Interview with Vuk Cosic, part ll: Small and big thingz on net + art

November 30, 2008

This is a second part of the interview with Vuk Cosic entitled ‘Small and big thingz on net + art’, as a continuation of  ‘Small and big thingz on the internet and society…’

After you had a significant role in this huge explosion of net.art almost thirteen years ago…

VC: Yeah, I’m guilty! (laughs)

Yeah! (laughs) …we are witnessing now kids that are seriously messin’ with the code and doing some quality programming …

VC: And they do, yes!

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Institutions recognized the whole thing, bought the artworkz, so it’s a history now… where the whole thing is going? Particularly from today’s point of view and all advantages that happened in developing the intelligent Internet and intelligent applications…

VC: Well, what’s happening, just like any other technological innovation in media technologies, also the advent of the web particularly, gave birth to early formalist and, you know, pioneering experimentation. There is always a generation, and I was lucky and honored to make part of it, that is around when this happens. It happened from outside. But we were the kids to ask the right set of questions which was not how we gonna digitize our aquarelles and our haiku, but what is the new type of art that I can do, what is a new type of collaborating or creating that I could come up with or with my friends. And, online the answer to that question was net.art, whatever it really means, let’s not please going to that. I mean, yeah! (laughs).

And now, where is it going?  Well, you see, our job was to be the first guys around to ask the big questions, to give some of the answers if we can. Um… that’s a role of pioneers and we have given the world the whole pallete of genres. You can not find today a piece of online art that is not somehow rooted to what we have done between 1994 to 96’, that’s simply the logical thing. The real question is not what is happening to net.art, because simply it’s ubiquitous, it became the part of infrastructure, but what should progressive part of this generation do today and is Internet the platform or not? Ubiquitous computing, embedded computing, smart effects are definitely one interesting arena; the other is genetics, but Internet itself not, that’s how I see it.  In 1998 when we have declared the death of net.art, there it goes now, exactly ten years, the story was exactly that! The necessary investigations are concluded. What our group or generation could offer it offered. We did not want to built careers on it, we have successfully avoided becoming recognized as masters in this very classical sense.

Although, we are recognized as historic contributors, but I think there is a big difference there. We did not build ourselves… deliberately we avoided building ourselves and our careers as sort of gurus, you know, six hundred pound gorillas that only talk to presidents of state. Because we decided that our art also have, let’s say, social maturity embedded; and we didn’t want to perpetuate the standard procedures, standard way the society deals with art and artist. Right now, we have many people doing online work that is very interesting and relevant, I saw some stuff, but I don’t follow it seriously. Some of the staff I see is very good, quite interesting, but it’s still for me like seeing cubist paintings. There is a little bit of sixteen years gap, so doing net.art today is sweet, but it lacks social urgency, because they are not asking any question really, doing online mannerism.

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From the ASCII Unreal by Vuk Cosic (c)

I see, your generation was connected more to theory and bookz with a sort of discourse behind and within certain social context…

VC: Yes! We were self reflective; we were asking ourselves not only showing others. Asking what on Earth I am doing, why is this meaningful? Unlike some people who are still only looking on the world, we were trying to make the world different. Instead of noticing if there’s something missing, I mean, ONLY noticing; we went out and put it there, if we could of course. You know, that is a difference between just being an observer and being an activist. Activist component, hacktivist component was one of the key and tributes of building blocks of net.art in midnight. It’s just logical. Because of activist component, we simply said: OK, our work is done. Because, that was work, making off the world. Otherwise, yes, we can just sit around and go on, analyzing it. Since it’s changing, you can analyze the changes all the time. That’s good, but it’s totally irrelevant, absolutely irrelevant. BUT, simply, it was not our nature, of the first net.art people.

We moved on, Alexei Shulgin did music and software art; right now he is doing commercials. Heath Bunting moved to genetics, and then he moved on to intimate projects and some visualization right now. Jodi went into games; and they have a good show right now in Belgium about physical versions of Internet and so. We are all moving on, you know; and I think that’s also honest. We avoided the traditional trajectory of personal carries in net.art. We did not want to do a net.art department at the academies of science. I think that’s about being honest, about ethics and moral compass; and stuff like that.

But you still work on your own art stuff…

VC: I have three different departments, you know. One is art for artists, like early net.art used to be, which is actually a research . The other one is art for exhibitions and curators; cause I do shows all the time. I have now a show in London, I just came back from there. And the third is art for commercial galleries; cause I’m working with several galleries that sell my stuff to collectors. These are three very different fields although they borrow from each other, but that require three different sets of attitudes, skills and focus. That is how I structure my every day life; I have continuously… literary continuously I’m hanging on some walls for more then 10 years now.

Yeah, the show in Spain is over and I got some package back. It’s still hectic, because working in arts for me means all these different things; exhibiting through this three different types of channels; meetings and conferences that are constant and if you are not careful you can end up living only in the conference halls; and the third thing is teaching. I go around at art academies and schools everywhere, in US particularly, where they teach about net.art and my own work. You know, I show my face and everybody are happy! I talk with young artist why or whether should they do whatever they do. In US it’s very different then in Europe, kids are much more opened and it’s beautiful to have just these dialogues.

This year I’ve done this in Parsons School, which is a design school in New York, and it was amazing; among the most profound experiences of that type; and it was for me, creatively, much relevant than some of the art meetings and festivals. So, this art practices are still only one portion of what is happening in my life; it’s a kind of messy requiring a certain hard management ritual like sleepless nights, but hey, I choose this, it’s my life.

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Vuk Cosic’s logo

It’s very interesting that you basically became an archaeologist in digital sphere…

VC: I’m an archaeologist by training…

Yeah, I know…

VC: So, for me it’s the most logical thing, whenever I want to understand the phenomena, I look to its genesis, how it came about. Because of serious academic archaeological trainings I have a tendency to, actually, dig deep. So, for me to do Ascii was the most natural thing, I saw beauty; you know, conceptual beauty and meaning in stuff that other people just gazed over and never saw anything in it. But, of course, that’s a difference between artists and non-artists, also inside the artists’ sphere where we are attracted to different things, that’s only logical. The other thing that is intriguing is a sort of conceptual rhyme between archaeology and new media art thinking is that they both create narratives.

Archaeology is looking at some evidence and creates a narrative about a certain time and what art is doing is exactly the same. Based on some evidence, OK this time not material evidence BUT, some creative output and concept art is creating a narrative about future, or maybe about present, about a certain time. So, there are actually tangible similarities between archaeology and art; in that sense I behave like some instrument that is sitting on a tripod and has just turned it’s attention to another time period, I’m using the similar methodologies. All of a sudden, this sounds coherent enough so I can’t sleep at night.

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OK, for the end tell something about your beloved machine Mac… (laughs)

VC: Oh, about my Mac! (laughs) Yeah, I feel like I finally left the army, I left military service… I’m back to human (laughs). That’s the main thing, yeah (laughs).

Vuk, TNX a lot!

Related link: Interview with Vuk Cosic, part l: Small and big thingz on internet and the society…

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