Monday, September 29, 2008

Enacting the Internet

Dear Ela,

Thank you for your detailed description of our collaborative Blog/Theater piece "tabootheater 2.0" in Zürich! Now that several months have past since then, it is possible to step back, rethink and "relive" the experience. It was indeed a new way of working – to meet mostly online to prepare, discuss, and plan for the piece - and it showed that one can have inspiring communication on a virtual drafting board, create so to say a mental and virtual space for the piece before giving it its physical shape on location.  To work with participants online and on location and let both worlds merge together right on stage was also unique indeed...

I always enjoy and I am always excited to find out more about the peculiarities happening in a confrontation of "real" space with the Internet, as this is the main topic in all of my work. How to fill an exhibition space or a theater space with Internet/Web-inherent qualities, or more: How to make the Web visible in physical space. How to feel/act/touch the Web!

This brings me to a topic, which we both recently addressed, in a dialogue we were invited to contribute for "Curediting–Translational Online Work", a new project by CONT3XT.NET, at Vague Terrain, the online journal for digital art/culture/technology.  In our thoughts, which we let grow by emailing them back and forth a couple of times, we ended up addressing this topic: Curating as a performative event. And this describes pretty much what our experience in the theater was like: Organizing, directing, inviting, and redesigning the online Blog into a participatory intervention on stage. 

By the way, the whole series of essays in Curediting – fourteen different approaches to this topic submitted by different artists and curators  – is an amazing read!  

One of the thoughts weaving through our dialogue was  also – once again – the definitions of art on the Internet, net art, new media art, etc. Where and what each is. The easiest approach for me to define this, is to start describing my own work. My oeuvre includes net art - which is purely net-based work. And then there is "Web-driven" work. This is my favorite way of describing the work that expands from the Web into space while the Web is the "motor" – its properties, its code, and its architecture are coming  to live in different media such as digital imagery, video, sound, text, performance and (physical) movement, and even fabric.

A brief moment of self-promotion: My performance series Website Impersonation carries out exactly this multi-layered structure of embodying the Web. Through the ongoing participatory project "html-movement-library" and through the source code of the website which drives it all: the sound we hear is html, the visuals we experience are html, and the movements that are carried out by performers are html. I will be showing a new part of the series in Vienna this December. I will share more about it then...

I also would like to answer your questions about my experience in regard to the live online pieces at the Theater in Zürich. It was hilarious and thought-stimulating to perform a live-web piece with Antoinette Lafarge and her students. They arrived at the performance space via video-skype, joining our event as the "Universal Translation Service" with their motto: "Our goal is perfection. We translate all languages with 100 percent accuracy, guaranteed".  
The "translator" appearing on screen never seem to be the person we heard speaking,  there was always a moment of a strange "disconnect" between the words, the texts, and the speakers. A definite play on how identity online still can trick us, and how the info we want is often not the info we get...

A (theatrical) role that the three organizers of the whole Internet/Theatre event - Anke Zimmermann, you, and me - also had, was to be a sort of Blog-Protocol Impersonation, or let's call it, the incarnation of the Blog-mechanism. While definitely resembling the three creatures in the logo of the piece, we, for instance, reacted with "mechanical work" on stage to the above mentioned translation efforts. And while they switched from one translator to the next, we changed the scenery by turing the revolving stage, scrolling from one entry to the next. In between we also commented on their performance, in a way only uncontrollable tabooblog-incarnations are allowed to behave... :-)

theater image
Scenes from the online/live performance "'Universal Translation Service' meets the Blog-Mechanism-Incarnations" in  tabootheater 2.0.

This was also our real role in the theater event. We "turned the stage", decided when and which events took place; we organized, and somehow "directed" our participants, etc. So, clearly, our theatrical characters were a metaphor of showing our role as organizers of the whole event – in becoming the "protocols" and "mechanisms" of the blogs' organizational structure in space. 

Wrapping up my entry, here is my closing thought/question - bringing up something totally different:

The new size of New Media Festivals. 

It seems all festivals became larger lately, including as many sub-shows, threads, ideas, artists as possible. I heard and read this about this years ISEA in Singapore. Not to criticize this show in particular - I wasn't there to experience it - but it seems that New Media festivals in general become in themselves more and more a physical translation of the Internet. Sounds like a great plan, in the same time, it seem impossible for the visitor to see everything. As, on the Web, one picks, searches, bookmarks what one likes, one can only go through as much content as humanly possible.  Maybe festivals are not meant to invite their audience to see everything any more, but more to show the diversity that's out there, the same notion the Web brought to us - a possibility of choice.

I'd be interested in your thougths about this and, also, about the emergence of so many new New Media festivals in the last years,  and so I'd like to ask you about your experience with festivals in general...

And on that note, I'd like to hear  from your visits to Ars Electronica, and your contribution to the Upgrade! Festival in Skopje...

Many warm autumn greetings from New York,