This is the second edition of Pinta Media Art. This programme aims to insert in private and public collections important media art works by Latin American artists.
This year Pinta Media Art will feature the work of Brazilian artist Eduardo Kac. Pioneer of Bio-art and telepresence, his work became renowned worldwide through Alba, a fluorescent rabbit.
Pinta presents a solo exhibition by the artist, entitled "Eduardo Kac: Early Media Works." It consists of a selection of artworks produced during the 80s, most of them not exhibited for over thirty years.
In order to get a closer sense of this developing moment of his career, we invited the artist to answer five questions about his work.
RJC: Your performances of the Porn Art Movement during the rise of the 80s mark the beginning of your career. How do you move from this political claim on the body, to projects apparently more formal in their use of language, such as the Holopoems or the Videotexts?
EK: Formal concerns were already present in my works created during the Porn Art Movement, which lasted from February 1980 to February 1982. A good example of a concerted formal development is my series Pornograms, in which I explore many different aspects of the relationship between language and the body. After 1982 I moved on for two reasons: first, I felt that I had done everything that I set out to do in the context of Porn Art Movement; second, I became convinced that the world was changing into a global network, and I wanted to participate in the process of developing the new digital culture. Already in 1982 I created my first digital work, entitled Não! (No!), using a programmable LED scrolling message display board. A series of digital works followed. At the same time I invented what I called holopoetry, or holographic poetry: verbal artworks that were actual holograms. In these holopoems, I transferred the performative dimension explored in the Porn Art Movement from myself to the viewer; it is the viewer that has to move up and down, left and right, forward and backward, in order to explore the text, the textures, the colours, the transformations, the appearance and disappearance of the words in four-dimensions (the three of space and the one of time).
RJC: According to Margarita Paksa, software design is a new form of conceptualism. What is your opinion about it? Do your investigations of the 80s maintain any relationships with South American conceptualists?
EK: Only if we abstract the materiality of software would we consider it conceptual. Anyone who programs knows that there's beauty, subjectivity, materiality to software. To say that software-based art is conceptual, in my opinion, is to seek comfort in what is already known. I think that the real challenge is to develop a new vocabulary that matches the new reality, instead of trying to reduce what is new and unfamiliar (software-based art) to what is already canonised in art history books (conceptual art). Concerning the second half of your question, the answer is no: my own work has nothing to do with conceptual art. Between 1980 and 1982, I made work that explored the relationship between poetic language and the body, not only as a theme but, most importantly, as material. The materiality of the body can't be reduced to ideas; consider your own body: it is obviously not conceptual. Along the same lines, we can't call an engagement with literary form conceptual, otherwise all writers would be conceptualists. I have fused these two concerns (the materiality of the body and literary form) into a new unit. From 1982 to the present, I have continuously explored new media, many of which I had to build myself in order to make my artwork, as exemplified by my early digital holograms and my telepresence art. Finally, what could be said to be more material than the literal creation of new biological life, as I have pursued through my bio art?
RJC: Your minitel series anticipates what later became the Net Art. Could you tell us about the way these animations were created? Would such a proposition make sense in the context of present Internet?
EK: The minitel system was proprietary, which is to say that I had to make the images and animations in the equipment produced by the company. Between 1985 and 1986 I made four works, which may not seem like a large amount by today's standards of digital ubiquity, but it was very significant in the 1980s. To give you an idea, every single pixel on every single page had to be placed in its position by hand, like a mosaic. It was a laborious craft, especially if you consider that every animation has many pages. The works were placed online through the telephone company. The minitel is no longer operational in France, where it was created. However, now that the system ceased to exist, it is considered a classic by the younger generation, and many young artists today make work that has the look of that era. In fact, young artists regularly organise international art shows in countries that still have the system, such as the International Teletext Art Festival, held in Finland with support of the Finnish Broadcasting Company. The minitel went from obsolete to retro cool.
RJC: Your projects for the Minitel and Não! are regarded as major landmarks of the beginning of digital poetry. Could you discuss the importance of the electronic artefact and computer programming in contemporary poetry? In the context of your work, could we say the "the medium is the message"?
EK: Every poem is indissociable from its syntax and its materiality, which is to say that in a poem everything communicates: rhythm, organisational logic, word selection, and material rendering. This is also true in a digital poem. The best digital work will be created specifically for the medium in which it is intended to run, exploring the unique possibilities of that medium. In my case, I created a loop syntax for Não!. The verbal material of the poem is organized in blocks of equal measure, which alternately appear and disappear in the LED display board. Each minitel work explores a different set of aesthetic possibilities of the medium. At the same time, it is not only the medium that counts: each work has a distinct semantic sphere. Não!, for example, is a quasi-manifesto, in the sense that the artist-poet takes a position: he rejects the yes choir, that is, he rejects a society that silently accepts received wisdom without questioning conventions.
RJC: You are the creator of a new ecology in which human, organic and technological systems interact to generate new aesthetic models. Can you tell about these concepts that were initiated in the 80s and later consolidated in esthetical paradigms such as Bioart or Telepresence?
EK: Since the 1980s I have asked a series of fundamental questions about the nature of art. One such question concerns the fact that all art, from cave paintings to digital, has been created by humans for humans, which is to say that all art fits in a visible spectrum that goes from 390 to 700 nanometers. It's quite remarkable to consider this fact. However, the world out there is richer and much more complex than this limited portion of the human spectrum. For example, when a bee lands on a flower that you perceive to be of a certain colour with certain patterns, because the bee sees in ultraviolet, it can see colours and patterns that we can't. I have been making a series of works that, on the one hand, recognise aesthetic experience in non-humans and, on the other, invite the human to experience a non-human point of view. This creation of non-anthropocentric works produces a de-centering of the human. My telepresence and bio artworks seek to engage all life in a new ecology in which the biological and the technological not only can be reconciled but, ultimately, may become indistinguishable.
Eduardo Kac (Rio de Janeiro 1962) is internationally recognised for his telepresence and bio art. A pioneer of telecommunications art in the pre-Web 1980s, Eduardo Kac emerged in the early 1990s with his radical works combining telerobotics and living organisms. His visionary integration of robotics, biology and networking explores the fluidity of subject positions in the post-digital world. His work deals with issues that range from the mythopoetics of online experience (Uirapuru) to the cultural impact of biotechnology (Genesis); from the changing condition of memory in the digital age (Time Capsule) to distributed collective agency (Teleporting an Unknown State); from the problematic notion of the exotic (Rara Avis) to the creation of life and evolution (GFP Bunny). At the dawn of the twenty-first century Kac opened a new direction for contemporary art with his transgenic art - first with a groundbreaking piece entitled Genesis (1999), which included an artist's gene he invented, and then with GFP Bunny, his fluorescent rabbit called Alba (2000). Kac's work has been exhibited internationally at venues such as Exit Art and Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, New York; Maison Européenne de la Photographie, Paris; Castello di Rivoli, Turin, Italy; Mori Art Museum, Tokyo; Reina Sofia Museum, Madrid; Zendai Museum of Modern Art, Shanghai; and Seoul Museum of Art, Korea. Kac's work has been showcased in biennials such as Yokohama Triennial, Japan, Biennial of the End of the World, Ushuaia, Argentina, Gwangju Biennale, Korea, Biennale de Sao Paulo, Brazil, and International Triennial of New Media Art, National Art Museum of China, Beijing. His work is part of the permanent collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum, London; the Museum of Modern Art in New York; the Museum of Modern Art of Valencia, Spain; the ZKM Museum, Karlsruhe, Germany, and the Museum of Modern Art in Rio de Janeiro.
For more information please visit www.ekac.org
Paris May 2014
Rolando J. Carmona
Born in Venezuela. Lives and works in Paris, France. Cultural manager and curator, based in Paris, with a degree in Architecture and Museology (Universidad Central de Venezuela). Rolando specialises in the conception of cultural institutions and the development of exhibitions in unconventional spaces. He was director and founder of the MUEM and Museo Mateo Manaure (Venezuela).
He has taken part and collaborated in more than 20 solo-shows and collective shows for museums and alternative spaces in Venezuela, USA and France such as Ars Longa, Collection Mercantil, VAEA, MACZUL, Fundacion de Museos Venezuela and others. Their research is focused on media art and compeporary art from Latin America . Currently, he is developing a platform for the promotion of Media Art from Latin America in Europe, called Numérique// Latin America.
All reproductions courtesy of England & Co., London
With special thanks to Santiago Torres and MCD Magazine.