You work as an artist and editor of the O Fluxo project for many years. This year, you also released Flatland Reader which brought together projects and texts on the topic of artistic content existing or created in a virtual environment. You have an insider’s view on those processes that took place in art over the past decade. It can be treated differently than art today that very actively presents itself on the Internet, but it is difficult to deny this trend and its growing role in modern conditions. I would like to ask how you feel about the fact that art is becoming more and more present in Flatland environment? And also, how do you think the Internet affects the ways art is changing and where can this trend of showing art online eventually lead us?
Nuno Patrício: What drove me into creating what I do today and the interest I manifest in everything that you can find between art and the Internet, were mostly memories of the fun I had in early days as a kid when trying to figure out what the Internet was about and throughout the years it turned out to be something like a long-term commitment.
Back in the days, it was very exciting to be part of some kind of exchange of consciousness as a way for human beings to talk to each other about all kinds of stuff and to slowly generate all the different sorts of niches and communities that we know today. This is where it gets abstract — back then, what was seen almost as a hobby, now it's like a basic necessity that society needs to use in order to share thoughts, ambitions or even to find ways in the world to coexist with each other. O Fluxo's latest publication Flatland Reader tries to capture that subject since a lot of artists and organizations, due to costly rents and ferocious competition, had to find a common place to step out of the traditional gallery model. In the past few years, a huge number of artists preferred to put their ideas in practice by installing them in the most imaginable places to be showcased only for the online audience. This is where art and entertainment join their hands. Artists are reshaping the way people consume culture and even galleries, in these pandemic times, had to find new ways to keep their activity intact.
The things that interest me have a lot to do with media entertainment and its efficiency and shareability to deliver knowledge and influence in large doses. It can change peoples relationship to art and its purpose by modifying what an audience is looking for. The Internet affects how human beings act and in turn, how we interact with it to assure its existence. This is like a natural order of how things evolve and art has found a way of having a voice in a complex panorama and a form to re-designate a new kind of audience. I believe this pattern will lead us to something truly remarkable in the years to come, and I'm mostly referring to ways of thinking and adapting in a fast-shifting reality rather than the progress of technology which is an ineluctable fact of happening.Vitaly Bezpalov:
During epidemic days, everyone was forced to go online. It seemed that the best times were coming for all kinds of online resources because today many people predict increased attention to online content and online interaction even after the lockdown is over. However, some voices say that now everyone is able to fully appreciate the importance of live communication, physical mobility and other offline benefits as a result of the fact that for a while we all were deprived of this. This can lead to the situation when after the lockdown, the interest in all kinds of the physical, as opposed to digital, will increase. Online hubs like O Fluxo or TZVETNIK combine two things at once — the offline production of art and its online display, however, it seems that the online component in these cases prevails (or not?). What do you think, after the end of the global quarantine, in what direction the interest of artists, spectators and, in general, all those who are somehow connected with art will eventually be directed?NP:
The breakdown of COVID19 forced everyone to dip their toes into the virtual sphere as a new kind of urgency. Institutions, galleries, art magazines, and anybody related to art that was used to physical connectivity, had to establish adaptations to their daily routines to fight back the anxious dullness of these pandemic times and of course, to keep their work going. I think it increased the interest in the digitally savvy for a unified global network. We started to feel compelled to fit into this kind of virtual quotidian in some way or another, even those who were not so used to the digital realm started to appreciate the web usage and its potential like never before. Some started, others re-adjusted but in general, everyone had to take advantage in order to face this outlandish state of a total physical lock-down. Whether for financial purposes or just as a distraction for momentary emotional relief, people changed — baby boomers started to conform to digital technologies; millennials and early gen-Z'ers started to give attention to more humanistic details and importance to things that were always taken for granted — and cultural production just had to fit in the middle of all these changes. But this is something that does not intrigue me so much because art has always and will always find its way to exist. In these lasts months we've seen art fairs providing cheesy "virtual viewing rooms"; traditional institutions providing e-exhibitions; film and music festivals moving online; art niches connecting and creating together; webinars and online panels prompted by artists and all sorts of "covidian" artistic presentations. O Fluxo's first online issue Flatland started to investigate these kinds of subjects a few years ago but at that moment it was some kind of a bubbling movement, a very unclear and even unvalued ground, now it's just an abundant reality. This phenomenon came out from necessity and offer an imaginary arrangement of civic interaction and reciprocation but now that most of the countries are trying to slowly get back to normal, even with precautions, this liberating effect will certainly increase the desire to see art in person although, I honestly think the pandemic restrictions are far from being over and the inside/outside duality will be blurred out for good and will significantly affect cultural producers, audiences alike and society in general.NS:
One of the criticisms of showing art online is the idea that online we can always see only a copy and never an original, that we cannot feel the very distance that is created between the viewer and the object of art in the space of a museum or a gallery. As we know from the time of Benjamin, this dramatically organized distance creates an aura of the original, which we, as Internet users, cannot feel. Also, there is criticism that the showing art on the Internet profanes art depriving it of truth, strength, sanctification and replacing it with endless scrolling. In short, the Internet kills art, and artists who seek to be represented online simply do not understand that they destroy their work. What do you think about this point of view? Does the Internet threaten to kill art and does an artist who wants to be shown in an online blog, sell his or her soul to a network devil?
NP: Well, I think that is something very abstract. Thankfully, there is a place for everything to exist in this world, just like art criticism, but that doesn't mean that it can establish what is right or bad. In art, there are simply no morals for that. I'm not saying that I don't agree with the effectiveness of physical appreciation of an artwork. That is not the case because that is valid of course. I just think that it has a lot of variables and it can only depend on finality, the intention behind the artwork and even in some cases, there can be no intention at all. We need to leave it be. Critics and audiences, in general, should understand and respect that. Of course, there are always pros and cons in everything and of course, some artworks are better understood when viewed in real life, but that only applies in some cases. Take Web Art or Internet Art for instance. That can only exist on the screen as an immaterial, non-tangible art form and that example is not that recent. More than two decades ago, critics and curators complained about the lackadaisical installation of webpages on desktop computers during Documenta X in Kassel, back in 1997. It resulted as an informal office-like exhibition that gained a lot of attention and was possibly the first exhibition taking place in a virtual ground expanding the walls on the event to everyone who had an Internet connection. If we take this example, did the Internet kill art or did it expand it? That was the intention behind it and critics didn't respect that. Currently, Net Art is more than established and understood in the art community and it attained a lot of critics attention to it. Kind of ironic I should say.
Nowadays, newcomers are using Internet to earn their spot in the community simply because most of them are far from being part of the gallery system due to restrictions, ambitions, etc.
In sum, I think everyone has the right to have their point of view, but unfortunately, people are very influenced and shaped by the words of critics and experts. Art criticism, not all but in general, should be more respectful to new ideas and panoramas. VB:
I agree with you. Another feature of art that we discuss is the formal expression. Art selected by TZVETNIK and O Fluxo is bright and memorable, objects are full of details, it becomes formally attractive or vice versa—and sometimes deliberately repulsive. In any case, the object makes a strong impression on the viewer in quite a short time. For some, it becomes a sign of the lack of conceptual depth of art and its indulgence to the culture of consumption, for others—a sign of its correlation with the actual state of affairs in modern reality (for others, the first in principle does not contradict the second). What do you think about it and how do you, already as an artist, solve the question of a formal approach to the production of your works? Could you indicate the circle of topics that you work with as an artist?
NP: I would like to declare that even if I produce art pieces for exhibitions, among other experts, and even if that could be enough to label me as an artist, on a personal level I don't quite consider that. I often tell people I'm more like some sort of an anthropologist leading to a collage of several acts of plagiarism without even knowing it. It's quite like a study on my unconsciousness and I kinda like to witness the results of that. You see, being a selector behind an art platform requires a lot of constant visual haunting and analysis of tons of submissions daily. A lot of that information keeps retained in my head — details; colors; materials; techniques — and even if I wouldn't want to, that kind of elements remains with me every day, every single day, forever and I think that prompt me to create some kind of unconscious plagiarism. Well, if you stop to think about the regular creative process, it has always been like that — a study of a recreation of something that is retained on our minds that we already saw before, or that we are intrigued with at the moment, and I don't think that I'm different from others in that sense. — "Everything's a copy of a copy of a copy" (Fight Club,1999). Speaking of movies, I also try to juxtapose that with my background and references. Since I was little, I always manifested a huge interest in fantasy art and the art of the sci-fi and horror genres. So maybe, I could think of my pieces as the dog creature from Carpenter's 1982 The Thing — a culmination of several elements into one resulting thing that I can barely denominate as something. Or maybe it simply reflects the confusion found in fast-consumption or in what you refer to as lack of conceptual depth.
Another factor that I'd like to mention is that I always tend to scale down something for some reason, which makes me conclude that I'm fascinated to pair various senses of scales as if I'm trying to praise the idea of something tiny coexisting within a huge shifting reality. I think that should work as a representation of our memory or knowledge — which are some of the most important things a human being can have — opposed with the boundless shape of our planet, our galaxy and the colossal Universe...