvisibles.org/too-close-to-duchamps-bicycle/.
Miltos Manetas (GR/UK), King Kong After Peter Jackson, 2006. Video, 03.05 min. Online at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cNMkjWpdC4c.
Pascual Sisto (US), No strings attached, 2007. Video, 01.30 min. Online at http://www.pascualsisto.com/projects/no-strings-attached/.
Paul Slocum (US), You’re Not My Father, 2007. Video, 04.05 min. Online at http://turbulence.org/Works/notmyfather/.
Harm Van den Dorpel (NL), Resurrections, 2007. 3 animated found photos, 04.18 min. Online at http://www.harmvandendorpel.com/work/resurrections.
Damon Zucconi (US), Colors Preceding Photographs (woodshed), 2008. Video, 00.35. Courtesy Gentili Apri, Berlin. Online at http://damonzucconi.com/uploads/Video/woodshed\_w.mov.