met Katia Haus and Alonso Cedillo at a place named Casa Dandelion
inside Second Life at 2:00pm Second Life Time (5:00pm NYC, 4:00pm MXC,
and 3:00am Abu Dhabi). This duo forms part of a recent wave of artists
that somehow are still part of the underground scene, but may soon jump
out of it. A common characteristic of this wave is its lack of physical
shows, and a big presence among international advanced web communities.
I met Katia and Alonso’s work at what they have called their NETlab,
located at a subdomain of drik magazine.
Cybil Bennet: Could you tell me how did you began working together?
Katia Haus: We met on 2007 in Mexico City. I was an enthusiast of
minimal techno by that time. So I began an internet radio show in which
I promoted local DJs and raves. I spent much of my time partying those
years. And it was at a party, when a friend of mine introduced me to a
group of painters, and A.C. was among them. I moved to London a little
bit after, so we didn’t really began working together until my return
to Mexico on 2009. We made music back then, my involvement in visual
arts is quite recent.
Alonso Cedillo: Somehow, music, specially electronic, has been some
kind of axis of what we could call our ism. And not only Katia and me.
All of the NETlab has been making music, mixing it, sharing it. In fact
I began working with viruses because of music. Back on 2006 we were
Windows users, and our computers had tons of viruses. We used to play
some loops until a nice atmosphere was built. And then we crashed our
computer’s RAM. It resulted on sounds we couldn’t control. We let them
played like that for hours, letting the viruses make their music.
CB: Then you’re more musicians than artists?
KH: No. Well. I guess it depends on what you consider an artist. Some
people recently are calling me an internet artist. But the truth is it
all began because I like to write, and I like 21st century art too. The
truth is I’ve focused much more on writing than any other thing. I
stopped making music like, for two years. And I just began working on a
new tape a couple of months ago.
CB: Do you consider you’re producing theory then?
AC: Absolutely. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t art. I think since the
beginning we’ve been struggling with the limits that cage the art
field. Considering our magazine as a work of art is part of it, but it
goes deeper. Some days ago a friend here in Abu Dhabi told me she
thought I was more an art theorist than an artist. However I cannot
theorize about things I do not practice. I believe I can make theory
with my webpages, or my paintings, or my sculptures.
KH: Yes. And my work is mostly music or sound. However making music
with computers is something extremely visual, and it remains creative
too. It’s hard for me to think which is music, which is art, and which
is theory. Contemporary art was about the mediums, but we believe 21st
century art should be about the way we use those mediums. In the end,
theory is also a medium.
CB: So the NETlab is about the way you use the internet?
AC: Totally. But the thing is the internet isn’t a medium. It’s a
space. The idea of the NETlab had its origins on an attempt we did to
establish a Media Lab. However we didn’t wanted to make just another
Media Lab. We hated and still hate what artistic Media Labs are making
on these days. Our NETlab is using digital technologies but very
differently. We absolutely reject the idea of building useless machines
or robots. That’s the decorative arts of electronic media.
KH: It seems that according to electronic artists, something becomes
art just because the use of arduino, sensors, LEDs, etc. Instead of
stepping away from exploitation, they seem to embrace it, just because
making art with technology is something cool. There are decisive facts
around electronic arts, specially around machines, that we can’t
ignore. Eniac is the mother of all our computers, so owning a computer
is already a big issue. If you add all the unsustainablity behind the
machines in electronic arts, plus all the exploited people that high
tech needs, and shape it on robot like structures, just to be
avant-garde, art becomes more like an electric version of Ringling
Brothers. That’s why we produce information instead. I don’t know if
this is only happening in Mexico, but it seems the local electronic art
scene is desperate on turning Mexico City into cheap version of the
cyberpunk Tokyo. And we’re soooo different and so far away from Tokyo.
We’re not even a developed country.
|CB: Why don’t you exhibit?
AC: I believe the greatest danger for artists is over exposure. We do
exhibit, a lot, but mostly on our websites, flickr, and tumblr
accounts. We also worked for a long time on Second Life. The real
difference is we’re using a parallel space to exhibit, which is the
internet. A space in which exhibitions are open to the public, any
hour, and any day of the year, as long as they have an internet
connection. For most artists their exhibitions matter more than their
websites. We are the opposite, and we still meet our audience thanks to
comments or chats. The internet is a place where people can meet. We’ve
made websites, online shows, and even symposiums. Once we did a
conference between Mariana Botey, Luis Camnitzer, and Fran Ilich in
Second Life. We also had some exhibitions.
CB: What was the conference about?
AC: The possibilities in art, political or not, and the Zapatista and
Tupamaros’ resistance. If you understand spanish you can listen to it
CB: Then you hosted several shows in Second Life?
KH: Actually no. We’ve made several shows on the web. One of them is
inside Second Life. Right now you’re being part of it. The location has
changed several times. Today we’re at the headquarters of the Cyberpunk
Party. So the space might be other, but the show is the same; the
scenery is what rotates. It can change its shape and content, as many
times as it needs. The deal is not about the virtual objects, it’s
about the conversation. For several months, our exhibition in Second
Life consisted on a spot on the desert, occupied with rugs and a
campfire. It had a Frida Kahlo’s painting burning on it, and avatars
got marshmallows on a stick when clicking it. We sat around it and
chat, all of us online from different places: Mexico City, Tijuana,
Santiago, New York, Vienna... and this can’t happen inside a gallery.
It just don’t. The internet will never fit inside a gallery.
AC: And that’s actually the main issue around electronic art, and the
“new” net.art. They’re making robots, machines and webpages for
galleries. That’s very stupid. Why on earth are you making net.art to
show it on a gallery? And why are people building mechanisms and robots
that can’t survive outside the museum? It’s not difficult to see, it’s
just because they want to be more glamorous and trendy. But if that’s
the case, in my opinion it’s better to grab some brushes and do oil
painting. That has much more glamour.
CB: Do you think artists should take the same direction you’re going?
KH: Yes, but it’s a difficult choice. Most people are always tempted by
financial success. We have a full time jobs outside
the Artworld to maintain the projects. However, we do not depend on the
government nor private investments. We’ve never been supported by them,
but we have never asked for it. We don’t want it, that money could feed
thousands of children instead of being spent on making “Art”. And also
that’s what give us the freedom to do whatever we want. Perhaps the
“Artworld” doesn’t take us seriously because we do not exhibit, but it
is definitely not our public.
Join us at Casa Dandelion.