For six weeks, The Royal Standard in Liverpool has held a series of experimental live events, film screenings and performances titled Testing Bed. The programme will form a body of research to shape the future of the gallery’s programming. Constant Dullaart closes the series with a new lecture and performance, Rave Lecture, that looks at networked non-spaces where performance can appear. Artist and writer David Mcleavy speaks to Constant about his practice and what to expect from Rave Lecture.
David McLeavy: You have often talked about your online works functioning much like performances. I was wondering if you could expand on that at all?
Constant Dullaart: Joan Heemskerk of the artist collective Jodi started to refer in several interviews to their work being performative and I totally agree. What I am initiating is an intervention into how you perceive the web or the representation of the world that the commercial services are offering you. In a way I am setting up a series of instructions that are to be carried out. If you look at a Tino Seghal piece he may use dancers to carry out instructions. It is also comparable to the way a Marina Abramović piece may exist within the social contexts of the time, including the news and the media. If you were to do a performance via Facebook it will exist within that specific framework or context which is determined by the time, place and situation.
DM: Do you feel there is a certain intimacy when viewing a video on a laptop that you might not get from looking at something in a gallery context?
CD: In the gallery setting its much more difficult to have this intimacy because you’re not the only person that’s manoeuvring through the work. In some ways it’s more comparable to a novel. With a Novel the experience is often solitary and it’s not very often that you would read this with a group of people. There are reading groups and clubs but you would still go home and experience the whole thing alone. I like to see the works operating on both levels. Firstly there is the intimacy of the experience you gain from viewing a piece of work at home, however by also placing it in the gallery you open it up for discussion from a wider group, similar to the way a book club may work. The true experience of the artwork is should be however you want and/or wherever you want, which in most cases is on the net and in a private setting. I have been dealing with this issue for a while and that’s why referring to the artwork as performance is a good analogy. I have organised special events in the past where people would launch new works in front of an audience, much like a premiere, this is similar to a book launch in the way an author may read an exert from his/her book as a taster for the audience.
DM: Do you feel like net.art has become slightly pigeon holed and if so do you believe it may be another reason why you often refer to your works as performative?
CD: I don’t think that the progression of net.art has factored into my decisions of the performative analogy as such. One thing I would mention is my interest in the media and the potential for immediate gratification. For example once a work is viewed online people can retweet it, put it on blog or share it and if you hang it in a gallery people may say “That’s nice!”, which is a completely different reaction. Similarly with a performance you can see people react to it right in front of you.
DM: If you were to look at your work The Death of the URL, 2013, it’s difficult to determine if your view of the current state of the Internet is celebratory or pessimistic. Do you purposely straddle the line between the two?
CD: The Death of the URL is a nostalgic work, or celebratory of this nostalgia. On one hand its nostalgic that the infrastructures of the web are decaying and are being taken over by corporate infrastructures and in that sense its sad that this former ideal infrastructure is passing away. On the other hand we are all benefitting from easier web manoeuvrability. It’s that balance or opposition of ideals. It’s like proclaiming the death of cinema by making a beautiful movie. There is also an interesting variation with the work in that the title, which you would normally associate with the URL, is actually visible on the page, and the URL becomes the section that is animated, which is often associated with the main content. This change is in place to highlight this nostalgia in a way.
DM: Similar to your show Jennifer In Paradise, your work straddles physical and online space. Do you approach making physical work in the same way you would approach making an online work?
CD: For me it’s exactly the same. I experienced two revelations when I finished art school back in 2002. The web was already everywhere and me and my fellow students were under the impression that in order to make work you had to own an expensive camera and after a while I got sick of it due to the sheer amount of content being produced. Eventually I sold my camera as I thought that it would be detrimental to produce more of this type of work when there was already so much being made. Instead I thought it might be better to offer my help in contextualising some of the content that’s out there already. The other revelation was that anyone can publish and distribute information now via the Internet and in a way that holds so many possibilities. I have been interested in how we access content and how that content is distributed, therefore the web started to become my material of choice.
DM: If you were born in a different age do you feel like you would still make similar work or is it that you feel a need to respond to the current online situation specifically?
CD: It is definitely a response to this current generation. I have been thinking about this for a while. I would always be interested in the formalities of things, for example how I would have responded to the formation of video or painting, but I do think that this is the task at hand. I strongly believe we are now in a cultural and technological revolution, furthermore I believe we are in an information war. This is one of the biggest challenges ahead for artists and I think it will be interesting to see how artists deal with this and if they can offer something.
DM: You have also set up a company known as Dulltech that manufacture media players. Do you treat Dulltech as a piece of work?
CD: I treat Dulltech in the same way I would a video work or any artwork in fact. The access to the technology and the way the technology was made became my material. I believe that we are being manipulated by technology all the time, preventing us from doing certain actions because of certain functional limitations specific technology may offer. Therefore going to China and finding out that there was a technical challenge that could be solved, I took that upon myself in the same way I would treat any problem or issue. Also the Dulltech media players will have my work on them, so if you don’t save any of your own work on the player then you will have my work, so essentially that is another feature which reiterates that it’s a work of art.
DM: So what have you got planned for the Rave lecture?
CD: With some works in the Jennifer In Paradise show and also within the Dulltech players I am hiding my own work in a device of some sort and I am interested in this idea of different layers and how we experience different layers within an artwork and how some may be encrypted in a way. For example you could access certain information through buying it, having access to specific knowledge or even being part of the age-old class structure could give you access to exclusive information. I eventually thought it would be interesting to hide a lecture within itself. By hiding content within a bombardment of information I am looking to see how people try and access that content. That led me to the idea of a rave; with music, smoke machines and everything else acting as extra levels of information and possible distraction.