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talk with dirk paesmans, jodi.org

dusan barok, magde kobzova     print
wednesday may 24, 2006
Dusan For the games you have this manual how to play them and for the net how to use it and where to click and lot of your works for instance look as you’re avoiding these manuals, go against them. That you don’t really play it or use it, but misuse it. Then you have Adorno’s idea that perception can be activity. And then it’s like you are even against this statement.
Dirk Yeah, I don’t like that media or any kind of new media develop a theory of themselves. As if I will not be because we try not to read it or look at it, because I think like in all art it is about my expression, my art, or our group. Anything media tries for their own explanations, like all these type of festivals like this, is actually more a warning for me as an artist to take care that don’t ever become like that, because it’s so general, everything can be replaced by something else and you won’t notice it. I want to feel a personality of the maker, of the person within this group that has a vision that will be real or strong. It is also very political because in many countries new media get money just by saying we’re going to develop a project that is new media so there can be workshops on the site.. because the computer is the most powerful economical tool. So they will sponsor a lot of art including computers, networks and digital art because it will help functionality. It’s not so clean.

Dusan For instance if somebody would ask you to teach?
Dirk If it’s in an art school yes..
Dusan Because often these workshops are about the technologies here and showing how to manipulate it or how to use it and sometimes it‘s faster than if he or she had to get to it alone. So a lot of these things departed from the art scene and ended up or are continuing at the educational level.
Dirk Yes it’s true. Like Cory Archangel, the game modifier, Mario modifier, is also teaching now and also gives workshops because he has to survive in New York. And here in Europe on the other side there are the funds, the subsidies, it’s a cliche, but it’s true, you can apply for an art funding. In America you have to survive, if you get teaching, you do that..

Dusan So are you able to live from the artworks you did?
Dirk No. We have been able to get the funds than you give the review, you show what you have done in the last year or two years and then they think well this was interesting, they have public presentations.. it’s another way of control of keeping art in society. The other way is to see what you can distribute via galleries, and what public will want to give in return, as money or whatever, an the other is more abstract funding. Like for example there has been a time they have tried to revive or help film, the alternative film, everyone know you cannot make films.. so you have to apply to the commission.

Dusan So you don't have a free will in what you do and you have to follow these political rules.
Dirk No. Yeah.

Dusan Yeah, anyway. What was the decision behind My Desktop work?
Dirk Well, it’s me, and someone else, doing strange things on the desktop, like multiplying folders hundreds of times and then totally random behavior, opening files, popping up, hundred of times and so on, it’s like taking an instrument and start playing on it without any score. The desktop itself, you know, it's funny, when you have a Mac desktop, but also PC I guess that you open a folder and pheeeew, chick tchik, tak taks, all these little actions they make certain noises, so when you multiply multiply it hundred times, tchick tchak lililing, chku, it’s like a machinery that went crazy, so you play on the desktop, on the interface only.
I pectacle, actually that this is it, there is a bit... there is already so much happening on the desktop, in the frame and around it, that the rest is almost a byproduct.
We’ve made a software before OSS software which is a software which does strange things with your computer and which actually makes the user react a bit in panic. and then many times without neccessary with this ... This is black and it’s flickering, shit! I have to remove this! and then he starts removing and the there is a double under it and then he sees, oh shit, there are twenty of them, and then they start doing nervous things and then they, yes, it’s more a drama that they imagine, it’s not so bad, they only react.

Magde I wonder what is the relationship between this and hacking.
Dirk Hacking is more technical in general, hacking is almost the opposite but it’s good also that it’s..
Magde When you get to someone’s computer and it starts doing things he doesn’t expect or it could be done this kind of way...
Dirk But then you have the ways when you do it in a very technically advanced way that you create a friendly virus, then you have to do it very constructive. And you demonstrate so bad amateur behaviour that it almost has the same effect, I mean you can’t imagine that someone is doing something so stupid or so different from the normal rules. For example multiplying folders, opening them at the same time, then throwing them to the trashcan and trying to delete it. A virus would do it a really advanced virus could do it, but you could also do it yourself when you were in the state of a five year old, let’s say, a five year old child for example would do it for fun, because it would like it, it makes sound and talalla, they think it’s great. It’s like a ball is not made for playing football only you can also just play with it on the walls, I mean it’s not just to be played eleven players against eleven players.

Dusan Do you also work with no computers?
Dirk What is it? Old computers, you mean?
Dusan I mean if you do anything where you don’t use computers.
Dirk A, yeah. We also did this thing with GPS, but GPS is another type of computer. You record it, but later you have to have the software to visualize it and things like that, it’s all again on the computer. But that is the problem of the computer, you edit video on the computer, you can watch TV, you can write letters, you watch photos.. Everything is there, it has absorbed all analogue existing things into some kind of miniatur appearance, which more or less works but only inside the computer. You can telephone via the computer to Prague, instead of ... Yeah, it can absorb so many things it’s amazing, but scary also.

Dusan The thing is that this is still not really the big topic for the artists, or maybe it is, and I’m just not aware of it?
Magde When you look at for example Slovak contemporary art scene, there are people who make videos and they use computer just for editing and that’s it.
Dusan Yes, maybe it’s also connected, I’m wondering if you exhibit?
Dirk Yeah.
Dusan Now?
Dirk Yeah, we thought it could be a good change of habits, yes, in the last three or four years, we did maybe, by now we did ten or twelve exhibits. I try to keep that small.
But at least half of them were really bad, really bad and then some of them were good. And sometimes it’s a pity that a good exhibit, that you learn how you see something and you can’t repeat it or keep it.
Dusan So what do you see as good exhibition?
Dirk Good exhibit was when we showed the one in Eyebeam in New York, because there we showed the desktop things I told as really big projections. So the place was already big but the small.. What you normally see as a small desktop was gigantic, I mean big as you would see real in a presentation they put a the proto of the desktop. Desktop is always the layer, where they put the browser on, or you start Quake, or you start something, there the whole action is only in the layer you normally don’t see. You see it all the time, but in the background since you are doing something, writing an email, or.... so this time, the desktop was the main actor. And yes, you think of files and folders as small things, there they were huge objects flying around and making quack, the sound was really loud and all this was very exaggerated, caricature. It was really like that. It was really this exhibit and at the same time, because it was not the only thing, we had a setup of very old fragile computers in retro style, if you want, we recreated with, we bought old televisions, really old, the opposite of flat screens if you want, mechanical, with knobs to change the channels, because that were the televisions of the eighties and we had .... as a very strange little black computer and then the programs were on the casssettes - audiotapes. So this whole thing is not totally a computer - there was no typical screen and there was no hard disk. They used music, so the computers did not exist yet. The keyboard with chip existence, not a totally packaged total thing, you could see where these things come from. The flat screen originally was a TV, in the beginning, people connected the computer to the TV. There was no hard disk or container for the program, there were ttuutuutt, audio cassettes, so it was archeology. We had like ten or twelve of them and it looked like a big piece of hardware, because we thought we wanted to show the hardware side of things, not slick digital software, the software program, but we wanted to show that hardware as its typical influences. And we wanted to create a program with this, but we couldn’t solve it, because most of these computers now are gone, no one kept it or archived it. It’s a bit unfortunate because the whole retro style is so big now and it’s so big because now it’s presented in flat screens and several little iMacs connected to it, totally unrelated to the problems or origins of whether we try to say something about the machine or the computer. You look too much on graphics only, you’re trying to sell stuff, graphics only is much more sellable, if it’s on flat screen or on painting.
Dusan Most things you do are presented as jodi made this, jodi made that, do you also collaborate with other artists?
Dirk Yeah, we did a few, actually. We like it. But that’s strange, that was typical for the beginning years, there were all the time the collaborations, for fun. Almost like a blog in a way that via email I said next week I will open something strange on my website, but I need some things from other people, you and you and you, and make something. And then it was a little bit announced on the mailing lists, these small little projects were happening a lot. That stopped a lot with that group of people, but I see that people from the other generation collaborate all the time, blogs, etc. I think it’s important to be aware of the group because many times you use tools which were made by other people, like if you want to hack a game or make a modification probably, that’s unofficial, amateur program from Czech Republic, or Canada, from someone who was just a bedroom, a home developer of these things. It’s good to be aware of that, of another. That is still happening, that people are aware, for example now you want to hack a DVD, or try to DVD go crazy, then you need other people who have been starting to do something with it, you contact them and ask how is it.. You have to collaborate many times for something new, because you don’t have a total knowledge of this. Many times when the program is fully there it means that people who put the program there did already so many things with it that when you use it, they will recognize immediately that that’s been done before. Experimentation is the best collaboration.

Dusan Lot of the people who do the performances, the audience is there and there is an interaction during the thing itself. Is this appealing to you?
Dirk Depends how, but in general the laptop performances, I don’t find them very interesting, there’s too much copies, a lot the same, there are few originals. It’s because the choice of the program is again so limited, there are one or two programs to create rhythm or beat with the graphics and so on. That is another danger of the group, to be part of the group, you have to follow the rules a little bit, this is about abstraction, and pure and reactions to very electronic music, and you make suddenly little puppets dancing around that are not part of that group. With VJ-ing and laptop concerts it’s very much repetition.
Dusan Then you have also these networked performances when the people are connected through the net, make a synthesis or have also input from the environment.
Dirk Yes, it depends, it is difficult to recognize, you know, I try to look which is original. Visually you can almost not recognize it, because someone can do similar thing very fast just because he saw it a week ago in London and then he repeats it at home. I’m really interested in the person who makes it more than in the graphics only, like who is this girl or what did you do before and why? And maybe she is not standard, not a repetition, but anyway..
Dusan During the years you have the experience of perceiving the images, then you develop the ability to see like this is the original combination of the things, then you start to think how it could be made or you ask how it was built and it might be useful for you.
Dirk Yes, it’s not forbidden to study the technique of something..

Dusan I don’t know if I ever found anything that you or Joan wrote about your works.
Dirk No, not much :)
Dusan That’s also part of this, then these works are appealing to people because they don’t know really a lot about them.
Dirk That’s another danger, that they write a lot of stuff on top of it. And if we are not doing that, that‘s not really a conscious choice. We, I especially, did a lot of writing and mailing into mailing lists, but that was all unreadable stuff. Sometimes cut and paste from the text and with a lot of graphic stuff in between. Sometimes they looked as that if you would start to read them, most of the time they were not ascii drawings, they were ascii texts. I did hundreds of them, a lot a lot a lot. I also tried to do it in the serious mailing lists. That time rhizome, I bombarded it.
Dusan Then they kicked you out.
Dirk Yeah, after a while. It brings up many times a discussion, like this is really interesting stuff, we should address it or this is spam.





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