One of your latest art experiment is the 'Processual PixelPainting'
series, performances where a human carefully reproduce digital pictures
painting them pixel by pixel. This sort of 'human-printer' describes
a digital process in a physical and atavic art practice (painting).
There's any reference to the history of art here and on how the
art system still needs renewed objects to deal with?
pixelpaintings show objects/scenes that are either present
only in the virtual world (.com shopping carts) or scenes that have
taken place in reality, but have been perceived primarily virtually
(9-11, abu ghraib). so the question was how to portray something
that does not exist really, how to give real life to objects that
only live on-screen. a mere print-out would not have done the job,
as print-outs are nothing but consumable throw-away objects without
a "soul". paintings on the other hand carry this uniqueness
and timelessness with them. to me, they are in fact objects with
a "soul". so painting the virtual makes it become real.
references to concepts in art history can be seen in the nature
of the paintings, i.e. they depict (virtual) objects, they are stilllives,
they portray (virtual) scenes, they are landscapes, pixel landscapes.
Hans Bernhard: This ubermorgen "product line"
is a strategic combination of New Code [technical / digital actionism]
and Old Code [human / painting] with a simple goal: infiltrating
the art market. There are 3 types of pixelpaintings. 1. Sucking
light out of the white [destilling light invisible to the human
eye from a white canvas and turning it into abstract pixel compositions
on canvas], 2. Iconographic / Logos and 3. Landscapes. There is
not exactly a conscious reference to art history but a working method
of how the art system can incorporate the structure and historical
supercharging of the painting itself with the radical and acute
knowledge and experience of the children of the 1980s - the first
productive internet generation investigating the need for digital
art. Over the years a broad spectrum of works materialized from
the etoy and ubermorgen digital actions into videos, paintings,
[F]originals*, lectures, performances, documentary material, etc..
The pixelpainting is a subversive application of digital images.
We are living in a hyperphysical world, and at the same time the
digital revolution is constantly updating and expanding fully medialized
environments. But like the paperless office brought us 1000% more
paper over the last 10 years, digital art will bring us 1000% more
physical objects over the next decade**.
* [F]originals: forged original documents; either forged or authentic
documents, in any case original and unique.
** just watch our friends from http://0100101110101101.org/
move fast & hard into the new-old digital physical art market
Your artistic activity often deal with the 'spreading of cultural
viruses', and this seems to be accomplished using the same linguistic
domains (propaganda, marketing, legal issues, etc.) with very different
purposes. Is this similar to the deceptive misuse of a net protocol?
Bernhard: Yes. Much closer to the syntax of Jenny Holzer,
Jeff Koons and Joseph Beuys. With ubermorgen and etoy we use[d]
language as a tactical and aesthetic tool to manipulate specific
entities [i.e. institutions, media, humans] and to dream and speculate
about the future. The potential importance of polluted and unhealthy
environments in which our virus outbreaks often occur is being ignored
due to lack of funding, market expertise and scientific indifference.
It's noteworthy that the ubermorgen virus is typically described
by scientists as a rare, mild and usually harmless infection in
humans, affecting mostly the news media and curators. In technical
environments, however, the virus has been highly touted as a killer.
Traditionally, news media have been viewed as sentinels for toxic
environments, the journalist in the artist studio being the most
famous example. What if some degree of the damage to journalists
and humans now attributed solely to the virus is actually triggered
by harsh environmental factors that need to be addressed?
At the Lentos museum of modern art in Linz* "JUST DO IT! The
subversion of signs from Marcel Duchamp to Prada Meinhof - A thematic
exhibition on the disturbing reinterpretation of powerfully effective
images in art, popular culture, political agitation and advertising."
our sculptural [paper sculpture] and iconographic [The seal**] work
"*THE*AGENCY* for manual election recounts" will be shown
along with our Voteauction classic.
lizvlx: if you mean to point out the similarities
between ethical and criminal hacking and our techniques of "media
hacking", then you have a point. i guess, it is clear that
a) we like hacking techniques anyway and b) have to use them. the
only other option (to get a voice in mass media) would be to produce
regular - expensive marketing or maybe also to use any sort of real-life
actionist methods. we have prefered online actionism as we come
from 1995s net.art and feel at home with the server. plus, media
hacking seems to be the a more efficient and intelligent way to
get ideas across the news ticker. you need less strategy and more
flexibility, less people and more individualism, less hierarchy
and more determination.
3. The 'AnuScan', one of your most provocative
pieces, the (advertised) application of biometric devices to the
anus (unique for every person, as the iris or the fingerprint),
pushes to the extreme the imaginary of surveillance, pulling out???
a terrific politic statement, without using any popular symbol or
rhetoric. Can you elaborate more on this 'iconoclastic appeal'?
lizvlx: AnuScan is a "webpainting". it
looks like a website, but it has no functionality, it is a photorealistic
virtual pixelpainting of something that exists (as iriScan). it
is an "abbild". we could have realized a full-functioning
website for anuScan, but we did find that functionality was not
key concerning any kinds of biometric scanning techniques. by leaving
out the clickable, we focus on the absurd.
Hans Bernhard: Webpaintings play with the expectation
of what a web-site is or what it should be. Here a selection: the
WHITE_WEBSITE*, ekmrz.cx**, BartnLisa.com**, bannster.net****. AnuScan
was further developed into physical space. We built an exhibition
prototpye [Anus Scanner, 42X55X32cm, steel, rubber] and produced
a series of prints and paintings of anus patterns - the visual similarity
to fractal structures is striking. They look very beautiful and
strange, these very hidden treasures of mankind - opposite attractors
of the iris, the naked and open eye we look into every day.
4. [V]ote-auction opened the pandora box of capital
hypocrisy, pushing social compromises to the extreme consequences
and producing an astonishing media response (CNN included). What's
the price you paid for that and what's , instead, the most important
lizvlx: the price was (and is) not being able
to travel to the u.s., spending quite some money on lawyer ad telephone
bills, and being subject to all that aggression that gets pointed
to you when you act as the bigggg anti-democratic supercapitalist
villain (i mean, how many hate-mails can one get in one day...).
the gain was lots of fun, so incredibly much attention, control
over the the press (a weird feeling), and the joy of doing a project
that clearly succeeds. it would have been nice to have had enough
money to pay for all those media archives on vote-auction. and it
sometimes makes me sad that i did not have enough time during the
project to read what was written all over the world on the project.
the greatest result: reaching so many people and messing with their
minds, making them rethink the electoral system and giving them
something to talk about.
Hans Bernhard: Ein Gesamtkunstwerk. Meanwhile I
consider [V]ote-auction as such. "Bringing capitalism and democracy
together". The most important products are the "contemporary
pop-art" video: "CNN - Burden of Proof" [27 Min.
exclusive feature on Voteauction*] and the "Legal Art"
[legal documents: i.e. temporary injunction] we exhibit as paper
sculptures or as wall mounted [f]originals. Our last exhibition
was spread all over those media, at the Malmoe Konsthall "Electrohype"
Computer Biennal** ubermorgen exhibited all these different manifestations
including a slideshow with the original Voteauction-Web-site and
2 drawings of the seal. We understand media as plastic phenomenon,
media and media networks can be formed and carved and brought into
form like sculptures. I analyzed some art & language installation
strategies, but did not understand a word.
Underlying to the visible results of the work, there is the non-systematic
research which defines my "art" practice: Real-time communications-experiments
in the vast global mass-media [i.e. Voteauction: 30 tel.-interviews
+ 15 email interviews per day], underground networks and one on
one communication [during Voteauction: up to 100 user emails per
day], feedback-loops, black holes, secret services, one-to-one user-communication,
trans-national law, etc.
The downside of the project: As lizvlx already pointed out, we spent
over 70.000 euros and we are bankrupt. We can not travel to the
U.S.A [blacklisted]. During the Project our server-infrastructure
was totally destroyed by anonymous. Various secret services hunting
us became more and more uncomfortable. "They" did not
know who we were and we really did not know who "they"
were [bloody NSA/CIA spooks].
* , In the Studio: 6 Lawyers, 2 Journalists, Videoconference: 1
Domainbank-Representative, 1 Stanford-Lawyer, 1 Politician, On the
Phone: Hans Bernhard, Video can be seen online under: http://vote-auction.net
; CNN movie DVD is coming out in February 2005 including original
footage from US television, user emails, log-files, internal communication,
the web-sites and much more.
5. You are a celebrated founder of the famous etoy
project. What's the most important cultural heritage you got from
the etoy experience?
Hans Bernhard: It is worth coming back. By that
i mean you can cross any border, you can go way over the edge -
thats what i did with etoy - mixing hardcore technology with chemical
agents [lsd, alcohol, cocaine, thc, meskaline, benzos, etc.] - but
we always had to come back and explain what we found on our expedition
into the realms of the global digital networks. We tried very hard
to do that at Ars Electronica 1996 - the year etoy won the Golden
Nica in the net.category - slick and elegant in our work, juvenile,
bold and agressive in our communication and appereance we returned
as digital test-pilots from the .net; at a time when our "competition"
was desperately trying to get onto the net. For the Festival-Exhibition
we built a large scaled installation of the etoy.TANK-SYSTEM, a
double surrealism, a physical representation of the digital metaphor.
This linear and material structure consisted of orange pipes and
black tanks spread over 400 m2. Each tank was in itself an digital
installation, i.e. a screen with a animation of the 7 etoy.AGENTS
faces morphing into each other.
Injunction Generator' folded a big business practice (suing the
enemy for online violations) onto itself letting it conceptually
implode. In your opinion the de-construction of this power tool
represents a symbolic re-appropriation of the same tools or a hack
into a luxury legal system?
i like the idea of it talking about a luxury legal system, that
is a good point. in the beginning, the focus was on the absurd practice
of "implementig" the u.s. legal system onto the rest of
the worls anytime an internet domain would be disputed or being
used as a decoy. legal systems are designed to work for souvereign
nations, the internet is designed as a global networtk. no wonder
that it is here, where the 2 concepts of nationalism and globalization
collide. but of course, this also happens elsewhere in the real
world, anytime the u.s. is involved in global issues (but this is
not limited to the u.s., of course). but on the other hand, the
injunction generator is a remedy for costly legal procedures (that
Hans Bernhard: I do not know. It is not a hack
into something but more a wonderful experiment with a para-meta-legal
system. Our idea goes back to Voteauction's legal troubles. Initially
the domain votauction.com - registred at Domainbank Inc., a US company
- was shutdown after a court order from a Chicago judge. lizvlx
immediately bought the domain vote-auction.com at joker.com [owned
by CSL in Germany]. The Court in Illinois then issued another court
order to shut-down vote-auction.com and sent this legal document
per email [sic!] to joker.com, to SILVER SERVER - our loyal provider
in Austria and to Corenic, a dubious company in Geneva, Switzerland.
Corenic pulled the plug on the domain without notice and without
authorization or obligation. Anybody understanding basic law knows
that U.S. court orders are not valid outside U.S. jurisdiction,
therefore this shutdown-action was illegal.
Now we started to think into the more productive direction instead
of fighting with a horizontal networks of technical idiots and frightend
lawyers - we conceptualized IPNIC - the "Internet Partnership
for No Internet Content". IPNIC's raison d'etre is the "Injunction
Generator"*, an engine generating court orders to shut-down
web-sites via email. It is a very simple affirmative step towards
a very chaotic international system with courts all over the world
ruling with very different sets of parameters [national laws] on
a new set of problems [i.e. international technical] on different
territories. One could say that the "Injunction Generator"
is exemplary net.art / digital art for the "Do It" publication,
edited by Hans-Ulrich Obrist: "Since 1993 Do It has provided
its public with how-to pages of instructions written by 168 of the
most important artists and writers working today. ...a book that
is part manual, part cookbook, part do-it-yourself kit."**
7. There's a recognizable pop-flavor in most of
your projects. Is 'pop' one key element to escape the art's tortuousness
on one side and the ideological rhetoric on the other?
Hans Bernhard: Pop gone evil, pop gone totally
mad, pop is the devil. Pop is a seductive worldview and the master
illusion, and pop always had this very dark dimension, hiding death,
desaster and evil. But our work looks very good, it feels extremely
easy to understand and use on the first level, superficially functional.
But behind the curtain there is something that is not so good...
not good at all. To understand our generation you have to look back
at our teens: we are children of the 1980s*, cocaine and Michael
Milken, with junkbonds from 2 billion credit to 2 billion debt within
24 hours dancing along to Michael Jacksons "Thriller".
As teenagers we were bombed with pop, we were living in a plastic
pop world, in a popped up media world and to be honest, we are still
living in this world; and more important, we still think and feel
that way. After watching "CNN - Burden of proof", Marti
Guixe** told me: "This is ultimate contemporary pop-art".
i like this concept! Clean cut, slick & straight, and contemporary,
what do i want more, as a child of the 80s.
lizvlx: to me, pop ist very important. i find it
nicer to entertain people while talking about or working on a maybe
more intellectual or tougher subject. if painting is concerned,
i personally want the painting to do both, look good and have an
interesting concept. there need to be layers of interest to attract
a greater target group. marketing is pop. and good marketing neither
improves or makes kaput a good product/object; so why not use it.
in lots of our projects, however, marketing is integrated into the
product/project as a medium. we see, for example, the press release
as an art medium. finally, i would also describe ubermorgen's work
as a merge between actionism, hacking, and classic pop art.
* born in the early/mid 1970s
** http://guixe.com / http://buyguixe.com
8. Communication mechanisms seem to be important
now as battlefield tactics were in the middle age. Triggering the
single person's attention means to (temporary) conquering a piece
of the volatile market immaterial land. Which are the communication
mechanisms you're mostly interested into?
lizvlx: pseudo-personal email communication might
be my personal favorite. i like the old "you can be a dog on
the internet" thing when working with email and forums. we
call this technique "drama marketing". you make up a cast
of people [like for example andreas bichlbauer - andy bichlbaum]
and use them in different projects, professionally and privately.
then, i also did a lot of radio interviews during [V]ote-auction,
radio makes it very easy to lie, deceit and create something that
does not exist. it leaves more to imagination, i guess. plus, it
works with the voice, i prefer that to the face [i.e. TV].
Hans Bernhard: During the 1990s i was mainly interested
in what we called "the market of attention". How to become
a global digital Pop-Star, how to be and to feel like a Rock-Star,
how to live and communicate pure and hard net.art Rock&Roll,
we even destroyed hotel rooms and threw tvs out of windows just
to artificially experience stardom - that was etoy. Communication
was mainly top down. Although etoy thorougly analyzed the 1980s
corporate communications, we replayed the classic "mistakes".
etoy wanted to be the evil, hardcore fascist, bastard corporation
flashing into the future. We tried to push the message to the people,
we used standard "no comment" strategies and worked with
extensive press-releases. As the .com-strategist and pr-manager
I experienced all communication as positive for the brand. More
important, I learned that once information exists outside your brain,
it is impossible to control, it will make it's way. This is a law
of nature. With ubermorgen, the situation was practically turned
upside down. Someone released an idea - a virus - and it spread
it like a manic. It bounced back and lifted the .com-level into
extremes [100s of millions of viewers]. These research environments
were fantastic, we were able to drop info-pieces into the global
network-matrix and watch them travel, morph and come back.. Then
we could give them another spin - mix them with other information
or combine them with classic knowledge like a spin-doctor. This
was possible because there was no goal except the experiment, no
political message or ideological foundation to serve - an ideal
world - our "laboratory". Today i am interested in mixing
the different strategies and in exploring double negative affirmative
levels of meaning and blind meaning. Still not political and non-ideological,
a high level of freedom is guaranteed. The reality and research
becomes highly complex due to this fact. Unforseen events are triggered
and can be explored. The combination of inner networks such as the
brain and the nerve-systems and the networks we are connected to
are my fields of research and production. How do mental disorders***
of the of the human affect the global network and how do mental
disorders of the global network affect the human. In relation to
ubermorgen this is a quite interesting question. We have attacked
the network with a series of totally mental / extreme projects.
Now my network has attacked my mental health. In 2002, I was diagnosed
with bipolar affective disorder [manic-depression]. This is well
documented on hansbernhard.com, with documents, photos and in videos.
How is this interrelated - did my attack onto the network bounce
back - does this mean the same mental attack has an effect on a
network and on a human being?
importance of designing a meta-level of reality that would generate
a 'consensual hallucination' is clear in the care of details of
your most famous works. But isn't this what our mind is constantly
switching with: meta levels of reality created by hyper-realistic
adv commercials, rhetoric mainstreams movies, 'reality tv' fiction
shows and ideological news report?
Hans Bernhard: I do not think so. Neither with etoy projects as
"the digital hijack", nor with the work from ubermorgen
this consensual hallucination was created; because we are dangerous
and devious but not destructive. We are seducers and brainfuckers.
We need constant decisions on how to relate to this material, we
do not make people hallucinate, we confuse them, sometimes we shock
them and then we let them regain consciousness again. My work -
i.e. psychiatry material on hansbernhard.com - is perceived extremely
non-consensual, in the mass media world, in the art world and anywhere
else. On the other hand, there are some projects such as the stock
certificates [etoy.SHARES] or the ubermorgen Webpaintings and Seals
that have a certain hallucinatory look&feel and consensual "reality".
The etoy.Shares were part of a large scaled global hallucination
during the late 1990s until the internet economy bubble went bust.
It is interesting to note that in many, if not all of the representations
of cyberspace spatial depth and perspective is suggested through
the use of wire frames, either explicitly or as armatures, calling
on the techniques and rules first formulated by Alberti in De Pictura
in 1435. This new virtual space of binary data is so alien to us
that we have fallen back on traditional media*. Most important again,
the individual hallucination in research and fractures, the stories
and the transfer of the inconprehensible into consensual material,
tradeable, utilisable, visible and readable artforms and organic
forms, for example a child. We work against consensual hallucination,
it is impossible to reach a consensus about our work - and if everybody
would agree we would so strongly agree that it would lead others
lizvlx: yes and no - it is the same, but we do
it with no or very little money. so sometimes the outcome is the
same, the working process is totally different. and there is one
important difference: advertizing etc. wants to give answers to
the consumer (i.e. this is the right product, buy me), ubermorgen
poses questions, the answer is always up to the thinking indivdual
* Mantovani, G. (1995). Virtual reality as a communication environment:
Consensual hallucination, fiction, and possible selves.Thanks to
you Alessandro for the beautiful and hardcore questions and many
thanks to Jacob Lillemose for the in-depth discussions.