interview for susanmagazine

The aether collective has been recently interviewed by journalist Pauline Eiferman, for an article about “how the internet is changing the way artists collaborate and work”, to be published in SusanMagazine #2, a quarterly online arts magazine.

While we look forward impatiently to the complete article, here are the raw answers produced by the aethernauts:

Pauline Eiferman: Firstly, I am interested in how the project started and what exactly it aims to do.

Christiaan Cruz: it started with a huge blank page problem
like the one steve jobs had, but more open and fun

Manuel Schmalstieg: technically, the project was initiated during a workshop given by the N3krozoft Media Group during Mapping Festival in Geneva, May 2007. the objective of the workshop was to devise methods for realtime visual collaboration in a performative context (Mapping Festival is an event dedicated to VJing).
During this workshop, a few people met on-location for the first time, and a group of people joined remotely (after a massive call-for-participation mailing) from Paris, Berlin, Brussels, the US, Colombia, Slovenia.
After the workshop, the group continued the work and new members joined the effort. We try to keep it very open, following methods that are used in open source software development.
Our objective: achieving new forms of art, by mixing existing forms (video, cinema, theatre) with current technical tools, most importantly the various network protocols. there are many “one-to-one” audiovisual communication tools, also a few “one-to-many” tools, but it’s very difficult to achieve “many-to-many” communication. so our project is a practical/artistic attempt to solve this problem.
I also like to point out that my main inspiration for the Mapping Festival workshop were projects carried out in the very early 80s by several artist groups, such as “Electronic Cafe” by K. Galloway and S. Rabinowitz in 1984, or “the world in 24 hours” by Robert Adrian in 1982 (see for sources).

Paula Vélez: The project started with an idea in the Mapping Festival (2007) , people from different countries joint in for a performance having place there, in Geneve.
Then things continued, almost all of the first participants stayed for a while, since then new artist all over the world have been joining Aether9 performances.
Aether9 has been developping this years different patches built in MAX MSP, researching on streaming remote performances having place online and in local real spaces.
The research is not limited to streaming, also to visual and audio narratives conceve in a collective way. Spreading, sharing knoledge in between participants, thinking about networking, artistic collaboration, management, project sustainability, and looking foward the use of open source plataforms.

Pauline: What role do you believe the internet can have in the creation of art today?

Chris: open distribution and storage
easier global interaction/collaboration

Paula: Internet allows artist to explore new surfaces, new supports with technogical gadgets. Internet is a tool for communications, expression, distribution and new economical ways or explorations.

Manu: i didn’t ever work with the internet (email or BBS) before the arrival of the WorldWideWeb, so i would rather talk about “the web” than “the internet”.
what is most significant to me, is that Tim Berners-Lee originally conceived the www (and the first browser) as a “read-write” medium, where every user would have the ability to write, therefore to create. this philosophy (or “feature”) was quickly dropped by the main browser producers. fortunately it’s been returning with the rise of wikis and “content management systems”.
one barrier for artists, is that wikis and CMSes are text-based. video on the web still suffers from many issues, as we see with the current struggles between h264, ogg, etc.
one excellent example of “video management” by/for artists is

Pauline: What do you hope to achieve through Aether9 project?

Chris: a proper production to utlizes the unique flicker effect of the interface

Manu: i don’t know. i guess i answered this already above.

Paula: Open the project to open source plataforms to allows other groups of people to use this tool of expression: Collaborative remote narratives and audiovisual performances.

Pauline: Could you talk about one specific video that is part of the project, and how it used the internet in its creation?

Chris: Our private 777 video always makes me happy.
The project seems to function best as a global interactive jamming forum.
Much like jazz functioned in post-bee-bop Europe when all the great masters
migrated there and shared a musical dialogue with collectives of musicians.

Paula: All project is based in the use of internet for make it happen. Participants are situated in different locations working together for being present in a same place at a time… that place could be call the aether…. the middle of something in between the inmaterial space.

Manu: i was never really satisfied with our “video archives”. it’s like with most peformance art, you cannot understand the intensity of the work when watching archival recordings. maybe they will be interesting to watch in 10 years.
I will mention the “Aether9 LRRH archive remix“, though:
one function that we implemented in our streaming tool, during the “Little Red Riding Hood” performances in 2008, was an automated script that uploaded one video frame per minute to a special “archive” server. After a few months, i retrieved those thousands of images, and combined them into this “automated remix”, that consists in many little fragments of rehearsals and performances. The soundtrack of the video is the live sound-mix that I made for the Montreal performance (at Perte-de-Signal, August 2008)