petite mort In this issueBegin & End No.2 2004
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MTAA the art happens here (continued...)

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I’ve notice that your updating of art is similar to the way corporations are updating their services these days; for example banks make you transfer funds, make you fill out forms, make you find customer service, and sometimes even make you responsible for their quality control. Technology now a day has passed on a lot of duties to the customer. It has really become a self-service type of system. And although this would seem like cost cutting measures on the way they do business, we still don't see a decrease in their fees or cost of their products or services. It is helping them save money I’m sure, but as consumer we are loosing our time in performing their services. Is that shift what you had in mind when you started these updates?
TIM: We never spoke about it, but I definitely considered that being a change in the way the people interact online -a lot of the labor has been passed back to you.

"Endnode" 2002, MTAA   "Endnode" 2002, MTAA
ENDNODE a.k.a. Printer Tree Above: ENDNODE, Eyebeam, NYC, 2002. Although they never made a diagram for this piece, I think it goes something like: an email from discussion list member goes to the discussion list server. From there a program on MTAA’s computer grabs the emails as they are posted to the list and sends them to the printer tree server which I believe is inside the tree. In the last step the printer tree server sends the emails to the Endnode printer for printing. And I believe the art happens here, watching someone manually refill the printers.
 

MARK: There are different concepts in our work, like when you think of the computer tree, which is basically a stage that we built for people online to perform on, it's trying to figure out a different audience relationship. A lot of what net art is interested in is the communication back and forth, the net being the space in-between, so the printer tree in some ways is also the space in-between. With this tree, it’s audience, and some of the other things we’ve done is trying to separate and move that relation ship between performance and viewer just slightly so that the relationship becomes a little fuzzier. I don’t know if people need to know that when they see the piece to understand the relationship.

So for that tree piece you don’t think its necessary that the viewer understands what is happening?
TIM: Well, the trick for making work in a physical space is to have something engaging happening -regardless of whether or not you know that emails are being called from a discussion list on the internet and that there are people actually mailing to the tree. There is something beautiful about people who are into watching prints drops, that’s the first layer of the work, it’s visually engaging. Then when people find out that they can mail whatever they want to this tree and how it’s calling information from the internet live, that’s when it changes from just being a sculpture to an internet sculpture, where it’s really about the communication floating around.
Another interesting thing about this piece is the diversity of it’s audiences. First you have people that have some sort of experience with being online, they come in and look and [putting two and two together] they see this piece as a sort of kinetic poetry. Then you have this [other] bunch of people online that had never seen this piece physically but were interacting with it too. Then you have people who’ve had both [types of experiences]. So [in the end] we had these different sets of audience members who had never crossed paths but still interacted with the piece in totally different ways, I thought that was really interesting about that.

Did you ever think of doing anything with those print outs?
TIM: They in a box up there. (points to the studio storage) There are actually 2 big boxes. About as tall as that chair you’re sitting in. One is packed full and the other is half full. We probably went through at least 1000 emails. It always seems much less than you think.

Tim Whidden of MTAA "There's something beautiful about people who are into watching the prints drop..." Mark River of MTAA
 

MARK: We made the decision to keep all the prints because these two boxes are a physical amount of that information. So if we ever presented that again we’d probably built it with a pile or with a box packed full of them.
The thing that we talked about when we originally took the piece apart was that the list of the group of people that were interacting with it at Eyebeam gave it a certain direction or flavor. If we show it again we can change that kind of subject where we lead the discussion online that forms the tree and not. It doesn’t need to be about art, it could be about some other situation that we’d set up on these lists too. This would make the tree and that information develop it’s own character. The script would change but the physical stage would stay the same.

What’s other updates have you guys done?
There’s this onKawaraUpdate we mentioned, we did a vitoAcconiUpdate, and the one we’re working on will be called the Teching Hseih Update.

Which Acconci piece did you update?
MARK: Seedbed. It is this 1972 piece where he built this ramp in the Sonnabend gallery and lived for a while unseen by gallery visitors. There was also a speaker in the gallery so you could hear him speak underneath the ramp but you couldn’t physically see him. He was basically under the ramp being visceral. So for Artport we built a very thin line on the browser. The line was made up of a bunch frames that had little chunks of thing from web pages that you couldn’t really see. These web pages had this quasi-porn look to them -at least that’s what we were shooting for, but as you kinda dig though the piece a little more and you investigate pass the visual part of the piece, you realize that these little web pages, these fake web pages, are basically pages that we built to kinda have the look “about us”. So the piece is about narcissism. There’s also an audio part that is basically this loop of : “ohhhh, aaaahhh oohhhh ahhh” which was a computers voice doing the performance instead of us.
TIM: To actually get in there and see what these pages are about you have to know how to uses a browser and open each frame in a new window. So it’s deliberately obfuscated.

"['60s performance artists] were using what was then a new technology and they figured out what it was good at."
MTAA in front of their studio
 

Does most of your work derive from specific performance pieces of other artists?
MARK: A good set of them do, but the rest of the internet work is about this point of communication back and forth. Tim made a drawing a long time ago that somehow became our most successful piece ever, it’s a drawing called The Simple Net-Art Diagram. It’s of two computers with a line connecting them and a lightning bolt in the middle. It’s an exclamation that the art happens in the connection between these two voices, the dialogue back and forth. So the work doesn’t always necessarily have to do with another artist or the language of another artist, it has to do with this talking back and forth between audiences.
We did anther pieces that we just showed up in Canada, called Five Small Videos About Interruption and Disappearance. The idea came to Tim and I as we were walking through the show Video Acts at PS1 and looking at these Joan Jonas, Vito Acconci, Bruce Nauman videos. These early single channel videos reminded us of early net art. The actions was so simple: turning the camera on and do an act. This was the work. So for Five Small Videos we did the same thing, we set up simple actions that the viewer then controlled [from his computer]. These actions were repetitive blank actions about people disappearing and people interrupting each other. It wasn’t taken from a specific artists’ work, it was taken from the necessity of that kind of work.
The videos were all single channel and very linear, but a lot of them were loops like Bruce Nauman’s Bouncing in a Corner.
TIM: Video Acts was really a great show. They had a lot of the early video works which Bruce Nauman is doing all these repetitive mundane activities. He was playing this role: “I am an artist in the studio and what ever I and do in here is art!… and now I have a video camera and now basically anything I do is art" -that was the concept.
MARK: The best part about those video pieces is that the work was really aggressive, like the Joan Jonas piece, it had this stance to it. They were using what was then a new technology and they figured out what it was good at.  X

 

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