THE AWARE AND CREATIVE
TECHNOLOGY OF GOTO10
Txt: Giulia Simi / Eng: Luisa Bertolatti / Img: courtesy GOTO10
Freedom, autonomy and the control of instruments and creation processes should be the basis for every project, be it artistic, political or social, which could be considered as being democratic.
But the concept of autonomy, which brings with it the thorny and inevitable aspect of responsibility, seems to increasingly move away from our intellectual production environments on all levels, which are often transformed in empty and “blackmail” communities deprived of passion and incapable of putting together or sharing visionary ideas and projects of cultural and social transformation.
It is by chance, or maybe not, that the best proposals to overthrow the capillary control system of late capitalism are those that come from the ultra-technical environment of programmers/artists. The visionary idea, which is also realistic, is the capacity to network in an autonomous and free way, taking advantage and amplifying the technologies available, which can be a central node for a new model of life based on sharing information and processes locally and globally.
The collective GOTO10 (the answers of this interview were elaborated with the name GOTO10 by Karsten Gebbert, Claude Heiland-Allen, Aymeric Mansoux, Marloes de Valk and Thomas Vriet), active internationally for years in the technological activist environment, is a good example of how a group of programmer-artists manages to face and win against the swamps of our time through a creative, aware and thought-out use of technology. I interviewed them so that they could tell us about some aspects of their complex project.
Giulia Simi: First of all, something about your history. How was GOTO10 project
GOTO10: GOTO10 was created in 2003 by Thomas Vriet and Aymeric Mansoux. It
started as a two man organisation in Poitiers, France with the goal to
boost local activities surrounding experimental electronic music and
digital art. After organising several workshops and concerts locally,
GOTO10 became more and more international and grew into a collective of
11 artists/musicians/programmers from all over Europe. The organisation
started to define its goals more clearly in 2005 and its main projects
came into existence shortly after: A GNU/Linux distribution for artists,
called pure:dyne, an IRC network linking like-minded organisations and
hosting new networks and groups, make art festival, a workshop program
to support artists in the use of FLOSS, and the artistic and reflective
output of the collective in the form of performances, exhibitions and
In recent years the organisation has added two important projects,
mainly to make the reflective side of GOTO10 stronger: the Digital
Artists’ Handbook (in collaboration with UK based organisation folly)
and the FLOSS+Art book, published by Mute publishing Ltd. The first is a
practical guide to using open source software within a digital art
practice, the second reflects on the growing relationship between Free
Software ideology, open content and digital art. It provides a view onto
the social, political and economic myths and realities linked to this
phenomenon. The FLOSS+art book is written, designed and published using
FLOSS only, has an open license and is freely available online. Both
books contain articles written by numerous experts in the field.
Giulia Simi: Your first purpose is to support FLOSS (Free/Libre/Open Source
Software) as independent method to create tools for digital arts. This
practice involves programmers and artists working together for the
autonomy of creative process. I think it’s a political and symbolical
activity that would be very important, not only into the the new media
art environment. Do you think that common people, like standard pc
users, would be ever able to control their technological tools? And if
yes, do you think this could represent an important changement in social
GOTO10: First of all, it is important to understand that in GOTO10 we do not
have artists and programmers, but software artists. It is for us an
important distinction that marks the shift from the “software as tool”
to “the software as medium” paradigm. In this sense, from our
perspective there are 2 very important points that lead on from there:
1) FLOSS is not just alternative to proprietary tools but an entirely
different way of thinking and using computers.
2) The key components of most activities associated with FLOSS are
sharing information and learning.
This by itself is an entirely different philosophy, one that emphasizes
education and experimentation over a passive consumer attitude. You
could say that this new mode indeed is already a significant change in a
positive direction, one that has definitely wider implications than only
for software-artists or programmers.
Generally it is of course a good development when the GNU/Linux desktop
market share grows (and thus attracts more developers and interest in
furthering functionality and user-friendliness in much needed areas).
The key aspect that makes the platform interesting for us and many
others though, is its freedom and hack-ability. In that sense, from our
perspective, its not really as important whether GNU/Linux now is on its
way to become a big player in the desktop sector, but that we can use it
to profoundly change our approach to how we collaborate and produce,
understand ownership and property.
Giulia Simi: How much fundraising is important in your work and what are your
strategies to carry on your projects out of mainstream contemporary art?
GOTO10: All of our projects start to exist as a passionate act of creation. Most
of these are not funded obviously. As such GOTO10 is a creative sandbox.
If some of the experiments (let it be art, new workshops ideas, music,
software projects, events, etc…) start to grow and become stable then
we try to get financial support for it, or simply show it around
depending on the project’s nature.
On the other hand, bigger projects need particular care once they’re out
of the sandbox, for example the “make art” festival which takes place in
Poitiers (France) couldn’t exist without public funding (mainly the
territorial collectivities and the state) and also the help of different
partner organisations local and international.
Generally, because funding free software and art is difficult we always
try to be clever with money. As a consequence it is often that we
“trojan” projects within projects. For example if one of us get an
artist in residence somewhere, we will tend to use in-house GOTO10
software for the projects, so that this technology can be developed
further, be documented, tested, etc.
In the end, we don’t have any particular strategy for our work except
for keep on doing what we like to do and not force ourselves in
compromises for the sake of visibility in such or such art scene. The
most important thing is to go on inventing new kinds of projects and
working with people with whom we share the same vision of the free and
open source culture and arts.
Giulia Simi: Your activity is mostly based on capability to make network.
Particularly, you don’t have a physical meeting place so you communicate
mainly via IRC and mailing lists, that are the first and oldest tools to
make network in internet. But what do you think about web 2.0 and social
networking platforms? Do you think it could be possible to use them in
order to make creative experiments?
GOTO10: Web 2.0 is a bit vague, it does not mean much, but there’s no doubt that
the advances in open technologies in recent years have enabled websites
to do really clever things. Still, we are not so keen on using or
promoting social networking platforms – the gated community model
suffers from “vendor lock-in”, which is completely against the spirit of
the free and open Internet. The technologies (for example RSS and Atom
feeds) are there for a distributed and open alternative, whereby each
individual controls their own content, but can still interact with other
sites and build a wider community that isn’t controlled by some
corporation with profit in mind. Furthermore these platforms usually
miss the point of human communication, focusing only on the transfer and
sorting of information and playing on the ever growing ability of the
online homo sapiens sapiens to contemplate himself in the mirror.
Of course this does not prevent artistic experiment to be done in such
environments, as long as they’re not just gratuitous demonstration of
the use of a certain technology, but as network, we find them rather
poor and limited compared to what the Internet has to offer and still
allows to do today. As for network collaboration we indeed use rather
“old” systems and protocols because they work perfectly fine and are not
bloated, so why change? Of course this has nothing to do with a
systematic refusal for more recent technologies or novelty innovation.
Quite the opposite – we make an extensive use of distributed version
control systems, virtual servers, and are always keen in transforming
our work-flows, network environments and try/adopt new ways of sharing
Giulia Simi:Last question about your near future projects: what are you working
on in these months?
GOTO10: Amongst GOTO10′s latest projects was the launching of our netlabel
GOSUB10, presented in March 2009 during Wintercamp in Amsterdam,
releasing innovative new music and audio-visuals created using FLOSS.
Within the framework of Linuxwochen Linz 2009, GOTO10 members developedmode +v noise, an IRC-based collaborative music platform and held a
workshop around it. The next steps for GOTO10 are to further develop and
professionalize their long term projects such as pure:dyne,
art.deb/people.makeart and the digital artists’ handbook.
Following Summerlab in Gijon, there will be a week-long development session of
pure:dyne hosted by the local center for arts, LABoral, where we will
mainly be aiming at releasing a new major version of the platform.
Finally, make art 2009 will take place during the second week of
December this year, so stay tuned and subscribe to our newsletter for
more info on upcoming gigs!