matthew fuller on 24 Jun 2000 09:51:38 -0000

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<nettime> interview with SERVICE 2000

A UK based artist has recently launched a series of sites with domain names
remarkably similar to those of some well known London galleries.  This
interview was carried out by email in the second week of June, just after
the launch of the sites, which are as follows,


29 Uncommissioned Web Sites

Available Now From the Following Locations:-



>>You've effectively constructed a 'false' web
ring of some of the major private and publicly
funded galleries in London.  Do you expect them to
notice?   How did you choose which galleries
to target? Is there any inter-relationship
between them?

>Well, I suppose its possible
they'll notice - I mean eventually.  When I >first
launched the sites (quietly) two weeks ago I was
afraid it would all go nuclear very quickly and
the sites wouldn't get much of a life.  But I
>suspect that same lack of interest in the web
that has meant galleries havent bothered to
register the variants on their own names has also
>afforded the project a certain amount of
protection.  At one level they're just not that
interested or informed about this emergent
culture.   Its >more true of the commerial that
the public spaces.  But it tells you something
about the way they are looking at the web and not
really getting it.
In terms of the galleries I
chose to participate - well it was just a matter
of availability  and my credit card limit.  The
letters ICA can stand for many things and as a
result there were no ICA domains left.  So hence,
theres no ICA site in the piece.  The others, it
was pretty much on the basis that they occured to
me. If they were available, I registered them.
In terms of the relationship to one another - its
actually geographical, its a route that might be
taken by someone wandering round from gallery to
gallery.  When I was building the sites I started
at Euston Station, imagined myself going over the
Saatchi Gallery and progressed round from there.
Its a trudge round some London galleries.

>>The sites on these domains have what must be
some of  the crappest design going.  There's
untold animated gifs of opening and closing
envelopes, jumping bunnies, rainbow coloured
horizontal rules, and the music... did I clock
Tubular Bells against a background of dolphins for
the Serpentine Gallery?  Tasteful.  Can you
shame people into submission?

>Actually the Serpentine has been given a cruel dose of Jean
Michel Jarre. (the famous bit from Oxygen)  I
don't know if I want to shame the galleries. Just
to make them aware of something.

>>Christ, the
granddaddy of all the bad love parade techno.
painful.  Do you consider that  producing such
top artwork on sites whose domains are
remarkably similar to those of well-known
galleries is a way of adding value to what is
otherwise a straight act of  domain squatting?
Presumably if the galleries want to 'buy their
names' back, they'll not just be coughing up for
that, but for a bona fide piece of web-art?

>I really dont consider this cybersquatting.  It's
outreach.  It's an outreach project targetted at
galleries to help them understand the significance
of the internet as a communicative space.  Hence
the top artwork. The commercial galleries haven't
really engaged with the web because they've
failed to see how the web impacts on their
business.  And to an extent its also true of the
public spaces.
I was really suprised that the
Tate hadnt registered Tategallery in the
domain.  I actually had about 60 hits on the name
in the week before I even posted anything up.
Just people typing in the name on the assumption
that was where the site would be.  People who
wanted to find out about the Tate.  I suppose the
tate rebrand as TATE and then forget that
everyone else in the country, the punters, think
of them at 'The Tate Gallery'.
That such a mismatch should occur between a gallery and its
public - that it wouldn't occur to them to
register that and other variants.  It tells you
something about how web-awareness stands in a
gallery context as opposed to a political or
commercial context. Except of course for the
commercial gallery context  - where there's even
less of an engagement with the web.  Even very
developed sites are little more than catalogues.
The Lisson has a go at something a bit more
adventurous but I mean, have you been to lately?
The other thing
that differentiates this project from
cyber-squatting it that whilst all the sites are
for sale the domain names themselves aren't. At
the end of the piece I intend to give them to the
galleries I've targeted.  Its what they get to
take home for participating.  It really is an
outreach project, on behalf of the internet.

>>OK, so why the particular aesthetic for the
sites?  This is a level of web-design only
often acheivable by scientists doing side-line
home-pages for their other interests in
speculative fiction and saddle sniffing.  Could
you not have done someting less knowingly dumb
with the material on the domains if the
precise point is to make this particular audience
aware of the potential of this something?

>Well, I suppose on one level it has to be this
awful to really make that point clear. The point
being - look, pay attention to the culture you are
in because if you don't then something this awful
can happen.  Its a cautionary tale in that
respect.  A grey hat stategy, I suppose.  Also I
do have a great affection for low-fi html, for all
the gifs and midi files on those physic students'
home pages.  It must be the digital naive or
something but I loves its garishness.  The idea
that galleries, whose public image is so important
to them in the way it aids them construct value
around art objects, should have these crappy sites
is I guess a way creating a somewhat entertaining
contradiction.  For those in the know who are
directed to these sites by word of mouth its
probably just that.  But, of course there is
another audience for this work.  The 'genuine'
surfers who reach my sites through search engines
or just tapping in the address on the off-chance.
And I'm sure for them the lo-fi design functions
in a very different way - something approaching
shocked disbelief.  I've had a few complaints from
art historians who, unaware of the status of the
sites, complain that the quality of the design
reflects very badly on the galley and on London.

>>Do you hope this this functions in some
arse-about-face way to land you a dealer?

>No, I'll get that from my SFMOMA show.   And the email
drawings I'm doing next.  Much more floggable
than a gallery education project.

>>Nice that an art career is still that

>I wish.

>>How can you help people to find your sites,
rather than the more boring ones that some of
the galleries have already got online?

>oh, check out alta vista or compuserve for names like
Anthony Doffay, Sadie Coles or Saatchi Gallery.
In a number of cases my sites score more highly
than the official ones.  Thus whilst I've had a
fair bit of traffic from people getting emailouts
about the project - I've also had a lot of hits
from people using search engines.  And since its
a hermetic ring - once people are in....they can
just surf on.

>>Some of your previous work has
been in part about applying art methodologies to
the web - ie: the drawings of sites, the limited
edition download, which in many ways revealed
the procedural awkwardness of these approaches
have in a networked context.  This time you've
switched it around - why?  Or what relationships
to the two modes of work have?

>I take a lot of pleasure in bouncing things
between online and offline modes - and you're
right that this is in large part to do with
exploring what happens if things are transferred
or translated in different ways. Making limited
editioned digital works or hand drawing web sites
onto glass.   But I'm not sure this project is
such a reversal of these earlier stategies, except
in that rather than using the net as a source of
material it involves the creation of new content.
Underlying all of this is an interest in the
operative and presentational structures of the web
and how it gets used by individuals and
organisations.  Thus when it comes to making a
piece about domain name registration I can only
think of ways in which I can pitch into that
process.  The sites are a lot of fun but in terms
of what it tells you about how the web is being
used its the fact of registering very well known
gallery names that carries, if you like,  the
conceptual weight of the piece.  It seems like a
reversal - because its online not offline - but
actually its just the most sensible mode for
exploring the possiblitlities offered by the dns
free for all we live in,

>>How do you understand  this work in relation
to material by say, Luther Blisset, (the faking
of the artist 'Harry Kipper') or by (the invention of 'Darko Maver')
and other hoaxes produced more internally to the
art world?  Following from these projects, it
seems you're moving in a more gentle, as you say,
'educative' direction?

>It depends on the audience and how they come to
the work.  The audience reading this, if they
choose to look at the piece will read it as an art
project.  A web surfer who follows a badly formed
link from (and there is one) will
experience my serpentine gallery site as a hoax.
Depending on who you are the work will appear very

>>Perhaps the way to pull gallerists along behind
you is rather by producing something that
generates the debris they require to feed on as an
after effect of its own activity?

>It's funny you should say that.  One thing I didn't
plan when I started this project was just how much
extra email I was going to recieve.  Every email
address within  the 30 or so gallery domains
points to my private mailbox and I've had about 50
emails from people trying to contact the
galleries. In some cases this is people who have
made an assumption about an email address - or
just added .uk to a .org address.  In other cases
its people whove followed email links off the
actual sites.  I'm turing them into a series of
large pencil drawings - text translations of the
actual emails. So for example one text drawing
FROM 'SENSATION'" whilst another reads "THE EMAIL
PERMITTED ON THE PATIO".  Little vignettes of art
and life.  I think they'll be all the nicer
because people will probably be aware that I was
never supposed to receive them.

>>Perhaps the restrained and ironic nature of the
sites you have put up under these names would not
achieve the effects you seek so much as might
the production of  intense and vivid network
cultures (which may or may not correspond at
various moments with art modalitities)

>I wonder.  It would be fantastic to see galleries
actually using their sites for cultural - rather
than straight ecommerce - purposes.  How much
richer many of the official sites would be if they
were engaging with those possibilites.  In this
instance, however, I probably feel my job is to
get them looking at the web as a site that can
have significance.  Rather than be insignificant.
And I note that over the last three days my sites
have been getting hits from staff at the National
Gallery, Royal Festival Hall, White Cube as well
as the company that handle the south bank centres
web presence.  So maybe that process has already

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