Evelin Stermitz
Since 2005
Works in Austria

Evelin Stermitz is working on media and new media art projects by using different media like photography, video and net, including installations and conceptual works.
The focus of art work is on gender based female and socio-cultural topics. The issues of projects are about gender, role models and the gap between man and woman referring to the theory of Jacques Lacan in terms of "the Other" and the performativity of the body by Judith Butler. An important task is the female body and the outgoing connection to created symbolic meanings of gender in history and nowadays. A main emphasis is on performative works.
In media theory the main interest is on the representation and approach of the female body in everyday media and media art encouraged by Barbara Kruger's work "Your body is a battleground."
Completed the study of Media Communication at the University Klagenfurt, Austria, with a master's degree in Philosophy on the thesis "Imagoes of Dancing Women in Film" in the year 1999.
Received a scholarship for the postgraduate study of Visual Communication at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia, (Prof. Milan Pajk - photography, Prof. Srečo Dragan - video and new media) in the year 2004 and graduated with a Master of Arts degree on the thesis "The Female Body in Context of Media Art" in the year 2007.

2004 - 2007 Academy of Fine Arts and Design, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia. Postgraduate study of Visual Communication (Photography, Video and New Media).
2006 International Summer Art School of the University of Arts in Belgrade, Serbia. New Media Workshop 2D Mutant Zombies (Low-Key Low-Tech Identity Mapping) by Dejan Grba.
2006 International Summer Academy of Fine Arts in Salzburg, Austria. Media works: Dream, dreams / things imagined, Sigmund Freud's 150th birthday, Media class by VALIE EXPORT.

Selected Exhibitions:
2010 FORCE: on the Culture of Rape, Current Gallery, Baltimore, USA / Mediations Biennale, Erased Walls, ConcentArt, Berlin, Germany / All My Independent Women, Casa da Esquina, Coimbra, Portugal / Indomitable Women, CCDFB Centre Cultura de Dones Francesca Bonnemaison, Barcelona, Spain / RED: The Gendered Color in Frames, Photon Gallery, Ljubljana, Slovenia / NapoliDanza, 17th International Festival of Videodance, Il Coreografo Elettronico, PAN Palazzo delle Arti Napoli, Naples, Italy / IX Festival Internacional de la Imagen, VI Muestra Monográfica de Media Art, CCC Centro Cultural y de Convenciones Teatro los Fundadores, Manizales, Colombia / Magmart | Video under Volcano, CAM Casoria Contemporary Art Museum and PAN Palazzo delle Arti Napoli, Naples, Italy / 2009 Videomedeja, Museum of Contemporary Art of Vojvodina, Novi Sad, Serbia / BAC! 10.0, Pandora’s B., Festival International de Arte Contemporáneo en Barcelona and Indomitable Women, Fundació Joan Miró and CCCB Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain / 2008 "Femmes, femmes, femmes", MAC/VAL Musée d'Art Contemporain du Val-de-Marne, Vitry-sur-Seine, France / Plus 3 Ferris Wheels, Museum of Fine Arts, Florida State University / Center for the Arts, University at Buffalo, New York / Richmond Center for Visual Arts, Western Michigan University / Alfred University, New York, USA / 2007 chico.art.net v.4, The Electronic Arts Program, California State University, USA / 1.3 Festival of Video and New Media Art, Mestna Galerija, Ljubljana, Slovenia / IMAGINING OURSELVES, International Museum of Women, San Francisco, USA / Video Art in the Age of the Internet, Chelsea Art Museum, New York, USA / cyber feminism past forward, Austrian Association of Women Artists, Vienna, Austria / FILE Rio / 2006 FILE São Paulo, Brazil / 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009 FSPACE, Paris International Lesbian and Feminist Film Festival, Trianon, Paris, France / 2006 Cyberfem. Feminisms on the electronic landscape., EACC Espai d'Art Contemporani de Castelló, Castelló, Spain / Stop Violence Against Women, C2C Gallery, Prague, Czech Republic / 2006 and 2008 Rdeče Zore - Red Dawns, International Feminist and Queer festival, Galerija Alkatraz, Metelkova mesto, Ljubljana, Slovenia

More about her works can be seen at her personal website http://evelinstermitz.net
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Text/Weave/Line—Video: An Interview with Beryl Korot

Text/Weave/Line—Video: An Interview with Beryl Korot
By Evelin Stermitz, June 2010.

An interview with artist Beryl Korot on her exhibition
Text/Weave/Line—Video, 1977-2010
at The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Ridgefield, Connecticut, USA,
from June 27, 2010, to January 2, 2011.


Beryl Korot is one of the most important innovators in the realm of video art and a pioneer of multiple channel video work. Two installations, Dachau 1974 (1974) and Text and Commentary (1977) were shown consecutively at an early exhibition of her work at the Whitney Museum in 1980 after their initial premieres at The Kitchen (1975) in New York City, and the Leo Castelli Gallery (1977) also in New York City. By drawing on the structures generated by the most ancient of information technologies, the handloom, and the first punch card computer on earth, she opened up a whole new world of possibilities in her multiple channel works for converying narrative based on visual and not literary means.

Prior to the video works, in 1970 she cofounded Radical Software with Phyllis (Gershuny) Segura and Ira Schneider, and served as its co-editor until 1974. It was the first magazine to explore the notion of alternative communication systems (to the then broadcast dominated airwaves) via video in particular. In the 1980’s she left video to weave her own canvases and to create a coded grid based language that was an analog to the roman alphabet. The works that evolved from this language, many based on translations of the Babel text, an early text about the impact of technology on human behavior, are a kind of visual contemplation of language as still life. In the 1990’s she teamed up with her husband, composer Steve Reich, to create 2 thought provoking video/music works: one about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, The Cave (1993), and the other, once again, about the impact of technology on our lives, Three Tales (2002). These works brought video installation art into a theatrical context and created a media based Theatre of Ideas. Since 2003 she has created a body of poetically expressive work created almost entirely on the computer. An exhibition at the Aldrich Museum continues and further develops her interest in the Babel text, presented now as a print and animated video work, as well as presenting 5 other new video works along with the early 5 channel video/weaving work Text and Commentary.

Evelin Stermitz: To introduce yourself and start right from the beginning - could you tell to the younger generation of artists more about your time as an emerging artist? What influenced you during these times, how was your situation as a woman artist? Did you have any personal gendered experiences and how did you evolve your strength and interest in media art?

Beryl Korot: Beginning at age 12, I wrote poetry and figured this is what I would do in the world. This belief continued into my early 20’s when I was working as an editorial assistant at The New York Review of Books helping out Barbara Epstein, one of the editors. At about that time the Sony Portapak came out, and I became reacquainted with Ira Schneider, whom I’d met in my first year of college at the University of Wisconsin. Ira had finished all his course work for his PhD and part of his thesis on the neurophysiology of the ancient brain but quit to make films. Then right before we met again in New York he bought a first generation Sony Portapak.

Ira was part of a group called Raindance (a play on words of the miitary think tank --the Rand Corporation). Raindance was a think tank media group made up primarily of artists and writers: Frank Gillette, Paul Ryan, Ira Schneider, and Michael Shamberg were members of the original group. There were no women per se until Ira and I discussed the possibility of creating an alternate television journal to present some of the new kinds of thinking about information media, and the new type of work being developed. It was in the context of conceiving this magazine, Radical Software, that Ira introduced me to Phyllis (Gershuny) Segura, who'd been thinking along parallel lines, and Phyllis and I set to work to create a forum for new media thinking at a time when there were no venues to see the new work being created.

In the early days of video, there were so many women working with the medium. And I remember we were aware of that...somehow the newness of video made the whole entry into the field so much easier. Everyone was exploring together. But again, I think that was true of many media at that time. If you look at the numbers of successful artists who were emerging in the late 60's to 70's there are many women amongst them. It was a more idealistic period. For video there were no galleries as yet, at first no funding institutions (though that changed quickly), but you had the feeling that if you could think it you could do it. Life in New York was inexpensive, and you could find affordable and decent work places. And people really helped each other out. It was a good time to be an artist in New York.

Were there gender related issues that came up?...sure. But I never got into politicizing my situation. For me there were so many fascinating ideas to be pursued. Perhaps my attraction to technology, and that I mastered the different editing and computer techniques I needed to create my work, was my way of competing with and remaining self-sufficient from the men around me. (I suppose it helped that most of the women in my family, from great grandmothers on down, worked both because they had to and because they wanted to and liked what they did. My grandmother, for example, cooked the family out of the depression and became a very successful caterer...my grandfather did the shopping.)

E.S.: You are an early pioneer in video art and multiple channel work in particular, co-founder and co-editor of Radical Software (1970), the first publication to document artists’ work and ideas concerning video, also co-editor of Video Art; how did your work as an artist come together with your work as a theoretician and researcher?

B.K.: I grew up in a family where current ideas and discussions about the world were commonplace and everyone participated, no matter how young or how old. So in the course of making work you express who you are, how you think. For me, at the beginning at least, it was by developing formal strategies in my multiple channel work, based on the multiple threads of ancient loom patterning. I was drawn to certain tools whether video or print or the loom perhaps because of the ideas that aggregated around them. The theoretical was not separate from the tools that drew me to them. I drew my sustenance from the theoretical and it framed what I was doing.

E.S.: Your approach to media art comes from the literally textile and haptical field of weaving, that is interesting in a female aspect, because of using this traditional material and occupation which is since centuries passed on to women, and then suddenly you are interweaving this into media of the current society; how do you explain your approach to this material mix?

B.K.: In 1974 I found myself working in 3 media simultaneously: in print (Radical Software), in video which I began to explore in 1972, and the handloom, the first computer on earth in that it programmed patterns according to a numerical structure. A silk weaver at the beginning of the 19th century invented the Jacquard loom, really the first punch card computer to create complex textile works through punch card programming, which also increased the speed with which this work could be made. I was drawn to the handloom after being involved in print and video because I was fascinated by the multiple channel genre in video and the loom offered clues about programming multiple channels. But what really fascinated me is that the information in all 3 of these media is encrypted in lines...In video the electronic camera reads an image at 30 frames a second, line by line; we read printed material line by line...pattern on the loom is laid down line by line, or thread by thread. Time is an important component of this linear structuring in terms of how quickly and effectively information is received and stored. Instant storage and retrieval systems characterize modern technology while tactility and human memory remain earmarks of more ancient tools.

E.S.: How would you define the term “Radical Software” at this time for your magazine? Are there any analogies to what would be understood as radical software nowadays?

B.K.: When we made the magazine, Radical Software was about creating a new kind of programming; for circumventing the broadcast to home one way type of information delivery system. It was about access and decentralization and for us the new Sony magnetic tape Portapak was the beginning of a new era, a new possibility...to write the medium, not just read it. To leave the livingroom and bring video into public spaces. For a relatively low cost we could buy the equipment that would allow that to happen. I was drawn to multiple channel because it forced the viewer to leave the livingroom and join others in a public space to experience new ways of receiving information. It was modular, spatial and through juxtaposition allowed an artist the ability to physically play with time. You could also take this small image as it was in the 1960’s and 70’s and expand it through the multiple screens.

Now? There is so much out there...the web sometimes seems so liberating and also so dangerous...I think radical software today is inside us. We’re bringing technology into our bodies and our ethical rootedness must be our roadmap.

E.S.: In your work Dachau 1974 you created image blocks of 18 4-channel video configurations, whereby each channel has a separate rhythm of image. The work deals with the left over tragic memories of Holocaust of World War II, please could you tell more about this sensible issue and your articulation of this in video art. (A mock-up of this work is available online at the following links: http://pbs.org/auschwitz and http://blog.art21.org/category/artists/beryl-korot/ )

B.K.: I actually arrived in Dachau in late September, 1974. I spent the day simply walking through the former camp, absorbing what I could of this now relatively antiseptic environment inhabited by tourists. In 1974 very little was being said about the Holocaust, even by survivors, and making the work was my response to traveling to Germany for the first time, where silence about that period still prevailed. What struck me was that here, in this place where memory was still so repressed, a bizarre tourist site had been resurrected literally on the ashes of the past.

When I visited the site of the former concentration camp the subject matter for this work began to take shape in my mind: a record of Dachau in 1974 with its present visitors walking amidst the structures that remained. The architecture of the place, the linearity and symmetry, the pathways, guard towers, barracks, crematoria, tourists, would be the subjects of this work.

When I returned to my studio in New York City other questions arose -- specifically, how to bring life to the static and spare images I had recorded primarily using a tripod with very little movement. And for this I turned to the ancient technology of the loom.
As already mentioned, I was drawn to the loom because it was a programming tool, I was interested in modern and ancient technologies, and I saw it as a way to understand how to program multiple channels which was the video genre that most attracted me.
The minimum number of threads necessary to bind a cloth is four. Channels (1 and 3) and (2 and 4) formed the interlocking ‘thread’ combinations of paired images as the work proceeded in time to create a non-verbal narrative to take the viewer through the site of this former concentration camp. (see configurations at http://pbs.org/auschwitz -- go to Dachau 1974)

The fours screens were placed side-by-side into cutouts in a free-standing wall, like 4 holes puncturing a film screen. Horizontally, through the juxtaposition of specific paired images, and vertically through their movement and interrelationships structured in time according to a logical sequence, a video tapestry of Dachau, in l974, is represented. Each interlocking channel is given its own separate rhythm of image and pause for the duration of the work, and these paired images on monitors create a non-verbal narrative structure which take the viewer on a journey from the mundane traffic outside the camp's wall to the inside walkways, from barracks far to barracks near, from inside barracks to tourists walking towards crematoria, and finally to a stream punctuated with barbed wire. Ultimately it is an extremely fragile work where the memory of the viewer must endow it with meaning.

E.S.: You and your husband Steve Reich have been also collaborating on socio-political issues in art, like the video opera The Cave. How did your collaboration as visual and sound artist emerge? How did you experience the collaboration? I am just curious, but find it very interesting, wonderful and rare, that two artists find themselves, while both working in different fields but then find ways to collaborate and are also a couple in their life time.

B.K.: What we shared in our two collaborations was caring about the subject matter and the formal concerns for creating a new type of documentary theatre that grew out of the folk tools of our time…samplers and video recorders juxtaposed with live musicians.

It’s not easy to work with someone you live with. It was harder for us to have dinner together than to spend the hours, weeks, months and years creating each work. Steve and I care about similar subject matter and share a formality of approach to subject matter which turns out to be a solid basis of a long, sustained and trusting friendship. When you work with someone over a long period of time, you have to have enormous respect for the other person, you have to have a strong sense of artistic territory that cannot be invaded, and you have to be willing to continue even when you feel like throwing the other person down a flight of stairs.

E.S.: The Cave, your collaborative work about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict has been created in 1993, after a working period from 1989 to 1993, how did you find this issue at that time, and how would you see it nowadays in relation to current conflicts, are there any changes?

B.K.: At a time when religion was not in public consciousness in the basically secular West, we were interested in Biblical material and its resonance or lack thereof in people's lives. We asked 5 questions to three different groups of people: first to Israeli Jews, then Palestinian Moslems and finally westerners living primarily in the States. The questions were: who for you is Abraham, Sarah, Hagar Ismael and Isaac and how these questions were answered were a kind of Rorschach of our time...how far away from the cave we are where Abraham and his family were buried. When we were making The Cave two important political events took place: the first Gulf War and the signing of a peace treaty between Israel and the PLO. People said to us, “it’s too bad you’re piece isn’t ready yet.” And our answer to that was, “don’t worry, it’ll still (unfortunately) be relevant when the piece comes out.” Given the current state of things I’d say the works emphasis on common roots comes off almost as naive, but necessary.

Also, when I began The Cave, the computer was interacting for the first time, at a desktop affordable level, with video. Photoshop was first coming out and I felt I had some freedom for the first time visually for creating a complex canvas. I could take a video still, blow it up, cut some parts out, rearrange them, transfer it back to video. However, like Dachau 1974 and the 5 channel Text and Commentary which followed, the complexity of the work lay in the interrelationships created between channels, perfectly timed, but not so much within the image itself. By the time we began Three Tales, After Effects had been developed so that there was enormous control over many aspects of the image, and finally I had tools at my disposal which truly engaged me visually.

E.S.: How would you explain to bring video installation art into a theatrical context and creating a media based Theatre of Ideas? How would you define a video opera at all?

B.K.: As I mentioned before, Dachau 1974 was a rhythmic work in multiple channels, as was Text and Commentary (1977) which followed. By blowing up the monitors to projection screens, by placing them in an arched shape and building a set around them for placement of musicians and singers, the video actually became the mise en scene for the entire work and took what I had done in museums and placed it in the performance space.

It was also the musicality of those early pieces that led Steve to want to collaborate with me in the first place. Because these works dealt very deliberatively with measured time, The Cave drew on their structure for providing the visual matrix through which the music was set. It was easy to look at a score of Steve’s, (we shared SMPTE numbers) and to decide where to make cuts. Whenever a person appears in the course of the work they are placed in a visual and aural portrait of themselves...for me it was abstracting from the image of the interviewee a piece of clothing, or something in the background, and creating a placement of these abstractions along with the image of the person across the 5 screens; for Steve it was using the voice melodies and setting those to music.

Steve had been asked to write operas and in the 1980’s contemporaries of his were doing just that, Philip Glass, John Adams. And they were working with historical and contemporary subject matter. Robert Wilson, of course, as well. This was our response to those works, but wanting to use more contemporary tools that we were immersed in to make the work.

We’re also both artists who like to work at home, do the technical stuff ourselves, and so until we finally staged the work and got involved with Nick Mangano and Carey Perloff and Richard Nelson and John Arnone, our staging team, the work existed in my studio as a video installation and Steve would send me the music through cables connecting our studios.

E.S.: Between 1980 and 1988 you devoted yourself fulltime to oil painting, creating works on handwoven and traditional linen canvas. These were paintings based on a language you created which were an analog to the Latin alphabet. A room in this abstract language was created illuminating the Babel story, as well as other texts. Why did it come to this withdrawal from technologic media during this period of time?

B.K.: I withdrew from video technology to paint on the handmade canvas I was making on the loom, and to create a grid based language which allowed me to create a body of work which visualized language abstractly. I wanted to make a handmade work with an ancient and sophisticated technology...to see where it would lead. The language of dots on a grid were an analog to the Roman alphabet, and the finished canvases were like a language as still life, what thought looks like abstracted from meaning, though the meaning was there if you wanted to follow the code.

E.S.: Do you have a single work within your corpus of media art, which is most important to your decades of experiences as an artist?

B.K.: Well, Dachau 1974 was the most influential to my work until Three Tales which began in 1996 and was not finished until 2002 because of a lot of interruptions. From 1996 to the present, I was working then in programs like After Effects and Photoshop that allowed me to have a completely flexible layered computer based canvas that has impacted all the work since that time.

E.S.: How do you view your retrospective of your works at the Aldrich Museum, what was most important for you in the concept of this exhibition? Also your recent works about two women, Florence and Etty, are exhibited, how did you find and interpret these two females as icons?

B.K.: Textere in latin refers to web, texture, structure or translates as to weave. Throughout the years different ways of visualizing thought have been manifested in my work. I think the Aldrich exhibition gives expression to both the variety and consistency of this pursuit which has been sustained over a long period of time.
Florence (2008/9) and Etty (2009/10) - these two of the works in the Aldrich show are also my most personal works.

In 2007 when I began Florence I was playing at the computer and made a weaving out of bits of video footage of snow storms and waterfalls, some elements of which were used in another work from that period, Vermont Landscape. Having finished a long collaborative period in 2002 I wanted to get back to the studio of the painting years and the years that preceded those to the multiple channel Text and Commentary made entirely in my studio, by hand, for the camera. I wanted to keep the recorded material local, around the house or in walking distance thereof.

As I viewed the weaving I’d made on the computer the name Florence Nightingale came to mind, and I realized that though her name had become a cliché, I had no idea who she really was.

And so I sifted through hundreds of pages of her brilliant writings, which included an intense rejection of her upper class English background as she sought to find a life of meaning and purpose apart from what was designated by birth. At 30 she set off with a ragtag group of women to save men outside of Istanbul during the brutal Crimean War, and transformed what had been complete neglect on the battlefield into a system of caring for the wounded.

Through the very slow, rhythmic falling of words against a background literally woven from moving video images, (winter storms, boiling water) a new sense of reading and time is created.

When I finished Florence I sought a companion for her, someone with that kind of intense resolve over a sustained period of time to dig deep inside herself to find the meaning to carry her through a difficult time. Etty Hillesum, a 29 year old Jewish Dutch writer found herself commuting for a year between Amsterdam and the transit camp of Westerbork, while experiencing and witnessing the devastation befalling Dutch Jews. What drew me to her was her ability to internally resist her inevitable physical captivity and death in an effort not to surrender her ‘self.’ The day she is shipped out, she records “We left the camp singing.”

“Weather” as the in-motion, woven backdrop to the falling words is a common element in both works.

These two works are a kind of poetry from other people’s words...also a kind of soliloquy.

E.S.: How do you see the technological changes in video art, like digital video, video on the internet? Do you think the media video changed as an artistic video during the years caused by its technology? You created your latest media works with digital video, was it a different work for you?

B.K.: In the digital realm I’ve definitely found the tools that I love working with. I still find it fascinating that in a work like Three Tales, raw material was gathered with a video camera in the field, imported into the computer where the images were recreated on a time based canvas. From the computer to a tape deck in my studio, the work premiered in Vienna on a 32 foot wide video screen. It was presented as a ‘film’ on the independent film channel, packaged as a DVD, with sections streamed to the web. And since the early days of video, this all happened within a relatively short period of time. The strategies that were employed early in my career to get a public off the couch and into a public space have been turned on their head with the access and decentralization of the internet and the powerful tools available at the desktop level. Of course, other issues are brought up with the overload of “information” people have to sift through out there, privacy issues, misinformation, a sense that technologic power is an end in itself, but that’s another interview. In the early days of Radical Software we were involved in thinking about media ecology, the relationship of media to the information environment in which we live. Now the focus is more on the information highway. I think we could be developing more of a Radical Software self-critical consciousness. But in the end, whatever tools you use, work is only as good as the artist making it.



Artistic Textual and Performative Paths in New Media Correlations: An Interview with Annie Abrahams

Artistic Textual and Performative Paths in New Media Correlations:
An Interview with Annie Abrahams

by Evelin Stermitz, November 2009

Annie Abrahams is a net artist, interweaving net art with collective writing, performance, video, as well as installation. Annie Abrahams works are structured on both digitized hyper and on site realities. She constructs forms of collective writings on the net and reconstructs them into offline perceptions, which leads to creations of net-operas and other web based interventions. This interview offers insights in her artistic practice and in her being human behind a collective intelligence.

Annie Abrahams was born in Hilvarenbeek, the Netherlands, and since 1985 she lives in France. Annie Abrahams holds a doctorate in biology from the University of Utrecht and is a graduate in fine arts from the Academie voor Beeldende Kunsten, Arnhem. Her works are widely discussed and have been exhibited international at institutions such as the National Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo, Armenian Center for Contemporary Experimental Art, Espai d'Art Contemporani de Castelló Spain, and New Langton Arts in San Francisco. Annie Abrahams performed her net pieces at Skuc Gallery in Ljubljana, La Centrale Gallery in Montréal, Centre Pompidou, National Opera of Montpellier, Academy of Fine Arts in Helsinki and many other venues.

Evelin Stermitz:You were one of the early artists using the computer and the Internet in artistic means, how did it begin? How did you experience the Internet as a public space for artistic interrogations?

Annie Abrahams: I started using a computer around 1991 when my friend made me a program to organize the installations in space I made with my 133 chaos painting at the time. When in 1996 I was asked to do a show in a gallery in Nijmegen Holland I quite naturally used email exchange to be present at a distance in the meeting place I created in this gallery. It was at this point that I realized the potential of the Internet for an artist and that I started to create work only accessible / apprehensible via the Internet.
At the time I considered the Internet as a public space of solitude. A place where one isn't meeting the other person, but the image one makes of this other in one's imagination. One contemplates the other in one self. Most of my net art pieces center around computer mediated relations to this other. ?Understanding? http://www.bram.org/beinghuman/underst.htm and I only have my name http://www.bram.org/ident/irc.htm are among the most striking examples of this approach.

E.S.: As fields of thought spaces, you forged the collaboration on "collective writing" which turned to an immense outcome, how did you conceive this artistic textual relations and how did you transform the text material into a digitized hyperspace?

A.A.: My experimentations started in 1999 with Wishes / Voeux http://www.bram.org/wishes/ . This first collective writing project was just a collection of wishes, that I proposed to "stocker, déposer, entreposer, deposit, lodge, gardienage, mise en forme, entretien, surveillance, keeping, conservation, maintenance, caring, storage, stock, shaping". Some of these wishes were chosen to be html-ized either by me or by other volunteering net artists like [anachroma], Takuji Kogo, Tiia Johannson, Christophe Desgouttes, Elise Lefevre, Ted Warnel, Mildred Pierce or Tamara Lai. As html-izing at the time was writing code, this htm-lizing was the second writing layer of the project. A third existed in the possibility to write a personal email, unseen by the others, to an unknown wishing person. Later on, when I learned a bit of perl and php, I started to integrate different constraints in the writing process and to develop time based experiments that resulted not anymore only in collections, but were texts changing over time.
The collective texts, I noticed, are very present at the moment of the participation but become only data on a server or light on a screen afterwards. I wanted to reinvest them with affect and so I started to read them in front of the public, which immediately made evident for instance their oral quality.

E.S.: Since indefinable masses of textual material are existing on the net, do you think that we are able at the moment to cope with all these data and how do you view this mediated artistic work, also in relation to a virtual performative aspect, since your work is interwoven?

A.A.: People hardly ever read the collections. When I talk about them, most people don't even want to consider them as text, let alone literature or poetry. But I am convinced of their intrinsic quality. We just don't have the right tools to judge them by, but this doesn't mean they are not valuable. It is the same as with a lot of new behaviour that develops around computers, networks and virtual reality. We will have to develop new sensibilities and even a new vocabulary, not necessarily textual, to be able to understand these. My performances tend in this direction and try to act out these sensibilities. For instance The Big Kiss http://www.bram.org/toucher/TBK.html , done with Mark River at OTO in New York in 2008, highlights the fact that computer mediated kissing might also be exciting but is, as an experience, much closer to drawing than to actual kissing.
What interests me in my collective writing projects is to unveil the existence of a multiple voice: a voice made up by words of people of all classes and ages. I love watching this stammering beginning of the creation of a language of the multitude.
Reading a collectively written text aloud, passing this text through the body, triggers an increased sensibility for this multitude and is for me the best way to appreciate it.

E.S.: You performed at various festivals, institutions like the opera and also in public spaces, how would you describe the field of your performance pieces and in which aspects are they net performances?

A.A.: A few days ago I was thinking about my actual performance projects and I was struck by it's resemblance with my activities as a scout leader in the sixties. This might make you smile, but actually it makes sense. I was inventing situations where people could discover something new about themselves, for instance when I made a labyrinth for blindfolded scouts, or when I created games and plays I already used protocols to have people interact and pay attention to the other.
For some time I considered all my acts on the Internet as performances in public space. I considered the space as a field of research, as the best place to study human behaviour in its most intimate expressions available to me outside my personal life. Sometimes I got emotionally so involved that I had to find a twist to accept its failures. When the French group of net artists Lieudit (1997 - 1999) were unable to agree on their future for a second time I decided to rework the text of their email exchanges in to a piece of theatre called MailReality "Who's afraid of ? Life in a collective intelligence http://www.bram.org/special/provitesti/indexang.htm . Of course then again there was no agreement on the rights to this text and I had to do the sole and only reading of this piece behind closed doors.
My performance pieces often have a personal experience that triggers them. Oppera Internettikka Protection et Sécurité http://www.intima.org/oppera/oips/ done with Igor Stromajer in 2006 started because I joked in a mail to Igor (who started the Oppera Internettikka series in 1998 as a way to present net art in public spaces) about wanting to hear him sing html code life and by the time we were preparing the performance for the opera in Montpellier there were violent outbreaks in the suburbs. The All Star Girls Band presenting Peurs / Fears http://www.bram.org/peur/girlsband/ was meant to impress the overall male participants of the E-poetry2007 festival in Paris.
L'un la poupée de l'autre http://www.bram.org/confront/sphere/indexeng.html with Nicolas Frespech can be seen as a gesture that unveils the play, and the perversities that result from it, between proximity and distance in Internet relations in a rather literal way. The performance was done in two tents on the scene of the Centre Pompidou in Paris. The tent and its form, spherical, were important to me because it symbolised my way to produce my way of being in the world. Its protection and its possibilities, but also its fragility and its instability determine my relation to the complex and uncertain world I live in.

E.S.: How do you view your own role as persona in net performances and how are your experiences in collaborations with other performers in one piece, also related to a coded structure?

A.A.: In my performances I have found a way to artistically explore my frustrations, to search my limits and possibilities and to share this with others. Nowadays we can act our fantasies on the Internet with the result that, because they are acted, they stop to be fantasies. We are changing. Our imagination isn't functioning the same now as it was a few years ago. How are these and other changes influencing our way of being?
There is a lot of utopic phrasing about enhanced collaboration via Internet. In my experience it's not that simple. I don't want to decide if it's true or not, I want to experiment its nature, because I am convinced that machine-mediated collaboration dynamics are different from regular ones. In Huis Clos / No Exit http://www.bram.org/huisclos/ , a networked performance project investigating collaboration, I see shifts, interruptions, cuts, flux variations, temporary vacuums and coding errors in and between the images, as the aesthetic materials that will translate the possibilities and the limits of our capacities to be together in a cyberized environment.

E.S.: Another aspect in computational art is the double bond disparity of human being and technical device, could you outline your project "Being Human" and interrelated behaviour of human - machine experiences in your own work?

A.A.: "Being Human" is no really a project. It's more a container word for my net art activities between 1997 and 2008. When I started working on the net, one of its most attractive features was the absence of a contextualising intermediate person between my art and its public. My work was addressing someone, not necessarily looking for art, in front of his or her own computer. This situation made it possible and necessary to ask myself questions as: What do I have in common with this unknown other? What are the common dividers of the human being? The theme stayed with me for some time, but the Internet changed and me too. I became more focussed on the limits and possibilities of especially machine-mediated communication and its consequences on our behaviour.
With hindsight I see that human behaviour was also at the centre of my net art pieces. Suzanne Langer in "Feeling and Form" (1977) wants the third dimension to be the object of the esthetical contemplation of paintings, and movement its object in sculpture. Arjen Mulder in "Understanding Media Theory. Language, Image, Sound, Behavior" made me think that behaviour could be the object of esthetical contemplation in pieces of Internet art. "Every art object contains a virtual feeling, a feeling given form, which through being given form is virtualised and can thereby be actualised again - if not as experience, then as something it is possible to experience", Mulder concludes (UMT, 2004, p. 191).

E.S.: Recently you created a piece about Madness / Folie http://bram.org/folie/index.php , how did you formulate this social issue and how did you merge it with a non-virtual and virtual space?

A.A.: In 2000 I spend 7 weeks in a psychiatric hospital and I was stunned about how one's attitude towards such an institution can change. The moment I crossed the doorstep the environment changed from a hostile into a securizing one. I made the video The Green Oaks http://www.vimeo.com/4724208 about this place that I characterized as one where there are no norms only rules.
When at the beginning of this year I was invited by the CNES La Chartreuse to participate in their lecture performance series during the Avignon theatre festival, and when, while visiting the place, I was proposed a cell where they formerly jailed "crazy" monks as the place for the performance I immediately jumped on the occasion to work again on madness. I started an Internet collection Madness / Folie ? that I used later in the performances If you not me http://aabrahams.wordpress.com/2009/07/03/if-you-not-me/ . In this performance I invited the visitors inside a cell to read aloud the text written by the webpage visitors. But as they were entering this space where there were no norms but only rules, I asked them to obey certain rules and to tend to certain activities as card playing, producing papier maché grips, watching a reassuring video or reading a journal "Tout va bien" (All goes well). Once inside I wasn't leading the game any more, so besides assisting in a reading of a text we also participated in an exercise of auto-organisation.
As to the question "Does madness exist on the internet?" I guess the answer is "no". Internet is a universe with a lot of rules, but no norms? To give a more subtle answer I would need to perform an English spoken version.

E.S.: Your work as a net artist unfortunately affected yourself in bodily diseases, how did it happen that online work and virtual collaboration caused serious health troubles?

A.A.: I don't think online work made me sick. It was more complex. But it is true that my urgent hospitalisation in a psychiatric department was the result of RSI problems, not recognized by the medical corpus. And it is also true that at least partly these Repetitive Strain Injury problems were due to excessive working in front of a computer. I think it had a lot to do with my natural inclination to forget my body. I panicked when someone told me I could forget about working on a computer in the future. The computer and the connexions it made possible were almost all my life and so I became seriously ill. Fortunately this person was wrong. It took a long to time to recover and to learn how to take care of myself, body included. Separation http://www.bram.org/separation/index.htm .


Evelin Stermitz graduated in media and new media art from the Academy of Fine Arts and Design, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia, and she is holding a master's degree in philosophy from media studies. Her works are in the field of media and new media art with the main emphasis on post-structuralist feminist art practices. Beside her artistic work, Evelin Stermitz's research work is focused on women artists in media and new media art. More about her work is published at her personal website http://evelinstermitz.net.



Wed Nov 18, 2009 00:00 - Thu Nov 19, 2009



Video Art Exhibition
Plus 3 Ferris Wheels
curated by Adriane Little

November 18 - December 4, 2009
DDT Delavski dom Trbovlje, Trbovlje, Slovenia



Participating Artists:
Dave Ball
Megan Berner
Valerie A. Brodar
Anna Campbell
Jenna Caschera
Christopher Cassidy
Brian DeLevie
Celeste Fichter
Michael Gambill
Matthew Garrison
Jodi Hays
Daniel Kariko
Jacek J. Kolasinski
Karie Kuiper
Ron Lambert
Bryan Lauch / Petra Pokos
Gary Lindgren
Lucinda Luvaas
Lilianne Milgrom
Esther Maria Probst
Blake Shirley
Evelin Stermitz
Heather Stratton
Thanh VanVo
Vonda Yarberry

Beside her curatorial project, Adriane Little is exhibiting her work Matrilineal Ghost.

The exhibition is organized by DDT, Zoran Poznic, Dusan Bucar and Spela Pavli.


New Media Art in Slovenia: An Interview with Narvika Bovcon and Aleš Vaupotič

New Media Art in Slovenia: An Interview with Narvika Bovcon and Aleš Vaupotič
by Evelin Stermitz, July 2009

Narvika Bovcon is a new media artist. She studied visual communications design for the BA, video and new media art for MA and theory of new media for PhD, all at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia. She works as a lecturer of design practice and as a researcher of human-computer interaction design at the Laboratory of Computer Vision at the Faculty of Computer and Information Science, University of Ljubljana.
Aleš Vaupotič is a new media artist and literary comparatist. He holds an MA in video and new media art and is finishing his PhD in comparative literature, in which he connects his comparatistic theory with the artistic research in new media.
Both are involved in ArtNetLab, Society for Connecting Art and Science, Ljubljana, Slovenia. http://black.fri.uni-lj.si/

Evelin Stermitz: To introduce you and your involvement in digital installations and interactive new media works - How did you come to this field of art and what is most influential?

Aleš Vaupotič: At the undergraduate level I studied comparative literature, i.e. the artistic use of language which of course foregrounded the aspects of (verbal) communication as art. The step towards installation art and media art was in this sense natural. The influence was therefore of course theories of literature as a medium and theories of discourse in general. From the artistic part I was involved in video parallel to my theoretical studies. So the history of video art for me is still the foundation on which I try to build new media art pieces.
Narvika Bovcon: As a visual communications designer I was introduced to graphic design as means of communication. The interfaces and the software for graphic design are the basis of the interactive visual art. I was always sceptical about the advertising aspect of design, so I turned to the essence of building the image and communication, which I understood as art. The interaction, motion graphics and virtual worlds were the fields of interest.

E.S.: You mainly work together in your projects like other famous artist couples. How do you collaborate in the invention and developmental phase of your works?

N.B.: For new media art projects we always work together and usually with a team of computer engineers.
A.V.: The more technically complex and interactive the project, the bigger the team and the more we actually work as producers or “managers”. We conceptualise the project together by brainstorming. We decide on the meaning of particular parts of the project and the whole impression that it is supposed to have on the user together in a dialog. Sometimes we work with other artists and we decide on issues together or we divide the project in different segments. Also, between Narvika and me, we divide the work: Narvika usually does the visual aspect of the work, I write theoretical texts. However, at the end we both have to like, what the other one did. We quarrel a lot.

E.S.: Could you describe your first major solo exhibition “Artistic Archive: Two Examples” regarding your theoretical background of approach?

A.V.: We did two main exhibitions with catalogues which summarized our work that happened in certain time spans. http://vaupotic.bovcon.com/files/vspcmousserap.pdf http://black.fri.uni-lj.si/jaques/files/jaques\_cat\_reduced.pdf In 2004 we had the first exhibition of “Artistic Archive: Two Examples” where we have shown works that were, as the title says, archives. It included works such as “VideoSpace” - an archive of projects “RIII”, “VSA” and “Javornik”, which all in turn were also archives. “RIII” was a reading of one of the Shakespeare’s history plays reconfigured as an archive. “Javornik” was an archive of videos arranged in a certain composition. “VSA” was not really an archive; it was a collection of data. However, the important thing is that all the three projects were integrated in a virtual space as an exhibition space, which was, of course, an archive. The theoretical influence for this piece was the theory of chronotope and of dialogism by Mikhail Bakhtin. And the theory of Michel Foucault as presented in his key work “The Archaeology of Knowledge”. Lev Manovich, whom we didn’t know at the time we finished the projects, presented a similar view on new media art in his work “The Language of New Media”. I think that Bakhtin’s and Foucault’s theories put more emphasis on the way the relationships between the elements of an archive are construed, since they have to acknowledge the problem of the negativity of the element of the structuralist view of reality. Their solutions are in my opinion still valid. This exhibition was an archive of archives on the one hand in the gallery space and on the other also online. There was a second project, the second archive at this exhibition, which was “Mouseion Serapeion” http://black.fri.uni-lj.si/mouseionserapeion/page1\_en.php an archive of videos and digitised art works, which was built as an art project. What Narvika and I did was that we tried to use the elements of other people’s artworks and our artworks along with them to build our artistic project only from the relationships between the elements of the archive. Our “positive” product was the result of pure relationships between other people’s elements.
N.B.: The other main interest of artistic conceptualisation in “Mouseion Serapeion” was the search engine used to browse this archive. We conceptualised and implemented the search in 2004 as a reflection of the relations between the works included in a curated archive combined with the history of browsing which the users performed in real time online. So each time the user searches for an element in the archive, the structure of the archive is reconfigured, i.e. the relations between the elements are changed, which reflects the interest of the user/community and thus gathers the results of the next search string that are most appropriate to the user. For each search the user is presented with the main hit and additional six hits that form a constellation of relations in the archive. However, if the user is passive, the hits repeat themselves and the archive closes up, whereas with active search the archive is opening to the user with new hits and additional meaning. With this kind of search engine we wanted to reflect upon the user’s entering into a dialog with a larger mind. We were inspired by the planet Solaris in Tarkovsky’s movie: the planet that gives the user the image that he/she wants the most. Or on the other hand, by the image of god as a self-portrait in Dürer’s painting and in the renaissance mystical thought of Cusanus. In January 2006 we launched the Wiki version of the archive that allowed anyone online to upload new or delete existing elements from it. http://black.fri.uni-lj.si/mouseionserapeion/wiki/

E.S.: Your second main exhibition “Jaques” happened in February this year in Ljubljana, Slovenia. Which spaces of reality did you build up there and what was the concept behind it?

A.V.: In "Jaques" http://black.fri.uni-lj.si/jaques/files/jaques\_cat\_reduced.pdf we focused on how the reality is perceived differently when the smart technologies enter our everyday lives, when they leave the specialized environments of galleries and laboratories. A smart object is an object which acts according to somebody’s instructions and, because of this, one needs to relate to it as if to a person, has to try to understand it, e.g. a wall which would be capable of replying to you in a comprehensible manner is not the same thing as a wall of an ancient Greek city, which stands before us dumb. However, both the smart wall and the wall from Mycenaean culture from the example are understood from specific narratives that give them meaning - the smart wall gets the meaning from the narrative that was explicitly developed by its author from our time - we have built the project “Presence” which is a wall that uses a particular situation from the “King Richard the Third” to involve the user in a relationship -, whereas the story that gives meaning to the Mycenaean ramparts is of course the “Iliad” and the whole history of studies of ancient culture. This second exhibition was entitled “Jaques”- he is a person from Shakespeare’s comedy “As You Like It” which for the most part takes place in the Forest of Arden. The Forest of Arden was used as a reference for politicised narrative space, a space that has to be understood but this understanding is not a passive one. One has to actively relate to its surroundings and this is true for non-computer supported elements of our environment as well as for computer supported interactive installations from our world. What we wanted to achieve in the “Jaques” exhibition is for the user to see the reality differently. To see it as an interactive arena which multiple authors co-create.
N.B.: “Jaques” exhibition was about smart spaces and smart objects in the mixed reality. It was constituted of multiple new media projects: “If you look back it won’t be there any more” (2006), “Lounge” (2008), “Dragonfly” (2007) in the first room, “IP Light” (2008) and “Presence” (2008) each in a separate room. We made the projects in the first room in collaboration with Barak Reiser, artist from Frankfurt am Main, whereas Igor Lautar implemented the virtual reality on the Data Dune platform with the Ogre engine for “If you look back…” This project was again a development of a kind of archive, where the smart virtual space was endless and building up in real time according to the user’s trajectory and his/her discovering of objects, new objects were generated that reflected previously seen objects in negatives, rotations, transpositions of related narratives. “Lounge” is a composite digital video of a virtual reconstruction of Anton Henning’s “Frankfurter Salon” and live footage of the authors composited in After Effects as sitting in the salon. “Dragonfly” is a 3D print of a digital model that is animated in the video. In the installation the visitors enter real and virtual spaces and encounter objects that are both real and virtual, material and digital. The same applies to the “IP Light” http://black.fri.uni-lj.si/iplight/ that has its own IP address and can be accessed and switched on/off on the Internet or with the switch in the room where it is plugged in the electricity. “Presence” is an interactive installation that involves computer vision software, which monitors movements and detects faces of the visitors in front of the two video projections. The videos are played in different order according to the actions of the visitors; finally the visitors have to act in a specific way if they want to see the video that shows the avatar speaking to them. The avatar was modelled and animated in Maya and rendered out as a digital human.

E.S.: You are engaged in the ArtNetLab, what does ArtNetLab mean and what is its ambition?

A.V.: We both run ArtNetLab http://black.fri.uni-lj.si/ which is an independent production unit. It grew out of collaboration between the Academy of Fine Art and Design and the Faculty of Computer and Information Science from the University of Ljubljana. ArtNetLab’s mission is to support the youngest generation of new media artists in Slovenia organisationally and financially by giving opportunities to present the works in Slovenia and in the international context.
N.B.: The collaboration between the artists and computer engineers is detrimental for new media art. Academy of Fine Art and Design, the Faculty of Computer and Information Science and ArtNetLab have facilitated such collaboration systematically since 2000, every year there are around twenty interactive new media art projects developed in this framework on the Master’s degree level. The collaboration between the two educational institutions is of the greatest importance for the development of new media art in Slovenia.

E.S.: Your work includes international exchange in your artistic work as well as in your involvement in ArtNetLab. What kind of experiences do you obtain from this various collaborations?

N.B.: We have worked mostly in the international context. ArtNetLab was the main organizer of the Maribor International Computer Arts Festival in 2004-2006, in 2007 we have organized in Ljubljana the Festival of Video and New Media Art, in 2008 and 2009 co-organized Speculum Artium. Working as coordinators and sometimes also as curators of international new media art shows was important for us, in this way we have of course learned a lot about the new media art in theory and in practice. Even more important was meeting artists from different countries.
A.V.: The international exchange has two aspects in the way I conceive art projects. I understand my Slovene identity through the use of language, the reason for which is probably my study of history of world literature. I think that one cannot make utterances that would have a general value since they are always embedded in a specific context, in my case the Slovenian one. However, at the same time language isn’t a fundamental entity which would grow out of things themselves, it is rather a system of appropriations, in Slovenian case of course the appropriation from European and international cultural sphere. It is some kind of dialectics of local and global which I think is the only way of making statements, i.e. artistic projects. So I wish to reflect my cultural specificity and don’t want it to enter my art works in a non-reflected way. This method was e.g. used by Slovene 19th century poet France Preseren when he was creating the artistic use of Slovene language and verse - he used German theory which pointed to him that he is supposed to use Italian poetic forms to build Slovene poetry according to the language-immanent conditions. I use international context as a language which I think functions in my projects as specifically Slovene. There is another aspect to this issue. For an author it is actually very difficult to see that he/she is a “typical” author. One needs to rely on the view from the outside.

E.S.: How would you describe the art scene in the field of new media art in Slovenia?

N.B.: In Slovenia we have some important new media artists. Starting with Sreco Dragan, who made the first video in Yugoslavia in 1969 and is making interactive and online installations since the nineties to the present day, he is very influential as the professor for new media art at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Ljubljana. Vuk Cosic is world famous as one of the pioneers of net art. Marko Peljhan exhibited at all major new media art venues and works mainly in the international context trying to affirm the third culture of artists-scientists. Jaka Zeleznikar “writes” alghoritmic poetry and codes interventions in the net.
A.V.: I think that the canon of Slovene new media artists and also of new media art in general internationally is still in the process of being determined. I think there will be adjustments made in the future. I think Sreco Dragan’s works will have to be reconsidered in international context.

E.S.: Video art, which has a great influence and history in Slovenia, became the predecessor of interactive new media art. How do you view this development?

N.B.: Video art in the closed circuit installation is a predecessor to interactive new media installations in how it involves the internal observer, as Peter Weibel has explained. On the other hand the multiple video projections and split screens from the tradition of expanded cinema are predecessors to the spatial arrangements of multiple narratives typical for new media. And the manipulability of the video image in every point of its surface could be viewed also as the predecessor to the digital image that functions as a picture and as a command board. Furthermore, the synthetic character of video image is a way of mixing heterogeneous samples of reality.
A.V.: I would like to point out that for me the fundamental art tradition is video art. I believe that video is a specific medium, which has a separate tradition from film. For Flusser video is determined by its dialogic nature, the relationships between the recorded and the recorder. In video one has to build a dynamic image surface, which has to be controlled in every detail all the time. It can spread into the environment in the form of video installation whereas the constant communicative nature is sometimes being provided by the smart capabilities of computer software. However the measure for a successful art piece for me is the reassembly of the elements of all the history of art and all the history of mankind and all the reality that surrounds us into an audiovisual shock. This totality of an audio-visual impact on the user that functions instantaneously is a measure that I use to evaluate my work. The other goal for me in an art work is the same as Kafka’s: to write one of Dickens’s novels.




ArtFem.TV is an online television programming presenting Art and Feminism.
The aim of ArtFem.TV is to foster Women in the Arts, their art works and projects, to create an international online television screen for the creativity, images and voices of Women.
ArtFem.TV is a non-profit artist run ITV and media art portal about Art and Feminism.
URL http://artfem.tv
For inquiries please contact foundress, curator and editor Evelin Stermitz [es@mur.at].