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BBC interview

Net artist Michael Atavar gives BBCi Arts an insight into his compelling online artworks. The interview was conducted via email - the following format reflects Michael's responses.

Interview by Rain Ashford, January 2002.

RA: Your work seems to be the antithesis to all the speed and madness of the www. How did you begin to take control of the medium and slow it to your own pace?

MA: I didn't have a plan.

The first thing I made online was a letter.

Just simple pages. with links.

So that became the blueprint for all the
works that came after. www sites, VR,
e-says.

One thing to say is that my work is very
slow moving.

But it needs the messiness and white
noise of the www environment in order to
make something that runs contrary to it.

Also (just a note).

You can't take control of the medium.

LOL.

!

It's already beyond our control and that's
what makes it interesting.

Just accept what it gives you and try to
make something with it.

That's all.

RA: What's the process of creating these journeys of discovery and what does the internet user gain from embarking on them?

MA: That's hard to say.

I think it comes out of what I would call
the emotionalcomputer™.

A feeling for the user, a kind of sympathy
between reader and screen, a sort of
intimacy.

Also an abstract quality, of light, that's
only available on the computer monitor.

Just pure colour, straight into the living
space.

Out of these two qualities - intimacy and
light - the work comes.

(How they are actually made is still
obscure to me).

But a journey is a good way to put it.
often they are journeys into ideas or
form.

Or just a journey is enough.

The first page is literally a step.

RA: Your works act as conversation between you and the user in an unusually personal way - were you surprised by the sensuality of your work?

MA: I'm glad you use the word sensuality.

I think it's very underestimated.

I hope that my work creates

Atmosphere
Welcoming
Presence
Being there

Allowing the user to stay for a long time.

And some other things

The
ability
to say anything
and to just
go as it says
something

endlessly.

Actually I just finished a VR work .sciis
and I think that Virtual Reality is very sensual.

it seems to me that we've dreamed up the
technical possibilities of VR in order to
enjoy the sensuality of open space - a
freedom that's becoming hard to find in
our real life lives.

Sensuality, physical presence, being
there.

In the digital environment these are the
things that are going to become more and
more important to us.

RA: How did you get into Net art? - Did you have any formal training?

MA: No.

Not really.

I usually learn enough html to make
each piece.

(And I'm lucky to have enthusiastic
collaborators).

I used to make 3-D works that were live,
so I suppose my work and interest in time
and 3-D virtual and kinetic spaces goes
back a long way.

Twenty years...

RA: Do you work with other digital artists?

MA: I work with programmers (who are also
artists).

RA: What/who are your influences?

MA: The things that influence my work are
very small.

Insignificant in a way.

Like a particular kind of light or
atmosphere in the city.

A plastic bag blowing down the road,
some street lights, the evening sky.

Walking down the stairs the other day
in my block at 5pm, the sun low down was
coming in through the front door and
creating a block of iridescent colour on
the floor.

I stood and looked at it for a while.

It's these kinds of small things that
come through in my work.

Otherwise a lot of painters, quite a long
list.

Recently I've been looking again at the
American colorfield paintings of Barnett
Newman.

He's an influence.

RA: Do you show your work in traditional galleries?

MA: I recently showed .sciis as a large
projection at the Institute of Contemporary
Art in London.

In a gallery.

I'm very interested in data projecting
my work. very big, so that the user can
actually walk into the monitor.

Like it's a landscape.

With life-size physical representations of
themselves on screen.

RA: Do you have any favourite creative websites?

MA: I really like screensavers.

(Works that only live on screen).

So, even though it's obvious and
commercial, I would say After Dark.

In the early 90s Ben Haller made two
screensavers for Berkeley Systems. Satori
and Rose that I really like.

I'd love to do a commercial screensaver.

Or a project with my kind of slowness for
a commercial site, a bank, a supermarket
chain, an airline.

RA: What is your next project?

MA: I'm making another interactive Virtual
Reality project that I hope will be shown
online and also in an electronic CAVE™
(a 3-D immersive environment).

It follows on from .sciis.

Uses natural forms and imagery and
can be manipulated by the user in
very kinaesthetic ways.

And yes, it's another journey.

Thanks.

Michael Atavar

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