Li-Ma Questions

Documentation Questions to Martine Neddam.

LIMA Oktober 2020

Artwork: Mouchette

Questions related to concept, ideas, meaning of the work

Description/ categorization:

  • How important is for the categorization of the work to separate the website mouchette.org from its other disjoints/branches? How do you usually describe these “branches” in comparison to the “primary” website artwork?

It’s all Mouchette!
Technically most of it under the same root server, even when the domain name is different. It might all share the same database.
Originally some parts were created separately (ihatemouchette.org) for obvious narrative reasons (one had to believe it was created by a ‘hater’), but later it was re-united on the server.

Mouchette.net is an interface where people could publish as Mouchette. It’s for a part not functional anymore but for another part still functional, and it has some secret corners, interactive or not, still visited and still growing.

About.mouchette.org (a wordpress blog since 2011) that I use to archive articles, papers, exhibition info and what not… that I still consider as Mouchette. I copy there entire articles, so that they ‘stay’ with Mouchette.

Intention/meaning:

  • How important is to preserve extra domains associated within the artwork (those not owned by the artist) or links that get broken during time? Is this a worry or could it be assumed as part of the intention of the work itself?

It’s decided case by case. Most of the times, in Mouchette.org, I try to fix it and suppress the broken link in the html, with or without keeping a trace, because it’s ‘cleaner’ that way but I’m not always as up to date as I would want.. If I consider the page as a vestige or a remnant of the past, then I leave the broken link as a trace. I’m not extremely consistant. There are parts of the site I never visit so I don’t acknowledge the broken links.
In about.mouchette.org, I try to copy entire articles and to make snapshots of websites to keep a trace when they have disappeared.

  • Taking the weblog as an important online generative strategy for the conservation/documentation of Mouchette, how important is to look for its own maintenance and preservation? Would any offline preservation method (backups, dumps) make sense for this generative strategy?

Back-ups and logs are important but sadly enough, I’m not very good at it. It keeps me up at night sometimes…
My server has a back-up button for each domain and database, but the problem is: this backup button produces a file which I can download. But I wouldn’t know how to use it, in case data is lost on the server….

Since a couple of years, my local copy of the website is not up to date, let alone the database… For my own hard disk, I have a so-called “Time Machine” from Apple that makes automatic back-ups a few times a day, and the lost data is easy to retrieve. I wish I had that for Mouchette.

(What is meant here exactly as ‘weblog’?. Here I answer to the ‘back-up’ question. But if it means ‘updating the database’ then it should be another type of answer.)

Questions related to exhibiting and interactivity/functionality of the work

Exhibition:

  • What would you consider to be the main exhibitions of the work during these years and why?

The best exhibitions (I can’t mention them all) were those who gave me the opportunity to create a new work connecting online space with the physical space, and giving me the production means for it.

*For example in 2011 I made the Guerrila pop-up shop, where the art space was turned into a shop for merchandising for Mouchette and later the shop continued online.

http://about.mouchette.org/category/fan-shop/

http://shop.mouchette.org/

*In 1997 a dutch film magazine called SKRIEN invited me to create a centerfold. I made a quiz comparing the film Mouchette by Bresson and the character of my own website, and I produced it for online as well

http://mouchette.org/film/quiz.html

*In 2001 Rhizome.org invited me for a splash page and I gave them “Kill the cat”.

http://mouchette.org/cat/
You had to kill the cat in order to enter Rhizome.org, that was very annoying (or very funny) for the visitors.
I kept all the entries and created a special category for them called ‘rhizome’

http://www.mouchette.org/cat/why.html

Here I didn’t create a new work but acquired a lot of public.

*In 2007 I did an artistic residency in Quebec city in Canada where I was offered a collaboration with a programmer and I created online works which re-stage texts from the database. We made a Flash tool for it and later I could create. several works based on the same programmed components.

http://mouchette.org/grand_soir/

http://mouchette.org/to.be.or.not.to.be.mouchette/

http://mouchette.org/ville_fantome/

*Also in the Stedelijk Museum, the physical presentation of my work on the wall is very exciting because it works well inside the museum context. It’s a proposal I made to the media curator of the Stedelijk Karen Archey.

A good exhibition opens new areas of creation and opens the work to a new public. It can only be done with a good dialogue and complicity with the curator.

  • How is the work ideally exhibited, outside of the domestic sphere, within an exhibition context? (minimal installation requirements)

There is no ideal public exhibition of the work. Mouchette was created as my own experience of the online space and therefore was meant to be experienced online, as a new genre of art, the online art or the net.art, which is a one-on-one situation with intimacy, personal choices and decisions for a circulation in the website, private reactions, etc…
A video capture of a visit of the online space is a sort of default solution for the public. But I don’t provide a standard recorded visit. Someone has to make it, someone has to author it. It’s like an interpretation of the website.

Interactivity/functionality:

  • Mouchette is all the data inside the website, but also outside of it. What is the data outside of Mouchette, and how does this generate more material for the evolvemed of the artwork?

    I’m not sure I really understand the question…

    Some of the data outside Mouchette is placed on a domain that I control, which is hosted in my own server. Some data happens outside, made by people who create fake Mouchette pages, parodies, or write articles.
    I have that motto: ‘everything that mentions Mouchette IS Mouchette’.
    This is the horizon of Mouchette in line with our time of search keys.

Technical specs and parameters for preservation

Creation process:

  • What tools/techniques did you use for the creation of the website?For the HTML I used editors. The first one was Nestcape composer in 1997, which came standard with the browser. I used it until it wasn’t made anymore, in 2004 maybe. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Netscape_Composer

    I used a separate ftp application to send the data to the server.

At that time I also used free software found on the web or distributed freely on CDs with magazines for digital geeks (more like the latter because softwares were heavy to download. These softwares had very limited functions but they did the right job, and they were easy to use. I used them for making gifs, for sound editing, for thumbnails and other goodies. They stopped working on the next OS upgrade, and one had to find a new freeware for the same function.
Thanks to these free tools, I did everything myself, sounds, animations, pictures and webpages. For java scripts, there were sites where you could borrow javascripts by copying the code. I also copied stuff that I found in source code, tried it on my page and was lucky when it worked.
All in all, It was a paradise of ‘bricolage’, or ‘hacking’ in the old-fashioned sense of the term, not pirating, but creating with what you find handy and free.

After 2003/2004, this style of work was over. Then I used Dreamweaver for web-editing and it contained the ftp application. It had a lot of features I didn’t know how to use. I only used what I learned in Netscape composer. I never learned CSS for example.

When I started using internet, I was already quite experienced in Photoshop, I was doing large size digital images in the public space. So it was easy for me to use Photoshop to process images and to export them as .jpgs. I devised my own compression system to make picture files as small as possible, by blurring some parts of the image. I really enjoyed image processing because it was the part where I had full mastery of the tool. For that time. Because now, many images look bad and over-compressed, but at that time they were small to download and very large on the screen. The intimacy and the sensuality of the pictures still work somehow, and that was a good part of the image-processing.

For the database, PHP/MySQL, which was started in 1999 and continued, to this day, on the same basis, it was made specially for me by a programmer, continued by other programmers, and fixed during major php upgrades when necessary.

I worked in close relation with the programmer, they showed me what existed, suggested what was possible, it was a real collaboration with a programmer, each having a different style and approach, not just the use of code.

Versions:

  • Is the work variable?Yes, in many ways.
  • Could you describe what, according to you, is an acceptable change? i.e. the moment when the work becomes a different work, or a version, or ceases to exist? (Parameters change/ significant properties)It is decided case by case. The type of changes I need to practice most of the time are: ‘change to remain the same’. And usually it consists of translating the work into a different software, for example a Flash work into and HTML5 translation. I find any kind of translation preferable to disappareance of the work, or unaccessibility. So what does it mean to remain the same? It’s more an artistic question than a technical question, it’s a question of interpretation.
    Besides that, when people make their own versions of the work, parody sites or video captures with commentaries, I consider it as valuable versions of the work, even when they are very weird, and I preserve them as much as possible (about.mouchette.org)

Reaction speed / time interval:

  • Is this important to the work?Not as such. It’s just one of the parameters of the work.
  • What if reaction speed would (de)-increase due to technological change?I don’t consider reaction speed as pertaining only to technological change. In interactive works it’s a combination between technology and the perception of the viewer/user and that perception changes over time, so it’s an equation between the two which is rather difficult to evaluate. This evaluation has to be made not only with technical data, but also with words and impressions.
  • What is an acceptable change according to you?

It’s the change that keeps the relation machine/user alive, with curiosity, surprise, unexpectedness, and doesn’t transform it into a push-button situation.

Browser:

  • Is there an artist approved browser? Type computer? Dedicated equipment?No. Surely not.

Ideally the work itself should be adapted to the new browsers, computers, tablets, telephones, everything… Practically, it’s not possible to change everything all the time and re-format technically and visually. So the right attitude is to have the work remain accessible as much as possible, observe the conditions in which the work is being accessed, fix whatever can be fixed, and for the rest, enjoy the mess!

Backups:

  • How often do you make a backup of the complete website?Sadly: never.I don’t even have a complete local version, in case what is on the server is being lost. The server’s copy is the only copy right now. The one I have is from 3 years ago when the mouchette.org version01 was sold to the Stedelijk. It changed quite a bit since then, and was also for some parts re-organized and cleaned by a programmer.
  • Do you consider some of the backups as ‘versions’ which you keep separately?Not as such. There are some old versions of some specific works.
  • Where do you store the backups?When I re-do a work, try to keep the old version, but not on a hard disk, next to the re-actualized work on the server.
  • Are the databases included in the backup?
    No, and I really regret it terribly.

Database:

  • How many different databases compose the website today and how they work. (individually, and in connection with each other)?They are all connected with each other, the way they were originally built.
    If it’s a wordpress blog, then it has its own database.
  • What is the current maintenance status of this database? (who is taking care, what are the current problems and needs)
    I can view this database with phpMyadmin, but I don’t know how to work with it. When there’s a major change in PHP version, I need to find someone who fixes it. I indicate what is not working and how it should be. But because the work is so labyrinthic, I still find errors months later.
    I should have a system that keeps an automatic backup of the database, but unfortunately I don’t.

Weblog:

  • Is there a procedure to rebuild the weblog from the database?Not a single procedure, no.
  • Is a database dump enough to preserve the weblog?I extracted the database dump from inside phpmyadmin, so I suppose you would need the structure existing in there for a reconstitution.
  • Is there an offline backup of the weblog content being currently stored?

    Sadly, no.

Maintenance:

  • What is the current maintenance status of the website Host and domain registration? (which one is it, links and dates of subscription, what are the current problems, if any, and needs)It’s all hosted at Dreamhost.com, all of it: web host, domain registrations etc.., together with all my other domains. I get alerts for re-registering domains and paying webhosting or major server changes. I usually find my way around their user’s panel for this kind of things. I’m fairly satisfied of their services. I have what they called a ‘virtual server’ which means a shared IP.
    When I work with a programmer, I give them the code to my dreamhost panel, and it works fine. I could give the codes if you want to evaluate that part.
     
  • What kind of documentation is available today for the maintenance process of the website? What is the status of this documentation and what is still missing? What do we need in terms of material, formats or learning structure to document this knowledge?
    As I said, the maintenance and moderation of the database is still the biggest problem. Is what we produced with Nikos of any use? We didn’t evaluate it.
    Should it be continued or re-done from the beginning?
  • What is the role of the moderator of the website? Is there any current existing documentation capable of transmitting this knowledge? What do we need in terms of material, formats or learning structure to document this knowledge?
    The role of the moderator is important, it’s an interpret, he/she makes personal decisions on classifying, posting or not, deleting sometimes, etc…
    When working with Nikos we decided that we would add all the information created together to the screen-snapshot pages, and that’s why we decided for pages that can be zoomed in and out, instead of stacking up information in a linear way. But the chosen SVG format wasn’t easy enough to use for this kind of enterprise.

Miscellaneous:

  • Are the pages on drivedrive.com and ilovemouchette.virtualperson.org part of the artwork? If so, is the maintenance under your control?Not for drivedrive.com. The person who created the site was a friend (Moritz Gaede) but I lost his contact. The email I had doesn’t respond any more. It’s a miracle that he still keeps the site on, though he didn’t host or create anything new in many years. The works in there are mostly made in Flash, At the end of the year Chrome will stop the flash plugin. Will he still keep the site?

As for Ilovemouchette.virtualperson.org, it’s a masterpiece of preservation by Nikos Voyiatzis. The site was made by a friend on a free-hosting site as a sort of online performance. The friend lost interest beyond the performance and the free-hosting site disappeared. It was the idea of Nikos to re-make it and he found everything back on archive.org and put it together again the way it was. It had to be done piece by piece, because no-one finds a complete site on archive.org, it’s always broken, so one has to roam around and retrieve loose pieces with lots of patience. Congratulations to Nikos!
Then we hosted it on one of my domains virtualperson.org

 

  • Are there more domains other than mouchette.org/.com/.net and ihatemouchette.org involved?I don’t own the domain mouchette.com. I had it for a little while, hosted some unimportant stuff and lost it to a domain-snatcher, so I gave it up.
    About.mouchette.org is a subdomain and so is shop.mouchette.org, they have their own database.
  • Virtualperson.org belongs to me and I have used it to host works I have done together with Nikos Voyiatzis.
  • Part of the site was deleted because of copyright claims. Do you own a copy of those pages? (the link to the files, http://www.constantvzw.com/copy.cult/mirror/, does not work anymore).
    Yes. I hosted this part of the site again in 2017.http://mouchette.org/film/quiz.htmlBefore then I used to link it to this version outside of mouchette.org, because I wasn’t officially allowed to host it anymore.

http://www.computerfinearts.com/collection/mouchette/filmxx/index.html

Future

  • Could you imagine a moment in the artwork’s future, and if so could you describe that moment, in which the artwork will be replaced by or live on as something else (documentation such as a screen recording or similar)?

1-In an ongoing future, every little piece keeps getting updated in order not to break-up and continue its online interaction. For example I’m trying right now to replace every piece made in Flash by an html equivallent. It’s scattered all over the site. I mostly used Flash to embed sound because it was the most compatible sound format (yes!). But the html skills are disappearing, the people I know who could do that for me don’t want to or can’t do it any more and Flash disappears from Mac and Chrome next december. So it’s the race against the clock, a race againt the stream of obsolescence.
In the future, I stay on the good side of the race, I don’t give up and don’t let any interactivity die.

This a plea for help me find people programmers/designers to repair Mouchette the way I want.

2-In a more distant future:

-Mouchette (or rather all of its data) will be owned by a cooperative of owners that will make sure that the data is accessible and maintained in the artistic spirit of its creation. The data will be sold, either as a percentage of the whole or as a specific work, similarly to a building being sold in separate flats and collectively maintained in its common parts. The money of the sale will pay for the reparations and maintenance.

Some thoughts and opinions that make me have this prediction/fiction:

-Mouchette will continue to really exist as interactive and publicly accessible online if she is sold ‘as a whole’, not in separate parts, and not in ‘frozen’ (time-stamped) versions like the one for the Stedelijk.

-The ownership of data including the specificities of maintenance and distribution of the data needs to be addressed in our digital future. It concerns all aspect of data not just those owned by GAFA companies, and it certainly concerns art made with data.

-I believe works of art could become a form of currency, or rather assets on which financial value is based.


In December 2017, a painting by Picasso was sold as 40,000 shares of 50 Swiss francs each. As the owner of a share you have access to a special platform where you can vote on whether the work is loaned to a museum or not, and your Picasso share has zero risk of devaluation.

https://www.qoqa.ch/fr/offers/15113

https://www.qoqa.ch/de/offers/15113

One can also purchase the historical castle La Mothe-Chandeniers in the same manner.

https://dartagnans.fr/en/projects/et-si-on-adoptait-un-chateau/campaign

One million euros for the ownership (already raised), and 3 millions euros will have to be found for the restoration.

Granted: Mouchette is neither a Picasso painting or a historical castle in ruins, but she has established a strong place in art history, her cultural value will maintain or increase. She can, in time, become a financial value asset. But I don’t see it happen through one person or through one institution, or even a few. I imagine a great number of owners, share holders. Somehow, there’s this idea that participants of Mouchette, at one or another level, could also become so many owners or share holders.

I won’t elaborate further on this (science fiction) scenario. I hope one day I can work further on the ownership interface and financial value system that will ensure the proper maintenance and continuation of Mouchette.

These ideas were inspired by the apparition of blockchain projects. Here, blockchain could have a part, only as a lock and security system to garantee the value.



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