year: 1997
date: April 13
place: Liverpool
language: english
author(s): Luchezar Boyadjiev
related projects: FACT-Liverpool, UK for LEAF ‘97 meeting – “Virtually Transformed Europe”, Liverpool, UK
source: “Virtually Transformed Europe”, LEAF ’97 (Liverpool Electronic Arts Festival), FACT, Liverpool, UK

A project/paper to FACT-Liverpool, UK for LEAF ‘97 meeting – “Virtually Transformed Europe”, Liverpool, UK


The new C-age invaded my life when I bought a computer. So, it was me who chose its coming. This was probably the last act of individualism on my part. At first I found this to be depressing. The depressing part was always this succession of “dialogue windows to the new world” opening up endlessly. I thought browsing was not so much fun after all. But then I realized that this is a new visual experience of a certain interface environment which is the new lowest common visual denominator for millions of people all around the world - a brand new source of visual and semantic references better even then the MTV. For instance - now when I have to talk to a viewer about the specific visual appearances of my works (drawings or installations alike) I don’t have to use art talk anymore. I simply say that this is my works’ interface. And that's that... When I am asked about the sources of my inspiration I can simply point out that it's all a matter of RAM capabilities... All of this makes communication a lot easier. 

So, the new C-age comes with computers and is about communication. The question is, as always, what and how is communicated. You can reach anybody, anywhere, anytime and the digitalized message is conveniently universal in terms of language. I can live in the real world and/or I can live in the electronic world. I can have my physical personality and/or I can have my digital personality. Actually, the only connection between the two worlds is my own self. I am the point of their convergence. The first world is hard to live in as it is. It is also fun since life is great. Presumably this also applies for the second world. But once I have decided to live in the second world as well my own unified everyday life gets to be quite full of routines which I have to do twice - starting the computer in the morning is just as ritualistic as brushing your teeth, upgrading the computer is like buying a new set of fancy clothes, waiting for hours to get access to the Internet is just like waiting for hours and days in front of the German embassy to get an entry visa to the country where I must have a one-artist show... On this level life in the converging physical/electronic world offers no surprises - Europe might be on its way of being united but entering Germany even for work projects is still a problem, Internet might be very democratically there for all but when the country you live in has no money to neither hook to a good server nor put up good communication lines you don’t have much of a chance to join in the new communication age/space.

So, the question “what” is inevitably linked to the question “how”. Which is practically identical as a situation in both old and new worlds. Since I am the meeting point between the two worlds I can only communicate my own self (everything included in the “packaged self”). Since in the new world the “how” is very expensive and depends on factors outside of my own self I don't see, for the time being, where the electronic world differs so much from the physical world. At least from an existential point of view. If in the physical world I have to be politically correct to myself and still be comprehensible for the others I formulate my difference as follows - I come from the Lower East Side of Europe. Being existentially correct in the physical world means that my chance to exist is my ability to shock; being existentially correct in the electronic world would mean that first I have to acknowledge what presence I could have there, provided my recourses are limited. My “web site” in the physical world is my work. It was created in a situation identical to the one I am facing now within the electronic world - limited recourses, limited access. If I want to penetrate the Internet, this New York of the electronic world, I have to use the same shocking tactics. For me the electronic cave is always already there with the endless caverns of its space. I know where the entrance is but I suspect that the walls are already inscribed heavily with messages, super technology and rules. I want to find my own “site” there. The promise of equality and reciprocal communication is luring me inside not the least because of the new potential for a better future - utopia, electronic as it might be, is still attractive. However, the road to a free “site” is too long and the creation of a new one is too expensive. I have a lot to communicate but I lack the means. So, I have to come up with a short cut - one click clicks it all.

I remember that some time ago Bulgaria was famous as a source of quite a lot of computer viruses. Programmers there were not allowed to develop their own programs by the totalitarian regime for purely ideological reasons - it was felt that such a liberty is dangerous because it might lead to the establishment of a network of independent communication lines which could not be controlled by the totalitarian state. I would say this was pretty good thinking! So, programmers found a way to “participate” in the electronic world by bypassing the state - they broke into other people’s programs. They invented computer viruses and thus found a unique short cut from the physical to the electronic world. They also created their own environment, a “site” of freedom. This was a way to transgress oppression in one world although it created another kind of oppression in another world.

Of course, now computer viruses are no longer so dangerous. But the example is there. And the viruses are there. Since for me normal communication within the electronic world of the Internet for example is still a problem may be I can also use some “electronic avant-garde” tactics of transgression and subversion. Such as using the viruses for creative purposes within the Internet..., piercing the wall of the cave from outside and away from its entrance... Communication above all! Electronic graffiti, so to say...

I have to talk to a programmer! May be he/she can help me find a way to be in the electronic art world. For instance, imagine that in the Net there is a site/page with information about a major art show in a big museum somewhere. In reality my works are not in the show. But what if I brake into the site/page with the help of the programmer and “place” my works in the virtual exhibition? Or just transform artistically the other works a little bit?

Or create a site within a site and have my works exhibited within the virtual space of some important museum? Or have a legitimate one-artist show in the virtual space of a museum in the Net without ever going there nor sending any physical works, nor going through visa, customs, transportation, travel, etc. expenses and formalities? What if a curator/museum director “sends” me the virtual space of his/her space and I fill it up with my virtual works? This way I can have a show in the Net, in another world which might be better...

Welcome to the new Cave-age. The cave is there to be explored and filled up.


Sofia, December 1996

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Vector. ICA-Sofia: Motives, Analyses, Critique is a project by the Institute of Contemporary Art - Sofia.
The project is realised with the financial support of the National Fund Culture, Critique Programme