Interview with Lisa Jevbratt by Lourdes Cilleruelo August 2004, published with the title Creando y manipulando el infome (ecosistemas de codigo, ordenadores y redes)
in Net.Art Practicas esteticas y politicas en la red,
by Laura Baigorri and Lourdes Cilleruelo, Brumaria and Universitat de Barcelona, Spain, 2006
1. About net.art
How would you define Internet art /net.art after 10 years of its birth?
While it might had make
sense to give it one label back in 1994 I don't think it makes sense today. I
still do work with, about and on the Internet but I feel more connected to
minimalist and conceptualist tradition than to a net art or even to a New Media
In your opinion, what is the most important contribution of net.art to the
contribution are the new types of collaborations that have emerged - the type
of inexplicit collaborations that was born on email lists and as a result of
the nature of the medium. Examples range from Natalie Bookchin's homework
project to RSG Carnivore project.
artworks move among net.art and software art. How would you define your
artworks? Are you considered yourself an net.artist?
I never did
define myself as a net.artist. I am just an artist that got really excited
about, and interested in, programming and the Internet.
or programers? about software.art
Goriunova, Alexei Shulgin in their article "Artistic Software for Dummies
and, by the way, Thoughts About the New
World Order" (READ_ME
FESTIVAL 1.2 May
2002, Moscow) defines the
artistic software as "software created for purposes different than traditional
pragmatic ones. Such programs are not seen as tools for the production and
manipulation of digital objects - from online bank accounts to works of art -
they are works of art in their own right. Are you agree with this definition?
Why? Why not?
Some parts of
the definition seem right, others are more problematic.Software art is for sure art on its
own, not a means of producing art. My software typically produces images but I
don't consider the images art, I consider the software, or the system, art.
However the purpose of the art software can be a pragmatic one. It can be a
tool and, I think you could make a tool for online banking as art. Just as you
could make a bank as art (just as you could make a restaurant as art the way Les
Levine did in the sixties.) As long as the tool knows it is a tool
it can work as art. One of the necessary conditions for something to be art is
that the 'something' has to be aware of how it is what it is - how it is and
functions as painting, sculpture, performance, restaurant etc. So software that
is art needs to be aware how it is software, and software that is too busy producing
things might not be able to do so, but it could.
argues interestingly in the early nineties in the text "The Art of Cyberspace"
that artists need to shift their interest from the content, the products of
processes, to the machines, tools and processes themselves in order to maintain
some control over the meaning generated from their work. I.e. in order to
maintain the traditional modern authorship role, artists should produce tools,
something that in the modern tradition would per definition not be art at all.
What is the role of programmers in the art context? Artist
or programmer? Is this question relevant? how do you understand the
relationship between a artist and a programmer?
I am an artist
who creates with programming. Just as people in many other fields spend most of
their day programming. While the widespread usage of programming is one of the
reasons for why it is an interesting art medium, it's such an omnipresent
"tool" nowadays that the term "programmer" might not mean much. It could almost
be as meaningless as calling everyone that writes in a natural language on a
daily basis, which is most of us, a 'writer'. But the concept of an
artist-programmer can be important in defining various types of computer based
art. There are artists who work with programming as their medium and there are
New Media artists who have no interest in engaging with the technology on that
level. I belong in the first group and I might not even be a New Media artist
at all (or at least I am rarely interested in what is labeled as New Media
you think that software is a "transparent" tool for the creation? if
not, what is or in what of consist its influence at the artwork.? Why are you
personally attracted to 'software art'?
Of course no
medium is transparent. A painting always talks about 'painting' on some level.
However, because computer programming, networks and software are not isolated
art mediums, because their specific history and diversity of usage, it is
possible to immerse yourself in these mediums, expressing the mediums
themselves, and be political in the same time. Even the formal level of these
mediums is loaded with cultural significance. Writing code is a perfect medium
for me, it allows me to be simultaneously formal, political and conceptual. In
an interview in a Swedish news paper the German media theorist Friedrich
Kittler said that in order to understand contemporary culture one need to know
at least one natural language and one artificial language. I do believe there is
something in that.
Searching for a context for your artwork...
his famous article "Generation flash" Lev Manovich says "This generation does
not care if their work is called art or design. This generation is no longer is
interested in "media critique" which preoccupied media artists of the
last two decades; instead it is engaged in software critique. This generation
writes its own software code to create their own cultural systems, instead of
using samples of commercial media. The result is the new modernism of data
visualizations, vector nets, pixel-thin grids and arrows: Bauhaus design in the
service of information design"
Are you identified with this description and, so that, with
this generation flash?
Lev Manovich is correct in that there is a group of
artists that do focus on the remixing and sampling abilities of computers.
However, some of the work he is describing is not about that. What makes
computers interesting for me is not how you can combine and simulate any other
medium. I am not interested in the possibility to sample and remix, not in
computers as universal machines manipulating symbolic abstractions of thoughts
and natural languages. What fascinates me are the networked and layered aspect
of these technologies, the protocols constructing them and what emerge from
these protocols. What the unintentional sampling and remixing taking place in
them is saying about us as a species and the world. I think code, computers and
networks are forming a whole new entity in themselves. Not like any other
before. It's ontology is somewhere between an organism and a geology, an eco
system of some sort. (I call it the Infome.) And that is probably not only
modernist but a supermodernist stance.
is a medium very popular, many people access to Internet everyday, however most
of them don't know its real essence, technical infrastructure and
its strategies (I am thinking in Jon Ippolito's article "ten myths about
Internet.art" ) Do you think that projects as 1:1 (data visualizing
and internet cartography) and Stillman (collaborative information filtering)
are necessary for this reason?
Yes, I do want
to make people aware of the cultural assumptions inherent in computer and
network technologies and I do want to show that we have access to these
technologies on many levels, not just as consumers and "content" providers.
does the aesthetics of code consist of?
I don't think
most artist-programmers are as interested in aesthetics of code as they are interested
in the aesthetics of systems. The system of course reveal the code in some way
but the code could typically have been written many different ways to produce
the same system. Art is inherently concerned with the perception and use of the
work, and what is experienced is the system, not the code. Personally I believe
that the choice of computer language to use is a more important aesthetic
decision than how you actually write your if-statements and loops in that
are you working in now? What are your new art projects?
I am still
doing various data tracing projects. One project I have been working on for
some years, The Infome Imager, is a collaborative tool allowing users to create
Web crawlers that collect and visualize behind the scenes data from the Web.
Why do you think there is so much interest at the moment in
free software? Is the free software movement important for the art? Why?
One of the most interesting aspects of network and computer technologies is that they
create and emphasize new, inexplicit, modes of collaboration and that they
allow us too look at us as a collective intelligence, as a species, an eco
system or possibly even as one organism. The free software movement
simultaneously facilitates and thrives on this fact.