Interview with Vuk Cosic

published: 
September, 1997

This one digs a bit into the history of net.art and it shows net.art did not start as a joke or as a hoax. It's made at the infamous nettime meeting in Ljubljana. After the rumor earlier 1997 that net.art would be declared dead in Linz, net.art gets taken to a higher plan instead.

Q: Did you start off as an artist immediately or was it more media activism?

Vuk Cosic: If I recall well the first website I did was for a little festival that I was in, just to see how it works. But the next thing immediately was a website for a conference I was organizing last year in Trieste. That was net.art per se. It was about net.art allready. I was fully aware of the possibility of this quest, so to say. I invited some people I knew from before, you know: Alexei Shulgin, heath bunting, Pit Schulz...I made a website that was allready some type of, how to say it, not a manifesto, but a practical version of it. It had the same ambition like a manifesto, but without the declaritive tone. It was a demonstration of what might be done in my view, back then, a year ago. I liked and so did the others. I thought: "hey, I've got nice friends, they like what I like..." and it was in this way that I met all these good guys. That's what net.art is all about: you meet good guys.

 

Q: Net.art per se was one year ago, do you think that manifesto, or whatever it was, still stands? How would you write it now?

 

Vuk Cosic: The whole manifesto thing was actually four questions that are on this one page and that are links to four not really answers, but suggestions for quests for the answers. I really did not think of it back then as a manifesto, but somehow it works quite fine. One question was whether net.specific art is possible. The other question was (oops, I don't remember well) "does the globality of the audience automatically mean the universality of the topic", something like this. Pretty pompous in rethorics, but still... Then there was something about distribution and something about content, something about specific aesthetics and something about the tangible artwork itself. What happens with the copy and the original. That made a lot of sense to me back then and today it gained a new quality.

 

Q: What happened at the meeting?

 

Vuk Cosic: It was a great meeting. It influenced a lot the structure of several events that followed. I gathered 7, 8 or 9 people. We were sitting around for two days eating icecream in Trieste end of May, which is something you absolutely have to try in life, and our only duty to the external reality of life was to sit around a table the second day at the evening and try and say what those talks were all about and then there was the dinner party. Actually the talk was based around these few questions. Andreas Broeckman came with, how do you say this, a sketch for an essay about net.art. It somehow coincided in time. He had the opportunity to test his theory. We also had the opportunity to test him. It worked well; it was a good text. Akke Wagenaar was there, she was defending some funny 19th century positions, but in the meantime baby, she got far this one year. Then who was there, Alexei Shulgin and Walter van der Cruysen (desk.nl) and me. The three of us were the Marx Brothers of cyberspace; we liked that title back then. Then there was Igor Marcovic from Zagreb, Adele Eisenstein… she used to work in C-3 in Budapest. It was a conference of people that are involved more or less seriously in various art and Internet institutions or are kind of involved in art in the internet.

 

Q: Were any of the talks or the outcome of the talks published anywhere?

 

Vuk Cosic: No, no, no. I don't really believe in secret societies, I don't believe in mafia and in mercenary, but it makes a lot of sense to just meet, talk and not think of real academic or what ever other kind of output. (It was the same here at the nettime meeting). We met, there was a lot of quality in exchange, a lot of dynamics, it was pretty intense. Just like in some other conferences later or like in the first nettime conference in Venice. It was just intense and nobody was thinking of how it will be an essay or a journalistic text. I hope this year, the conference in Ljubljana, was basically like that. I hope not many 'reports' are going to come out of it. It was about us meeting, talking, that's it. That's where it should end as well.

 

Q: What kind of net.art did you do after net.art per se?

 

Vuk Cosic: I don't know really how to answer that. I did a lot of experimentation, right after that conference, with animated gifs. I made a large collection of them. I like taking things from the web, keeping them on my disc. You know: view source, copy, paste. I did some experimental combinations with these gifs. You can blow them up. You can crash the browser. You like it so much you want to destroy it, that attitude. Then I developed an attitude where out of twenty things I do I maybe put one on the server and just like playing with it. It goes in fases. I am not dedicated like Jodi are. They just do this and only this. They work every day all day, fill their disc with loads of stuff. They are really in an artist studio with their machines, while here its more like an occasional reflex and instinct to react to maybe some bullshit I see or good stuff I see which I want to underline in a way. I don't have much to show, but there is some stuff, twenty, thirty little projects. Sometimes I react to CNN, sometimes I do just abstraction. I maybe fall in love with something that happens new in browser revolution. I say:" Wow, frames! Look at this shit, its so stupid, it must be good for something." Then I sit down, I read the manual, I try some borders, fatness, and thickness, whatever. Slowly I was also involved in some collaborative projects, with some guys I mentioned allready: Alexei and Andreas. This was Refresh. Alexei had this Moscow WWW art centre fassade, a multiple identities thing, then in Berlin Pit Schulz organised something: NetLab. There was something in Budapest. Caroline Smith, who is into situationist, postsituationist, neoist, Luther Blisset, Monty Catsine international omni art something. It was a nice little project I liked very much. I think it was called Budapest 1956, or I call it that.

 

I go to conferences. That's net.art actually. That is an art practice that has to do a lot with the net. You come to the conference. You meet one hundred and a few people from abroad. That's a net. Art is not only the making of a product, which then can be sold in an art market and praised by an art thinker or mediator. It’s also a performance. When you are having a good time, its pretty much like when you are creative and you are producing something. When you have a good dialogue, when you are stimulated to come up with new argumentation, with new ideas, that is creativity for me, thus art. When it is about this type of meeting, like this nettime meeting was, thats net.art for me. The whole form of this conference can also be defined as a piece of net.art, as a sculpture. A net.art sculpture if you wish.