NEURAL, rivista di cultura dei nuovi media, n. 20, 2003, Rome. Also: http://www.neural.it/english/eduardokac.htm.

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Genesis


Eduardo Kac interview.
by Alessandro Ludovico

You often point out that what you do is a new way of doing art, far different from the past. Plese tell me more about that.
My work embraces what I have called a dialogic aesthetics. Dialogic art is not framed as stable material composition to produce contemplation and interpretation, but is predicated on the idea of intersubjectivity (the encounter and engaement of two or more subjects) and that what subjects bring to the work contributes to the experience that they have. It is important to point out that by "subjects" I do not mean exclusively humans; instead, I consider the whole gamut of sentient life forms. Subjects are actively engaged in the network projects that followed my minitel work of the mid '80s. If you have a dialogue, you certainly don't have the traditional idea of the artist as an individual who is solely responsible for the work. I have been producing artworks in which you can still recognize the role of the artist - there's a title that helps frame a sense of inquiry, there is a specific material context, there is consistency from one work to another - but what actually unfolds is not something that I can control. One could say that with any artwork there is an element of uncontrollability; since interpretation is not something that the artist can control. But in dialogic work this uncontrollability is manifested in a kinesthetic manner. The formation of meaning is not introspective, not something that happens purely and simply at a level of cognition. You are an active, physical maker of meaning. Through this process of negotiation of meaning - ideally - the viewer will come into contact with his or her own process of discovery and creativity.

How do you define 'distance' in post-telematic times?
We may think that through media we see distant places, but what we actually experience is a particular kind of fiction, one created specifically for television consumption. What we see is always fragmented and decontextualized, reinvented, manipulated. Ultimately, it reaffirms our distance, rather than bring us closer. Fortunately, it is also true that new communities have evolved worldwide as a consequence of digital telecommunications, and that portable devices (cel and satellite phones in particular) have enabled new forms of social interaction, from the organization of prostesters in Seattle to more frequent conversation among family members in small villages in Africa.

It seems that controversial new media art like web parodies and genetic art need more and more traditional media (press and tv) attention to succeed. Is this a paradox or an unavoidable mechanism of our times?
The media is an envinronment in which information exists in a particular way. Certain artists are able to "perform" the media like an instrument, like a pianist performs with a piano. It is not a paradox. It is just another realm in which art can exist.

You're probably one of the first artist that conceived 'biotelematic', using digital technologies for interfacing humans with animals. Is the tech-interface a tool to improve the respective consciousness?
The key issue I have been addressing in my work for about 20 years is communication. My work investigates the question of communication not as the transmission of information from one point to another, but as a vital force. My work explores communication as a shared space in which meaning can be negotiated. In my work I create what Humberto Maturana calls "consensual domains", social spheres in which dialogical interaction can emerge. Biological processes are important in art because they are at the crossroads of profound social transformations, underway through developments in biotechnology. These developments have cultural consequences. Art is uniquely positioned to investigate the social and cultural meanings of biotechnology beyond simplistic affirmations of determinism.

Do you think that every genetic art piece is a 'hacking' of life?
Strictu sensu, you could say so, yes. If the work manipulates life at a genetic level, there's an element of hacking (although, for me, this is not really the most important issue per se).

In one of your most famous works, GFP Bunny, you created a glowing rabbit then adopting it as a member of your family. Did you intend also to code a metaphor for the acceptance of diversity, beyond the genetic issue? Will the minority of genetic modified organisms need our responsible reception?
Yes, this is correct.

In your opinion, where really is the cyberspace? Inside us or invisibly around us?
Cyberspace is an element in a network of environments and communities.

If different genes are the alphabet, is the body a language construct?
Genes are not the alphabet. It is important to deconstruct and criticize this metaphor. It is necessary to resist this reductionism. However, human language as a whole certainly plays a fundamental role in the creation of realities.

July, 2002.
 



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