Tadej Pogačar
Vuk Æosiæ

Vuk Cosic about net art:

I go to conferences. That's net.art actually. That is an art practice that has to do a lot with the net. You come to the conference. You meet one hundred and a few people from abroad. That's a net. Art is not only the making of a product, which then can be sold in an art market and praised by an art thinker or mediator. Its also a performance. When you are having a good time, its pretty much like when you are creative and you are producing something. When you have a good dialogue, when you are stimulated to come up with new argumentation, with new ideas, that is creativity for me, thus art. When it is about this type of meeting, like this nettime meeting was, thats net.art for me. The whole form of this conference can also be defined as a piece of net.art, as a sculpture. A net.art sculpture if you wish.

(gives the whole Documenta site, read an article about this at
http://www.rewired.com )

(the website to a recently started mailinglist,
a cooperation between Vuk Cosic, sep97 (the artist formerly known as heath bunting), jodi and Alexei Shulgin)

· *To: "(unbekannt)"
· Subject: Interview w/ Vuk Cosic
· From: Tilman Baumgaertel
· Date: Mon, 30 Jun 1997 08:45:46 -0400
· Content-Disposition: inline


I enclose an interview I did with Vuk Cosic in Ljuliana at the "Beauty and the East meeting" for your reading pleasure.

?: In read somewhere that the first bible in Slovenian was printed in Wittenberg in Germany. I was wondering if you think there is a similar situation with the internet now, if you have the impression that it was somehow invented elsewhere and therefore suspicious, as many west europeans seem to think?

Vuk Cosic: No, Slovenia is actually very well-connected. There is also a high number of computers in offices and homes. The number of hosts per capita is higher than in many west-european cuntries, for example in Italy or Spain. At Ljudmilla we have a 256k-line which is the best you can get in Slovenia. So itīs not such a bad situation. We have live-stream real audio and video, and the bandwidth is definitely sufficent.

?: Tell me how you got "on the net"?

Cosic: I first encountered the WorldWideWeb in the second half on 1994. I thought:
"Wow, this is sexy." You know, the moment, when you see words on your computer screen, that somebody else wrote somewhere else, is like a religious experience, very emotional in a way. I still have a photographic memory of what I saw when I went online for the first time, the different websites I looked at. So I said: "This is cool", and I decided to change my career. Before that I worked as an art manager. I did art exchange projects between countries that were in war with each other, like Slovenia and Serbia. So on the 4th of April 1995 was the last day of my career as an art manager. I had finished a good project, and that day I said as myself: Ok, now Iīm into the internet, one way or another. I didn't know if I would end up selling modems, or teaching DOS in elementary school. I didn't have a strict goal, only had this gut feeling to go there. It just was the thing for me. Then I was inivited to the first nettime meeting in Venice - well, and the rest is history.

?: Had you worked as an artist before?

Cosic: I had done collages and other art works before, and really the only thing that had changed was that I had discovered a new platform for my creativity.

?: I noticed that some of the pieces on your homepage seem very literary. Do you have a background in writing?

Cosic: I originally came out of writing, but then I developed a very strange attitude about which platform I wanted to use. I first have the idea, than I decide which medium it is going to be this time. I did land art, I did exhibtions. I actually have three different biographies. I was very active in politics, I was a candidate for the nobel peace prize with a few friends, because I was a leader of student demonstrations in Belgrade. Originally I am a archeologist by training. I am still sort of working on my Ph.D. thesis, but I did not persue my career as an archeologist. I know that your next question will be 'How come that an archeologist is working on the internet?" I think that it is the same apparatus that has just been turned around on the tripot, looking in the other direction...

?: So you are an archeologist of the future?

Cosic: Yeah, I am on that tripod.

?: Back to your career as aspiring net artists. Tell me how you got started in this art form, in case it really is an art form...

Cosic: For some reason I didnīt dare to do html for quite some time. I didn't want to dirty my hands, until I eventually understood how fucking simple it is.When I finally started, nothing could stop me. I did the first website that could be called net art in May 1996 for a conference called "Net.art per se" that took place in Trieste in Italy.

?: There is this one "found footage" page that you designed that looks the homepage of CNN, except that the main headline is"Net.art found possible" and that the hidden hotlinks all lead to other art websites...

Cosic: That was pretty surprising for a lot of people. And I was very surprised that these guys at this conference appreciated my work. And that's the beauty of all of this that developed out of this conference. It's like me and Heath Bunting and Alexej Shulgin and Olia Lialina and Jodi had studios next to each other, where we could look at what the others were doing.

?: What do you mean with "having a studio next to each other"?

Cosic: You know, it's like Picasso and Braque in Paris in 1907...

?: But they were physically together...

Cosic: The output of a net artists is net art, which is obviously - because of the qualities of the internet - accessible to everybody. And I can see everything that they do in the moment they do it. It usually goes like this: Jodi do something new - and they are crazy, they are maniacs, they create something new every other day - and they send the URL to me, and ask: What do you think about this? And there are collaborations over the net, too, and group projects. We steal a lot from each other, in the sense that we take some parts of codes, we admire each others tricks.

Jodi are very interesting in their exploration of technology, but Heath is magnificent in his social awareness and his glorious egotism, or Alexej with his russian temperament. Cyber-Majakowski, someone once called him. I have the feeling that I know the greatest people that are alive in my time, while they are still good. Now we have this communication system that reminds me of the communication between the futurists or later the dadaists. There were two guys in Berlin, four in guys in Paris, two in Russia, and they all knew each other, and there were all 25 years old. How did they get in touch? It was because of the strength of their believes and the good communication channels, because there were a few guys traveling. What we have now is the same: We have some strengths, we have some qualities - even though that's really up to others to say - and most of all we have a good communication system.

?: Which is the internet?

Cosic: This time it's the internet. Earlier it was Picabia who had the money to buy an expensive car and travel and print one issue of his magazine in every town he came to.

?: When I look at your work, but also at the works of Shulgin or Jodi, one aspect of net art that catches one's attention, is that it is very self-referential.

Cosic: The usual analogy is video art, which was also very self-referential in the sixties when it started. I am not talking about video art today, which has developed in a sort of funny direction. But if you think about pieces by people like Weibel, they were very much about monitors, about 100 Hertz, about all kinds of noise. They were all about this video option you had suddenly as an artist.

Then again there are not such easy generalisations. None of us has really done net art that has references to historic avantgardes. There is no real dada lover among us, even though I manically collect the books from this period. But there is no dada web site, which to my mind would be a total mistake. That's for boring people to do. That's why I am doing CNN. That's self-referential in a certain way. We like to think about the net, and how it's made, because we want to understand it. And our process of understanding it is immediately transformed into some form of expression.

?: What is a very striking parallel between net art and video art is that the first that artists did when they discovered television or video was to take these media apart and attempted to destroy them. Now the same thing seems to happen on the net.

Cosic: Exactly! I did a lot of html-documents that crashed your browsers. I noticed that there was a mistake somewhere in my programming. And than I asked myself: is this a minus or a plus? So than I was looking how to get to that. It was not enough just to avoid this mistake, I was trying to really understand that particular mistake, with frames, or with GIFs which used to crash old browsers, or later Java Script, that does beautiful things to your computer in general.

?: So why is it the first reflex of artists to decontruct a new medium?

Cosic: In what we are doing, there aren't any laws. It is like any other art form, it's totally individual. I think, that every new medium is only a materialisation of previous generations' dreams. This sounds like a conspiracy theory now, but if you look at many conceptual tools, that were invented by Marcel Duchamp or by Joseph Beuys or the early conceptionalists, they have become a normal everyday routine today with every email you send. With every time you open Netscape and press a random URL at Yahoo! 80 years ago this action, that is now totally normal everyday life, would have been absolutely the most advanced art gesture imaginable, understandable only to Duchamp and his two best friends. This very idea to have randomness in whatever area, form, shape, would have been so bizarre in those days. Or to do something that makes artistic sense here and somewhere else at the same time! You recall these art projects where there was one guy in Tokyo and one New York, and they agree over the telephone to do the same thing at the same time, to look at the sun or something - we do it with the internet all the time, with web cameras! I see this deletion of remoteness as something very intriguing, and maybe that's one little proof of this weird thesis that the internet is only the materialisations of earlier generations' dreams. I will give a lecture in Finnland in September in which I will argue that art was only a substitute for the internet. That is of course a joke. I know very few people who have so much esteem for what artists did in the past.

?: There is a lot of reflection going on about net art right now. That is very different from other art movements where the artist-genius put some paint on the canvas and it was up to us, the audience, to wonder what this meant...

Cosic: Yeah, in a way we are Duchamp's ideal children. You and I and all the people in this conference, we have all read a lot. Let's not be modest about this, because we are proud of that. We read a lot, we work a lot, and we are at the same time creative, because the medium internet is enabling us to be this way.

?: There is a piece on your website where you encourage people to put footnotes on academic texts. That's another thing I noticed about net art, that it is a lot about theory.

Cosic: Yeah, that's what nettime does to otherwise normal people. Unfortunately I didn't find enough strength in me to persue this project. Now it is only an invitation for collaboration that never found an echo. There were a few, by Heiko Idensen and Heath Bunting and Pit Schultz, but it wasn't enough. I have them in my mail box though...

?: Does it matter if this project gets finished or not?

Cosic: No, there is this state of final incompleteness, as Duchamp once said about his Big Glass. I can open this document whenever I want - I call them documents, not art pieces - and do whatever I want to it. It's cool. I don't want it to be finished. I'm not interested in this project very much anymore, though.

?: Is your homepage a complete collection of all the art project you did on the net?

Cosic: No, my homepage is not a catalogue of my works, because there are a lot of things that I am doing when I go to other places, which I never put them on my homepage. A lot of net artists are trying hard to get as many links as possible from important web sites like "ars electronica" or "Telepolis", in order to get many hits on their sites, to get recognized. But to me this protocol is also subject to artistic reflexion. Thatīs why there are a lot of my works missing on my site. I sometimes give fake URLīs. I used to print fake business cards, and now I do the same thing on the net, just for the fun you can have with misinformation.

?: One of the most conceptual pieces on your website is called "A day in the life of an internet artist", which records your daily activities. Other people call this a homepage, but in your case it is a work of art. Why?

Cosic: That was the first time that I noticed that there is a million ways of classifying what you are doing on the internet. The reasons is that on the internet it is so beautifully undefined which plattform you are going to use: text, video, graphics, audio, whatever. You certainly have a problem there, and you really have to go down to the basics. When you go down to the basics, art is really about subjectivity, even if you attempt to do something else. And even the worst formalist experiments in the heroic age of video art are a reflexion of the individual quality of the maker. And I am trying to play/work with that.

?: So it is dealing with the historic art genre of the self-portrait?

Cosic: Yeah, sort of. In this particular site I tried to give a vivisection of my everyday communication with the internet enviroment. So there is one part that deals with my net art projects, one that deals with writing, one that is called "job art"...

? Why is it art to have a job?

Cosic: I am a little bit puzzled with the term "art". Not because I decline the epithet artist - itīs a nice hat to wear and the girls like it, too. But actually it is a little bit worrying how it puts you into a certain corner. So instead of deleting the word "art" as etiquette for what I do, I gave the word "art" to *everything* I do.

?: Like Yves Klein said: "Everything is art"...

Cosic: Yes, but I try to do it in a very practical, everyday way, without too much talk about it. This web site is not accompanied by an essay or anything. Actually there *is* an essay with the same title, but it has nothing to do with the web site. That was another thing I did to mislead the audience.

?: There is one piece on Nicholas Negroponte on your website too. What is that about?

Cosic: When Negroponte came to Ljubliana, I had a big fight with him, and we interrupted his speech. Luka Frelih and I went around the city spraying graffiti: "Wired = Pravda". I made it look like a secret internet terrorist organisation. On the website we compare him to Tito. But we did it without fanatism.v

?: Today at the conference you proposed a project called "Ljudmila West". Can you say something about this?

Cosic: Ljudmila West is a foundation that is set up to help west european artists to communicate, to learn about new multimedia technologies and to contribute to the european integration, because there is an obvious lack of information in this area. So we can not sit with our arms crossed. We should do something about this. Because this is definetely the last moment for the West Europeans to catch on, otherwise they will remain in their closed systems or their closed societies, to quote Popper and Soros.

?: Is this a parody of the rethoric used at events like the V 2 festival in Rotterdam? The west europeans are helping the poor east europeans out of their mess, only reversed?

Cosic: I have been to so many art events in the west, where the direction of teaching was not the expected one. It was actually the guys from Belgrade and Moscow teaching those french, british, german fellows things about life. Of course this virtual Ljudmila West project is just a cute little joke, but there is a very serious point to it. And it comes out of very serious frustration. I am not a frustratable fellow, but I noticed this growing frustration among east europeans. So I as an artist react and offer an art project, which is this story about Ljudmila West. Sounds like the name of a film actress, by the way.

Interview: Tilman Baumgärtel


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Who Drew the Line?
From: Vuk Cosic
Date: Fri, 17 May 1996 19:38:50 CET
Who Drew the Line?
Vuk Cosic, vuk@kud-fp.si, Ljubljana Digital Media Lab, Slovenia, http://lois.kud-fp.si/naps
Alexei Shulgin, easylife@glas.apc.org, moscow wwwart centre, Russia, http://sunsite.cs.msu.su/wwwart

Vuk Cosic:.
Tell me please, how do you see the appearance of internet in arts? Is a specific net.art possible?

Alexei Shulgin
Yes, that's the word - "specific". Everybody realizes that it must be something specific, different from familiar art forms. If we are talking about art as bureaucratic western social machine than we must admit that it hadn't wholly shown its disgusting snout in the net yet (as well as in moscow - and that's why I am there - in those two places). But be sure, it's coming! I hope I will be able to find another frontier then... if we are talking about those manifestations of activity that can be regarded as "artistic" but don't fit traditional art forms, monopolized by above-mentioned animal, than I am quite positive. I think that it's very important to try to open up people's minds and break the traditional, conservative attitude to what is called "art" and what is expected to be seen at a gallery/museum/art magazine. no doubt we will fail - the art machine is very powerful, there is huge money and strong protectors behind it, but you must agree - it's very seducing at least to try to build up something else...because the alternative is to be an obedient marionette in the hands of greedy curators and other mediators. This is a challenge and it inspires me though I am ready to loose. We at moscow wwwart centre have founded a special award - "wwwart medal" which "we give to web-pages that were created not as art works but gave us definite "art" feeling." (http://sunsite.cs.msu.su/wwwart/award/) let me quote some more from our manifesto: "internet is an open space where the difference between "art" and "not art" has become blurred as never before in XX century. That's why there are so few "artists" in this space. There is possibility of misinterpretation and loss of "artistic" identity here. This might be welcome. There are no familiar art institutions and infrastructures here. internet art is not well paid so far... the equal possibilities of www presentations blur these boundaries even more. hierarchies are built differently but how? What is www art - is it public art? Advertising? More data noise? Does it have anything to do with galleries and critics? Do we want it?"

Vuk Cosic:
Do you agree with the view that in this new media it is impossible do separate art from social involvement?

Alexei Shulgin:
Do you believe in "pure art"? Artistic manifestation is always political for me too, no matter what media I use. The point is too keep right balance. Too "arty" works are usually ridiculous, too political - boring. I see that to many people internet gives an illusion of possibility of communication and understanding, art becomes more rational, more socially involved, more declarative. But on the other hand another stream - art that doesn't realize itself as "art" - non-conceived, intuitive, spontaneous, naive, comes into force.

Vuk Cosic:
Does the distribution globality influence the work of art, and how is this issue addressed in your Moscow experiences?

Alexei Shulgin:
I don't think that "global distribution" is really global so far. Of course, if you are a very persistent searcher you can find everything in the net, if you know what you are looking for. It's not enough just to make a nice homepages, send applications to yahoo and lycos and than be sure that crowds of grateful viewers will inundate your site. Internet art needs its distribution system. we need curators and critics, all those people who tend to become parasites and supervisors for artists. or - we have to invent something else. as for me, i don't believe that any media can bring people closer to understanding each other, so my internet work doesn't differ much from what i am doing in more traditional spaces.

Vuk Cosic:
What are in your opinion the most interesting works of eastern european internet art that you would like to recommend to the western surfer?

Alexei Shulgin:
I would propose to try not to use words "eastern europe" and "art". the first one is imperialistic and the second is totalitarian. Let's invent other words! With the help of internet, of course. Please tell me about your activity as cyberspace and reality connector.

Vuk Cosic:
Most of the work looks like hypnosis - every once in a while I feel like a TV evangelist, or something. Usually the artists I do projects with really change their attitude, and this means new responsibilities for me and for the artist. The problem of the immediate global distribution is very painful for the not so stable people that get to do a web.project, so also a lot of grassroots psychology is needed too. In my personal life, outside activism, the changes are profound. I met people that I consider the smartest in the planet, and we're now dreaming together globally and in real time. And I can tell you another thing - those dreams are not only in color, but also hipertextual and on line and interactive, and in progress...

Alexei Shulgin:
How do you see the future of the Underground (in a wide sense, including East European culture) in the Net?

Vuk Cosic:
Ohoho! There is this constant movement of the arts towards the extreme teritories that humanity reaches. This is very evident in the relationship between arts and technology - where man goes, artist goes to. It is possible to claim that this line of the avant guard is now mixing with the huge creative potential of people that are fludding the Net from the directions of text based and visual media. It is hard though to precisely point out any bigger number of succesful net.art works (or processes), but on the other hand this is exactely the reason to be optimistic about the chaotic image of that the Net gives while reflecting humanity. Everybody is an artist, no matter if he creates or observes.. and in this way the net.surf is an art form just like the making of the official web.site for McDonalds. Every gesture now realy contains possible artistic stimulations, just like we have the complete population of the Net waching, and there is nobody to tell (us) what is art. The position of Underground in this is the same as the position of any other strata in the art landscape - it's nonexistent, now you realy look for the human behind the work, and the work (in that beautifuly broad Net.sense) is realy firmly rooted in communication rather than in fascination and social affirmation.