Interview: santo_file

Agricola de Cologne (AdC) interviews santo_file (SF)

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santo_file
is a memegenic guerrilla group

artist biography

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Interview: 10 questions—>

AdC:
You belong to an art scene using new technologies, you are an active representative of a genre dealing with Internet based art, called “netart”.
When those artists started who are active since a longer time, the education in New Media was not yet such advanced like nowadays, often they came form different disciplines and had an interdisciplinary approach, those young artists who start now have partially this more advanced education, but rather not much experience in other disciplines.

1.
AdC:
Tell me something about your educational background and what is influencing your work?
SF:
We don’t have a formal background, neither in art nor in ICT. Probably that is one of the reasons we jump into the net.art scene almost from the beginning. If we were artists or computer scientist we would probably considered this emergent tendency as “non serious”. Our artistic background is more based in a punk attitude towards music and the arts as well as a common fascination for cyberpunk contexts.
Influences hmmm… Let’s see. First of all the so called “classic net.art” or as Olia Lialina calls it “the heroic times”. That is Lialina herself, Alexei Shulgin, Vuk Cosic, and very specially JODI who are good friends of us.
Besides that very specific influence, we can also talk about more general ones like the already metioned punk and cyberpunk, pop art, minimalism, some futurism and constructivism… Outside the art realm, we are deeply influenced by the idea of “meme” and how it is used in our contemporary pop culture.

2.
AdC:
The term “netart” is widely used for anything posted on the net, there are dozens of definitions which mostly are even contradictory.
How do you define “netart” or if you like the description “Internet based art” better,
do you think your work belongs to this specific genre,
do you think “netart” is art, at all, if yes, what are the criteria?
Are there any aesthetic criteria for an Internet based artwork?
SF:
To us, net.art is clearly an art. And we believe that to call something “net.art” it has to make an specific use of internet resources, and appeal to specific elements from it, being an intelligent use of hyperlinks, the use of code as a reference, the use of distributive elements in a network. If I’m a photographer and I put my pictures on the web, that is not enough to call it net.art.
We’d say that our genre is net.art because it exploits several elements of the internet resources, such as the process of navigation, the hyperlink the autoreference widely used during the beginning of net.art, and so on. More specifically we could even say that our work is mostly a part of the “classic net.art” scene, due to its use of HTML instead of Flash, the use of autoreferencial elements, small images (in Kb size), the use of non-intuitive ways to navigate the website, and so on.

About aesthetic criteria, first of all we think that all classes of art must, before all, give you some sense of wonder, emotion, surprise. And each branch of art uses its own formal criteria to produce such an effect. If there is no surprise, no wonder, no guts reaction then it is not art. So, the specific aesthetic criteria for net.art is to analyse how this wonder and emotion is generated using the resources that the digital media offer.

3.
AdC:
What kind of meaning have the new technologies and the Internet to you,
are they just tools for expressing your artistic intentions, or have they rather an ideological character, as it can be found with many “netartists”, or what else do they mean to you?
SF:
Despite it may sound a little Zen, we can say: “both”. So, from one point of view, we believe that doing net.art is an ideological position. You have to relate with it in a certain way. There is a “right” way and a “wrong” way of using. To us, the “right way” is the low-tech way.
But then, within that framework, there is also space for personal expression. Technology is also a mean to an end, not the end by itself.

4.
AdC:
Many “Internet based artists” work on “engaged” themes and subjects, for instance, in social, political, cultural etc concern.
Which contents are you particularly interested in, what are the subjects you are working on and what is your artistic message(s), if you have any, and what are your personal artistic visions for future artworking (if you have any).
SF:
Without being exhaustive, these are the main subjects that interest us:
The memes, and how certain elements of popular culture (images, sounds, songs, quotes) go from brain to brain, infecting people like mental viruses.This includes also the social part of the memes: how they are used to transmit messages and affect the general vision of people on what is work, democracy, globalization, sports, gender, and so on. So we are not activists in the sense of making projects which discuss specific subjects (like for example, the war in Iraq) but we like to discuss how memes affect our lives (so we can make an artwork on what is war in general).

Psychoacustics and how the brain processes sounds and how artists can use those mechanisms for their own interests.

Noise and glitch, and how they can be used to produce all types of aesthetic responses and emotions.

Low-tech aesthetics, and Do It Yourself approaches.

And about the future… More interest in these subjects, more artists jumping on the field, some geniunely interested, other just looking for fast cash. We expect a future in which “digital art” is no longer a useful term, and we just analyse the work by the aesthetic and social effects, no matter how it is done.

5.
AdC:
“Art on the net” has the advantage and the disadvantage to be located on the virtual space in Internet which defines also its right to exist.
Do you think, that “art based on the Internet”, can be called still like that, even if it is just used offline?
SF:
We don’t think so. That is specially true when considering the “heroic times” which use some specific elements like time response, aleatory access to pages and so on. The same can be said of collaborative work based on the interaction of several users, or when we have access to huge databases.

6.
AdC:
Dealing with this new, and interactive type of art demands an active viewer or user.
and needs the audience much more and in different ways than any other art discipline before. How do you stimulate the user to dive into this new world of art?
What do you think, represents an appropriate environment to present net based art to an audience, is it the context of the lonesome user sitting in front of his personal computer, is it any public context, or is it rather the context of art in general or media art in particular, or anything else.?
If you would be in the position to create an environment for presenting this type of art in physical space, how would you do it?
SF:
How do we stimulate the user? Well, we don’t really do it. We hope that the work speaks by itself. If they come and like it, good, if they don’t like it, also good. We let persuasion to advertisers.

The most appropiate environement? Certainly alone, at home. And if you don’t like the work, you can always try to surf some porn. Try to do it in a museum!

About the physical environment: I’ll try to recreate an intimate space (maybe a peep-show ;-D). Another possibility is combining computers and real world elements, like an instalation that uses sensors and robotics.
But, if the work is truly a net.art piece there is no much sense of trying to create a different space. The computer is the best environement. What we would do then is to re-create the piece, turning into something different, more adequated for a physical space.

7.
AdC:
As Internet based art, as well as other art forms using new technologies are (globally seen) still not widely accepted, yet, as serious art forms, what do you think could be an appropriate solution to change this situation?
SF:
Our own opinion is that net.art is getting more and more serious as time passes. Last weekend we just saw a Taschen book devoted to electronic arts! There are more and more publications, congresses, curators meetings, master thesis, you name it.

8.
AdC:
The Internet is called a kind of “democratic” environment, but the conventional art practice is anything else than that, but selective by using filters of different kind.
The audience is mostly only able to make up its mind on second hand. Art on the net might potentially be different. Do you think the current practice of dealing with Internet based art is such different or rather the described conventional way through (also curatorial) filtering?
Do you think, that speaking in the terms of Joseph Beuys, anybody who publishes anything on the net would be also an artist?
SF:
Beuys said that everybody is an artist. santofile says: everybody is an artisan.

9.
AdC:
Do you think, the curators dealing with net based art should have any technological knowledge in order to understand such an art work from its roots?
SF:
Certainly. Otherwise they just curate “by ear” programming the same stuff that others are programming. This happened a lot in Spain, where curators that were only aware of the video-art scene, only programmed video-artists or then copy what they saw from Ars Electronica, Transmediale, and so on.
That doesn’t mean that they have to be programmers or net.artists, but they need some knowledge to judge how a piece is done, whether this way of working is really revolutionary or not…

10.
AdC:
It is planned, to re-launch
JavaMuseum – Forum for Internet Technology in Contemporary Art
www.javamuseum.org in 2007 in a new context, very likely even in physical space.
What would be your personal wishes and expectations connected to this re-launch ?
SF:
Hmmmm… a wishlist!!! Let’s see

1) A place were net.art is properly contextualized and presented. Avoiding any “trendiness”
2) An experimental set-up were net.art is transformed in new physical stuff. Not adapted to a physical space, but really transformed.
3) Live space where artists,curators, and public can meet in person
4) A nice archive of texts, material resources…
5) A net.art only festival!
6) And lots of porn!

AdC:
Thanks for taking your time.