Domenico Quaranta on Wed, 26 Sep 2007 21:08:26 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> A silent, ironic criticism. Interview with Aram Bartholl

A silent, ironic criticism. Interview with Aram Bartholl
Domenico Quaranta

First published in "Spawn of the Surreal", Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Second City -- the show "curated" (reading on you will understand
why I use the quotation marks) in Linz by the German artist Aram
Bartholl - has been - no doubts - one of the cardinal points of Ars
Electronica's last edition, Goodbye Privacy. The show disseminated
through the city was highly representative of the "nice side" of
surveillance in the age of digital exhibitionism, an issue that was
at the core of the Festival. "Showcasing ones customized persona,
staging ones own image is the order of the day. Feature yourself
or its GAME OVER, dude!", wrote the curators Christine Schoepf and
Gerfried Stocker.

As one of the first big shows raising the issue of art and virtual
worlds, Second City has been an important show, and a point of
departure for further research. In the same time (and for the same
reason), it has been an highly problematic show, too. People liked
the idea to bring the exhibition to the city and the streets, but
there was a lot of mumbling and discussion about an approach that,
for many, was superficial and looked like promotion. As you may guess
from the previous post, I agree with this criticism, but what Bartholl
is saying below made the show more clear to me -- and made me more
indulgent to the show. Hopefully, it will be the same for you...

DQ.How is the project born?

AB. Ars Electronica asked me this spring if I was interested in doing
a concept and design for Second City - Marienstrasse. The idea of
going into public space and Second Life as a topic of Marienstrasse
existed already then. I was quite excited about the idea and developed
several workshops and projects. In the beginning I was not sure which
role I should play: curator or artist. I decided to put emphasis on
being artist showing several projects at Marienstrasse related to
Second Life. Which means I didn't curate Marienstrasse although I
brought in some artists in cooperation and had some influence. In the
end my name was on top for whole Marienstrasse, which is an honor but
also a great responsibility, as I realize now. My interest has been
more into developing and showing, rather than "curating".

DQ. Did you encounter any difficulties in organizing it?

AB. Of course there have been many difficulties in organizing. Very
basic elements like electricity infrastructure in Marienstrasse took
a lot of time. So in the end when the festival started Marienstrasse
was as buggy as Second Life. But also the process of choosing and
decisions in developing projects took quite some time. It has been
the first time that I worked on a project of this size and I think I
learned a lot.

DQ. Are you satisfied of the results?

AB. Good question. First of all I was happy that in the end more or
less all the parts were put together and things worked. But with
some distance after the exhausting week of Ars I questioned this
myself. I think you made a good point in your article on Second City
(, which
I already also noticed. I do work in a very simple way of transferring
elements or situations from virtual world to physical space. Every
single of these projects has its own quality and is contrasted by
public space. But adding too many of these transformations up in
one spot takes away the effect. I tried not to rebuild a complete
scenario. But in the end, yes, maybe we had too many of these virtual
elements in Real Life.

DQ. What did you like more in the project?

AB. The moment when a new project comes alive is always most
exciting. Does it work? Do people react to it? Testing Chat
( for the first time on the
market place was really fun. To see how four trees are build and set
up is very exiting. The Synthetic Performances of Eva and Franco I
did like a lot. Despite the rain I think the concept of putting an
exhibition in a street worked out very well. The chinese restaurant /
blumenberg food cooking in the yard was my favorite place.

DQ. What would you change in the project if you could put together a

AB. There is a lot which could be done different, sure. Yes right,
the in-world part involving Second Life inhabitants and artists was
missing. There have been some attempts but not serious enough to
set up a parallel program in SL. I concentrated mostly on Real Life
interventions developing installations and workshops. I am aware that
one general Second Life panel is not enough to discuss all aspects
of the development. All my projects involve a critic view on digital
worlds including Second Life. But they do it in a silent and ironic
way. This is probably not enough in a context like Second City. More
criticism and discussion is needed. Next time I'll make sure what
position I am in.

DQ. How can we organize a show about virtual worlds without making it
seem corporate advertisement?

AB. Difficult. In general this question fits to many of my projects.
A giant Google pin is perfect advertisement. Sure, this kind of topic
should also involve other virtual worlds than just Second Life. We had
the plan for an overview on Metaverses and history for the exhibition
but unfortunately it hasn't been realized. On the other hand Second
Life polarized a lot this year. People love it or hate it. For me it
is just a tool and a new development. I am curious about when Google
will enter the market...

DQ.Can you say something about your new project, Sandbox Berlin?

AB. I developed the sandbox concept for Second City, where the
beach at Pfarrplatz was realized instead. I think the possibility
of creating and collaboration are the most important parts
of Second Life. I love the bizarre Sandboxes. These and some
very view other places are totally different to what we know
or are used to. Quoting from the introduction of the project
( "The Sandbox in Second
Life is a place where all conventions are abandoned. It is the
real wild west of the already untamed Second Life. The Sandbox is
like a three-dimensional sketchbook. Every day, thousands of users
leave their tracks here: abstract forms, digital building sites
and house-car-plane clich??s form a collective surrealistic dream
scenario. In a world without rules, inventive users programme swarms
of screaming Sponge Bobs which other users pursue. Anti-gravitational
bubbles or whole fields of alarm sirens impede concentrated work.
The Sandbox is a kind of black market emporium of digital objects
and their programs. The formal chaos and absurd situations generate
a particular atmosphere of digital roughness and originality that
can only be found here." Sandbox Berlin translates this field of
experimentation into public space in Real Life. In a three-day
workshop, production of custom objects in a spontaneous and
collaborative process will be tested in Real Life. Everyone is invited
to join us on a deserted area, formerly part of the Berlin Wall, in
the Mitte district, to build whatever they want. Tools, wood and
other materials will be provided by Sandbox Berlin, so that flexible
groups can quickly design and materialize objects.??? Everyone can
take part in the project, simply registering by e-mail. Spontaneous
participation and visits to the workshops are welcome, completely in
the spirit of Second Life.




Domenico Quaranta

mob. +39 340 2392478
home. vicolo San Giorgio 18 - 25122 brescia (BS)

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