public01: save before it's gone
talk with maja kuzmanovic, foam
wednesday may 24, 2006
Dusan Why did you choose the subject of beauty?
Maja We were busy designing the magazine x-med-a with other three organizations and it was actually the first time that we worked with the different organizations having to agree on the aesthetics. And it seemed like people couldn’t actually talk about it as easily as they can talk about concept or the structure of something. People were offended very quickly or were talking in a very opinionated and strong language. And we thought actually in all these new media conferences in the past years there is not much talk about aesthetics. So maybe we actually lost the ability to talk about it. I didn’t think so because in our organization we talk about it all the time.
Dusan So now we talking about the x-med-a publication. It worked out finally.
Maja Through lot of talking. At the beginning they did not want to say what they like, they did not want to give examples because of something and it took big effort to get people say ‘i really really like this’ or ‘i really hate this’ and show us things that they like. We were there to try to stretch this magazine inbetween all these people’s ideas because there was something ultramodernist like ‘i want concrete and steel and blocks of colors’ and so on.
Dusan So you came out of the point that it’s hard to speak about, so let’s speak about it. The guy from the audience came out with few points that a lot of these topics related to aesthetics were discussed three or four hundred years ago. There is this approach to taking it as a progress in thinking and it might even look that the topic of aesthetics is sort of out of the date.
Maja There was something we also wanted to see. Maybe it is. At the same time I think we should pass this modernist idea that we should have progress in everything. Even in the modernism they were still going back to things in the past though, so what we responded was – sure, it’s an old idea, but it is an universal idea that keeps appearing no matter where and when. But at the same time if you talk to Guy van Belle who is really not so concerned with it, he still has a lot of opinions about it. There is this tension between people, for example Michael Samyn who thinks that after the 19th century beauty has died, he’s very depressed about it, so having him and Guy at the same table was interesting.
Dusan The point of Dirk Paesmans was that beauty is always already there, which was basically the same as Michael’s, but at the same time they were not able to agree on the things.
Maja I do agree that it is always already there, it’s just that we don’t really see it anymore. It’s more likely that we look at the things that are problematic in the world.
Dusan Do you understand your and FoAM’s activities as being part of this media art field? In art history it looks like media art is hot new, just 3 or 4 decades old thing to focus on, but at the same time you are saying that progress doesn’t work anymore..
Maja I started to work in media art in the beginning of the 90s when we were all extremely excited about the possibilities of the technology and we were also thinking that we are going to save the world. But since a few years it just seems that it became kind of elitist group of people who don’t really communicate with the outside world. In the beginning of this internet thing it was about ‘yes, we’re going to spread out through it again’, because in the 60s and 70s with all this conceptual stuff it became very secluded. And now it seems that the same thing is happening at least in Belgium and at the festivals and conferences that i’ve been to in the past years. This enthusiasm is gone. People still talk about the same things but it seems it is becoming the closed circle. So what we are trying to do with FoAM is to break this open into different fields. But still we are excited about digital technologies and it is what we do and use and make, but we want to break it open.