Iliyana NEDKOVA in an e-mail conversation
with Klaus-dieter MICHEL about Porn Trapdoors, Blinkfaces and Other
Iliyana NEDKOVA in an e-mail conversation
with Klaus-dieter MICHEL about Virtual Heatwave, solid cultures
and cyber sandstorms
edited by Amos TAYLOR
IN: After revisiting your earlier VR work, called Virtual
Heatwave, I have realised again that webart is very demanding
and energy- consuming. Your work seems to be one of the fine examples
of the very heavily time-based webart. It was my research-oriented mind
that made me run through the diamond pathways cut through it as if it
was a summer's maze or a field of corn [ if I am to appropriate Jeff Noon's
metaphor recurrent in yours and Predrag Sidjanin's VR collaborative projects].
What do you consider would make people's regular span of attention of
19 seconds stretch beyond this time slot and carry on running through
the corn fields of Virtual Heatwave?
That depends on what you want to reach with your website. In my case,
I try to build the web-pieces firstly, with a truthful motivation, with
a set of an idea and form in mind and secondly, with some kind of a narrative
structure tempting people to relax from the force of swapping the channels.
The rest evokes the 'butterfly-effect of poetry' as known from
the chaos theory; where metaphorically speaking one wing`s stroke of a
butterfly in, let's say, Zimbabwe can cause a landslide somewhere in Ireland.
IN: 'Virtual Heatwave' is a crossbreed between a day by day web
diary, an edited e-zine and a collection of about 20 web shorts. It is
also a register of your personal experience of going through the final
VR 4.0 residency in Manchester/UK. Looking back to those late summer
stories, is there something you left behind unpublished on the Virtual
Heatwave pages? Are you tempted to self-edit yourself and rework some
of the entries from the privileged position of the time and space distance?
I have published nearly everything I wanted to initially which covers
what I have done during that VR 4.0 period. Maybe one or two pieces which
were in my mind didn't find their way into the Heatwave. Nevertheless,
when I look back to my very first concept, the general theme has obviously
been shifted to something else through a range of circumstances on the
spot. Also, I do not plan any further changes of the entries now. Concerning
their positions in time and space, I think that the pieces have got enough
timelessness to stand for themselves. However, I remain open for recharging
the Heatwave again at some point.
IN: What I find very respectful of the VR initial goals in this
project is its collaborative nature, just as VR was set to be from its
inception. This aspect seems to be very important to you as well, for
you are foregrounding that Virtual Heatwave is a co- production featuring
other VR participants [like Predrag Sidjanin, Luchezar Boyadjiev and Iliyana
Nedkova] and non-VR people [like Jeff Noon, Wyane Cheetham, Emrys Morgan
and Nico] on your first welcoming page. To my mind this project of
yours is a success story within the VR movement, which was always very
open to spontaneous collaborative enterprises but somehow fostered individual
exposure of VR artists, instead. This diverse manner of workshopping and
the lack of curatorial pressure to me were much more significant than
any centralised, controlled collaboration. Can you reflect on that with
reference to Virtual Heatwave?
I experienced the VR in Manchester and the virtual communication of
VR people on the mailing-list. I mention this because I gather that
VR 4.0 was something like a megaVR in the context of ISEA98 in Liverpool,
the presence of VR people of three former workshops and the activities
in the Revolting
Lab - all this was an impressive cluster of events and moods, maybe
too extreme as a point of reference to reflect on the entire VR history.
You see, when I came first to Manchester I was very irritated when I realised
that the work-in-progress will develop differently from what I have constructed
in my head chamber as a plan. Now I believe and I refer to your words
about individual exposure that it was hard for some VR people to find
their personal rhythm in this slip-stream of happenings. People like
to spin some kind of safety cocoon around themselves, everybody with their
own personal touch. Virtual Heatwave, for example, was planned as
an open work field for everybody but I discovered very early that nobody
you haven't known before will spontaneously participate. And here I include
myself explicitly. But after a couple of days some people found the mood
to react on aspects of the work or the people around. This kind of slow
development of creative relations was luckily possible through an open
way of curating without forcing anybody. Nobody said: "Come on, you go
now into this heatwave group, hurry up!" And that I consider as positive
although it needed of course more time to reach successful collaborative
IN:It is probably no coincidence that the boiling hot summer of
1998 in your closing text [Memento of Nico] is referred to as the 'summer
of Virtual Revolutions'. However, it is not only the emotional frame
of mind that builds the core of the concept. You have provided some background
knowledge around the concept construction in the fictive phone talk with
the VR coordinator. In your initial vision you seemed to have been interested
in exploring the physiological, political, sociological, physical and
intellectual steady spread of heatwave. Do you consider VR 4.0 such a
heatwave or 'unbroken period of unusually hot weather' ?
Oh no, it wasn't an unbroken period of unusually hot weather, do YOU think
so? If we have started now to use weather metaphors then I see VR 4.0
more as a sandstorm, which could be an enormous heatwave, too. Maybe it's
because of the image of surprised children rubbing sand out of their eyes
or it's simply because of the Sandbar that we used to hang around, I don't
know. But seriously, the Virtual Heatwave in its artistic and scientific
approach as I planned it before VR 4.0 would have needed a very structured
way of creation what wasn't really possible during the sandstorm of VR
IN: You have extended your stay around the VR 4.0 meeting places for
another 2 weeks before going back home. Then, you have abruptly closed
the e-zine and pronounced the end of the heatwave on October 16, 1998.
You have only once indicated a later revisit on December 11, 1998. What
would be the on-going audience-drawing power of Virtual Heatwave now that
it has burned down? Is it only the documentary, story-telling power that
will drive people from near and a far to travel back in time with Virtual
Yes, that's the big question. But I do believe, or better, hope that when
somebody slips today into the heatwave and walks through the diverse time
steps that he/she finds something will touch their interests or feelings.
Heatwave is not just a report or documentation of a bygone event, it is
also a progress-step of my net-art project 'the BLINKFACE' and it
handles its subjects in a manner as I often use for my creations. And
when you see pages like 'The
Sink's Plug' - British vs. Continental then I don`t think that this
statement has lost its value because ISEA98 is over.
IN: I can't help thinking that we are going through a 'deja vu'
some few months later. I am now no longer this virtual and vague personality
from the fictive phone talk you have reproduced from 'the original written
transcription'. Talking to you via the e-mail back and forth, feels like
weaving thoughts around in the cool cyberspace. My role in your fictive/original
scenario wasn't very flattering with all those one-liners and 'hmms'.
I am sort of catching up now and my questions tend to get longer and longer.
Well, let's get back to your concept as argued in your monologue, indicative
of certain VR expectations. One of the major concerns of Virtual Heatwave
[and possibly of VR] is how to improve the connectivity of virtual and
solid culture. This is what you have managed to do in your own web style
highlighting hot topics and hot headlines from our immediate media-ted
reality. This is always very risky because the hot item of yesterday doesn't
necessarily make it to the headlines of tomorrow. Hence, the feeling
of a 'web archaeologist' when browsing through such once-hot zones. How
are you sustaining the burning fire inside you when looking back at a
fellow-artist web-based project? How can a web artist cater for the interest
of the on-line audience in the so called attention economy of today?
It is in fact the finest side of the VR story that we, the people of
VR, still have the chance to test the connectivity of virtual and solid
culture. All is a crossover between electronic communication - maybe
we can call it virtual - and solid places, events and personalities. Indeed,
when I think of you today doing this virtual interview then you are both
to me, a cyber space human being and a real woman with her eyes, hair,
skin and voice. I would say this is one major challenge to me to practise
electronic art on virtual channels: to work on these diverse and mysterious
relations between physics and virtuality. And here, virtual means of
course more than Internet or VRML. It is the force field between those
opposite conditions like seeing and believing, sleep and wakefulness,
conscious and unconscious. I consider that I always try in my work to
synchronise somehow these two spheres driving to points where both become
an unity. If I see this topic in a more sociocultural sense then I would
say, that the cyberspace has got this name only because they are social
groups with skills in electronic communication and there are others with
no experience who are even scared of it. This mutual relation helps
to keep the myth of the cyberspace. And that cyberspace is today mainly
seen in the myth of the world wide webs. Endless communication and
information, entertainment and pleasure is promised. Naturally these
new 'lands' have become an object of desire for commercial exploitation.
Now the big players are smoothing the broad data highways straight into
their spheres of influence, i.e AOL is advertising in Germany with a maximum
effort and their messages are so incredibly mainstreamy and lifestyled
just to tempt even the last consumer. ['Switch on and you are in! Just
that simple. A apropos I have met my actual lover there!']. They are
no more than adverts for basic instincts. From this drastic point
of view somebody could say that the independent communication concept
from the early days of the nets is dead now. Is it? I don't think so.
I still see enormous chances to go beyond that attention economy and to
stand for different concepts of communication. So, I myself have got no
problems with slow developing artist's sites. I know places in the Internet
where I cannot find many modifications or hot topics but I am nevertheless
glad that they exist. One significant example is 'The Place' which
makes me feel comfortable every time when I revisit the site. Or who has
ever seen 'BINGE' the site for meat-art? This amazing project disappeared
2 years ago and I'm still unhappy about that fact. This should describe
a bit my ideas of appearance, sense of time and structures of fellow-artist
web-based projects and of course, of my own.
IN: Concept wise, I gather that Virtual Heatwave is a more
elegant buzzword for the technological revolutions of the last few decades
for in your vision movement and speed equate heat and heatwave. Furthermore,
you express your willingness to design a research project, called Virtual
Heatwave that will connect different Internet sites with real space events
like Marilyn Monroe's hit Heatwave, El Nino, dramatic hot spots in the
societies of East and West, massive increases and crashes on the
international money market. To me, all this is worth of an on-going research
project or a series of heatwaves. Therefore, I can appreciate highly your
current project as a research stage employing the best of the database
stylistics of the Internet. However, what is not entirely convincing for
me, is the overall graphic design and the representation of each entry.
Would you be inclined to make this Virtual Heatwave more concise and sophisticated
in the long-run or would you prefer to point people visiting the site
to its rough, spontaneous, unpolished nature of a research-in-progress?
Virtual Heatwave was a time, location and event based project and
it will remain in unpolished condition. This concerns basically the 17
web shorts which were published during this entire 8-weeks period. From
Phone talk to Memento
of Nico. these are all genuine works. However, the overall design
which you mention will possibly be removed either when I reactivate the
Heatwave or when I rework the entire BLINKFACE site. Because this overall
portal-mentality of websites including my own is really annoying me and
I want to set myself free from this functional constraints to have a homepage
or an index for each part of the project. Here I try to find new ways
for the entire work presentation and so is another VR participant- Predrag
Sidjanin from Den Haag. We are planning to collaborate in a new web-based
project with a navigation concept which will be an experiment in this
area. With regards to the continuation of the Heatwave research I am happy
that I can report from a further upcoming VR co-operation. Only recently
Perry Bard and I have decided to co-operate on a concept 'Where Were You
When - History Starts Now'. This web-based project will work on the subject
of 'people's diverse perception of events and their meanings' in such
a way that people will easily submit topics and entries. It is in progress
and all people of VR will receive a call for participation when we are
done with the preparations. Along these lines I think about the possibility
of initiating a weather and language topic within 'Where were you when'
project which means to continue the heatwave idea.
IN: By mapping the people of Greater Manchester on its project pages
Virtual Heatwave stands out with its openness to other communities beyond
the VR network. You have liaised with fellow artists based in the North-West
of England or commemorated celebrities like Nico who once lived in Manchester.
There is also a blur of the M6 road map reading Manchester and Salford
on the right hand side of nearly each project page. It somehow takes the
position of an ever-watching eye. It turns that the VR workshop locations
are of great importance to the final framing of the VR works. Mare Tralla
[Grey Word Game a la Sofia] and Amos Taylor [Other Sofias], both from
VR 1.0 in Sofia/Bulgaria have adopted the same translocal strategy of
observing today's history and demythologising the current local revolutions
of another VR city. Are you about to adopt Manchester for a home city
or will it be your virtual domain only?
K-dM: It must have been 10 years ago when I came to Greater Manchester
for the very first time. Since then I would comeback regularly, experience
some of the aspects of social and cultural life in the North West of England
and make some very close friends. Somehow I feel very inspired and comfortable
in this region and I hope to move physically to Manchester very soon.
The English version of North-South conflict in particular and the specific
sociocultural and historical position of England within Europe interests
me a lot. So for me it is no wonder that my VR experience and work
have been influenced by the local people and environment beyond the ISEA
or VR community. Just these two coexisting realities - the congress
going society versus the regional societies - challenged me to confront
the virtual revolutions with translocal or general British phenomena.
In addition, I thought that it can be only positive to reflect beside
the cyberspaces the diverse local realities too when the VR really wants
to 'go beyond the former East/West divide of Europe'. And this concerns
not only Eastern capitals like Sofia or St. Petersburg. No, it's also
important in Western areas with some critical sociocultural backgrounds
like the North-West of England.
IN: Let's talk about a few of your web shorts that constitute 'Virtual
Heatwave'. 'Memento of Nico' is the last entry and it bears the fascination
of rewriting histories and repositioning art projects and personalities.
I find that this revisionist endeavours are not so much the end of
the millennium nostalgia but an open land for varied ways of coping
with the gap of generations and artistic agendas. For the sake of drawing
parallels, amongst many other projects full of insular anxiety, is one
of Chris Hill, artist/educator/curator/writer, based in Yellow Springs,
OH/USA. Her project is called
'Surveying the First Decade: Video Art and Alternative Media in the U.S.'
Do you think that in the over-hyped revolutionary 'heatwave' it is important
to reconsider the body of work produced in the late 60s and 70s which
also had radical aspirations? Do you have a lot of visitors lighting up
virtual candles to Nico?
K-dM: Yes, I am satisfied with the number of people who have visited
the Memento of Nico. Moreover, I have received a number of e-mails where
people express their gratitude that I have made this quiet place for her.
And of course I am convinced that an open minded manner of dealing
with all modern art concepts of this century is helpful to define our
current aesthetic positions. I often find that the cultural period
of the 60s and 70s doesn't have that big an influence as other historical
relations on media-based art in particular today. You are more likely
to follow links to Radio theory of Brecht or Russian Avantgardists, Italian
Futurists or DaDa-Movement or whatever but surprisingly less to Joseph
Beuys or Andy Warhol. Although to me Beuys as theory and social practice,
is immanent in every contemporary virtual community. Could it be that
the mental pattern of the ideas of that time with their strong belief
in evolution of aesthetics, technics and politics appear to us nowadays
as too naive for the social and cultural situation of the world after
the breakdown of the communistic sphere of influence? Do you remember
for example the English architecture project called Archigram? This is
a typical case. Six architects gathered in the 60s and produced fantastic
projects about how people would live in cities in the future. I remember
'Walking' or 'Instant Cities' or portable one-man-houses called 'Cushicles'
built to enable a maximum of human independence and mobility. They were
really visionary but today their concepts appear to us in their total
overconfidence in technology and future somehow unrestrained optimistic.
Archigram's concepts has felt almost into oblivion.
IN: Just a brief reference to two of the e-zine sites dealing with
global politics issues: Tomahawk Aid & US Cruise Missiles... The
tension around the conflict zones - bombing of Sudan and Afghanistan and
also around African orphanages - transmitted by the world media is just
a signal for you to start a virtual campaign of electronic disturbance
in the manner of the thing.net initiatives. The most shocking for you
seemed to be the result of your campaigning: not that many critical voices
reached out to the self-loading discussion page of Virtual Heatwave. I
wonder whether you have shared or would like to share your discontent
with Ricardo Dominguez, US/Mex artist, based in New York/USA, Thing.net
activist and VR participant?
K-dM: Well, to be honest, I did this virtual campaign from a very
spontaneous and emotional position and in expectation of the VR 4.0 workshop
to share a discussion forum for political standpoints of the international
VR community. But it was obviously not very well organised and it didn't
work. It's usually not my favourite work to organise political campaigns.
But I do respect very much the engagement of people who use the virtual
space for the political struggle for independence and integrity of the
human mankind in general. And so I follow with much interest Ricardo Dominguez
activities and the Electronic Disturbance Theatre. I still like
to remember Ricardo as a kind and brave man. Yes brave, because the way
he stands for his ideas impresses me. So, I hope that one day maybe there
will be a chance for a closer collaboration. Anyway it's promised, Ricardo,
if you read this, next time when you call for participation in a campaign
on US-american politics I will join your FloodNet.
IN: A few of the other web entries in Virtual Heatwave are somehow
related to other VR works or artists. There is a series of at times direct
or at times subtle visual appropriations as comments on ISEA98, Revolution98
and on the British versus Continental culture attributes. In your laconic
and witty Language Terror series you are dealing with the neo colonialism
of standard Internet English and also with the Manchester branch of ISEA98
branded as Terror and Liverpool one - as Revolution. The Babylonian
cluster of languages, mastered by the VR participants, has been picked
up by other VR works- in-progress like the ones of Perry Bard, Sera Furneaux,
Daniella Sneppova and Nives Kreuh. Furthermore in your new book of
rules for Internet culture you embark on the language of road signs and
restrictions only to say: You are not allowed to smoke in front of
this web page' or 'Eat dangerously'. The self-importance of
being British is also critiqued from the perspective of the observant
cultural visitor in your snapshots-based Northern Windows, British Readymade,
Dale Farm Milk Bottles. Another very pertinent VR observation point
is implied in the zooming trip into the Withworth Park Hall Residency
. It is whereabout Luchezar Boyadjiev, VR participant spotted the plaque
commemorating Friedrich Engels temporary place of residence which only
100 years later turned to be the temporary home for a bunch of virtual
revolutionaries. Is there something you would like to add on a second
thought about the above bizarre collections of images and bits of texts?
K-dM: To refer to this self-importance of being British I must
add that most of the people I have met in the North West of England
have got a very ironic and distant opinion about the British Empire. What
I have tried to point at with my critical comments on British culture
was to show that this self-importance is more like a heavy burden from
the land's history and sometimes for governments and politicians a way
to cover today's problems or to support a conservative national identity.
I am aware that England will go through radical changes when I think
about Europe, about education, welfare and monarchy, about more independence
for Scotland and Wales and peace and political agreement in Northern Ireland.
And I hope that the centralistic attitude of British politics and economy
can be softened up in the future.
IN: Again, more from the position of a web archaeologist, I am quite
satisfied with the time I took after the VR 4.0 frenzy, to read
through other non-VR events overlapping with the busy VR agenda, which
you have managed to witness and comment in Virtual Heatwave, i.e. two
performances by friends of yours - Emrys Morgan and Wayne Chetham. Few
months later I can appreciate 'Suspended Belief' project of Emrys and
read beyond the immediacy of the news report: 'Christ was crucified in
Rochdale, Lancashire, yesterday' [The Observer, 23/08/98]. One can slip
into another recent art scandal with Andre Serrano and his Pissing Jesus
photograph reported to be blamed for the collapse of the alternative arts
infrastructure and governmental arts funding in the USA in the early 1990s.
Franc Purg, Celje/Slovenia is another 'bold' artist who has worked in
the similar aesthetics of the living
art sculpture]. Moscow artist Avdei Ter-Oganian who is about to go
to prison for his performance 'Young Anti-Christ' accused of profanising
the mass-produced copies of Orthodox icons, provides yet another example
of a scandal-driven art action, sensitive to two symptomatic events -
the comeback of another dominating ideology [this time - Christian Orthodox]
and the public/state paranoia curtailing the freedom of artistic
expression in Russia. 'Celebrating Differences' was initially a reading
of poems by Wayne which in your documenting effort goes across various
media - cartoons, realaudio recordings, poems in text and hypertext. You
have also collaborated with Predrag Sidjanin on his VR research around
the fictional world of Jeff Noon. What have we left unquestioned around
these few mini-works of 'Virtual Heatwave'? Perhaps, you can come up with
the final question and provide your answer, as well?
K-dM: [i am sorry, Iliyana, but this interview was so wordy that
I am now simply speechless]
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