This interview with Alexandru Patatics, Romanian artist and participant in CFront 2000, was conceived for the French magazine Futur(e)s following a suggestion by Robert Fleck, art critic and director of the ERBAN-Ecole Régionale des Beaux-Arts de Nantes. The interviewer is Donatien Garnier, from Futur(e)s.
D.G.: What kind of relationships exist between your work and new technologies?
A.P.: My works are based on what is usually called 'new technologies' (even if this term is already old.) Since 1993 I have turned my professional interest toward video and media interactive installations, where the constructing parts consist in high and low tech equipment, sometimes found on the spot, old disjointed mechanical and electrical stuff, combined with 'site specific' elements. The result, as so-called 'art object', is an ambient type installation, where video audio and real-time events are somehow mixed into a specific functional relationship.
Beside this 'object-oriented' use of 'new technologies' in my art works, there is also another type of interest, which I consider perhaps more important in my recent activity, which resides in the use of digital and network-based technologies for developing real communities, transposed from the specific art field (for example the Romanian art and media oriented culture scene). Those involve constant efforts to shape the mentalities by the practice of communication through the network (mailing lists, web content, etc.). The result is obviously not a personal 'art piece' but a theoretical and praxis-oriented 'action'.
D.G.: How long have you been working with computers?
A.P.: Since I had the opportunity to access them in Romania. Since 1991-92, when some IT companies brought them for the local business.
D.G.: Why have you come to use them?
A.P.: The first way I used them as of course as a tool - for solving some demanding graphical jobs, like editing letter characters for posters. Then, as the computers became more efficient, they could manipulate digital images acquired by the scanner, then connect to the Internet and manipulate and access large quantities of information at great speed - as in multimedia and digital video.
Specifically, for my art installations, I used computers for generating sounds, modeling 3d ambient sound for documentation purposes and/or project proposals, editing multiple-screen video-based works or manipulating them with specially developed software elements.
D.G.: Do you use the Internet in your creations?
A.P.: I'm not a so-called 'net artist'. What I mean is that my work is not inherent to the 'net' and could not be presented entirely in a browser window or stick to the computer screen. But sometimes I use the Net as a constructing part of some of my media installations (see 'step to . word', ICC Biennale Tokyo) when I found this to be a special 'medium' filled with various and sometimes contradictory contents, prepared for interactivity in specific ways (searching machines, directories etc.).
D.G.: Are the new technologies mere tools or also objects of your work?
A.P.: In my case, they have always been both. It is extremely difficult however to define what is the role of objects or object-based art pieces in the contemporary context and how they could be documented, exhibit or stored - in a context that was designed for old-time art pieces, in a museum, for example.
It seems that 'the object' (not necessarily called 'art object' any more) is constantly shifting from its technological 'hard' determination to sometimes very different dimensions - network and software-specific functional enhancements.
D.G.: What is, for you, the most important aspect of your work?
A.P.: From now on, I think the most important aspect of my work is the collaborative one, as network based 'action' - for example - the issue of constructing a specific streaming channel for art and media culture, where new contacts and commune efforts in constructing something (projects, events, theoretical debates, networks etc.) could generate a new attitude beside new type of digitally emerged communities.
D.G.: What is your last work about? Could you describe it?
A.P.: My recent projects were conceived around my interest in Net inter-communication - such as mailing lists. Now, I'm working on a new interactive installation project where the main point of interest will be to present the contrast between text-based information flowing from the Net and the 'disconnected' (or 'unplugged') region which will be presented based on 'natural' images. The textual contents will trigger the lecture of images, constructing some kind of parallel relationship. and the receivers will construct their appropriate contexts.
D.G.: When you speak about your next project you mention "natural images." What will they be dealing with? The gallery, the area of the gallery or the region where the gallery is based, excluding the gallery itself?
A.P.: The project I mentioned will analyze the contrast or interference created by different systems, different significant 'contents' (in relation with the receiver), such as 'Net' events triggered by 'natural contexts,' or the 'natural context' influenced by the 'Net,' I'm particularly referring to setting up a kind of 'instrument' for analyzing this relationship.
If we speak about 'image-based natural contexts' - this already means a transit from the real world to a media-type representation (files stored in 'data bases'; analog or digital images or audio-video elements) - and I sometimes use those elements together, in my installations, next to the real situation which generates them.
So, the context could be anything, a specific area of the gallery or outside the gallery etc. - it's just an 'input' to my 'instrument,' something that I usually call an 'insignificant event'.
D.G.: Is there something specific on which you would like to insist?
A.P.: Perhaps regarding my interest toward the 'alternative' Romanian field: I seek to find partners to establish new connections for developing potential projects (net related, exhibition events, or any other conceivable projects) that could offer a context and build bridges between art and media related communities. Why not even as a lobby for the alternative Romanian field? That field has the potential of being consistent and for sure interesting, but continuously suffers from lack of funds, given the inefficient official support.
I'm involved also in creating alternative institutions, by initiating the F O R M A T project and founding the F O R M A T non-profit art foundation, both with the aim of 'formatting' and offering support to the Romanian alternative art and media culture field. A first concrete step I've already done is starting the nettime-ro mailing list, in addition to the existing nettime international lists.