1. Desire. I come from a social and cultural
context which has its language taboos, and
among them a strong one refers to the libido.
Desire is, therefore, something rather
personal, and connecting it to the public
sphere might personalize the approach in a
naive sense I learned to avoid. But since the
same topic has been voiced last year in the
calling papers of the Enschede Photo Biennial,
we might be dealing here with a common place,
therefore with a language defensive reflex, and
this is something useful to talk about.
If I look back to my experiences with language, the first strong moment of automatic defense I can remember is the "anti-" frenzy of the 60s. At that time, at least in Romania, every concept was refreshed by becoming an "anti" concept. In a society where Art was seen both as an instrument of personal salvation and a resource for political compromise, everybody was secretly hoping to succeed in experiencing that ultimate oxymoron - the anti-art acknowledged as the supreme art form. This is the target of the defensive language - to keep its users both beyond and within the power structures - as accepted outlaws, or as a neutral accomplices.
A similar experience was the clash with the media culture, which started for the Romanians in the spectacular way everybody witnessed by December '89. What struck me ever since is the way this specific segment transforms its reflexive discourse in a surface of common places.
First, by the stylistic option of the English language itself, transformed into a somehow baroque mutant, as if the translations of Baudrillard and Virillo brought with them a new kind of infatuation. This way, la France should be no more paranoiac about losses in the fight for cultural imperialism since she survives pretty well as a virus hosted in some structures of the lingua franca.
Secondly, by the self reproducing metaphors: in a system of mirroring processes, the living environment replicates in media symbols, while the media environment is described as a living structure. More one tries to cope with the media meta-discourse, more shis dragged into a stream of reiterated rhetoric loosing value at high speed.
The metaphor launched for the purpose of our gathering - I mean the "wired desire" - is a bias recognition of the fact that originality was killed by its underdog - the libido. Being part of a scene is less a moral emergency than a normal sexual impulse, like the dream of having money, fancy cars, trendy clothes, fast modems, or any other totems. Which is only moral, anyway.
2. Wired. The phenomena I sketched previously
belong to a level deeper than the elaborated
promotional strategies. They are imprinted at
the instinctual level of behavior as a part of
survival techniques. Therefore, as far as
artists are concerned, they do not want to
change radically the art system (they never
wanted it, over ages), but just to adapt their
specificity to the new masks of power.
The whole trick lies in the ability to cover your killing instincts (the artist is a suppressed killer of the "otherness" in the name of his own "difference") in a new model of tolerance.
The scary part of this model is that it has no obvious oppressive sides. That it looks so rigorously different from our daily top-down experience. Which brings the defensive response of metaphors by which the old language doesn't necessarily deny the new media, but just diminish it, as people try to do by making conversation to a mad dog.
After 1989 my writing adopted the modesty of sampling from a ready made database of metaphors. And my work got also quite easily into the common place of modesty by operating with an archive of photographs, under the cover of a project called "The Art History Archive" (A.H.A.).
"Hacking through history", "living in a data room", "the artist as a virus" are the captions underlining an image of anonymous activism that I was integrating full heartily. The new aim was to recombine the tridimensional oppressive discourse within the horizontal massification of a web project.
And since I worked previously with Geert Lovink, as soon as I moved to Berlin I met Pit Schulz and the Internationale Stadt people. They were all happy to help me building and hosting A.H.A. So, my connectivity was good, although I never thought if I had or not a desire to be wired.
Significantly enough for this unclear libido matter, the A.H.A web site remained unfulfilled, and it will stay like this, at least for a while. The web is for the moment a very demanding site, because it combines the electronic sophistication with a rudimentary interface. It reflects actually pretty well the Jurassic Park atmosphere of the whole media industry, with generations who replace each other in a catastrophic rhythm.
This survival effort involves also old media people, and that makes the web an interesting critical tool. At the same time, the web is forcing the artist into a promoter of essential expression, being therefore an ethnographic carrier, more than a museum space. More form you put in your discourse, less communication you can expect. A synthetic Nigerian sculpture contains less data than a Bernini and it trades faster in the net. So, if you want to be cyber- Bernini, don't go there!
What the web needs at the present stage of its development is to invent a substitute for the archetypal village, where cyber-peasants happily curve ritual sculptures in their spare time; or it will be forced to adapt the policies of MTV and other media lobbies who play cool but stay hot.
3. Datadildo. The A.H.A is a sort of an ethnographic study on the survival of art as a document. The first web project related to A.H.A. was to design an interactive site, with funny stories about Corneliu & Augustin, two freaks who travel through art history and have conflicts with it. But people don't read funny stories on the web, so why do it? Another project was to throw photographs on the web, as a kind of virusing flood, and then watch the reactions; but photos are sometimes long to down load, and there is a lot of them out there.
Having an archive is a dangerous starting point anyway, for the simple reason that archives are just another item in the libidinal discourse of the 90s. They mean "I am in control, but I am un-oppressive. What oppresses you is the data which accumulates anyhow, and I just point this thing out to you. Take it or leave it."
In the old "anti-" times, people were making anthologies, or were building collections. It was the period of the post-modern willingness. In the cyber time artists dig out old archives - modestly slicing down pieces of passive history. Or they start new archives, sucking fresh data provided by others, in a kind of media-supported vampirism.
There is in Berlin a fellow who calls himself the Dildo artist. He is a cautious graffitist, never attacking buildings but only posters, using a very basic language, adapted to the context of a town where the street is still impressive in its visual codes. The Dildo artist is a user of the city data as a part of his sexual obsessions, which are very conceptual, very remote and very strait. As a failed shrink I can say that he is a solitary person, with a libido oppressed for aesthetic reasons; he is a misogyne, a traditionalist, a nature lover, an ironic spirit, criticizing star systems, consumerist tourism, Chirac and his nuclear erection, Christo's Reichstag paranoia a.s.o. a.s.f.
What he suggests to me is that, less than true lust, the desire to be wired expresses a dildoic need. A fetish attitude towards media, as much as towards sex, is converting the participation in the data stream into an excited expectative. What a dildo or a web artist can hope at the best, is to be discovered by another artist and used in his project, as it happens with the Dildo artist from Berlin.
We - the artists - are having a trip with art, and we do not want to lose it on the altar of connectivity. But will it be lost there? It is an unclear question, therefore it won't get at this time anything more than another metaphor for answer.
This is the metaphor of the DJ. We are all familiar with the culture of techno clubs and parties. That is the place where people are completely autonomous and yet still connected by the flow of sounds. The lights and the other environmental tricks make everybody look good ad move well. In this designed technoscape, the DJ is a remote god of the moment, hidden under a cryptic name as all of us hide under our e- mail addresses, sampling metaphors and manipulating the atmosphere as all good artists do nowadays, humbly but effectively. All this lasts for a few hours. Than we go somewhere else. To another party mainly. To another site.