Motorola Droid XL, 2011Art404 is comprised of Manuel Palou and Moises Sanabria.
This interview was conducted over multiple online chat sessions beginning
in March 2012 through April 2012.
louisdoulas: Let’s start with Art Not
Found or Art404. Could you tell me
a little more about its connotations?
artnotfound: Art404 is a pun
for artnotfound, a motto that gives us a certain level of transparency. We
don't want to get hung up on making art and
exclude anybody from our work.
louisdoulas: So the absence
implies a kind of non-context for framing production?
artnotfound: Well the internet functions in a non-context
anyway. We want to create content and value more than we want to create art.
louisdoulas: Right, without the prerequisite motivations of
making an artwork per se, just ‘pure’ creative production.
artnotfound: It's relentless creative production and discussion.
That’s the future of content.
louisdoulas: So then there’s
this awareness of the potential insularities or exclusiveness of the art world, or at least a hesitation to
participate within this context? Perhaps which is why you're attracted to the internet
in the first place, as it levels out all content.
artnotfound: Yes definitely. By opening up the discussion to
everyone it democratizes content. And if successful, any further discussion of
that content gives it social value.
louisdoulas: Cultural Capital
artnotfound: Art404 likes
louisdoulas: I'm interested in these notions of 'opening up
discussion', surrounding content, in this case specifically your work; what
does this mean for you?
artnotfound: It means our mothers can engage with our work as
much as a gallerist can. The internet is allowing people to take part in things
they never would have before, opening up the possibilities for a much larger
discussion. When both ends of the spectrum: high and low culture, exist on the
same field, exciting things happen. The
outcome of this discussion creates a higher, or "purer" value.
A gallerist once talked to us about "the kitty cat realm", a
world where artists are
reduced to a sort of novelty, enjoyable by a wide audience, much the way a cute
kitten is. The art world seems to try to stray away
from this phenomenon, where we find value and possibility in it.
louisdoulas: And our relationship with the internet only seems to get more confrontational with sites like Mega Upload forced offline, Pirate Bay
switching to their Swedish domain to avoid domain seizure, the increased exploitation of users within
Facebook and issues with self-proclaimed 'democratic' art practices and ideology itself. Your poem, BE reflects on
some of these conflicts, specifically on corporatization and lifestyle
artnotfound: In BE, we weren't
trying highlight the negative in advertising, but rather make a sort of mock
manifesto for what advertising proposes.
Lifestyle marketing is changing rapidly with the internet and while
people complain about ads and search engines becoming more targeted, it's
actually making the ad industry more transparent. Technology is getting better
at revealing our desires and making us aware of them, and this tension should
empower people, not scare them. Now that
the technology is here, people can be content aware.
It's going to back to the idea of high and low co-existing. On one hand
it's opening these brands to critique, and at the same time linking to them so
you can explore and form your own thoughts. In this way, we can accept and
negate advertising at the same time.
louisdoulas: There is quite a divide on these issues of privacy
and advertising. I
think this simultaneity is interesting: this acceptance and rejection of
advertising, of commodified desires that seem to be especially apparent in
interface design and marketing campaigns for most digital ephemera. Seeing brands like Nike or Carhartt feature
user product reviews directly on their websites as a kind of crowdsourced testimony
to their product illustrate this type of transparency you mentioned.
What you seem to be alluding to though, is this empowering
of the user, of the consumer, in an ultimate transparent society that
eventually leads corporations and consumers to exist in a perpetual public
sphere causing both to act within less deceptive, falsifying modes?
artnotfound: That's the idea and ultimately
what we hope will happen. People have always consumed products and content
intuitively, but now we live in an age of information where people have the
means to inform themselves and others. This "informed intuition" is
an important principle to us in all aspects of life, from making artwork to
getting the right product.
If you have the internet, there really is no excuse to be
BE, 2011louisdoulas: Then the decision to work with
Verizon Wireless to make a supersized version of the Motorola Droid was obviously an important one?
artnotfound: For us, it's important to
diversify the people we collaborate with, especially to go beyond the art
scene. We see big brands like Verizon or Google as an opportunity to reach more
people. We plan on bringing the phone out in public to call attention both to
the absurdity of the phone and to highlight the future of this technology by
showing you the complete opposite. Phones are trying to get physically smaller
while their function and importance in our culture is exploding. By using the Droid XL as a "practical"
object instead of an artwork we can make fun of the technology while glorifying
it as something that's so important it needs to be mocked.
louisdoulas: The mockery of phone size to this reality of reliance produces a certain ambivalence for a future
increasingly automated. Is this accurate? Perhaps some of the ideas and reactions
in Droid XL can be found in Simages?
artnotfound: We're obsessed with automation,
both as something scary and beautiful. Simages
starts to point at that. We created this lovely, "ideal" living
situation and then let it run automatically, only to watch the Sims lives
crumble as they run on autopilot. Dirty dishes begin to pile up, the family
stops talking to each other and they lose the things that make them a "perfect"
As we move to a more automated culture, we're making our
lives easier while changing the perceived value of time management. We're
working on an app that will automatically text your mother every night. Both as
a practical way of automating love, and as a comment on how technology is changing
time management. By exploring the limits
of automation, we can have a better understanding of what it means to us and
what the best path to take is. We can make an "informed" choice, so
louisdoulas: Time, seems to have become more
combative, or least its passing more 'apparent' today. Have you ever used Steve Lambert's Self-Control app?
I think productivity and what it challenges and defines
seems to be more and more of a preoccupation for this generation of cultural producers. These notions of leisure: recreation in contrast to 'productivity' and the strive for this supposed balance is something we think automation would hope to make easier, such as the app you're working on. But of
course we can see this becoming problematic, this gesture of an automated text
to one's mother.
It's post-trolling, an ironic and almost sinister gesture that reveals
something really telling. It definitely makes texting your mother manually more
meaningful if you have the option to do it automatically.
Going back to the potential threats the internet faces, your work 5 millions dollars 1 TB consists of a myriad of torrented
software files ranging from Adobe Suite to the Rosetta Stone Language Pack.
You've even made these files available to download online. You've made your
politics quite clear here and so I wanted to ask what your role is as artists
with a work like this?
Well we're just playing devils advocate to the larger issue at hand, rather
than trying to instill too much of our own politics. In 5m1t, the issue is obviously the amount of freely available content
on the web and the translation of that value into the physical space. Our role
as artists is merely to reveal the elephant in the room; these files already
existed on the web and were easily searchable. It wasn't until we started
archiving them on the hard drive that we realized the magnitude of the
louisdoulas: The presentation of this piece in
the gallery: the external hard drive as this slick humming black monolith where upon
realizing its hidden worth and actual 'value' becomes a sort of spectacle. Its physical manifestation creates
this weight of worth and it becomes a banal and brazen presentation of the fixivity of 'illegal' data.
like that description. Ultimately we think the piece succeeds in offering a
point of reference to the rampant amount of piracy going on the internet. The
grotesque value of the files being contrasted by the small, sleek hard drive is
a nice metaphor for the ease of file sharing versus their perceived damage.
5 Million Dollars 1 Terabyte, 2011louisdoulas: We're used to being weightless in
a way when it comes to dispersing and acquiring content online. We often forget
the actual materiality and reality of our communicative devices, their storage and maintenance, electricity, etc. and also the actual repercussions of
online activity. On one level that's why SOPA seemed so profound (the success of the protests against it and experiencing this 'win' as an online collective).
online activity has real life consequences. Our piece and SOPA are just
physical incarnations of that. The digital coming into the real, and the real
going digital, it's a beautiful thing.
louisdoulas: Conrad I
think is worth mentioning here—Conrad's internet presence as a way of dealing
with the loss of his wife. This work, along with Man's
Google Search for Meaning and even Simages all kind of depict an absence; there's a hint of
depression, or a self-devouring nihilism in these three.
we can harness this nihilism in a way that has poetic resonance, we'll have
something of value. If we can get you to see it, understand it, and experience
it, we can get you to reflect on it. Once people start reflecting they can form
their own ideas and empower themselves through that. You can be nihilistic
while still suggesting a resolution.
Conrad, 2011louisdoulas: And how did you stumble upon
Conrad? What made you want to highlight him?
stumbled on Conrad on a small, private message board and were immediately
captivated. He's such a perfect example of humans giving technology a higher
significance. To record yourself is to quantify ones self, and he's devoted
quite a bit of time doing that. The motivation for him is simply to
communicate, and the sheer number his videos really tells you how urgent it is.
Because all his videos are essentially the same, it really makes it a digital
louisdoulas: Art404 seems to be very optimistic about the
future, especially technology and the internet's role in it, but what are some
of your concerns at the moment?
artnotfound: We are digital natives, any
concerns we do have about technology we feel comfortable confronting them. The
more informed you are, the less vulnerable you are. Any problems with
technology can be tackled with technology. As long as we're responsible when
using technology to replace and augment our lives, we think we'll be OK.
There needs to be a humanist approach to the ethics of
technology. Innovation and advancement without compromising the human, those
are the types of things we are a part of.
louisdoulas: With these changes the role of
the artist changes as well. Besides incorporating
various digital ephemera/aesthetic into works of art, how do you see the position of the artist changing in all of this? The artist's role in production and distribution?
artnotfound: We're biased, but we see it as
the most exciting time ever. Artists can do everything now, they can be
their own photographer, gallerist, curator, critic, market team, audience,
everything. Producing and distributing is no longer an industry thing, but an
everybody thing. Anybody can post a picture and someone else can immediately
remix it into something new and this is happening exponentially so. Even if
most of the internet is creating content just to LOL, the energy that comes
with that is inspiring.
The old "everyone is an artist" adage has never been more true in today's there's-an-app-for-that
world. It's no coincidence that this internet generation has seen a rise in
artsy, creative people that are obsessed with sharing their ideas. Whether the
content they're producing has artistic merit or not is irrelevant, the enthusiasm
to do so is what matters.
Now that everybody is a content creator, it's going to push
the artist wishing to rise above the
clutter to work harder, do more, and innovate constantly. In a world where
everyone's fighting for attention, people are going to get more creative. A new
breed of work and art making
will lead the relentless content creating culture and we’re excited about it.
Man's Google Search For Meaning, 2011louisdoulas: There is obviously a danger in complete
democratization, or in everyone becoming an artist. Boris
Groys talks a little about this in his essay, ‘The Weak Universalism’. But, I
want to know where critique comes in for you? What is being done in the
name of all this mass creative progress?
artnotfound: Critique is a very complex
subject now that so many people are involved. Practically everything we say is
public now and this really affects the way we communicate. When not covered by
the veil of anonymity, our critique is subject to its own critique. We hope
that this won't become a norm, and that people will always speak their mind,
otherwise the internet will devolve into a giant circle jerk.
louisdoulas: These ideas of public
transparency, anonymity and collectivity are all pertinent strategies or alternative
ways of 'movement' and governance. This dynamic between individualism and the
group is interesting and I'm curious to hear your positions on these things.
Maybe a good place to start would be on a tangent, with the Anonymous
vs. Gagosian incident?
artnotfound: Anonymous vs. Gagosian was a sort of chance art happening, the kind
that only happens on the internet. A hacker identifying with the internet
"group" Anonymous thought it would be funny to take down our website,
screenshot it, and email it to us. It was funny, and we immediately wanted
more. After a few emails, he admitted he had been trying to get into the art
scene for years. We convinced him/her that they would be better suited taking down
more important art websites as institutional critique. The next day, he had
taken down the front pages of Gagosian, David Zwirner, Hauser & Wirth, and
If one person can censor an entire power structure with
the press of a few keystrokes, what does that say about the politics of digital
culture? People aren't afraid to take action behind a computer screen. The net
allows everyday people can become leaders, tastemakers, and icons. By
documenting these happenings we hope it will motivate people to talk, troll,
spam and flame their thoughts to the world. We always look forward to
collaborating with the internet.
The great thing is that you can be an individual and a
group, you don't have to pick a side. You can be a boy or a girl, old or young,
whatever you want. There's tons of up and downs to this new ability, and a
whole new set of rules. Understanding the dynamics between real and digital
culture will prepare us for the future.
Anonymous Vs. Gagosian, 2011louisdoulas: The Pirate Bay's
Aerial Server Drones are also a good example of some of these emerging
techniques and strategies.
artnotfound: Those are
really next level. Props to The Pirate Bay.
Anonymous Vs. Gagosian, 2011louisdoulas: I
think as you said, 'understanding the dynamics between the real and the digital',
will prepare us for the future. Often times social networking, emerging technology and the internet is treated,
at least by the media, as a kind of new 'revolution celebrity' and so a lot of
emphasis and faith is placed on these various kinds of cybernetic theories. And through all this it seems
that there isn't a declared political form, but rather that a form supposedly emerges in and out from reactions to various events. It’s an abandonment of political action by pure force that’s in favor
more so of an accumulative power. I even want to draw a parallel
to the practice of Relational Aesthetics and the type of technique used: the
creation of 'alternatives' and 'comprises' rather than a complete redesigning
and reconfiguring of society and the world.
artnotfound: Alternative sounds like
it's outside of something. We're not splitting off from reality, just
augmenting it. Now, the collective actions of a lot of individual people and
small groups can snowball into something much faster. It's the same strategy
that's always been around, just on steroids.