[spectre] Eduardo Navas interviews Peter Luining for p2p

Peter Luining email at ctrlaltdel.org
Fri Feb 6 14:14:52 CET 2004

The following interview was made by Eduardo Navas for the exhibition
p2p that at the moment is held in Postartum gallery, LA, USA. Peter
Luining is making autonomous work for the internet since the early
days. He first got wide international recognition with his work
"clickclub" that was presented at Transmediale of 1999. This interview
is amongst others focussing on the development of net art since 1995,
the specific role of net artists and definitions of net art.

E. Navas:
1) Because you have a background in philosophy, can you tell us how
your education has influenced your art work; specifically the formal
and ideological choices for your projects?

In the beginning not too much. I discovered that bringing in my
philosophical knowledge meant that my work became way too complex, in
other words it didn't communicate that well. So I tried to forget it
in the first place and started to work on intuition and what I knew
from the art I had seen. And of course I also started to develop a
critical attitude (reflecting critically) towards my work. The last 2
years though my philosophical training has slowly come back into my
work, which [initially] developed from the esthetical to the more
formal and conceptual.        

2) Can you tell us how your practice crosses over curating, art making
and writing? This seems to be fairly common in the net community, why
do you think such a crossover is recurrent?

To start with the first question. I did curate a net art show called
Net Affects in 2000, but I see this as a one time occassion. I learned
a lot from it, but really would think twice if I was being asked to
curate something again. It looks easy to curate a net art show, but
especially organizing a large show is more complex than you would
think beforehand. Net Affects was even more complex because it had a
real space part and also a printed catalog. The whole thing did cost
me much more time than I had thought. Art making and writing are
practices that more or less coincide when you are working on the net.
When you ask why a crossover is recurrent, I want to point to the
special situation net art is in. Online shows can be easily organized,
and if we talk about writing the situation is even more unique. Where
the discourse of the "institutional" artworld still heavily relies on
printed and objective writings, with the net we see a new, more
personal and direct kind of writing by artists and critics, this is
because there are things like mailinglists and blogs. These lead to
writings that are much more involved; which is a good thing because
especially interactive work needs this involvement. On the other hand
it also suffers from personal things like envy, gossip, etc.

3) Tell us about your live performances; how do you develop them?

As my forms of presentation of work develop, also my performances
develop; most of my recent performances were a sort of "propaganda"
for my online material. So performances as a sort of showcases of the
things I develop. Performances and lectures are for me at the moment
the best formats of presentation because you show people how things
work and tell them essential background information that in a lot of
cases are missed when you just have a computer standing somewhere in
an art space with your work on it.

Can you give us an example of this background information you deliver
on a presentation? 

Maybe it's important to note that lately I became interested in
questions about virtual and real space, this is because I stumbled on
problems while working on a 3d sound engine. In the end I aborted the
whole 3d project because the sound that I wanted to link to the
objects moving in virtual 3d space did not deliver the result I
expected beforehand.

This whole matter made me return to questions as: what is the
influence of the GUI (Graphical User Interface) that is used or what
is the influence of the computer on which the work is shown? For
example I remember that people at an exhibition at "De Appel" (a Dutch
Art space) were talking more about the design of the new imac model
than the work that was shown on it. My work "Window" for p2p is also a
direct outcome of this interest. "Window" shows a window that is
transparent and through which a user even can click what is within the
frame. Because the content of the window is transparent the stress is
put on the frame, something that most of us forget that it's there
because we are so used to it. But it is something that can influence
the user's perception of the work; a reference to paintings and types
of frames makes this clear. On computers window frames are different
on Mac and PC, and also because more and more people start
personalizing the desktop windows frames can have a lot of different
looks nowadays.

4) How do you see the term Net Art functioning today as opposed to the
early days of 1995/1996? 

I think you should be aware of the terms net.art and net art. As
opposed to some critics I see the notion net.art standing not only for
a certain period in net art but also for a specific group of net
artists that operated in this certain period. I think you can find all
information on this group in the exhibition called "Written in Stone,
a net.art archeology" that was held at the beginning of this year in
Oslo's museum of modern art. Besides this group there were a lot of
people doing autonomous things that you can call net art but which you
cannot link to the net.art group. So in fact I would call net.art a
sort of branch in the whole history of net art. To go a step further I
think it's even better to use the term net arts, instead of net art,
if we talk about an umbrella for any kind of artistic labour on the
net as Florian Cramer suggested on nettime a few years ago.

5) Because you state that you are interested in the difference between
real space and virtual space, where do you see Net Art going in terms
of real space exhibitions? In your own experience, are you seeing a
crossover to physical space?   

I think we have in fact to make a difference if we talk in terms of
real space exhibitions of net art works. I think of 2 kinds of
circuits when we talk about real space presentations: 1. the tech
based circuit which operates in new media spaces like ZKM or V2 and 2,
presentations within the so called "institutional" artworld. I think
you will see a development of more complex experiments happening in
the first. While another kind of projects will take place within what
you could call the "institutional" artworld, so places like museums,
galeries, art spaces. This development can already be seen; net art
projects are shown in both circuits though they differ in most cases
per circuit. While you see in the tech based circuit more complex
controls (interfaces) and social theoretical based work, you find
works that hook on to art traditions (history) and with a more
esthetical emphasis in the other circuit.

How would a more common crossover affect some of the principles upon
which the net art community functions?

I think it's hard to speak of the net art community these days. In my
opinion there once was such a thing, but somewhere in the late 90's
early zero's it more or less seized to exist. Though there are of
course still some global net art mailing lists around, my idea is that
the net art community shattered into lots of smaller (and more local)
net art communities, so a development from global to more local. If
you talk about artists active on the net, you saw in the first place a
few that traveled enormous distances to meet each other; with more
people connected you seem to look in the first place for people that
share your interest and start to meet them if they are near to you. So
instead of a larger international community you got locally based
communities that are connected by emails or small closed lists; the
members then meet regularly in local pubs, etc., and influence each
other through more direct real space discussions. This has lead to
what you could call certain types of schools. In Vienna, a group of
artists, who work with computers and the internet, gather around a
provider called silverserver; they have a certain recognizable style
that is best described as working on pixel- level (Michael Samyn from
the duo entropy at zuper did once called them the pixelmovers). In
Amsterdam there's a school of people that use quite an opposite style;
instead of pixels, artists use large geometrical shapes. Especially
when you start to think about this in terms of art history it's quite
interesting to know that in Vienna there always has been a strong
tradition of mannerism, while in Amsterdam a tradition of Mondrian,
etc. never seems to have gone away. In terms of crossover I think this
local "styles" will also affect the kind of net art installations
you'll see.

6) Some of your work is considered software art; how do you relate to
this term? 

If you mean do I see myself as software artist, I say no. I see myself
as an artist that is using different media, as I think more and more
artists nowadays are starting to do.  

However, I think the link from browser to software art is a logical
step in development of my and a lot of other artists' work that
started with doing pages for the net. Two main reasons for starting to
make software are that you have more control over the thing you want
to show, so you can control for example the look; another reason is
that downloading software was very problematic in the early net years
because of download speed and download fear; both changed in the last
years rapidly because of high speed connections and an audience that
grew more or less up with computers and the internet.

website Peter Luining: http://www.ctrlaltdel.org
website p2p: http://www.postartum.org/p2p

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