Last weekend in Providence I ended up checking out bits and pieces of Interrupt 2008, a festival co-hosted by Brown and RISD on “language-driven digital art,” and seeing a lot of old familiar faces. I actually find it comforting that the genre hasn’t changed much in the last ten years, and the low-tech aesthetic embraced by self-conscious net artists in the ’90s seems even more fitting today.
Christiane Paul, who introduced me to this scene back then, introduced concrete poet Marko Niemi at one event. His work reminds me of this quote from Kenneth Goldsmith about the web being the perfect medium for concrete poetry. He even runs a sort of Finnish Ubuweb called Nokturno.
Seoul-based Young-hae Chang Heavy Industries were the stars of the festival however. If you’re not familar with their animated Monaco-font text narratives set to jazz, I recommend Cunnilingus in North Korea (which Harper’s once tried to republish) and Beckett’s Bounce. They take a Warhol-like stance on the endeavor, saying they have no thoughts whatsoever on net art and no idea why they do what they do. Regardless, they’re huge now, exhibiting in museums around the world and enjoying a high-roller art-star lifestyle.
Both Niemi and Young-hae Chang Heavy Industries started out as translators. They produce work in a number of languages with Young-hae Chang focused on English as a global dialect that is “up for grabs these days.” In an interview posted the other day on Nettime, they call English “a powerful political and cultural tool for people around the world.” In another interview: “Distance, homelessness, anonymity and insignificance are all part of the internet literary voice, and we welcome them.”