Uwaga 2001. Vinyl, string and aluminium. 10 x 10 x 2 m. on a height of 7 m.
Some time ago I began to make a distinction between citizen, consumer and user in order to reach an understanding of how new types of art are received by those who enjoy them. I have come to use the term citizen when I feel that an audience is involved in the development of a work in an undefined way that, whilst it may not be appreciated by the citizen, remains of some importance to the work. The work is to be recognised as such because it seems to be out of place, perhaps set down in the middle of the pavement so that the pedestrian cannot help noticing it. After negociating this minor upset the pedestrian goes back to being a citizen.
Consumer indicates someone who gobbles up works of art with the bulimia of the reader of technical manuals, always devoting full attention to the label on the wall below and slightly to the right before deciding on the degree of reverence merited by the work.
User refers to a new type of audience who believes that by interacting with the work of art, engaging with the interface between himself and it, he has acheived some sort of creative participation and that he is making the work complete (an evil of the times which hopefully will disappear as quickly as I.T. hardware becomes obsolete). I am tired of talk about interactivity; key-board, screen and the click-clicking of the mouse seem to me about as interactive as the turning of a page.
The term user becomes untenable when applied to art forms which are not digital (be they interactive or not). Within the transfinite world of bits, the new interactivity never supposes or allows a contact which might result in harm to the art or, in other words, fails to do away with the cultural value of the work of art by the most direct means — touch. For use, if it be physical, means wear and tear. If I can touch it, it must be as real as I am. It does not belong to higher realms; hence the paradox of being in the (material) world but not of it.
Net*, to enmesh the viewer’s attention, and floats, like buoys to be grasped and clung on to, are the latest elements to appear in Monique Bastiaans’ work. Hers is a project aimed at the citizen, to captivate and hold the interest of those outside the art world and also outside the institutions which populate the art world and even outside the art institution, as it is mostly called by those who speak of art as an institution (from which they would rather not make an exit).
I’d rather not discuss whether or not we can live without art but art, rather than being a necessity, seems to be ritualized according to whatever social group one belongs to. It is essential to every sphere of activity and, depending on its circumstances, each of the worlds populated by people carrys under its skin some form of art (I won’t go into into details as I wouldn’t know how to say what these are). This extends to all parts of society in which the home and the public square form another skin from which we are not easily liberated. Public Art mostly sets out to peel off this skin in order to reawaken our sensibility and let us see what until that moment was being ignored: after being captured or enmeshed, we are set afloat.
Nilo Casares 2001
* Translators note: The Spanish red means both web (as in www.) and net (as used by fishermen). Monique Bastiaans’ red is material net rather than virtual web so the reference to the preceeding passage dealing with interactive web art has been lost in translation.