Some answers

Some questions for M. Neddam asked by A. Dekker

How do you connect to the various mouchette’s that are around? Do you know how many there are and do you establish contact with them? Do you keep a list (blog maybe)?

Most of what I know concerning the online life of Mouchette, I know it through the referrers in my site statistics. I trace back the pages which have made links to my site and I try to understand the reason of this link. I have been doing this since a long time (1998 maybe), since the time this information was available in the statistics. I must say I am completely addicted to my referrer’s page, I need to see it several times a day and find out the new links as soon as they appear.

This is how, years ago, I came across pages of people who were passing for Mouchette, mentioned my homepage as their own on forums, created spoofs, or parodies of Mouchette’s pages, or felt inspired by the style and personality of Mouchette. This is why I decided to create the mouchette.net where people can actually publish as Mouchette and become completely entitled to pass for her. These mouchettes still exist: they appear at random on the actual homepage, and when you notice a different thumbnail portrait on the top left of Mouchette’s homepage, like this one:

http://mouchette.org/page.php?name=stephanie

Then you may access the work of a different Mouchette by clicking on the portrait, here you get this:

http://mouchette.org/pages/stephanie/

and several other pages linked together, forming a work of its own.

The name of the place where Mouchette lives changes from Amsterdam to something else, in this case “deep inside”

http://mouchette.org/pages/stephanie/where.html

There are 7 or 8 different Mouchettes appearing on the homepage at random, I don’t know exactly myself, if you reload the homepage often enough they will all finally appear.

It is important that the limit between my mouchette and the alternative mouchettes remains blurred. The creations of the interface users is as legitimate as my own, and if their works get broken, I would fix them. Practically speaking, there is an admin login to the identity-sharing interface (the mouchette.net), so I have a list of the different mouchettes and I can de-activate them if I want, and I still login regularly to allow access to the new subscribers.

These “alternative” mouchettes in the homepage still exist, and I maintain them. The publishing interface that allows it (the mouchette.net) is still active but it doesn’t produce any new mouchettes. People still register and visit the publishing interface which was specially designed in a typical mouchette style, but they never go as far as creating new pages, because the only way to do that is to upload your pages as HTML pages and nobody does that anymore.

You can also connect to alternate mouchettes’ works through the mouchette.net page if you click either on “members” or on “non members”, the same script would send you at random to some “other mouchettes” pages, a wider variety of them. ( I just checked on that script right now and found out that many of these links are outdated…. sorry! I will update that soon. Maintaining is really a never ending task.)

 

What is the form of governance of the mouchette’s and how do they behave, what is the consistency to mouchetteness? Is there something like Mouchetteness, could you describe that?

There has always been people who felt a very strong identification with the character, people who feel a very strong love for her, or an emotional proximity. They feel close to it, they feel inspired by it, they visit the site regularly and they sometimes express their feelings. It could be through emails that they send me, or through the “suicide page”, or by making a web page, a blog post. ( I will make some quotations when I get access to my database back home).

Art students and academics write papers, or give lectures, and it’s very often inspired by a strong emotional attachment. This is maybe what you might call the mouchetteness, a certain way Mouchette inspires love and identification.

The best is to quote the Mouchette lovers in order to understand their feelings

-Here is a recent letter to the mouchette shop (I have published it on the “about. mouchette” website with the person’s permission) which moved me very much.

http://about.mouchette.org/goodbye/

From: Clayton Vxxxxxxx <xxxxxxxxx@gmail.com>
Date: December 4, 2011 2:39:06 PM GMT+01:00
To: mouchette@mouchette.org
Subject: Goodbye.
 Now that that’s out of the way.. Every time your site pops into my head.. Just the slightest thought of it.. My imagination runs one hundred laps around the tiny confines of its bone’n’brain prison.. So I’ve finally managed to muster the courage, and acquire the know how to write you.. and ask exactly what’s going on behind those thought provoking images making up the majority of your site.. To inquire of the real mind behind the almost eerie writing that accompanies them. I like to consider myself a bit of an artist.. Even if I have no talent extending to the realm of visual art, and my preferred category, the literary, is something I only make amateur voyages into.. But your talent for provoking thought.. for making the mundane into something more than the sum of its parts.. it astounds me.. confuses me, even.. My question to you, is.. Who is Mouchette? Is it you? A person? The one reading my words, and chuckling casually at my laughable attempt at masking my basic, and probably all-to-common question as something interesting and thought-provoking? Or is Mouchette a group? A group of people whom is made up by many more than just yourself.. a group that, if real, confuses me by never revealing its intentions.. or purpose, if any, behind this cultural phenomenon. And if you’re neither of those.. Then what? What are you? Not who.. What. I, myself, see “Are you really thirteen?” as a question that shouldn’t be at this point.. rather, WERE you really thirteen at the beginning? And when was the beginning? How old are you now? Who are you, now? What do you do? How has your life changed? Are you happy? If you could go back, would you change anything? About this site, in particular? About your life in general? Are you looking for correspondence with like-minded individuals? I guess.. Let me tell you more about me..
My name is Clayton. My life, as of late, has lost almost all meaning. I’ve grown. Learned. With wisdom, at least in my experience, has come cynicism. I’ve lost interest in everything I thought was fun. I’ve taken up drinking. I’ve lost more girlfriends than I even remember having. Women from my past have come back, all of them happily married and/or with children.. I fear loneliness. Its a phobia. I’m going nowhere, and fast. I, at the beginning of this terrible loss of interest in living… I was happy. I remember what that feels like. Some people say they’ve forgotten.. I remember, and I miss it dearly. I have quite a few friends. My friends? They’re the misfits, as am I. I could have been part of the cliques in school. The party crowd. I had the charisma, I’ve been told.. but they didn’t interest me. So I made friends with people I liked. The downside? They rely on me. I’m the only friend a few of them have. Its hard, but.. I try hard for them. Lately its not enough. I’m giving up on everything. Earlier on in my depression, I considered suicide. Maybe not really considered? More toyed with the idea. For some reason I Googled something similar to “I need to fucking die”, and.. well.. If I said I didn’t find, click on, and leave open Mouchette.orgfor the next two months, for a security blanket, almost.. I’d be lying. I didn’t view it most of the time.. Just had it open. Just.. Because it helped. I thank you for that, whoever you are. You may have helped more than even I realize. Regardless.. You helped. Since then, the confusion that’s grown over your site.. the sense of mystery, maybe? Its bugged me. Now I’m here. On my Droid, writing a stranger, confused even by my own purpose.. But I feel comfortable. Comforted by your intellect, even. Then again, maybe its the massive volume of alcohol, painkillers, and caffeine coursing through my soul at the moment.. The jury is out on that one.. But the verdict is in on another topic. I respect you. Maybe not for the reason everyone else seems to.. maybe our reasons are the same. I hope this email provokes thought in you. I hope it does for you, maybe even, what you’ve done for me. Do me a favor. Don’t hesitate. Don’t be shy. Be my friend. That’s all I’d ask of anyone, anymore. Give me a chance.. Please?

Here us another one, quoted from the suicide kit,

Dear Mouchette.
I’m not hear to tell you a way to kill yourself, but I do have something important that I would like to say.. For one.. I was stumbling across the internet, searching random things.. True story. I’m fascinated with the art of suicide. I have known plenty of people I know have ended their life with suicide. Life is going to end anyways, so why not just end it now? stop the uselessness sadness in ones life before it drives you to a mental breakdown. How bout that? dying in a facility where they keep the kids who have psychological problems. Well anyways, I’m getting EXTREMELY off topic. That always seems to happen to me.. Well what I was saying before.. I searched up on the net, “How to tie a suicide rope” .. and somewhere it landed me on this link.. that was about 3 or 4 days ago. Then the next day, I continue this.. um.. viewing of your site. I wiki’d it.. I studied it.. and I honestly say Im very fascinated with it. Especially the first time I ever looked at your home page. I was filled with bewilderment when I saw a floral back-round.. with very few Letters and sentences on it. And especially the picture that was of a strange white creepy vampire-like picture of a man in the top left corner. And anyways.. Im losing myself. Earlier before I searched up “mouchette.org” on wikipedia, I learned that this site was very mysterious.. After that I looked pretty much on just your pages, took in the information and quotes you had left, and the other wonderful things that others had left. I then searched on more, Learned more, and discovered some of the truth. Im not sure if what I had seen you write on one of those other pages.. But what im thinking about is that you said something that you were giving up this wonderful.. amazing.. mysterious.. lovely.. strange site and turning it into something that the internet has many of.. a blog. I have to admit.. Some blogs I see are extremely interesting, and I do take plenty of time into reading and enjoying..but The thing is.. The first time I’ve viewed your beautiful site, was only until January 17th. 2010. And it was taken away so quickly.. just for giving some information.. What I thought before this was this site was aboslutely amazing. For the fact that it has stayed ‘pseudonymous’ since 1996. That you had kept it a secret, and had not had given any personal information.. whatsoever, But then I see this “blog” stuff.. and this website, that had me so interested in.. just changed.. and now I wont be able to look at it ever in the same way again.. Im not complaining. Im just saying.. just giving you my point of though.. And just so you know..
My name is Veronika. Supposed to be spelled with a “C” but I like it so much better with a “K”. And I am 13 years old.

It is visible how much this sort of love is a total identification to the character. When Veronica says she’s 13, you can’t tell whether it’s true or not, whether she’s playing, pretending or being…

-a special category in the archiving

http://about.mouchette.org/category/fans/

In what way are the other Mouchette’s part of the work? What is their consistency if they are not part of the work?

The other Mouchette’s are definitely part of the work! The best part of the work, I would say

At some point, quite spontaneously, people on the suicide page started playing their own characters, Mouchette has become a stage for other people to play characters. I remember a certain “Lucy Cortina” who had started to entertain the suicide page readers with extremely funny stories, absurd and grotesque stories, in her own style, to the point that users came only for her, she’d become more famous than Mouchette. I was so happy and proud of the situation that I made a special button for “famous users” so that you could read all their stories in a line.

http://mouchette.org/suicide/answers.php3?cat=&page=3&search=Lucy+Cortina

Another of my favourite “famous user” is Enzyme. I’m thrilled by his very baroque writing style, something very different from Mouchette which resonates with her in an harmonic way.

http://mouchette.org/suicide/answers.php3?search=Enzyme

This is something that belongs to the past. I doubt whether there will be any new “famous user” on the suicide page anymore.

It belongs to a time when people didn’t have their own means of publication, their own blogs, a time when being published on Mouchette meant something important, something like belonging to a group, especially when your post was chosen as one of the favourites.

The identification happens in a different way now. People make their own blog entries, write their own pages. That’s why I have created the blog about.mouchette.org where I save all the links about Mouchette and classify them into categories.

 

Would you like them to be documented or preserved in one way or another or would references be enough?

As such an archive is never the “freezing” of something. Ideally, the preservation of a work of art becomes a new work of art. I have attempted that a few times, and this idea of “preserving the old work by creating a new work” is always on my horizon.

I have made a series of works that re-used and re-staged specially selected parts of the database. My text database is composed of all the entries to different works (suicide page, lullaby for a dead fly, etc…) and I could choose a collection of texts with some keywords and stage them in a specific way.

Here is an example (selected from the suicide page)

http://mouchette.org/web_v0_6court/

Another one (uses both the fly and the suicide page)

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

What’s specific is that it’s made to work offline, the database corpus exists, but is is re-shaped and can be shown outside the web . In the work you can still see the actual names or nick namesof the users who made the entries, so it’s still about Mouchette being made of a multiplicity of voices, each voice keeping its origin but composing the portrait of Mouchette. The works were made for a museum in Germany (Siegen) and it was meant to hang between the paintings, as a static work, but yet hold the memory of this multiplicity of voices leaving their traces on the personality of Mouchette.

 

How did you think of what to use, what choices did you make, or did that come later, and then what happened?

For example, what I’m looking for is a way / a vocabulary to describe these choices/aesthetics, could it be seen as abstract formalist, what is coherent – the continuity of forms of hard cuts – materiality / rhetoric of the pictures, quality of them (high colour saturation, distort, scanner images), aesthetics of tiling, what does it mean to change screensize, repetition of the image, what does it do to the image – experience, enhancing the mood, stage props.

In other words, I’m interested in the systems of choice that you build in – would it for example be possible to make a decision tree?

Outsider’s art (or in french: art brut) is how I would define my approach of art on the net, the art of the psychotic, the psychic, or simply the ignorant, the one who do not have access to the codes of high art. To illustrate that category, I would name some of my personal heroes: Henry Darger, Adolf Wölflli or Le Facteur Cheval.

I’d rather name it Art Brut really, rather than Outsider’s Art because it’s more consistent with my own history (term coined by Jean Dubuffet in the 60’s).

When I started making art, as a teenager, at home, and later on, until my practically my thirties, I think I really belonged to art brut. There was no art (high or low) in my surroundings. My belief was that you didn’t have to learn art, or to relate to established art, that you could make art in a very spontaneous and wild way. Furthermore, the latest trends in art were not really available in the suburbs of Lyon in the seventies.

Some of the characteristics of Art Brut, besides the naïvity, spontaneity and ignorance of established art are

1– that you operate without definite plan, adding one element to another element until it becomes a whole monument, like Facteur Cheval did, collecting stones on his post officer’s route, and gluing them together one by one until he had build a huge monument without any previous knowledge of architecture, or even any construction or masonry skills.

http://www.facteurcheval.com

I recognize myself very much in this approach, starting at one end and progressing by and by without any definite plan. This is how Mouchette was made, one page at a time, with no navigation plan.

2–Another characteristic of Art Brut is that it recycles objects or images to to construct a personal vision. Facteur Cheval collected stones one by one on a wheel barrow. Henry Darger collected pictures from comics he found in the dump, and all the little girls you see in his work are either collaged or copied from the american comics of the 50’s.

This obsessive collecting activity is also something I remember from how Mouchette was created. I had folders full of pictures I collected from the web. Some pictures reflect your own imaginary world in an incredible way: suddenly you recognize what’s in your mind! I remember rummaging in my cache folder for hours, just like one would forage in the dump, looking for pictures I could re-use. That’s how I came across all these flies and walking ants and other creepy-crawlies that you see in Mouchette: it’s vermin from the garbage!

3–An important characteristic of Art Brut is that what you see is just a part of a very complex and rich imaginary world, that can be expressed in many different medias. Henry Darger, besides the large panoramic drawings he made, also wrote thousands and thousands of pages of adventures, stories of the endless wars of his little heroins, “The Vivian Girls”. He was also a part of this epic world, not really representing himself inside the art, but more by his act of faith, believing in the existence of his heroins, praying for them on an home-made secret altar.

Adolf Wöflli, besides his drawings, also wrote lots of music pages, and 45 volumes of a semi-autobiographical epic.

http://www.adolfwoelfli.ch/index.php?c=e&level=17&sublevel=0

4– They worked in isolation. In the case of Henry Darger, everything was only discovered after his death, at the moment when his miserable dwelling was being cleared. Adolf Wölflli was in a mental institution most of his life. Facteur Cheval lived in a very small village where he worked as postman and was accepted as an excentric.

I’m not mentioning Art Brut artists because of their themes (which appeal to me), but because of their working methods: 1)working with no definite plan, 2) found elements, put together one by one, 3) complete imaginary world where all medium get mixed, 4) working in isolation.

Olia Lialina has written on the early internet art as folk art, (kitsch pictures, starry skies, unicorns, etc…). I have a different approach, it’s not about iconography and ideology, but about working methods and construction practices that I see the similarities.

It’s quite paradoxical to say that I worked like an art-brut artist because this cannot be a deliberate choice. Or it’s fake. I wasn’t a psychotic, I was a developed artist, and I knew the world of art quite well.

Yet, in some regards, internet was totally new and there was no model of how art should be. So I could feel again like a kid pretending I was an artist (which actually was my situation when I started making art as a teenager in the suburbs of Lyon). I could reconnect with my favourite working methods, gathering found objects like plastic flowers and gluing them together one by one until it became a big thing. Working in isolation felt like having an extra power: my own imaginary power of believing I was an artist, believing I knew how to make art without learning.

 

What results and effects have the updates, for example PHP5 – what exactly is not working anymore and what would be benefits for using new systems/software? Some people always work with legacy code (for example fortran is used by some banks, it has to be updated but can’t fundamentally be changed. It is institution code, in which the language never changes), would that in your case also be possible?
You said: “I strongly believe that there’s a programming style which relates to the goal you want to reach” could you elaborate on this, what exactly does this mean?

The comparison with Art Brut is also valid for a certain attitude towards the use of code.

HTML code, in the beginning, was also something you could pick up and recycle, in a very humble, un-technical way, like Facteur Cheval picking up stones to build a palace.

I had the first PHP interface of that time among artists, which indeed seems very technical for someone like me! How could I know I needed that? Well, I couldn’t have known but it came by chance. My partner at that time saw me putting together one by one HTML pages that I created with the feed-back I received per email from the suicide page. He was at that time teaching himself PHP (that’s what everybody did at that time, if a new code appeared: you downloaded instructions from the web and tried to see what you could do with it). My partner was an engineer in electronics and was interested with internet for his fun. He did the Mouchette interface to teach himself PHP, it was an interesting exercise for him, he was also experimenting. Everything he made was absolutely customised for my needs: he saw me doing this by hand, like sending emails to my fan-list or writing webpages, and he automated some processes. That was in 98/99, and to this day I still use this interface, although it had to undergo some major fixes sometimes, the basis is still the same. It is characterized by its simplicity and clarity. It only has what I need and what I use, and nothing else. And that’s particularly important to mention: it doesn’t have any function that I do not need.

I always had total resistance to CMS because of the excess of functions it proposes as standard. I would never have accepted to update my own database system into any kind of pre-fabricated system that supposedly “would do the same and much much more”.

It was important that all the information stored in the database could get an emotional content:

A generated email could reveal its automated nature and yet be conveying feelings. Or even more the data could convey the feelings, like the absurd precision of the hour of the death.

From  Mouchette <mouchette@mouchette.org>
To:  alma <alma_agz@hotmail.com>
Subject:  alma, I remember your words…
Dear alma
When on the 6 Jun 2012 at 18:47, you clicked on me causing my death, the last words I read were yours, dear alma, and I will never forget them.
Every night before sleeping, I hear them again, they became part of my ‘lullaby’
http://www.mouchette.org/fly/flies.html
They are also stored in my database, forever.
http://www.mouchette.org/fly/how.html
(If you don’t remember your answer, the search engine at the bottom of the page can find it for you, if you type alma_agz@hotmail.com as a keyword)
So now, dear alma, although I hear you every night, there is still a place for you to write me from the world you are in (dead or alive, who cares? …) and killing me will be like a greeting
http://www.mouchette.org/fly/

*bisou*
Mouchette
http://mouchette.org

Having generated the automated email “Stored in my database forever” so many times gives me now hmm… a sense of responsability. I can’t let all that be destroyed because I promised it, albeit automatically!

Now storing in about.mouchette.org using a common CMS gives me a high sense of frustration, like being in a prison, putting information in all these predesigned boxes…

I am dreaming of having a software that lets me create by archiving. I am trying to find a programmer to compose an archival system within a spacial environment, an archival system which will be suited to Mouchette’s needs and nothing else

 

 

These questions were asked within the framework of Annet Dekker’s PHD, around the subject of archiving of art on internet

 



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