Artwork: Mouchette
Artist: Martine Neddam

Profile :
Who : Educator for a “learning through arts” preschool
Where : The preschool
With : Nine children
When : The afternoon, during nap time
Doing : Taking advantage of a quiet moment to enrich her cultural knowledge
Laughing type : Forced laugh

Kids are noisy. Of course, I love them. I’m glad to teach them arts and crafts. I’m amazed by how creative they are. I learn so much from them. Not all kids have an access to all this artistic material and education. I’m convinced that creativity increases their confidence, just as I know that nap time will increase my level of energy.

Nap time

I still thought of these children related inequalities and this reminded me a very famous French movie entitled Mouchette directed by Robert Bresson. Poor Mouchette! The character really embodies the infantile misery.  I googled “Mouchette” just to make the memory more vivid. I clicked on the first link. I was surprised to find myself browsing a 13 year-old artist’s website. The scrolling window contained links entitled “triple x” or “stripped penis”. I was quite shocked and I almost felt bad to look at the website in the environment where I was standing. Being too curious to get off the site, I clicked on the “suicide” link. A suicide kit? She asks for a suicide kit? Is this a bad joke? I don’t want to think about “the best way to kill yourself when you are under 13”, why would I? I don’t want to be implicated in any way with this Mouchette.  I then clicked on the “kill that cat” link. There was this cat moving crazy on the screen and making lots of noise. It was very aggressing and my first thought was : it will wake up the kids and, therefore, spoil my break. There was a link saying “kill that cat” so I clicked on it immediately because I really wanted to have my rest. Then Mouchette asked me why I killed her cat. I felt really guilty to answer :  “I wanted my rest”, is this a good reason to kill?  I  felt strange about the fact that this virtual and fictionnal Mouchette was to concrete for me.

Home Narratives Curatorial Statement

The Net art Gotcha!

By Paule Mackrous

Hoaxes, incongruities, identity fictions, unexpected experiences : all of these makes you feel as if someone behind the screen was saying “Gotcha!” As Net art infiltrates the Web, borrowing websites appearances and functionalities, one can experience it by a curious coincidence. Hazard is usually the contextual framework in which we experience the “gotcha effect”. The Net artworks discussed in this online exhibition show the diversity of strategies that an artist can use to create this effect. It also demonstrates the different aims and/or “actual” consequences of the virtual gotcha. In a way or another, the gotcha is always more then a frivolous gag. It brings with it an ideology of subversion and can create a great deal of critical reflections on the media in which it takes place.

Generally, the hypermedia artwork is experienced through our personal computer and, often, in the intimacy of our home. Anybody with a computer and an Internet connection can make this fortuitous encounter with Net artworks. It’s true though, that since the last decade, many net artists have found creative ways to exhibit their artworks. We find them in museums, festivals, galleries, public space, just to name a few. But if we assume that the gotcha effect, carried by some net artworks, can only be experienced by coincidence and in specific milieus through the personal computer, it raises interesting questions for a curator aiming to underline this phenomenon.  As I write about the Net art’s gotcha effect, am I not “decontextualizing” the artworks, demystifying their authors and, therefore, totally suppressing the experience of the gotcha itself? Is there any ways to talk about it without totally suppressing it?

Possible experiences as fictional narratives

Following these reflections on the phenomenological experience of the artwork, I decided to write different fictional narratives in which I embody a plausible character. My challenge here, as a curator, is to use these expansions of myself to create a possible situation, out of the many virtual situations, in which someone can fortuitously experience a specific artwork and the humorous gotcha effect that I want to underline. The narratives find their roots in a personal experience and at some point, they become totally imaginary. You can try to figure out when the shift happens, but the truth as much as what is “real” is not really relevant here.

This “fictional” curatorial methodology allows me to create an accurate space-time based situation and furthermore, to make intelligible the subtle elements integrated in the artwork that fool our expectations. I had to identify the “cues” (Nancy K. Baym) by which one specific character would recognize the gotcha in a Net artwork : finding what “transgresses normalcy in the context” (Baym ; 1995, Palmer ; 1994). As Chiaro puts it, “the concept of what people find funny appears to be surrounded by linguistic, geographical, diachronic, sociocultural and personal boundaries” (1992 : p. 5). Therefore the gotcha is a performance in which the spectator is totally implicated : a spectator with a specific horizon of expectations. The question that I first asked myself before creating each narrative and character is : What would be a perfect context and the most susceptible “part of myself” to be trapped by this artwork?

This online exhibition is also an attempt to reflect the humorous state of mind experienced in the artworks. This playful way to describe the experience of the artworks shouldn’t be seen as a frivolous game, neither should the gotcha be understood as such. If so, we are missing the rich undercurrents of meanings in it. Kant thought that in humorous situation, an expectation is transformed into nothing, Schopenhauer rather agues, after Kant, that we actually get something that we were not expecting (Ruskin ; 1985 : p.5). Following Schopenhauer’s idea, one should keep in mind that often  “ […] humour is used as a weapon of resistance and as a means of expressing cynicism, alienation and disenchantment” (Collison ; 2002). In these narratives, I tried to identify this resistance and its “tangible” impact as it sometimes become perversive.

One should also see this curatorial as a resistance to the pretended rational description of any experience. The artworks discussed here, just as much as this curatorial, voluntary blur the lines, if there ever were some, between the fiction and the reality, the subjectivity and the objectivity and, furthermore, shows the irrelevancy of these categories. It doesn’t matter how much it’s real, fictional or virtual, the question is : is it actual? If yes, how? And to respond to that, my theoretical posture here is to create an experience that actualizes a possibility, rather than attempting to describe an experience of the “reality”  through a pretended objectivity.

Net art has to get you : otherwise, you’re never gonna get it!

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