olia lialina on Mon, 19 May 1997 10:50:56 +0200 (MET DST)

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<nettime> CROSS INTERVIEW olia - michael


Olia Lialina (http://design.ru/olialia)
Michael Samyn(http://www.zuper.com)

olia: After i made "My boyfriend came back from the war" i get
messageswhich could be easily divided into two groups: "war" and
"frameset".So, Iget questions (reaction) to the story and to its
language. It once againensure me that net (web) is a proper place for
story telling and that ithas the  language which is nice story itself.
Your projects (LOVE, FFF...)prove the same to me. How do  you see it?
What are key words of yourinternet feeling (perception)?

michael: I have never given it too much thought. It is unclear to
mewhether my works are born out of the necessity to communicate
something orout of the necessity to communicate as such. That probably
has something todo with one of my motto's: "The metaphor wants to be
free". It is not thatI'm opposed to metaphors, but I dislike metaphors
that are used to explainsomething. In those cases I'd much rather
hear/read/see the thing itselfthan use the metaphor to 'navigate through
its content'. 'Metaphor' is usedin its broadest sense here: language as
such is probably the ultimatemetaphor.I want language/the metaphor to be
free: to evolve according to its ownrules and principles disregarding
the fact whether it still remainsfunctional, i.e. whether it still has
meaning (in the conventional sense ofthe word). As such language becomes
a game and a story does not necessarilyhave to 'mean' something.
I appreciate all reactions to my work and there are no wrong or
stupidreactions because when the work is finished I become a user, with
the samestatus as the other users. When a work is finished my identity
as an artistdisappears. What remains important is the interaction
between the work andthe user, that's what will ultimately give 'meaning'
to the work. And my'interpretation' is not any better or worse than the
interpretation ofsomebody else.
To answer your questions: technically I don't see the net as very
differentfrom other media. I mean every medium should be used in a way
that exploitsthe medium to its fullest capacity. As for interactive
media that meanstrying to create a compelling environment. As for
networked media thatmeans an implicit social aspect: who else is looking
at this work at thistime? Can I contact the author and/or other users?
Where is this stuffcoming from and will it be the same tomorrow?
Etcetera.I want interactive works to be(come) better than immersive
movies. For methe involvement of the user is of utmost importance. The
'effect' is themost important thing. Your work moved me. That was it's
effect. I wouldlike to know whether you are able and/or willing to (try
to) control theeffect of your work on its users? Does manipulating their
emotions interest you?

olia: May be not to manipulate, but create. Its fascinating to make
thiscold language and digital environment  reflecting feeling, not
information, not data, not cyber ideology... Yes, you are right, it must
be manipulation, when  user, serfing in communicative paradise suddenly
runs into emotions which he could experience in real life or  when he
meets with happy woman who died under train's weels in 1877 in the novel
of Russian writer.

michael: I don't think this language is any colder than other languages.
It all depends on who speaks it. But I am also very interested in
emotional messages, on the verge of being sentimental. And it does still
seem weird to see someone with tears in his eyes in front of a computer
screen (unless they have a really bad monitor...).

olia: Once one girl (woman? man?) wrote to me "thank you, I've never
seen a website that made me cry before".I'm pleased, but i cant imagine
it too. By the way, who are you? and what do you do beside net art

michael: I was trained a graphic designer for print (without computers).
used to make music, write poems, stories and essays, make furniture,
make analog art. Now me and my girlfriend have bought a former factory
which we are transforming bit by bit into a home. So that keeps me busy
off line. And I have a son who demands a lot of my time and attention
too. But I hardly do any artistic stuff for other media than the web.
And for the money I do hypermedia design (mostly websites).
Coming back to that emotions thing, how would you explain your own
attitude? You appear like a very cold hearted, arrogant woman, who eats
men for breakfast. I like that attitude, personally. But does that pose
have something to do with this medium, or is it just the way you are (or
is it typically Russian)?

olia: its not the medium - i heard the same from people who've never
received e-mail from me. its not Russian - my mother is very warm
hearted woman. and its not me - i can spit out a few men and they'll
confirm ;) I understand your question. My real life and emotions are
hidden from you unless we communicate a lot and you know enough. Net
communication is a good way to escape, to lie and pretend, i dont. At
the same time i prefer not to use net as a place where all truth about
me is stored. You like to inform humankind about Veerle pregnancy, you
dedicate your new server to your son's birthday, on your sites one can
find a lot of documents of your life...I like to look at it because your
life is interesting for me, but i'd never put on the net my daughters
photos. again not because i want to separete my life to real and
virtual, but because of  a sort of allergy i have to this well developed
system of self representation on the net. That's why i use all these
invented characters who acts free in the space which totally belongs to

michael: Somehow I feel that the net is a very intimate medium. Probably
because communication is always one to one: there's always one user in
front of his or her computer looking at one page. You don't broadcast
websites. Normally I'm a very shy person. But the ambiguity of private
and public are very fascinating to me. You can show your innermost self
and still remain anonymous somehow.

olia: Michael, now you  have a new server www.Zuper.com. Its just a
collection of your old works, well designed place for new ones or it has
its own philosophy?

michael: At the moment it's actually just a portfolio (I plan to do more
with the site in the future). I try to give it an interesting and
entertaining interface and atmosphere because that's what I like to do.
doesn't have a specific philosophy except maybe for illustrating my
ideas about interface design.
Speaking of which. I think hypermedia are very sensual. If only because
Netscape's cursor changes into a hand when you find something clickable.
Simulating touch has always been important to me as an interface
designer. I don't really see that sensuality in your work (but maybe you
haven't noticed it in mine either). What are your thoughts about this
and interface design in general?

olia: In february i've been to a women festival in Finland, where one
girl-professor made a report on awful situation in interface design:
"Everything is made by men and for men!. We, women, need our own,
special screens...!" It was funny.

michael: That's not true. There's a lot of stuff out there made by women
for women. And a lot of it is very interesting. Though very sexist,
mostly, too.

olia: In fact, as a user i'm absolutely indifferent to software outward
appearance, to screen savers and mouse pads. As for web design, i used
to oppose it to net art in order to draw a line between those who uses
the Internet to advertise and consume  and those who search and develop
it... childish approach... now i agree with your words that design is
real communication and i understand that in general its more deep
question and demands a lot of attention.

michael: For me, packaging my stuff in a commercial design is a good way
to 'distribute' art. I dislike being in a gallery and having to look
attentively at everything that's hung on the wall just because you know
it's art. I always end up looking at the fire extinguishers (which are
by far the most interesting pieces in many gallery or museum shows).

olia: but, i guess, on surface my style is only a parody to commercial
staff: transparent links instead of stressed, bitmaps instead of
colorful images. May be its more reflection than sensuality, more critic
than design, or just a lack of special skills. Any way i prefer
minimalistic expressions.

michael: To quote my favorite 80s artist Jeff Koons: "Criticism makes
people unhappy." :)

olia: Your manner i call baroque :).

michael: And to quote my favorite designer: "If one fights excess with
soberness, every simple act seems improbably grotesque. Fighting the
surplus with the nothing expresses itself with the little, which is
always hopelessly too much compared to the nothing. There is no defence
against the baroque. Even destruction heightens the baroque effect."
Minimalism is an extreme form of baroque.

olia: Good conclusion. What do you think about our cooperation in
heaven&hell? Also your FFF experience is very interesting for me.

Michael: FFF was very chaotic. In the beginning it was very fast too,
with one or two updates a day! Jef and I didn't know what we were doing.
After a while we realized that we were communicating with each other in
some strange way that words didn't allow. We got to know each other
really very well. It was strange to meet Jef in the flesh after a year
of FFF: I knew him so very well and still he was a complete stranger.
As for Heaven&Hell I think the communication is much more obvious, maybe
because it's a more structured environment (as opposed to FFF, H&H has a
concept: you're in heaven, I'm in hell). I really like the way it is
developping and as you said via FTP: 'it_almost_already_sex'. That's
true. It's like fitting pieces of a puzzle together and making up the
picture and the pieces as we go along. I wonder who will come first. ;)

olia: if is a question i have no answer yet, i'll better apload  some
new files.

Goes to MUTE

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