Gordan Savicic (AT/NL) is an artist playing with software algorithms, experimental media and fine art. His works includes game art, interactive/passive installations and speculative hardware. His participation in collaborative projects and performances have been shown in several countries, such as Japan (dis-locate), Germany (Transmediale), Spain (Arco Madrid), France (IRCAM) and the Netherlands (V2_), among others. Savicic lives and works in Rotterdam and Vienna.
How do you like to define yourself, as a media artist? and when did you decide that you wanted to work in this field?
It’s hard to define yourself as a so-called “media artists” in such a hybrid world of different cultural and technological systems we are living in. Thus, i guess that i find myself very often flickering between the role as artist, designer, engineer and/or researcher. I like to examine the technological impact on our society through protocols, gadgets and networks in order to create projects which challenge our contemporary view on those implications. In general my focus is in shaping sharp and witty comments/artworks about our contemporary culture that inherits more and more aspects from upcoming technology. This can include creating objects, performances or just situations. I’ve been fascinated by personal computers quite early in my childhood; mostly playing games on my old C64. I guess, I’ve got my 8bit nostalgia from that period of my life. Later, I was studying at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna and the Piet Zwart Insitute in Rotterdam and met lots of inspiring people and projects.
Tell me, please, about Web 2.0 Suicide Machine, How was all the process of the project? It’s working the web site now?
We (the guys from moddr.net, Danja Vasiliev, Walter Langelaar and Gordan Savicic) organized a Web 2.0 Suicide Night in Worm (a club venue in Rotterdam) where the idea was to collectively delete your social network profiles in January 2009. Just grab a drink, fill out some forms and do away with your web2.0 alter-ego. Later, I started scripting some python scripts and automatized the whole process. Finally, we turned it into a webservice and went online on 19th of December 2009. We had several hacker attacks and from time to time the server went just down because of the huge interest. It’s quite ironical to think that users themselves killed the web2.0 suicidemachine server due to their urge for killing their profiles.
From the beginning It was something about “unfriending” or your position is more critical about this kind of corporative social networks.
The suicide machine is, of course, a radical solution for the by now popular term “unfriending,” which became Oxford word of the year 2009. There are for sure good aspects in staying connecting with friends and family living abroad using Facebook & Co., but (most of the) people are not fully aware of the privacy-tradeoffs. Those services will hold your collected information forever on their servers and use the acquired data for targeted marketing analysis. Users are entrapped in a high resolution panoptic prison without walls, accessible from anywhere in the world.
We do have an healthy amount of paranoia to think that everyone should have the right to quit her 2.0-ified life by the help of automatized machines. Therefore, we hope that by removing your contact details and friend connections your data is being cached out from their backup servers. This can happen after days, weeks, months or even years.
How many people were able to commit suicide?
We could execute around 5000 web 2.0 suicides which probably doesn’t sound much, but this is mostly due to the fact that our server can take only one session/platform at the moment. Basically we have a queue of around 70.000 who wanted to try the web2.0 suicidemachine. Those will be processed at a later time.
What were the arguments of Facebook to censor the use of this application through your web?
Facebook was sending us a Cease and Desist letter and blocked our server’s IP address. Their accussations were mostly referring to Californian privacy law and other things, such as soliticing user login and passwords, scraping content from Facebook servers and so on (I recommend reading the (hilarious) letter which is available as download on our website). However, we didn’t really agree with their accussations. Hence, we circumvent the IP address ban and started the service again in end of January. Meanwhile, we encountered some other problems related to some changes on their site and much stricter login check-ups. Anyhow, we are going to release an opensource version of the suicidemachine and hope that people will take the project over and extend functionalities.
But, don’t you think that is a serious problem that we don’t have the right to completely disappear from these social networks?
If people decide to curtail their information sharing, Facebook will have a hard time to maintain their business model which depends on the ‘social graph’ and information sharing. A positive outcome of the media stir about Facebook and the web2.0 suicidemachine are the reactions and discussions people are starting about issues related to privacy, intellectual property and abusive use of social networks. People became aware of the fact that they are leaving bits and pieces of their Internet alter-ego throughout those social network sites. Thus, an awareness towards the deletion of all those traces came in to play. The creation of an automatized service which kills your online ego totally hit the “Zeitgeist” of 2010.
I think that, maybe, it’s even more interesting PlaySureVeillance because It’s funny and not so obvious the way you criticize this lack of privacy, and also talks about other topics. Why do you think is less well-known?
PlaySureVeillance was a critical examination and a mixed media installation which could be only experienced inside of a gallery space. It dealt on a very conceptual level with the idea of the creation of a virtual doppelgaenger. Instead of unfriending, it tried to spam/flood the system with fake profiles based on information gathered by other means, such as decisions and positions taken within a game. Back in 2007, I was fascinated by the amount of games offered on Facebook and their massive usage. By installing a third party game, you pretty much give full access to your whole profile. Games have one basic criteria. The player’s free will to devote himself to he game. PlaySureVeillance was an attempt to profile a new subject out of (game) data. This subject is what Matthew Fuller calls Flecks of identity. They are information tokens; scalar nodes referring not certainly to an individual, but rather a referent within a social and technological space.
Can you, please, talk a little bit about Constraint City? It’s a project that I really like and I find very sexy.
Generally, my intention was not to show that everyone needs WPA2 encryption (an encryption for your wireless router) or that electromagnetic waves are unhealthy, but rather that there are more layers augmented to our city experience and that with the corset you get kind of an interface which is able to read the electromagnetic code out of it. As an artist I pose questions to these topics, rather than trying to answer them. Back then, I was reading Michel de Certeau’s book “The practice of everyday life”, where I’ve been fascinated with the elementary form of city experience related to bodies and of spaces that cannot be seen. In particular, I was interested in comparing the basic structure of cities with the architectural model of a CPU circuit. Parallel to that, I’ve been exploring the idea of wearable algorithms, i.e. mapping (executable) code onto bodies. To sum it up, all these things happened and somehow led to the development of Constraint City. My aim was to literally experience the urge for connectivity within an altered city exploration.
You have a kind of sadomasochistic aesthetics, but your work is about everyday technologies. Looks like, in the process, you transform those daily things or “technologies” in a clever tool to learn about us. It’s funny that you do that with this wicked touch. Am I right?
Perhaps the aim lies in inventing new (sometimes painful) representations of reality and tackling the subtle restriction of what is possible in the realm of the socio-political space. I like to have fun while working which is maybe the reason why some of projects are witty comments on technology and art. Sometimes it’s even enough to hold an everyday object in a weird position to expose some peculiarity which then triggers new thoughts.
Do you feel close to the contemporary art that is being produce now? and, do you think that what you do as a media artist is connected with other practices from the past like for example Dadaism or Viennese Actionism?
My artistic vision links very well with genres from the past century, such as Fluxus, Futurism, Punk and Dada. Performance and body art are still an impressing and inspiring part of my research. I’ve been to some big contemporary art fairs (ARCO, Art Amsterdam, …) lately and left with mixed feelings since only about 5% of the exhibited works were sort of interesting to me. However, I think that new media will (very) slowly move into this system, even though it’s being more and more appropriated by other art genres. I’ve seen good stuff from UBERMORGEN.COM, electroboutique and Raphael Lozano Hemmer on various art fairs; and they have proven that there’s definitely interest from the “art world”. But it’s a tough job, for sure.
I think that for new media and electronic art there is a new paradigm. I mean, based on an economical system far from the circuit of galleries, museums and the art market. Don’t you think?
Indeed, unlike the music industry which was facing tremendous changes by the advent of the mp3, the gallery art market still relies on stuff being hung on the wall (i.e. paintings). I guess gallerists are still confessing to Benjamin’s concept of the unique aura and authenticity of works. Reproducible art, such as computer algorithms, is threatening the “authentic art”. Thus, “new media” art is finding a hard time being accepted by traditional market systems. Nevertheless, I am noticing more and more screens and circuit boards inside of galleries 😉
How is your creative process? Do you start from experimenting with technologies or first you have an idea an then you find the best way and medium to develop it?
Hmmm, this really differs from project to project. Sometimes there’s a clear vision of the final outcome while sometimes I am working and experimenting on different subjects without having any defined goal. There’s no recipe in developing a project. I really like the idea of rapid prototyping projects, i.e. “You have an idea in the morning and by dinner you have a finished project”. However, some projects took more than a year till I considered them as “done”, although I never really think they are finished.
What is the roll of hacktivism or mediactivism in your work? Is it more important than your creativity and self expression as an artist?
I am not really considering myself as an activist of any sort since I am perhaps too lazy for doing that. I admire the work done by hacktivists and feel emotionally connected to their principles. However, I don’t think that someone has to deliberately declare him/herself an activist. Every little bit counts and thus we all are hacktivists in some way. One important luxury of art is that it can be provocative by addressing delicate topics and stretching boundaries between reality and fiction (for example 01.org nikeplatz, yes men, vote-auction etc.)
Are you still working with moddr.net? What is it exactly, a collective, a hacker space… Do you feel better working with others? Is this necessary in media art?
I like to collaborate with friends and people who happen to be around me. It’s an incredible good feeling when you join up with a bunch of people and exchange weirdest thoughts and ideas. Moddr_ came into place when we (a group of former Piet Zwart Institute students) decided to create a small “lab” in Rotterdam where we would organise workshops and events related to a critical view on the term “new media” while using open source software. We define ourselves as experimentalists of everyday technology and critical media thinkers with an artistic practice. Basically, our lab consists of some very geeky fine-artists.
Please, tell me about what you are working on now. Yesterday you told me that you’re going to Ars Electrónica but with an old project. Can you explain it a little bit?
Few years ago I was collaborating with Leo Peschta on a project called “werpbot”. It’s basically a cigarette-throwing robot which works with facial detection and a catapult to fire up cigarettes into someones mouth. It has been quite a funny task to develop the machine and we went through many trial and error stages (as you can imagine). Last year we sold the machine to a club-venue in Rotterdam called WORM and now the machine deserves a little bit of renovation. Hence, we are currently busy with improving its stability. Parallel to that I am trying to raise some money to build few installations which will deal with the virtual and physical presence of the Internet. Stay updated!
And the last question, something that I like to ask. What are you reading now?
I’ve almost finished “Against the Day” by Thomas Pynchon 🙂
Thank you very much! 😉