Milan , Historical centre, Monday afternoon. Outside the tube the evening edition and the remainder of the free press. In and out people in their routine. This Monday outside the metro you’ll be approached by three (beautiful) girls wearing coloured coats, accompanied by drum rhythm. They’re distributing a particular free press: a cut-up of four pages, paints and photos in which is hidden an artistic operation at the borders of technologies. The free press is called Bloki/Angel_f. and it’s the last artefact of Franca Formenti.
The action took place Monday 19 th February and was distributed in two thousands copies in two hours. A mechanism of distribution was built on a direct interaction with people, with the intent to create different situations of approach and attention that seemed looked like working. The group explained the artistic nature of Bloki, that means the fact that it was an artefact composed by narration (textual, visual and graphical) of artists and behind this a digital world of dialogues where to find the complete histories. This histories have been composed during virtual travel of a series of people through famous blog of actuality and journalism, making use of the relation potential that the blogosphere lets emerge.
To understand the nature of Bloki we should look a little behind in the work of Franca Formenti. It was the 2002 when Franca created Biodoll, a conceptual performance that describes a fascinating woman in a future where women doesn’t need womb and biotechnologies overcame creation. Through this female figure Franca Formenti started an experimental path through net technologies, making Biodoll living in different digital spaces.
The first step is a space of online dialogues between Biodoll and different characters of culture and society, that are composed by an instrument: the wiki. Theoreticians such as Derrick De Kerchove ( http://www.utoronto.ca/mcluhan/derrickdekerckhove.htm ), artists such as Marcel.lí Antúnez Roca (Fura del Baus http://www.marceliantunez.com ), the politician Franco Grillini ( http://www.grillini.it ) and the anthropology Massimo Canovacci ( http://www.avatarxl.com ) are involved.
These dialogues are the first food of bloki, hybrid creature born from De Kerchove (kindly involved in the writing of contributes on the net and in the construction of the interlocutors net) and miss Biodoll, free in the net with she interacts, publics, teases the debate in a sexy and libertine manner. Running through the involved blogs and tracing a wire through the different digital tapes, a fantastic path emerges, surely an original manner to interact with the informational world. A way that debate the language, the aesthetic and the dynamics of relations again. The stories overlapped are a plot of words and broke down meanings. The recreation is reading following your own orientation.
Franca Formenti uses software, video, graphic, photographs, video makers, performances, objects. Multimedia language and cooperation describe her artistic process. Texts from biodollsmouse.org become video, intwrview fragments, posts in blogs, a (real) handbag that hides a sex toy.
The biodoll soul is therefore in those fragments. And while the interaction continues, bloki eats texts and manipulates them till the point of turning them into paper. The free press wants to be an excursion into real life, that documents Biodoll interventions on the Net and accompany them with a graphic narration. Bloki becomes paper in people hands, and takes a narrative line and a graphic line from the net, plaited to each other and articulated to make the reading a pure wander about.
The realization of the free press saw the collaboration of Franca Formenti with artists present online. The concept of free press is made by Salvatore Iaconesi ( http://www.artisopensource.org ), paintings where from VRU ( Bruno Nemei ). I asked Salvatore Iaconesi the intentions of bloki and this experiment to transfer on paper the contents of the Net. “The aesthetic and narration of the free press of BloKi/angel_f have been chosen as reference of a precise imaginary, but this element is totally secondary. Aesthetically the free press is a design object, nothing more than that. From the narration point of view, it is (and it will be) the structured assembly of some of my cyberpunk story, written in different occasions, used to contribute at the plot able to integrate the content generated by the net of people that interact with Angel_f and with Biodoll. Angel_f is the son of Biodoll , a virtual digital being software whom life engines are interaction and haking. Angel_f lives thanks to interactions of Biodoll with her lovers, the users of blogs and web sites. The more she interacts, the more Angel_f grows up.
The digital little being – continues Salvatore Iaconesi – lives with interactions and hakings. It goes autonomously around the web living comments and traces of its passage. The free press is a paper materialization of Angel_f. The modalities with whom the content has been created is identical: people, artists, intellectuals and politicians that interacted with Biodoll became part of a narrative structure, creative commons. Everything is assembly, creation of sensations, intelligence. The images and the contents of the free press are downloaded by the net from licensed and memory web site. In the case of bloki/angel_f onlineis manifested through the language and the presence on the web, in the editorial case is manifested as graphical and narrative content. The web site is structured to be a synthesis, a link between two areas. It is a sort of sensorial sensitive wiki. With Bloki/Angel_f we go to a democratic and free reality. Digital beings born and conduct a real life. They interact socially and to get information, with human beings. They grow up, augmenting the body (the interface) and the intelligence (the A.I. system.). They are present in and out of digital contexts, blogs, web sites, editorial productions and objects. And they always are a form of expression of a collective mind. Mind that represent the synthesis of all the minds that, directly or not, interacted with Angel_f or Biodoll, as a child learn interacting with its parents or people that, anyway, it has in its perception field.
The artistic game of Franca Formenti is expressed by actions and manifestations of bloki. It manipulates the language and in particular the discourses generated on the net, transforming them in knots of signification, from whom start explorations (visual, paper, erotic). The game is at the borders of areas such as mode, communication, publishing, art. And Biodoll plays (and seduces) virtual formal spaces with interventions of linguistic mess. At this point, I would like to discuss directly with the artist some concepts about the work and the themes from whom this artistic path emerges and take shape.
Francesca Valsecchi: First off, it is central the woman role. It is clear that this artistic game is built around a female figure. Not a standard one though, but a transformed one or maybe changed. A women that is mother of digital sons, that hide from words and thoughts relations and not from physical acts. An artistic idea where sex and femininity have new roles. What kind of woman hide behind the biotech woman? And is it really a biotech woman?
Franca Formenti: My first work about clonation was addressed to the child figure and in 2001 I ideated in a provocative and imaginary way a Centre of Contemporary Clonation, that allowed the creation of a bio child with an appropriate kit. The baby was genetically modified but absolutely natural. It seems to be a paradox, but Biodoll was born after that, in January 2002. I wanted to represent a sort of female figure of the future, projected in a fantastic world where children are not conceived in a natural manner, but rather through machineries. The biodoll was born as a sort of futuristic prostitute, created for a sexual pleasure, but completely sterile, having no womb. My work is thought as an hymn to the feminine creativity, always able to invent and adapt to every situation, even negative. Conceive a digital creature through language and written word is a way to emphasize all the artificial life forms that are multipling, starting from the computer as instrument and the alphabet as point of developing of the language, both in the code form and in the written text form. I don’t think that the use of a machine is lived as an aseptic relation, rather as a way to amplify the possibility to transmit emotions, instincts and input in a novel manner. I used the cryptography (with your help as means of seduction, playing on the concept of the identity to invite the user to discover what was the “hidden” message. Recently I used the stenography (with the use of Frank Synapsi) to hide the secret recipes behind erotic images, but these can by decoded only online. Biodoll is a biotech woman, not only because she changed her seduction instinct, but also because she changed the way she put it into practice, using new instruments, even if the principal ingredients are always the same.
Francesca Valsecchi: Your artistic work is plaited with cyberculture. The technologic element is central, sometime abundant. It is what consents and abilities the mother creation; it is the environment where your mistress move. Technology is the middle that allows biodoll to interact with people. What does net and Its culture mean for you and what type of inspirations did you get from digital cultures?
Franca Formenti: I think the use of the net and the knowledge of the instruments to use it are another tool to make art, not the only one. Recently I realized a video, USE CONDOMS
(http://www.biodollsmouse.org/qblog/index.php?a=static&what=video ) that I diffused in a provocative manner on line. The net simplified the diffusion and overcame every barrier of institutional selection, allowing you to arrive wherever you want. Here the metaphor of the thin feminine psychology return, able to penetrate infinite spaces in a disturbing or completely transparent manner, depending on its decision. I learned the concepts of public and sharing frequenting mailing-lists, from the spectator point of view, at first, and with a morbid curiosity. Differently from other places where art is practiced, I perceived the desire to play in first person, omitting the classical procedure of the “traditional” artist, nowadays overcome, considering that the contemporary art collection is staggering. I was (and I am) mostly enthusiast to live the net as an organism that contains relation, exchanges, collaborations, going past the classic and out of date formality that pervade the institutional environment of the art.
Francesca Valsecchi: Bloki is an hybrid being. It’s generated by a digital mother and a real father, even professor, son of a relation of dialogue and words. Two souls compose Bloki, the soul of knowledge and its diffusion and the soul of street, desire, seduction. What’s this hybrid son for you? And how do you describe this multiple soul that compose it?
Franca Formenti: Well, I didn’t discovered anything. I only changed the suit to one of the most antique symbol, the ying (in this case Derrick de Kerckhove) and the yang (the Biodoll), translating their interactions in something destined to become autonomy, but most of all keeping alive the subversive and unbiased attitude of the mother and the one relative at the production and diffusion of knowledge typical of the father. The game of the information that feeds Bloki where mother and father interact to make the little bloki detached from the mother with the help of the father is a metaphor antique as much as the world. I’m fascinated by the experience of the motherhood, not as relation between mother and child, rather as pure concept of looking after a creature you love and you want to make autonomous. It is clear that the Biodoll online to provoke is a disturbing element, but the fact that behind her you find the advocate Giovanni Ziccardi (http://www.ziccardi.org) that controls every step and De Kerckhove that helps her to spread the knowledge represent a conquer of the feminine will to put two authoritative and academic man at the service of a street creature. A creature that still has something to communicate, that is her experience as prostitute and the battle to recognize the existence of her son, angel.
Francesca Valsecchi: Your artistic talent and the nature of the art you work and research on are far from the academic nature. We already talked about and we defined it an art from the stomach. An art not so interested at the recognition from the public or critic and oriented to reaction generation, even sensations, from who is interacting. Why did you choose those kind of art forms and this acting? What are you interested in saying and expressing?
Franca Formenti: It is not the fact that I’m not interested in the academic recognition or institutions. My problem is only time. I dedicate my entire day to my work, my research and my relations with whom is projecting with me. The project started between me and Derrick, but lots of people entered to bring technical and artistic support. All this net of relations, contacts, projections take lots of time, but gives fantastic inputs, and it is a continuous creating, thinking, changing idea, inventing. To all of this, there’s a series of “real” contacts to define the last details, so often I totally forget the academic world. I’ve been invited more than once in several universities, but it was always in inappropriate moments, when I was finishing the project. But the academic world come to me with Zen calm, as with the anthropologist Massimo Canevacci that, after a communicate of gam-E-zone, answered saying that he found my project interesting and that he would talk about it in his next book. In that moment though I was so concentrated on the work that if he asked something I answered something else. And he ended up being involved in the project and I forgot about his book Hope he remember it!. Everything to say that this is what I mean for “art from the stomach”, as sometime the creative flow is so strong that I am completely kidnapped by art.
Francesca Valsecchi: Which are the instrument of this art, your brushes, your colours?
Franca Formenti: They are the instruments of every artist, that is impulses and emotions lived and translated on what I better feel in that moment. The knowledge of some dynamics that are possible to overcame through the use of the law or better through the ethic of the right completely abducted me. In fact, I don’t think that an artist nowadays must only transmit emotions or lived concepts, but most of all it must be able to communicate and spread them. Here’s the figure of the legal, Giovanni Ziccardi in this case, that protect both Biodoll and Angel, the Bloki-child. Well The biodoll with intellectuals and critics made more than that.