When I heard about the Easter egg that make the Google search page rotate when you type “do a barrell” in the search field, I thought: “Hey wait a minute, this is old news. Constant Dullaart has already created the http://therevolvinginternet.com/ which make the same effect!”
Constant Dullaart is an artist that in the tradition of net artists as JODI investigates and questions well known interfaces on the internet. He flips, bends and rotates homepages as Google and Youtube to challenge our view of the Internet services we uses every day. As a poet Dullaart investigates the internet grammar and software dialects and make us aware of new sides of the visual language we takes for granted. On Youtube you can find a series of videos where Dullaart searches for impossible search strings on Google as “][-[“ or “rw4tbtb” or “-=-“. The search returns the same phrase; “Your search - - did not match any documents. The videos could be interpreted as metaphor for the “law of instruments”, a law that is more familiarly under the phrase “if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail”. If you always use Google to search for information on internet your world will be googlefied and everything on the net will looks like nails, but if you instead use the whole toolbox of different search tools you will find both screws and nuts on the net.
In this interview Constant Dullaart talks about his art and his recent participating in Transmediale 2012 where he also presented a new project with the ambition to preserve online digital art to the future.
Mathias Jansson: On the 18th of January you and many other artists followed Wikipedia’s example and blacked out your homepage as a protest against the SOPA act. You have also created the page thecensoredinternet.com, censored search results from Google. As an artist using and remixing material from different sources on internet, how do you see on the ongoing discussion about copyright on the Internet?
Constant Dullaart: I do view copyright as doing much more wrong than good, and in a crude comparison, I view it like most organized religious systems. Therefore the Kopimism initiative seems to be a completely relevant response in this case, since copyright has become as powerful as a religion in western culture. Holy Disney for example, did not only found an art school (cal-arts), the company was also at the foundations of a fortified copyright legislation in the united states that prevents the same art school students from actively responding and engaging with the culture around them that has become so much more dynamic through the addition of the web. By falsely constructing the idea of a prolonged intellectual property, this legislation created a demon. The idea that an industry can make money through limiting access to content not made by them, is not that even that old, but it is very reluctant in the days when it has become technologically obsolete, by now it is even halting technical progress.
Most people I know are watching movies and documentaries, that they normally wouldn’t have been able to see since the legal distribution channels are simply not capable of delivering such tailored content, especially when they live abroad. The lack of innovation on the side of the copyright industry is shocking, how slow initiatives like Spotify and other distribution systems are allowed to work in Germany for example is staggering. Half of the YouTube links I receive from friends are blocked when I view them from a German IP address. Next to that law firms here keep ripping people off by sending them threat letters and fake fines. I do think culture as a whole is changing, and we need to be able to use previous people’s additions to culture as building blocks for our own. It’s enormously embarrassing that a corporate international lobby from the copyright industry and money that was made over the backs of people like Robert Johnson, or Bo Diddley (to name just a few ripped off personal heroes) is trying to prevent us from standing on the shoulders of giants. In these days of technological advancement we do not have need to have our culture held for ransom by price agreements, and lazy distribution moguls.
This is why I basically try to avoid content owned by these larger copyright holders, and I believe everyone should do the same. Avoid any content of people that complain about piracy like the plague would be my advice. Perhaps it’s not hard to draw the comparison to renaissance times here. Artists had to find new distribution channels and audiences to liberate themselves from the power of the Catholic church. Do with my work as you please, just do not ad any form of copyright to it. And if you’re nice, you will mention the source of your inspiration in or with the new work. Like you would do in a blog post with a trackback. I think the web is a perfect place to respond to each others works, and let them co-exist, as responses. Copying is not stealing, the original is in tact, and money shall be made in different ways.
Mathias Jansson: In your art you are trying to visualise internet grammar and software dialects and there are a kinship between your work and net.art pioneers as JODI. Are JODI an inspiration for you or where do you find inspiration to your work?
Constant Dullaart: Yes, JODI are living legends, every time they give me a compliment I can’t help but think it’s sarcastic, I feel like Jimmy Hendrix just told a kid he strummed a nice chord. But they’re more punk of course, and most of the time they give me a compliment by bitching about how good a work was I made, I guess they mean well. But my inspiration I find within simple formal play mostly, this could be from Gordon Matta Clarck to Finn Hendil, but also on the street, and mostly in the possibility or impossibility of a visual idea, a software option, a new service, tool, or code. Of course I could name drop all you want here, but to tell you the truth, I go hard on demo videos.
Mathias Jansson: In your works as http://baselitz.org/, http://internetspread.com/ http://thedisagreeinginternet.com/ e http://therevolvinginternet.com/ you work with simple methods as flipping the pages and rotating the page, to change the perspective of the viewers experience of everyday internet services. What’s the idea behind these works?
Constant Dullaart: To influence a persons view on things, to alter a perception of a concept or representation seems to be a very basic description of what a contemporary artist does. This can be done in all sorts of ways and through all sorts of emotions, but hopefully making you aware of the different viewpoints and the dynamics of that certain concept or representation. Since most of the representation of the world around us is consumed through the world wide web, the web seems the right place to do this as a contemporary artist, right?
Seeing that over 80 percent of the people that use the webs pages (outside of Facebook) access it through Google, I decided to manipulate the most common startpage, including all potential pages afterwards. I was re editing all kinds of movies and video material, but now I found a way to re edit any content requested by the viewer. My mind blew at this potential. All of the works you named are sites that existed already, that already had a reason to be there, they had an alibi. I stopped believing that I needed to add brand new content to the world a long time ago, I think we are needed in framing this enormous amount of visual language that is developing and we are overloaded with before we have figured out what it all entails.. click scroll swipe click mispelllling lol wtf clikc tty
Mathias Jansson: In your work you are returning to the homepages of Youtube and Google. In some work you have also used them in off-line works as in Youtube on the floor, where you sit on the floor and moving circles to create the effect of the loading icon of Youtube, and in the DVD screensaver performance you uses a DVD sign to create a performance about the floating DVDsign you can see on the screen when your DVD is inactive. Why did you choose to go off-line?
Constant Dullaart: Of course there is a friction, which is essentially very formal and perhaps literal. It is also easily confused to be a tribute to the impact of the original environment of the icon. Take the Giant Map Marker by Aram Barthol, this is a very direct translation, which works on this previously described friction, its funny to suddenly see this visual rhetoric misplaced, and hopefully makes you think of the signifiers and rethorics you are used to in daily life In these works of mine I enjoyed emphasizing the human aspect of these enormous corporate entities we are interacting with day by day by adding a high dose of bricolage to the videos.
The DVD logo IS designed by someone (if you want to figure this out you need to pay thousands of dollars and sign a non disclosure agreement by the looks of it). But the hole in a DVD is as large as the old Dutch 10 cent coin, since the original CD was designed by Phillips. These small decisions that impact so many people fascinate me. And just think about all the people slaving away making funny video’s that should become memes one day, addicted to the potential likes of their audience. Thinking of their best Facebook status update yet, and in what tone they should comment to make it successful.
And think of the people that designed the logo’s and made the decisions at YouTube (Google) for example. Who decided to put this play-button in the player. Was there a vote in the board of directors or something? (if there was, design FAIL) These website’s are not these anonymous magical entities that they are made out to be. They are run by people that can make mistakes. Google is not a computer .
Mathias Jansson: You were participating in Transmediale 2012 in Berlin. What were you showing and how important are festivals as Transmediale for you as a net.artist?
Constant Dullaart: The work I have showed in this year Transmediale was a video out of my HEALED series, where I used Adobe Photoshop’s spot healing brush to ‘Heal” disasters. This work is made to show the dichotomy of a software manufacturer choosing names to describe tools that influence the representation of reality, and reality itself. In this case I ‘healed’ every frame of the first video recording of the fire on the BP oil platform “deep water horizon” (April 20, 2010) The sound was left as it was originally, so the work consist out of abstract, out of focus color fields moving around the screen with a soundtrack of a loud helicopter engine. The video was uploaded to YouTube as a response to the original recording.
But next to this I also officially launched the “documenting and archiving of internet activities” initiative http://net.artdatabase.org with Robert Sakrowsky (with a conscious wink to the net.art movement in the URL, yes) Basically to encourage the use of simple and subjective documentation of online art works, that are lost while the discussion goes on how these works can be best archived. Documenting them as if they were performances in a public space, with viewing context included. I love how these documentations turn out, the awkward interactions of the viewer with the work and the necessary hardware, typing with two fingers, waiting while the noisy computer finishes loading the page. Soon enough the only way we will see this kind of interactions with artworks will be through documentation. And seeing that the social context in and around the network will never be possible to download or archived, I believe it proper archiving should not even be attempted.