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<nettime> interview with Igor Stromajer
josephine bosma on 2 Aug 2000 14:38:25 -0000


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<nettime> interview with Igor Stromajer


It can be quite nice to see the different approaches to art in computer
networks. Have you ever sung your html code? Igor stromajer has. He lives
in Lubljana, Slovenia, and he is a net artist. I met him in Moscow last
May, where he did a presentation of his work that was rather unusual to
some. He had Jodi and Frederic Madre sing at his command, using the
vibration of a mobile phone to signal them when to start. 

: 

JB: How long have you been making net art? 

Igor Stromajer: Since 1996. That is when I first saw the net at a friend's
appartment. I am a theatre director by education, and at that time I had
been working in a theatre for three years. I found out that theatre is not
the right medium for me. I wanted my work to be more intimate. I wanted to
be very personal. I wanted to go one to one in artistic communication and
I couldn't do it in the theatre. Maybe I did not know how, or the theatre
is just not the right place for this. When you are part of a theatre
audience you are sitting in the darkness usually, depending on the type of
theatre, and nobody cares about you.  If you would not be there at this
performance, then someone else would be at your place, but the performance
would be the same. When I discovered that the internet is much more
intimate then the theatre I knew it was the right medium for me. Here I
can talk one to one: me as a creator of something on the net, and the
person sitting behind the computer somewhere is usually sitting there
alone. 

JB: Does it in this case matter then who is behind the computer, who is
the audience? 

IS: It matters that the audience is a single person. As a single person
you can go through the project as you like it: with the speed you like,
the options you like, you exit the project and come back the next day... 
you very much decide how you watch the project. As a group audience you do
not have this opportunity.

JB: What do you think of internet art works exhibited in larger spaces
then? 

IS: As far as I have experience it I do not like it. I think that virtual
or digital art should stay on the net. There is no need to put it in a
gallery or real space, because it has nothing to do with it. You can
-translate- the work though. I was trying to translate a net art piece
into the real space when I was singing the HTML structure of one of my
projects. That is what I would call a translation of one medium to
another, but you have to keep in mind it is just a translation: you then
have two seperate pieces which are completely independent. 

JB: That is how you see it: that they are independent. It does not sound
very independent to me... 

IS: A net art piece or any other art piece could be just an inspiration to
do another work of art. The translation made the project so different that
only the basic topic was the same: a kind of intimate communication.
Otherwise all the structures I used for the singing and everything else
was completely different.

JB: Can you tell me more about this particular work in which you sang HTML
code? 

IS: It came out of the form of presentation at all conferences and
festivals. It is always: if you click here you go there, if you click
there you go there.. a technical explanation of what is going on. This is
very uninteresting to me. I decided I would just try to draw some
attention. That is why I printed the HTML source, the structure, and then
I sang it the way it was written. It was a presentation of my project
called 'Baltica'. I did it in Skopje and in Berlin at Transmediale 1999.
The next thing I did was asking the artistic manager of the national opera
in Ljubljana if he could give me the stage for one night, so I could sing
the theory of the internet. It was possible, and the ministry of culture
agreed to pay for it. The title was 'Opera Theoretica Internetica'. The
realaudio is on the net. 

JB: How do you work towards this intimacy you mentioned inside a project? 

IS: It is my wish to create a project on the net that the visitor can
emotionally communicate with. The project would have to inspire an
emotional response, so he or she would not think about what is on the
screen or in the speakers. I feel like a sculptor. It is really emotional
for me to write HTML code. I do it manually. I do not use special software
for this because I really feel so romantic creating something with my
fingers. I put a lot of energy in it and sometimes it comes out also
(laughs). It depends on the user or visitor how he or she approaches the
project. Many times there are several possibilities what to do inside a
project. It is up to the visitor how far to go. There is of course also
the feedback communication like emails, ftp or different protocols that
are included in the project. It is not just someone sitting behind a
computer watching something, it is always a two way communication. 

jb: What is the background of 'Baltica'? 

Baltica is about a virtual state or country, on the other side. It is
something about the line between the living and dead world. It is about
what happens after death.

JB: But why call it 'Baltica' then? 

IS: There is no logical explanation. 

JB: Do you see the Baltics as a place of death? 

IS: I have been there once after I did the project. It is not meant as a
real geographical place, but the word Baltica sounds for me like something
that is not of this world. I did it in 1997, when my father died. I needed
a place to put him, somewhere. So that I could imagine:  where is he now?
There. I chose Baltica because it sounded emotional to me, far away. I
later discovered a beer is called 'Baltica' in Moscow (laughs), I bought
it. They have a light version and a normal version.

JB: What was the project that you wrote to Rhizome about, where people
could not navigate? It caused some discussion about good and bad web
design... What was your impression of the discussion that followed, and
what was the title of the project? 

IS: The title was GPS art. I try to use different machines now, especially
mobile machines, to transfer art. I do not want to quite the internet, but
I want to try other possibilties. I did a GSM project with mobile phones,
and WAP art (wireless application protocol) for mobile phones as well, and
I experimented with this GPS (global positioning satelite navigation) art.
It is about realtime data processing and so on. It started like an idea,
how to navigate with satelites in a global community. I discovered that
the main moving force is the mistake. We discover new things and we
progress by making mistakes. A GPS system is of course used for
navigation: you have it in your car, in your yacht.  The basic thing first
time users on the net have to deal with is also how to navigate. We are
used to click on words or images to go somewhere. If you remove this
option, if there is nothing to click on, you have to think about exploring
other ways of navigating the net. That is why I removed all the links and
I put some suggestions how to navigate there. You had to find the names of
the files. It is always structured like this: you have a map, and then
there are several files inside this map. They are connected usually so you
can get from one file to another. There is also another way, which is when
you type the name of the next file manually in the location bar of the
browser. This turned out to be problematic to some. When I published this
work on Rhizome I got many emails saying: there is nothing to click.
People were also looking into the source code if there was a link, but
there was nothing.  The discussion helped me a lot. Some of it went into a
direction I am not interested in. Like 'good and bad design'. I don't
think that has anything to do with me. I will of course use this
discussion in the further development of the project. The ministry of
culture bought me this GPS machine now, so I have it at home. I have to
learn how to use it for this realtime data processing. Now I have some
simulations inside the project, there are six options what to do, and
there is an open section where other people can contribute their content
to the project.  It is a work in progress. It is the first work that I
have done that I have created online from the beginning though. Everybody
can see how it is developing. I used to finish a project and then I put it
online. That is much safer: you can remove all the mistakes, you can
polish it and so on. If you do it in an open way everything hurts: people
have the opportunity to see inside the process which can be very painful.
This is good. I learned a lot this way. 



http://www.intima.org



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