London Calling: Interview

Interview of Roberta Bosco and Stefano Caldana for SonarOnline.
(By Oscar Abril Ascaso for London Calling 2003).

 

– Before we talk about London Calling and for those people who still don’t know you, who are Roberta Bosco and Stefano Caldana? What are your personal profiles and backgrounds?

Roberta is an art journalist and Stefano is a botanist specialised in geobotany.
Since 1998 they have jointly covered digital art and culture topics for CiberP@is, the new technologies supplement of the newspaper El PAÍS.

 

– London Calling is a selection of net art from London the title of which is a reference to the mythical album by The Clash. Can you tell us about the how this curated project came about and its history?

As far as the name is concerned: London Calling was the symbol of an era, in the same way that net.art is a symbol of our day and age… or perhaps it was only a provocation for an advanced music festival where, lo and behold, classic rock issuing from the computer of Alexei Shulgin in 2002 proved to be a great success and managed to have such a profound and overwhelming emotional impact on the audience that it was almost funny. (The audience’s reaction, when Shulgin’s computer started singing Anarchy in the UK by the Sex Pistols, was unforgettable). …So, why not dedicate this unexpected revival of London Calling to Joe Strummer. The showcase was originally conceived for Sonar 2001, in which London was the protagonist city, and it continued on from UK.ARTE.RED, a work we did that same year for País Digital and which was part of ARTE.RED, a history of net.art that we have been updating and adding to for 4 years now.

When the Clash composed London Calling, the Internet didn’t exist. London Calling was an icon of a well defined historical period: musical creation was opening up new roads and setting new rules that were the foundation of the upsurge of punk. Of course, punk was later exploited by the record industry, yet in its beginnings it showed innovative and ground breaking characteristics that to a certain extent can be assimilated with net.art. Net.art has partly broken away from the tenets that the traditional art world is based on, provoking and proposing new dilemmas around the concept and the meaning of art within the digital and immaterial environment. In 2001 London Calling was a bridge via the Internet with an artistically revolutionary London.

 

– Can you tell us a bit about the contents of your selection, why you chose what you did and the curator’s criteria that you used at the time?

Our contribution to Sonarmática 2001 was a selection of 16 artists and collectives of London artists who were centring their artistic experiences around a creative use of the Internet. Among the selected projects were net.art classics such as Heath Bunting, examples of software art such as the creative browser of the I/O/D collective or Auto-Illustrator, the unpredictable graphic editing software of Adrian Ward as well as artists such as Stanza and Danny Brown, whose work blurs the confines between art and design.
The objective of London Calling was to give an idea of what was going on in London in 2001, through a showcase that was conceived by superimposing a geographic duplicity: The Internet, virtual space and London, real space.

 

– What was the London net.art scene like then and what’s it like now? What continuities and differences exist two years on?

The basic evolution of net.art has proved to be quicker than that of photography and video and it is now heading towards normalisation. The heroic times are now over and – though many still don’t know what it is and tend to mistake it for any creative online phenomenon – it has already cut out its turf within the mechanism of art. Two years ago Auto-Illustrator won Transmediale in the software art category and it is now selling at 100 dollars …. it’s not the price nor are there any ethical considerations – all artists will charge for their work – so its totally legitimate to charge for a work of software art.
Nevertheless, we must acknowledge the power that the mechanism of the art system has and its capacity to encompass and codify experiences which promise to be profitable.
As regards the London Calling projects and the way the artist of this selection have evolved, we feel that two years on it still totally contemporary. London Calling still represents a realistic overview of artistic creation linked to the Web in London and also throughout the UK as a whole. To a greater or lesser extent, all these artists are still active and new initiatives and new groups that have sprung up seem to be directing their research more towards web design and its expressive possibilities, a little along the lines of the experiments with Flash by Danny Brown and Stanza.

 

– Have any changes been made to the selection you exhibited during the Sónar 2001 festival in order to accommodate this phenomenon to what you are presenting within the framework of SonarOnline?

There are changes due to the fragile nature of the medium, its processing characteristics and its close relationship with hardware and software systems that have quickly become obsolete. The problem with all net.art and online artistic creation lies precisely in its conservation and even more in being able to visualise it properly. There are several cases where web projects were conceived to take advantage of the characteristics of certain programmes. It is well known that some artists actually did work around turning an error into an artistic phenomenon. An error resulting from the use of a html programming code with commercial navigators that had certain limitations at the time. Of course, as years go by and new navigators come out these projects lose their meaning because, once they have been loaded, they cannot reproduce the effect the artist wanted on the screen. Getting back to London Calling, all the projects are visible except for the interactive console of Coldcut, a project that was carried out by a commercial company whose web development policy did not contemplate the conservation of works of net art. The project disappeared exactly one month after the presentation of London Calling and it has never been seen ever since. Nevertheless, for London Calling 2003 we wanted to maintain the original link.

 

– Is there anything else you would like to add?

The madness of the war policy of the United States – and their use of arms of mass destruction – supported by Great Britain and Spain with the conniving complicity of other major powers of the world has placed us in an extremely serious situation. No one can remain indifferent to this emergency and even less so from the world of culture. We must say NO TO WAR and struggle so that Bush, Blair and Aznar are tried for infringing international legality… and if they persist, for crimes against humanity.

Net.artists have made their voices heard and Andrew Forbes – one of the artists of London Calling– has launched THE>WARTIME< PROJECT (Lost link, only at Archive.org) in order to bring together creative reflections on the theme of war. The initiative involves almost a hundred artists, including some of the most representative names of international net.art. The>Wartime< Project works using an interface designed by Forbes with a representation of the world (users can choose between a two and a three dimensional one) where there are links to all the projects of participating artists according to their city of origin. To access the works the user must first carry out small virtual bombings: the chosen work becomes the target, the map of the world is amplified as in a simulation of an air attack and, when the bomb reaches its target, the project unfolds in front of the viewer.

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