There are questions that change response depending on the moment in which they are placed, there are questions that lose their meaning with the passage of time, there are ultimately questions intended to guide the whole time thinking, between the latter certainly ranks worthily the definition of art (or its s-definition).
The meeting with the collective IOCOSE have resulted, in part, just by curiosity to receive a possible answer to the question above. Several times, in fact, in the works produced from them its possible to observe a (literally) playful component about the status of the work of art (material/virtual, durable/ephemeral, etc.), its production (direct/indirect, object/immaterial, etc.) and its spread (traditional/innovative, canonical/original, etc.).
The group recently developed their last project Drone Memorial within the exhibition series Refresh 01 – #LAYERS curated by Fabio Paris, with a first chapter happening these days until November 19 at Spazio Contemporanea in Brescia. Drone Memorial is a sculpture made of mirrored acrylic and replicates the shape of the Predator model, fallen in a war action, developed by General Atomics as one of the primary unmanned aerial vehicles deployed by the US Air Force and CIA. The memorial updates its GPS position publicly at http://dronememorial.org, so all drones in the world, from everywhere, can point towards the website and mourn the fallen drone. The artwork is the third part of the In Times of Peace series, a concept project that explores the life of drones after war and terror, which previously produced the projects Drone+ and Drone Selfies in 2014.
The real opportunity that led to the realization of this interview was the participation of the collective in the last edition of roBOt Festival in Bologna, where they were invited to show the video Spinning The Planet.
The work, just from the first view, goes beyond the documentation of a collective performance, coming as an artist statement. Last but not least, the idea of this article was born after the publication of a manifesto, or rather a report in the form of a manifesto (or vice versa), “Art After Failure”.
After the residence in Bangalore, in a location that is placed far away from the official map of the contemporary art system, IOCOSE felt the need to review its actions in retrospect, to put in order (not scattered) a number of suggestions received during the first ten years of collective research, or to do what they can easily call a manifesto. And it is with this relatively recent development that opens a dialogue in which the reading of the works (or rather of operations) is supported by a wider investigation of a clear and outlined approach to art and technology.
Claudio Musso: At the end of last year you released “Art After Failure” a true manifesto born after a residency in Bangalore, India. This text is often cited like the category of “post”, a supposed “after something” through which to define theories and artistic practices of the present. Before asking further explanation, I’d like to know what made you decide to use the form “manifesto”, a typical expression of the Avant-Garde art, in a period that usually is define as “post-avant-garde”?
IOCOSE: The text is several things at the same time: it is a report from our period of residency at TAJ and Ske Gallery in Bangalore, India, but it is also a public declaration of how we understand our artistic research. However, it comes a posteriori than our own works. It is as if we had stayed to ask ourselves what we really wanted to say, with what we have said for years. In 2015/2016, we think that what is told in this text represents, in retrospect, our intentions.
Perhaps now we understand better our thoughts, or maybe we want to understand differently than they were. The main reason behind that is to present ourselves to the world. Since the goal was to make public a set of ideas, it seemed that the ‘manifesto’ term was appropriate. There was no explicit reference to the Vanguards, though a manifesto (poster) is usually posted on the door, or on a wall, so it is forward at all. It ‘also a forward projected text, tells of a way of thinking about art and its relationship to culture and technology, a text that trace our possible future directions.
That’s what we mean by the concept of Post Fail, enclosing our manifesto: the projection forward, into the future, already contains within itself its own failure. The challenge of making art Post Fail is just to accept this condition and concentrate on the present.
Claudio Musso: Also in “Art After Failure” text, through the required explanation of the reasons that led you to want to put pen to paper (so it still correct in the Internet Era?) your position on technology, great stories and art, shows a survey on your being artists. The question then becomes: how do you see the role of the artist today, assuming to be a group of individuals who do not live in the same city and usually communicate through the social network?
IOCOSE: It seems that for many years now the artist is given the burden of having to say something, in a world where everything has been said. And the great artists are usually those that react not saying anything. It is a strategy which can be traced in large part of the big names from the 60s till today. We like to think that the climax is Kim Kardashian, – and who is famous for being famous, without having to say or do anything except look – which in any case is not little.
Paris Hilton, for example, she did the same with even a fair veil of irony, but it was too far ahead. To us all this is fine, and also like. We really like the vacuum tire colorful sculptures by Jeff Koons, as well as the “dead animals” by Damien Hirst. Far from us to point the finger, basically there is nothing too bad. Although events such as Frieze never see IOCOSE protagonists, if we receive the free tickets sure we would go there again.
What is the role of the artist today? Hard to say, but perhaps the first fork is the choice, imposed on every artist today in the Western world, if groped his luck with the lottery of the art market, or just try to say something new, perhaps at the cost of not being never invited to Frieze cocktails. These are choices that arise regardless of being a group of individuals. Although the way for the groups of the fandom is really uphill, and therefore the choice becomes easier.
Claudio Musso: The idea of this interview was born in some way during the last edition of roBOt Festival in Bologna, where the video Spinning the Planet was selected (2015). A work-manifesto, in a sense, where we can find many of the related issues raised by your research: the act as a group, the development of performance (video recorded), the idea of asking an unattainable goal, the attempt to try however, and with great elegance. All this then the result of a commission by a corporation. Maybe, you owe us an explanation.
IOCOSE: Yes, especially the elegance, we care a lot! Spinning the Planet is a work that is full IOCOSE. We were asked by ST Microelectronics to create a work that showed how art and technology can lead the world forward. We have shown literally, accelerating the Earth’s rotation.
We like the idea of carrying out acts of invisible “micro-vandalism”, that without altering the appearance allow you to revolutionize the interpretation. The best forerunner is, perhaps, Socle du Monde (1961) by Piero Manzoni, although that has a considerable physical presence. We recently started a research that we will continue for a while, compared to our other work it hasn’t a beginning and a definite end. It is entitled Moving Forward and consists of a series of very short video in which move with a finger forward a very diverse set of people and things, the objective is to move forward the whole world, one object at a time.
Also in this case a simple gesture that is however at odds with the innovation rhetorical as momentum in a continuous and unstoppable forward. This is not to be Luddites, however, simply our forward movement is done with a finger and every day people can apply to anything.
Claudio Musso: Your participation in the project Streaming Egos. Digital identities – curated by Marco Mancuso and Filippo Lorenzin for Goethe Institut in 2015 and exhibited at NRW Forum Düsseldorf last February 2016 – reported to the theme of the artist’s role, this time in the flesh and in the form of self-portrait. “A contemporary self-portrait by the digital artist” is a compressed journey through different media (painting, photography, Internet) that aims on the figure of the artist, we could say that in this case it literally does. The subject is you, IOCOSE, struggling with the (re)production of your digital image, but in analog format. The short circuit is not only linguistic, but semantic… it’s your turn.
IOCOSE: We have set up a big mess to do a simple thing. Moreover, we want to give a representation of ourselves (we are four and dispersed among various cities), and it could only emerge something plural and complex. The results are four self-portraits, but in which we haven’t done anything. The photos were commissioned, uploadate on Shutterstock, then sent to the painters to turn them into paintings (with a watermark oil painting). The artist who lives and works on the Internet using these mechanics of collaboration, exploitation and “parasiting”, and we wanted to depict that by capturing this dynamic. And then at the end the result is always an ordinary painting: despite all the talks about digital and post digital art, in the gallery you can usually find only paintings.
Claudio Musso: In the end, we can say that your relationship with Art or its representation had taken precise roads already with Sunflower Seeds On Sunflower Seeds. On that occasion you entered at the Tate Modern in London to pull some real sunflower seeds on all those ceramic forming Ai Weiwei installation for Unilever Series. The question then resounded in your statement (“What are you seeing?”), but the answer today would be changed? Art, its perception, its value, is still at the center of (your) research?
IOCOSE: In a way, yes. The question today is perhaps not just “what are you seeing?”, but also “who is showing you what you are seeing?” and “for what reasons?”. By renaming the work of Ai Weiwei and attribute it to us, we have made a gesture of vandalism which does not affect the work itself but its title and its authorship. An iconoclastic gesture that preserves the icon, we can say. The work itself did not change in appearance, but changed the title, for sunflower seed addition. Still we try to ask, for example, in the series of Contemporary Portraits and Self-Portraits of the Artists Internet, but also in A Crowded Apocalypse, what role does the author and the artist in the new dynamics of production and consumption of art.
Claudio Musso: With NoTube Contest (2009 – ongoing) and First ViewerTelevision (2012) you are immersed in the hidden caverns of the network, in particular you have dug where the autonomous production of content by users – in this case video – does not reach the public. In this approach you pu together the supreme confidence in human creativity, the remote possibility that a masterpiece can come from oblivion and the idea of an aesthetic of the survey in on-line archive vastness. Summarizing, you’re “looking for to things that must not be found, to rewarding them” (Domenico Quaranta). There is something Dadaist, inevitable quote in the year of the centenary, but what else?
IOCOSE:Perhaps it is easier to say what there is not. We want to understand what is left once removed tags, keywords, likes, all types of content that can be contextualized, each any semblance of beauty, everything. We are still able to find an empty? Because this gap is growing inexorably, accumulates in data centers of all the social networks, it is a far greater mass of those elements which have an audience, a target audience, a search key. They are like a huge black hole. They are so numerous as they are disregarded. This is the central theme of NoTube project and this is the mass that we are interested in quality and quantity – or rather its quality is to be present in quantities.
Everything comes with NoTube Contest. We are fascinated by the idea of using a classic contest, with the rules, a jury and a prize, as a research tool on a theme unexplored, and it offers no foothold. The First Television Viewer born shortly after. He gave us a way to be able to access content that have not been reported to YouTube by users (such erotic content or copyright infringement) and some videos that have no reason to be shared, or even just watched.
A mass of information without apparent sense in continued growth, we are interested and inspired, but that can not be easily observed. This is the question with which we leave a Post Fail approach to the world around us: once noted that YouTube is made almost entirely of videos with no value, what we want to do with these videos? And as we can observe them without adding meanings that they never had?