Mark Amerika has been a prolific and creative force exploring the worlds of net art and writing (both offline and online), while developing a theoretical and creative response to the changing media and potential opportunities that those create.
He loves to call himself a “digital jack-of-all-trades”, and it is true that his online networking has always been focused on the collection and the remix of images, texts, codes, sounds, multimedia, in terms of literary, theatrical and pedagogical and psychogeography theories.
From his early novels, including, “Sexual Blood” e “The Kafka chronicles” novels, which explore a free-flowing exploration of thought processes channeled through experimental wordplay and crashing narrative disjunctions, to his various net.art projects that expand on what it means to be a writer in the digital/post-digital age (among which we remember “How to be an internet artist” , “Expanding the concept of Writing” , “Becoming a remixologist” , “Portrait of a VJ” , “Meta/Data a digital poetics” ) it’s quite impossible to tells about all his artworks. Furthermore, it’s useless to do it because of the many online interviews he did and the completeness of his website
The following interview took place via email, while Mark Amerika was in the middle of promoting another project “Remixthebook”, somewhat representative of his entire oeuvre. A book, published by Univeristy of Minnesota Press, which relies on a website (remixthebook.com) as a hub with the aim to digitally remix some of the theories expressed (by authors such as Janneke Adema, Beiguelman Giselle, Julie Carr, David Gunkel, Gary Hall, Frieder nake, Craig Saper Darren Tofts, Gregory Ulmer, Chad Mossholder, Michael Theodore, Michelle Ellsworth, Rick Silva, Will Luers, Yoshi Sodeoka, Mark McCoin, Curt Cloninger, Kate Armstrong, Maria Miranda) in the book.
Although my original intention had been to use these answers to my questions as starting points for a fuller article, the answers that I received back were so thorough and intrinsic to an understanding of Amerika’s work in a broader context, I decided to leave them as they were.
Starting point of this conversation was his last project Immobilité, that Mark Amerika himself defines as the first mobile art movie ever made, shown at various events both in Europe and the United States including the “Hyperstrata” exhibition at ISEA 2011 curated by Lanfranco Aceti. With a story tied around a future world where the dream of utopia is fueled by a nomadic tribe of artists and intellectuals, the movie investigates the concept and idea of using mobile phone technologies as creative media and what might be possible with these everyday and routinely used technologies.
Mark Hancock: When I watch Immobilité, I feel as though I’m watching something that could as easily come from the camera/vision of Chris Marker, whether this is in the visual language or the theme of futuristic, post-something-catastrophic feeling, I can’t decide just yet. I think you’ve referenced Marker in previous work, how do you feel his ideas intersect with your own in this work?
Mark Amerika: Chris Marker, of course, plays with the idea of composing the “cine-essay”. It’s similar to what Agnes Varda refers to as cinécriture, or “cinema-writing”. You are right that there are overlapping interests in Marker and my work, as well as Varda and Jean-Luc Godard, in that the film as essay or image-writing environment appeals to me. It should come as no surprise that Marker also works with digital media, and Varda and Godard have experimented with multi-media installations.
These disciplinary boundaries are melting for a lot of us now. Does my “being a writer” mean that I primarily publish books, whether print or traditional e-book, or can that be expanded to include my net art works, my hypertexts, my museum installations, my live VJ performances, and my feature-length foreign films and experiments in transmedia narrative? I am constantly remixing styles, themes, images, words, code, sounds, etc. from a great many artists. Grammatron is loaded with Godard. Filmtext is very Marker-esque. Immobilité samples from both of them but also British Abstract Expressionism, W. E. Sebald, Kathy Acker, Henri Lefebvre, and many others.
Mark Hancock: How does the Avant-pop Manifesto figure in your contemporary arts-practice? If you were to revise that manifesto, do you think there’d be many amendments to it? Obviously there would be some in relation to certain musicians and perhaps even new writers?
Mark Amerika: Definitely, I would like to keep revising it if I had the time. The big change would be that it would no longer need to prophesize the coming of the networked, post-studio artist/writer. That’s now a done deal. If anything, it would highlight the rise of social media art and the emergence of the digital flux persona in the field of distribution.
Mark Hancock: Immobilité is billed as a “foreign language” film. I personally have read this in two ways. In one, I feel that you’re considering the medium of film as a stranger in a strange land and not pretending to know the forms and functions, thereby freeing yourself up from any conventions.
Mark Amerika: That’s a solid reading on your part. It’s easier to defamiliarize the aesthetic experience of a work if you are well-versed in the look and feel. i.e. style of the precursors you are hoping to remix into your own multimedia rhythms. So, for example, Michelangelo Antonioni and Ingmar Bergman and, as you mentioned, Chris Marker, can offer a stylistic rhythm that I can sample from and then blend into my own measure that I then filter through various unconscious “plugins” that alter the way the work moves. This then creates a kind of foreignness that can be unsettling or even frustrating for the average cinema tourist.
Mark Hancock: Those long takes and near silent appraisals of landscape, feel very American in the way they try to create a character from the landscape. Is there, actually a bit of The Man Who Fell To Earth viewpoint, with you as alien body inhabiting a foreign world?
Mark Amerika: I love that film. What you are hinting at here, I think, is otherworldliness, and this is a theme that reappears in a lot of my work. FiImnext is a good example of that, where we meet the Digital Thoughtographer (a play on the “thoughtography” of idiot savant Ted Serios). In a way, the artist has to become a kind of alien-other who inhabits the institutionalized fields of normalcy. It’s the only way to survive, since surviving requires constant creative processing of the data associated with your daily experiences.
This is why I approach remix as a daily ritual — a kind of practice of everyday life where I constantly tweak my artist-apparatus filters to further defamilarize what commerce has made all too common. We should also mention Warhol too since the otherworldliness you are sensing in Immobilité is complexified by emulating some of his Screen Test techniques. I have been fortunate to view many of these works and can just watch them forever.
Mark Hancock: You say that filmmaking, that is, the process of capturing images as data and processing it within the camera, as all being the first stage. Then the actual artifact is created in postproduction, (if I’m reading it correctly?) and that this post-production process need not necessarily follow the traditional path of filmmaking. Have you anything in particular in mind? Are you responding to the writerly urge you have and exploring those potentials within the moving image?
Mark Amerika: I think what I meant was that for me, the idea of preproduction, production, and postproduction are no longer primarily a sequential process but happen, if you will, simultaneously — or what Mondrian, in a different context, referred to as a simultaneous and continuous fusion. I would remix that to read a simultaneous and continuous fusion of processual events that smudge our relationship to time, movement, and the way we unconsciously manipulate whatever source material we are working with at any given time.
For me, that would include what I and the principal participants in the project are reading, viewing, listening to, accessing over the network, saying in conversation, dreaming, imagining, recreating from the past, projecting into the future, highlighting as some discoverable moment as if it were taking place in the present, etc.
Mark Hancock: There is a repeating motif in your work of walking. You talk about the process of walking in your immobilite manifesto and how it helped to shape your thoughts on what Immobilite would become. And you open Sexual Blood with a walk. I’m figuring that this process of physical movement is key to your creative process, even when you return to the keyboard to create. Sometimes it feels as though you’ve arrived at the keyboard with a great kinetic energy that then flows through to the keyboard and into the work. I don’t have a trite question to follow on from that, but just wondered what your thoughts might be?
Mark Amerika: I have not elaborated on my walking practice much because it’s so embedded in everything I do, but my new work (The museum of Glitch Aesthetics, project co-commissioned by Abandon Normal Devices and FACT as part of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad) is partly about this walking. In fact, I was on location on the Windward coast of Oahu this past week shooting a few very experimental, and I must say, amazing (aesthetically speaking) walking scenes and have a few excellent scenes I shot in the Lake District of the UK this past May.
Also, in my new book, “Remixthebook”, I keep coming back to two concepts: moving-remixing and economy of motion. Basically, as I just tweeted @markamerika: “Walking the long shore line is a kind of spatial acting-out, a spacing out, and triggers image rendering powers that structure my thoughts.” But it’s more than that too (140 characters can only take you so far).
For example, my walking work, similar to Richard Long, has its fingers in many different aspects of interdisciplinary practice including conceptual art, performance art, photography, and language art, but also for me video art, net art, and theorizing. Theory, Greg Ulmer reminds us, has its roots in touring or even tourism (the good tourism). Aesthetics too, started as a philosophy of quite literally *embodying praxis*. So to be an artist is to be a body is to be a mobile dreamer is to be an embodied practitioner is to be a mover-remixer…
Mark Hancock: I’ve always liked your interpretation of the role of the writer and the writing process as being beyond words and into texts in that good ol’ post-structuralist kind of way of the text being whatever we want it to be. Are you most comfortable thinking of yourself as a writer who performs within the networks and adapts to those medium’s exigensies, to elicit the greatest possible creative response from those tools?
Mark Amerika: Absolutely. Writing is not just laying down some text for eventual print book publication or a conventional e-book reader. I am thinking of writing as performance, as riff-writing that is indistinguishable from riff-reading and all of it embedded in a riff-research practice. You can see this manifested in the hybrid book/performance publication remixthebook.