Networked performance
Online performance using webchat and webcam

Art_room conversation (pdf)
Art_room is an online performance, that happens in a chat room, and anyone can meet the artist and ask her everything they always wanted to know about contemporary art.

what is bare life?
From arslonga@netcabo.pt Wed Jul 12 06:48:27 2006

After reflecting about "what is bare life?", I will address some issues that approach this question and that are related to some of my projects. The situations that I find more defying are those when I can promote or be in close relation with people, and I must confess that I find that as seductive as disturbing.
In 2002 I made a performance via mobile phone called artphone. This happen during Free Manifesta (in Manifesta 4). There was a flyer and an online page with my personal mobile phone number and the sentence: "Don't be afraid to ask everything you always wanted to know about contemporary art". I received the calls and established a conversation (about an art issue) either with someone I knew or with someone I have never met before.
In the version of 2005, presented at Prog:me, I used skype phone and the visitors could talk to me directly from the exhibition space. Even though both experiences went quite well and it was not very difficult to overcome some shyness or awkwardness, every time I talked with a person it was a very intimate experience. Carlos Sansolo (one of the curators of Prog:me), expressed this controverse feeling - of pleasure and fear - quite accurately:

The Portuguese artist Susana Mendes Silva proposed the artphone. The idea is quite simple, she provides her address so we can talk to her through a microphone and headphones from the computer about contemporary art, using the computer as a telephone. I have talked many times with Susana, never about art, always about technical issues and always presenting one other artist that appeared while talking to her.
Actually talking to an unknown person on the phone gives you a certain degree of intimacy that I always felt terrified about. As a matter of fact, I have always felt a certain compulsion to confessing things to this unknown voice. My first thought is always about the history of sexuality of M. Foucault, about this fear of confessing in intimate moments. She says, "have no fear, ask me what you've always wanted to know about contemporary art", and all I felt was fear. The simple presence of a voice that talks about contemporary art has the ability to inspire disturbing or great situations for whoever contacts it. We may think it is a reflection on intimacy on the internet. The work is not only a proposition, but the result of this chat that can never be completely predictable [1].

A completely different experience was art_room, where I used a webchat called webcamnow. My performance was developed in the context of Identidades Virtuais workshop, and I had set a schedule during the month of June. When I began the performance, on the first day, I went to room 1 to announce what I was doing by simply posting the sentence: "Don't be afraid to ask everything you always wanted to know about contemporary art". I moved to a free room (from 30 rooms, only three rooms had people in them), and I began to have conversations with some of the people. I soon realize that some of the users felt like they "own" the website (no matter what room I moved into), and they began to become very aggressive towards me. If you see the still image of me during the performance, you will only see my eyes. I was hiding behind my powerbook, because some of the users kept saying that I was showing off too much (even if I was decently dressed). In order to avoid some visual disturbance, I ended up "veiled" by my computer...
The result was totally the reverse from the other experiences... The experience of a certain degree of intimacy, soon lead to fear acted as aggressivity and exclusion. In the second day I was expelled from the "family and friends" area: my camera was shut down, and I was disconnected as a user by the moderator (just because he felt like it...he confessed it, when I later protested signed as a new user). At first I was really furious and sent a complaint letter (that was never answered), but soon I realize that this experiment was very fascinating and revealing of how a human community can function - in a social and political sense - no matter what kind of media you are using or what kind of space you are at.
related: http://www.turbulence.org/blog/archives/001121.html--Susana

Text written for "what is bare life?", a publication of ?empyre- soft-skinned space; Sydney, Australia; July 2006. A collaboration with documenta 12 magazine project; Featuring special guests: Michele White, Tina Gonsalves, GH Hovagimyan, Susana Mendes Silva, Conor McGarrigle, Jordan Crandall, and moderator Christina McPhee.
edited linear pdf from the original hypertext archived at https://mail.cofa.unsw.edu.au/pipermail/empyre/2006-July

[1]Carlo Sansolo, In "Notes about the curatorship and exhibition of prog:Me", the first new media festival in Rio de Janeiro.