Tilman Baumgaertel on Sat, 12 Feb 2000 18:18:09 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> Interview with Liza Jevbrett

in german @:

A lot of effort to say nothing...

Interview with Lisa Jevbrett 

Tilman Baumgärtel 

Only very net art piece deal with and questions the technical
infrastructure of the internet as radical as "1:1" 
(http://cadre.sjsu.edu/jevbratt/c5/onetoone/) by Lisa Jevbrett
(http://cadre.sjsu.edu/jevbratt/). "1:1" is not webart, not a clever art
homepage, not surface design. The piece is accessible over a web
interface, but that is just to access the piece that is about the
infrastructure of the decentral net work, with the IP Numbers and the
servers. "1:1" is kind of a net critique in praxi, because it is not just
a critical reflection of the internet form the outside, but actually
enters the net in order to understand it "from the inside out". 

A net art pices that deals with I.P. Adress - sounds liek an academic,
inaccessible work. But actually "1:1! is easy to understand, once you know
what an IP number is. "1:1" is not the first piece by Lisa Jevbrett, that
is less interested with the surface of the internet, but rather what's
behind it. The swede, that teaches at the CADRE Institute
(http://cadre.sjsu.edu/) at the San Jose State University and is part of
the "c5"-collektive (http://www.c5corp.com), tackeled rather structures
than "content in all of her projects
(http://www.c5corp.com/personnel/projects.shtml#lisa): her "Stillman
Projekt" (http://www.walkerart.org/stillmanIndex.html), that was
comissioned by the Walker Institute of the Arts in Minneapolis, made the
"cata traces" visible, that ever surfer left on the homepage of the
museum, her "Non-Site"-gallery (http://cadre.sjsu.edu/non-site/) hosts
error message form the server of the CADRE Instituts.

In the works of Lisa Jevbrett, the self-referentiality of net art is taken
to the extreme, which paradoxically gives them a added relevance. "1:1" is
exclusively about the medium of net art, the internet, but it is not l'art
pour l'art; it is an art work and a tool for research at the same time. 

Tilman Baumgaertel: Could you briefly explain how your piece "1:1" works? 
Technically and conceptually? How did you come up with the idea? 

Lisa Jevbrett: The project consists of a constantly growing database of IP
addresses and five interfaces to the database. The IP addresses in the
database are addresses to web servers. The project uses softbots to find
out whether an IP address corresponds to a web server or not (most IP
addresses don't), if it does, it stores the address in the database along
with information about whether the server allowed access or not. All
possible IP addresses will be searched eventually to include all existing
web servers in the database. The interfaces provide five different ways of
accessing the web through the database. The interfaces also serve as
visualizations of the web. Two of the interfaces link to all IP addresses
in the database from one image map, one provides random access to the
database/the web and two allow the user to experience the IP space as an
hierarchical structure. 

?: A pretty idiosyncratic concept. How did you come up with the idea? 

Jevbrett: We (C5) were developing the project "16 Sessions" for The Walker
Art Center that needed a way of accessing sites on the web in a numerical
manner in order to map data of physical interactions onto networked space. 
I started to generate a database of IP addresses to use in that process
and realized that there was something humorous and poetic with one web
page aiming to link to all servers on the web. It is humorous in its
hubris and how it is not acknowledging the web as a hypertextual space. A
very time consuming project - it will obviously never be completed since
there are new servers added to the web every second - that (on the
surface) doesn't care about the metaphors, the understanding and the
identified issues of the web, such as information overload,
categorization, identity etc. A lot of effort to say "nothing". And in the
same time I saw it as poetic because of its this hubris, like a medieval
map maker trying to fathom an unexplored continent, or a renaissance
astronomer aiming to clearly describe our existence. The enormous amount
of information involved could give the idea a sublime - a la Kant -

?: Do you see "1:1" more a technical research project or as an art work? 

Jevbrett: I see it as an artwork that examines the implications of a
technical structure and by doing that it is somewhat a technical research
project as well. To me it is interesting as art because of how it
positions itself as both art and research. 

?: How much time did you spend on programming the piece? Did you have any
professional programmer working on it with you? 

Jevbrett: I spend a lot of time on programming. Maybe I would be faster if
I actually knew programming from the ground up. I started working on the
project in January, but I didn't get to spend all my time on it until this
Summer. I love coding and my ideas are developed in the process, so it is
very valuable for me to do it myself.

?: A lot of your work seems to focus on the technical infrastructure of
the internet rather then on the design of sites or surfaces. Why? 

Jevbrett: As an artist I have always been more interested in underlying
structures and relationships than personal expression or experience. The
internet is an environment that makes the non-existence of a distinction
between structure and content obvious. Following the thoughts of Pierre
Levy I don't think it is possible to do interesting work by focusing on
"content" in this environment.

I think "The Stillman Project" and "1:1" are focusing on quite different
types of structures, however. Stillman is concerned with conceptual
structures by making explicit the traces left by peoples navigation
through a web site. It is clearly working with the metaphors and issues of
the web that we have defined as valid or important. "1:1" does not care
about how anyone perceives the structure or the information - except for
one interface: "petri" which borrows a Stillman strategy.

?: I guess to some extent you can't foresee how a project like "1:1" 
develops. Were you surprised by the results you got, for example the many
"invisible" servers, that consist of nothing but cryptic messages or
password slots? 

Jevbrett: Yes, I was very surprised. That was one of the reasons for why
it turned into a project. When I was first harvesting IP addresses for the
"16 sessions" project I saw it as a problem that the database would
consist of mostly inaccessible or undeveloped sites and was considering
the elimination of those sites from the database. Then I realized that
this was a new picture of the web and as such very interesting.

?: I understand that your piece was shown in an exhibition. How did you
show it in "real space"? 

Jevbrett: It is difficult to display net art in a gallery because the
audience might not even be familiar with what a web browser is. They don't
"find" the piece because all they see is "computer". While using the
gallery to make the project something more than a net art piece could be
interesting, we at c5 decided to use the space to create easy and clear
access to the project. I wanted to create an inviting setup that would
make people feel at home sitting down for a long time, just clicking
around. We had five sgi's stacked in the middle of a big round table
painted in a benign baby blue color. Around the table were five monitors
and keyboards each displaying one of the interfaces. By using one computer
for each interface we were hoping to make the project less confusing in
terms of navigation. Each computer allowed for one kind of navigation:
accessing the web through the interface, it did not allow the user to
navigate between the interfaces.

?: One way to look at the piece is not to focus on the IP idea, but rather
consider the workings of the softbot as kind of a chance operation to
generate an image. Can you talk a little bit about your "design choices" 
for the interfaces? 

Jevbrett: Design decisions are difficult and uninteresting to me unless
they have a conceptual basis. I admire people who can make things look
cool, I know it demands a certain sensibility which I probably don't have,
but I don't think "designing" is an interesting art strategy. I have two
main ways of determining look, either I make things that assume the
aesthetics of something known by simulating the functionality and feeling
of it, the interface "Hierarchical"  is a good example of that - it is
aiming to look like "raw" directory navigation. Or I come up with an idea
for a system that produces a visual output and I go with it if the output
surprises me, that's how the interface "Every" was made. 

?: Interestingly the same time you came out with your piece, there were a
number of studys of the "size" of the internet, and some of them focused
on the number of servers. So apprently there is a need to "map"
cyberspace, yet all the maps that are there (including yours) prove that
"the map is not the territory". Would you say that "1:1" is about the
futility of this kind of "cybergeography"? 

Jevbratt: Just as a painting always says something about all other
paintings, any Internet mapping says something about all other Internet
mappings. "1:1" certainly plays with the attempts to contain the web. The
difference between "1:1" and the mapping efforts you are talking about is
that "1:1" provides ways to experience the web while the other ones are
"only" visualizations of the web.

I think, 
and then I sink
into the paper 
like I was ink.
Eric B. & Raakim: Paid in full

Dr. Tilman Baumgaertel, email: tilman@thing.de
MY HOMEPAGE HAS MOVED!!! http://www.thing.de/tilman

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