WJ-SPOTS #1 Gregory Chatonsky

Who are you? Can you tell us in a few words what
you have been doing these last few years?
It’s difficult to predict what Internet will become. Most of the predictions have proven false, perhaps because the time frame they’re based on have been rendered obsolete by the net.
On the other hand we can think of the Internet not as a technology which is made up of a set of tools and defined by its performance, but a paradigm that has filtered into all our esthetic systems.
And contemporary art has not come out unscathed. Every part of it has been affected, each of its mediums, sometimes without even realizing that there are any symptoms. The net is undoubtedly the most important cultural event of the turn of the century. It seems to have transformed the way we experience images, both how we produce and how we consume them. Take a look at Youtube or Flickr, their similarities and their dissimilarities, and how they bear a strange family resemblance to a Warburg's atlas.
The cultural model which had been characterized by a clear distinction between the minority of inscribers, scribes and artists, and the majority of anonymous nobodies, is being broken down in ways that we still can’t conceive of, because the very meaning of thought has been turned upside down. We’re talking about a crossroad and the dark side, the flip side of that crossroad.
The rumble of the faceless has been captured. For the first time in history those who were (and will be) forgotten are marking things down. Of course their symbols are influenced by economic and political powers, let’s face it, but they are now there in the data bases, on hard drives. What’s the role of the artist? Haven’t his prerogatives become a merge echo from the past? Shouldn’t he just concentrate
on listening to all those faceless people, and giving a voice to those who have been forgotten?
You have been involved in network activities or netbased projects for many years. From an artistic perspective, what has been happening in this field? What have you witnessed or found interesting about the internet?
What is your experience and feeling about the birth and the adolescence of the internet?
Since 1994, the Incident platform has been trying to analyze these phenomena, but without defending some kind of netart or digital art that’s isolated from other artistic creation or even from the general context of perception. The digital world isn’t a world of its own, but its binary nature is what makes it paradoxical. It seeps into everything, into the inter- stices of objects and discourses. It’s thinner than thin and it’s undetermined. We’re just interested in our times, so we move from the network to installation to photography or sculpture. Rather than protecting a so-called space of virtual resistance, we’re feeding off the network’s esthetics. We’ve always found discourses based on isolation to be less powerfully unique (because they create yet another category), and more about modernism and ghettoization; and that ghettoization is immediately criticized by those who’ve promoted it. It’s all about the system, there are no islands separated from other islands, the lagoon is everywhere, it crosses spaces, it works via transduction, it spreads. There are those who are telling the modernist tale of netart, the precursors, the pioneers.
What a strange expression! Is this the Far West? Isn’t putting the end at the beginning simply a way of speaking authoritatively in order to conceal artistic mediocrity? But Internet has never been underground, it’s always been a mass culture that artists started to use from the very beginning.
From a social, political, artistic or philosophical point of view, what is the impact of the concept of the network? How has the Internet and the idea of the network modified your attitude and practice, your relation to space and time, and the way we behave, work, think, share, exchange, collaborate, create...?
If you try to predict the future of Internet then you believe that the net is a piece of technology, while it’s also, and perhaps is above all else, emotional.
We’ve always been interested in egoless machine emotions, the way they’re interwoven with interfaces, with keyboard shortcuts, with the physical and social customs and habits. Because we’re already living in it, we’d like to be at the heart of anthropotechnology. Which means there’s no point in combining or separating the virtual (what a horrible word!) from the real (what a horrible word!). These are layers that have always juxtaposed and interlaced, otherwise we wouldn’t ever have been able to operate, digitalize or expose, we would have been incapable of moving between one and the other.
In the future, do you think internet will still be an interesting territory to explore ? Do you think it can be a fertile space for creation? Do you think it will produce interesting, mutating, hybrid artistic forms where the physical world and the virtual world can mutate, merge, fuse or collide?
Some people oppose art and technology. The problem is they don’t understand either. They’ve yet to enter that bizarre and troublesome space that unites us, deep down—at a level where things are most intimate, most intense, most undetermined — with these systems. Because those who criticize technologist performances) — which, we agree, can be quite mediocre and
naïve — are writing on keyboards, they’re being read on screens, they’re operating and being operated upon by the net, and not only by the Internet, but by the wires that are connected to each other, that carry energy, splice up signs, taking them elsewhere, the dust that’s building up behind the desks. We must imagine the future of images travelling through homes, haunted by the faceless, all of these flows: the digital flow, the emotional flow, the organic flow. Grégory Chatonsky lives and works in Montreal and Paris. His work is shown in France at the Numeris- causa gallery and in Frankfurt and New York at the Poller gallery.

What are, for you, the most important, emblematic, essential, exemplary websites of the last 15 years?
Published on WJSPOTS#1, 15 years of artistic creation on the internet / MCD special issue #3, sept.2009 


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