Short interview with Peter Luining

May, 2000

Peter Luining lives and works in Amsterdam. His net art is rather 'stylish', in the sense that compared to most net art it does not that clearly reflect on net culture and information. His work is more easthetic. A few years ago [1998] he was called 'the next generation Superbad', because of his particular use of imagery in combination with sound. Peter Luining was asked to curate an exhibition for a Dutch gallery called Planet Art, on the alternative artfair Kunstvlaai. He has gathered an interesting collection there. This interview concentrates mostly on his own work though.

JB: Can you tell me a bit about your early work?

Peter Luining: My first project was an HTML-battle between two virtual opponents, at different locations, different servers. People could access the work and change it, alter it, recreate it. It got a lot of attention afterwards, even in Brasil. Funny detail is that al people that wrote about it had not seen it themselves. It is as if this work happened mostly in people's imagination: it was appearantly something extremely beautiful, yet noone had actually visited it or taken part in it. These kinds of effects one sees a lot in net art journalism it seems.

JB: What on earth is an HTML-battle?

PL: You have to think of it as those dance battle which happened mostly in the early eighties, from which breakdance came forth. One party creates a work, another creates a work as well, and people that stand around can intervene in the works as well. In the case of HTML-battles this meant work was put at different locations, all free website hosts: Japan, Saoedi-Arabia, a lot of US of course.

After these events my work became more unpredictable. The type of work where you enter a webpage and you don't know what will happen at the next page. A lunapark like experience. I sometimes tend to go into events again. I also regard the remixes that I made in December '99 as one sidetrack. I don't like to be pinned down to one style. I did not just remix sounds, but also kind of remixed code then. For those re-mixes I for instance took something of Jodi, put sound under it and changed the colour to purple. These are the FF00FF remixes. FF00FF of course being the html code for purple.

JB: How do you feel about the discussions which happen from time to time about the kind of work you do, the shockwave animation and so forth. You know: is it web specific yes or no, is it net art yes or no...

PL: This I find such nonsense, because they are net specific. I know what they mean by net specific though. In that sense it is of course very easy to put my toys on a CD, if it weren't for the fact that most of the things I made are dependent on the net. They are linked to things on the server site. I have toys that change colour or sound every week. This happens automatically on the server. Is that net specific? If you put it on a CD, you loose this aspect. Talking about net specific: I have also made a work in which I use hijacked webcam signals. I put some frames in a row, with webcams underneath. You can make your own composition. There is a refresh button next to it so you can update it. All signals are on different servers.

JB: When I saw your toys at your place, they seemed a bit ..err.. lonely. They looked like abstract paintings, which you can move or change, which also contain sound. Compared to other net art it looked isolated and abstract. In the site however they give a completely different picture, because of the way they are then ordered or presented.

PL: I don't think it is exciting to always present my work in the same way. By presenting the work anew often, by adding variety, one gets a different experience. When you visit my site in two weeks, you so to speak see the work presented completely different. I think it is important to not always to present work in the same way, even if the work is the same. This is something specific of the net you can use. One thing I did for instance was take someone else web page, take a piece of code out, and add some of my material, which gives an alltogether different experience of the work as well. It is so easy to take work and drag it somewhere else on the net. You don't have to choose for the same fashion every time. You can present your work in hundreds of ways, and I use the net to do so.

JB: What do you think of large art institutions working with net art now?

PL: On the one hand it is good, this extra attention for net art (or whatever you want to call it). I find it slightly problematic though that a lot of curators know so little about what is actually going on. You see many calls for participation on lists. When you visit the sites that go with the calls you see the organisers reaching for artists that are in their direct vicinity, without knowing what or how really. I am organising an exhibition myself right at the moment, called Net Affects. It is partly for an Amsterdam alternative artfair, and the online part is hosted by For Net Affects I wanted to show the variety within net art. One so easily gets stuck in a few styles in a lot of net art exhibitions.