My first encounter with Gluebalize was through Tom Muller’s Pixelsurgeon link in October 2003 after the launch of its first issue. The first work in the “What is net art?” themed issue was a piece by Area3 that jammed the whole net art jargon into an electro/hip-hop video clip. It presented a very intelligent angle of criticising the new art form’s hypes and idols (“I love Jody.org”). A very fresh and brave statement, all wrapped up in a very non-digital looking interface of a linear magazine. After what seemed like ten minutes I realized I’d been diving into the artwork, texts, interviews and the Haiku Pills for almost an hour. We all know this kind of experiences doesn’t pop up on our screens every day. Well, I had to write and thank them for that. That’s how I met Mauro Gatti.
PIXELSURGEON: Why Gluebalize?
MAURO GATTI: The question we started from was: what is digital art? Our main goal was not to find a definition but to understand if it really exists and how it exists, to understand if the digital art could be compared with other forms of art like painting or sculpture. So it’s really interesting that the whole project was commissioned by the Biennale di Venezia together with ASAC (the Historical Archive of Contemporary Art). It’s like the creation of a huge real time archive aimed at collecting, performing and evolving the concept of digital art applied at different ideas for every issue of Gluebalize. Digital artists have the tools and the skills to deal with different topics using different styles depending on cultural and historical backgrounds.
We wanted to create an international network and a possible map of making digital art and introduce a concept: “the network is the artwork” to describe the incredible evolution of digital art thanks to the networking, a global digital platform where artists can share and evolve their styles and concept using an incredible resource of art signs like the Network. Every issue of gluebalize will be added to an online and real time archive of the contemporary digital art oriented at the next Biennale of Visual Art in 2005.
Who are the people behind Gluebalize?
The project idea, introduction and haiku pills are by Lorenzo Miglioli. The art direction, graphics, collecting and contents organization is by me, Mauro Gatti. The technical direction and coding by Lorenzo Manfredi. English translations are by Marina Cadei. Over there are the Biennale di Venezia and the ASAC Festival interviews are collected by Andrea Toniolo.
So you’re, in fact, the curator of Gluebalize?
Yes, if you’re talking about the creative direction side; I choose the artists, keep contacts with them, collect artworks and design every issue.
You present, amongst other things, works by many artists that are not considered to be big-names in the industry or in the art world. Some of them prove to be surprising new talents. What are your resources?
I have a lot of friends in my email contacts book, in ICQ or MSN and in many forums. Gluebalize has to be the place where every artist has the opportunity to show their work (of course, there must be a quality level to follow). Gluebalize is always open for new names.
Have you ever turned down a submission you’ve received for the two issues published so far?
Just one, for the first issue, the artwork concept was quite far from our brief.
How did your studio, Mimic, get to work with the Venice Biennial?
Lorenzo Miglioli, the CEO and editor of Mimic, is the digital contents curator of the Biennale di Venezia. Blogwork and Gluebalize are two projects created during his commission.
You say in the “Why Gluebalize?” text that opens every issue: “…adapting and evolving the concept of Digital Art, questioning mainly if it really exists and then whether it exists as an independent form of art, like painting, sculpture, cinema, etc.” It seems to be quite a suspicious preconception; in what manner do you think Gluebalize deals with these questions?
In the last few years we have seen thousands of definitions of digital art. The word digital art has been used for everything from wallpapers to interactive work. This is probably the reason why digital art never received any important accolades like other forms of art. So we don’t want to define the digital art starting from the results that it produces, but from the method used to produce it. Networking is the key to understanding digital art. Ours is the first generation of artists, writers, poets, video makers, cartoonists, cross-media surfers who THINK, CREATE, WORK and SPREAD through the interactive way. We’re living the net age in which we can see the artist going beyond technology, mastering the narrative impact, taking it with their own concepts and not enduring the limits of programming. We want to show that by dealing with different digital artists and different themes every issue that digital art can produce results as good as classical forms of art.
But don’t you think that by repeating the mantras of asking whether or not it’s a new art form, we are indeed holding it from becoming one? After all, photography’s right to exist as an art form stopped being questioned only when the question stopped being asked.
You’re right and that’s why we are not asking for definitions but we’re asking for artworks to demonstrate that the digital way is a new form of telling and sharing. We’ll not concentrate our vision on the search for a definition but on the artist’s interpretation of many different topics like music, cinema, photography and so on… The second issue of gluebalize is a good way to understand our vision: images, sound, video, interactivity, all made by different artists with just one vision; expressing their own idea of the digital divide. That’s the way we want to follow.
Starting with the first issue first, and speaking of this form of defining through creative interpretation, the first issue of Gluebalize is themed “What is net art?” The issue presents works by artists/designers like Area3, eBoy that (with the exception of maybe Oculart) usually do not refer to themselves as net artists or practice net art on a regular basis. What encouraged you to direct that question to these creators, who usually practice design much more than art?
It depends on your definition of design and art. I believe more in networking as an evolving platform of ideas than in the definition of net art. That’s why I consider the work of eBoy art more than works from many other net artists. They use the same tools, same hardware and move in the same internet world. Both have demonstrated the ability to use a strong concept to express their own vision. That’s why I don’t want to differentiate between “net artist” or “designer”.
Some of the works presented in Gluebalize are, in fact, static images. Do you think they can still be referred to as net art?
Absolutely. Interactivity is one of the main characteristics of what we would like to define as DIGITAL ART vs NON DIGITAL ART but it’s not the only one. As I said before networking is the centre of our theory.
Following your theory, can you imagine the existence of a net art work that is not digital at all??
The birth of a net artwork must be online thanks to networking and net technologies… but spreading the work has to be offline, too. This could be an ideal path to express the potential of digital.
Do you think there’s a line between a digital artist and a digital designer? Where do you think is it drawn?
As I said, many of the creators in Gluebalize practice design as their main occupation; do you think the disciplines of design once fronted with art through the net, hold a new potential for answering the questions raised by the Venice Biennial and ASAC?
Absolutely. This is the point: trying to fuse design and art. Forget definitions and look at the way it’s produced.
Do you and the rest of the guys at Mimic see yourselves as net artists?
Well… Following my previous answers I can say that I feel myself as a man working with the digital medium, sharing ideas and evolving my style thanks to my own skills and the network. If we go over the actual net artist definitions, I can say yes, I feel myself as a net artist. As for the other members, I don’t know.
Let’s move to the second issue of Gluebalize. “Digital Artists against Digital Divide” deals with the differences between first and third worlds online. In what way do you see the role of the artist in the battle against digital divide?
1. Demonstrate the possibility of the digital
2. Make people know and understand the digital divide using different styles and ways of telling
3. Involve people not only locally but globally
4. Using the network to “spam” the message
As part of it being an international contemporary art biennial, the Venice Biennial presents pavilions from countries all over the world. Do you see the divide of art by its countries of origin to be relevant, when it comes to net art?
Yes. Countries that suffer from the digital divide always respond in a way heavier than other countries. There is more pathos in their response.
Were you surprised by the artwork created for the digital divide issue? Or by the interviews that goes with each work?
Every submission has been a surprise; a very high level of quality has been reached by the artists. I’m really proud of every work submitted and every issue that has been launched. And some interviews explain that artists aren’t just “good users of web tools” but clever and smart at describing the concepts behind their work.
Haiku Pills? Is that a new format?
Probably. I think that it’s good to read those short stories between artworks. They make us think, dream or discuss. But without doubt they move something in our mind.
What makes Gluebalize a magazine and not an online themed exhibition series?
Magazine. A periodical containing a collection of articles, stories, pictures, or other features. We want to be both on and offline. Demonstrate that the digital world could be appreciated in the real world like many other traditional worlds are. Gluebalize hopefully contains, all the ingredients that you can find in the digital art world today; it’s not the interface but the will to “export” our way of seeing the network.
When you say you want to be both on and offline do you mean the magazine also has a printed version?
Not now. It’s in our plans but we want to be strong and have enough material to go printed because we want to hit the offline audience with the same freshness and quality that we have shown online.
What’s the theme for Gluebalize issue three?
We have to define it better, but it will deal with art and cinema, but not in a common way. As soon as we’ll have the brief ready it will be announced on the website and in the newsletter.
Any other new interesting collaborations we can expect in the coming two years until the 2005 biennial?
The Blogwork will evolve in the next few months and will open a direct connection with Gluebalize. As for other new projects it’s all boiling in the pot, but nothing defined right now.
How will the Gluebalize project be presented in the 2005 Venice Biennial?
Mmmm. I can’t answer that. Top secret right now. I’m too low in the scheme of things to say something because those kind of decisions will be taken by the generals and not by a sergeant like me!
Any other new interesting co-operation to expect in the coming two years until the 2005 biennial?
The Blogwork will evolve in the next months and will open a direct connection with gluebalize. As for other new projects it’s all boiling in the pot, but nothing defined by now.
Thanks Mauro, we’ll be following you…
Oh thanks… 🙂
Pixelsurgeon: I’m not sure the Venice Biennial people knew what they were doing when for the first time in the short history of net art, they actually gave the people who create the net the opportunity to define its art form. They are doing it through their own experiences and through the esthetics of being digital creatures on a daily basis. They are not committed to the discourse of contemporary art and to exhausting equations with Video Art. The artists behind the pages of Gluebalize can determine statements like “The Network is the Artwork” and to define static images created in the atmosphere of global-digital-networking as the marks of the new art form. I’m not saying those statements should replace the already defined ways of speaking about net art, but I can certainly relate to those very fresh and authentic voices claiming their natural right to be heard in the discourse defining the new art form.