I don't know who's reading my blog anymore, but those of you who do stray to this side of the fishtank have probably noticed: I ain't got much to say lately. Mostly just too busy, and not having much to editorialize about or link to. But anyway, thanks for stopping by.
Here's something I did quite a while ago, in 2002, that I never put on the blog, probably because I completely forgot about it, or maybe because it happened long before FSC started, or maybe there was a war. It's an interview with a German artist, Sylvia Egger, about the internet and web art for her website http://avantgarde.netzliteratur.net/.
Other artists featured in my section, called "code. poetry. loop." include Talan Memmot, MEZ, netochka nezvanova, and Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries -- a nice grouping. I might actually assign this group of interviews for my class next year -- it's got the right mixture of the weirdness and the glory of net writing. The pages on the site are full of useful links to writing and work by and about these artists.
You can read my interview in German if you'd like, but most likely, if you're reading this, you'd prefer the English.Or you can read the interview right here. (The funky formatting is hers, I think it kind of goes with her brand of questioning so I'm keeping it. She asked me about TAZ!)
eric kluitenberg defines avant garde working today as to disrupt the hegemonial code of society: to "smash the surface." your are working on a thin - flash - line. disturbing words and letters through net space/r. is flash or animational poetry/working a way to crash the net commercials online?
>> [question-1//response]=[brian kim stefans:]
I think an important facet for net artists, and certainly net poets, is to leap head-first into the pool of online conventions (most of which have been created in the commercial realm) and occupy these languages and modes of communication to expose their functions, or maybe simply to expose how hegemonic they really are. It's long been a trope among experimental writers in the US that they work in the "margins," but it is quite impossible to work in the "margins" on the web since it doesn't have a center. Therefore, the activity of the digital poet online should not be to create an "alternative" or "oppositional" strand of meaning production and distribution but a parasitic or co-dependent, perhaps "dialogic" (to use a phrase of Bakhtin's) relationship -- energy (out of friction) should be created between what is considered "safe" in the commercial net world and what is frightening in our own lawless corners. It is simply truer to what is happening, since you can't have an isolated island commune on the web with its own laws and purposes; certain basic agreements are already in place, such as the commonality of web conventions like the URL, browser, etc.
Any site on the web can become part of my art site -- using frames, for instance, I can take the news site of the North Korean government, Oprah's book of the week site and ubu.com in the same page (and run a Perl script the writes a poem based on all of these). I guess my point is basically that an oppositional stance is possible, or even an "art for art's sake" stance is also possible, but for me working in the digital web world is like working with the earth or clay, and the feel of this material includes the sense that messages are constantly travelling across it that are not my own but can be part of the work. What I would want to do, then, would be to make sure my meanings get into this flow, infect it in a sense -- the web art piece then becomes a node of feedback, or a loop structure in the larger program of the web, and therefore must be noisy.
for gene youngblood the last refugium to be subversive is being absent and to build up a kind of autonomous zone (like hakim beys TAZ zones). you inject new visual stimuli into "ante" concrete poetry and operate on a high level of techniques and programming. is the use of programming and media techniques for you a possibility to work in an autonomous zone?
>> [question-2//response]=[brian kim stefans]
The Hakim Bey concept that I think of more, and which relates somewhat to Situationist theory, is that of "ontological anarchy" and "poetic terrorism" (an unfortunate term, obviously) which suggests to me how an art work on the web which is sort of accidentally hit upon can take over a viewer's entire sense of subjectivity and mandhandle it for a few moments, uprooting values and preconceptions and even sense of being. Examples of this might be the stuff that jodi.org used to do, which always messed with the browser and guts of the computer itself, or the more recent Flash pieces of Yong-Hae Chang Heavy Industries, which are quick downloading, in several languages, easy to understand and yet demanding something from the reader -- like grafitti. It seems to me that some of the practical jokes that people make and not consider art -- like a Flash file I heard recently called only "dengdeng," depicting a racing car and a Marinetti-like sound poem that sounded like the Chipmunks on acid -- more effectively captures the strengths of the medium than "high art." Since the web is an open space for wandering, these little pieces make one's half-conscious choices to "follow the link" into choices with consequences, which in turn enlivens the entire field.
the signature for your works is "reptilian neolettrist graphics". your work is a continuation of debords "poetry of the moment" and the lettristic notational style as visual (flash) manifestations. what is your connex to lettristic cinematic measures? is brian kim stefans a lost text flaneur and is flash beauty the last rule to break ;-)
>> [question-3//response]=[brian kim stefans]
I don't think I have any connection with lettristic cinema -- if by that you mean the films of Debord himself -- since I've never seen them. I saw parts of "Society of the Spectacle" at a friend's house, but I've mostly learned about his films through biographies and such. But my sense is that -- beyond the obvious Situationist slogan of "breaking down the distance between life and art" -- his films were tedious and extreme, both qualities along with the lack of imagery in many of them playing some part in a larger project extending from Duchamp, perhaps -- the non-retinal, but in Debord's case extended through time. I don't think I could force anyone to watch a tedious and extreme web piece since, after all, one is very free to move on, smoke a cigarette, do anything they want (they are usually alone, to boot, so it would hardly be a "situation" in the lettristic sense).
"Flash beauty" would be a lovely rule to break, but there is a huge difference between Flash and cinema which is that Flash can also run entirely on action scripts and, indeed, one could make an entirely "non-retinal" Flash piece that is nontheless a marvel of programming. To reject the image in film still permits you the use of sound, of course, but to reject the image in Flash leaves you not just sound but script -- an alternative text which can be deciphered as one witnesses its loops, control structures, randomization elements, etc. One can learn of an artist's intelligence and sensibility by simply witnessing his/her scripts in action and nothing else.
I think my approach to Flash and poetry might seem extreme to some since I rarely, if ever, use the illustraional in my pieces -- you will never hear the sound of rain, an image of falling drops, and the line "He walked slowly through Brooklyn's alleys thinking of Gloria." When I see things like this, I think people are trying to make Flash aspire to the absorptive powers of cinema but often you get something looking like an info-mercial. But of course, in rejecting the illustrational I am left not just with scripts, but with the ability to work deeply with letters -- Flash is an extensiion of typography, after all, and the balletic movements of "Dreamlife" would have been tough in, say, Adobe Aftereffects -- not to mention the ability to work with the live data of the web. Because Flash has never had the kind of culture that film has around it -- the power to manipulate, astonish, literally push the lives of actors into the lives of the people -- there is less reason to take it down, in a sense. It plays a much smaller role in the culture, so the iconoclast with an appetite for destruction would probably turn elsewhere. One can still critique the image, of course, or even critique the cinema in Flash, but I'm not sure "Flash beauty" itself -- outside of the more obvious uses to which it is put to use in commercial websites -- really needs to be broken just yet; in fact, I half believe that, with the dot-com meltdown, Flash will become, like the Fisher-Price Pixelvision camera, a tool exclusively for artists.