josephine bosma on 3 Aug 2000 14:35:04 -0000

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[Nettime-bold] interview with Igor Stromajer

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. 


JB: How long have you been making net art? 

Igor Stromajer: Since 1996. That is when I first saw the net at a
friend's appartment. 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

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 seperate 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. 

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.

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

jb: What is the background of 'Baltica'?

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 possibilties. 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
satelite navigation) art. It is about realtime data processing and so
on. It started like an idea, how to navigate with satelites 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
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


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