Jaka Zeleznikar on Thu, 03 Aug 2000 17:00:10 +0200

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Syndicate: [Fwd: interview with Igor Stromajer]

-------- Original Message --------

"Interview with Igor Stromajer"
by Josephine Bosma (jesis@xs4all.nl)

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.

+ + +

Josephine Bosma: How long have you been making net art?

Igor Stromajer: Since 1996. That is when I first saw the net at a 
friend's apartment. 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 separate 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.<p>

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.<p>

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

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'?

IS: 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 possibilities. 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 satellite navigation--art. It is about realtime data 
processing and so on. It started like an idea, how to navigate with 
satellites 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.


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