cineflyer presents Anders Weberg’s 090909

cineflyer presents:
Anders Weberg’s 090909
Imaginary Places
Saturday, March 13 at 12:00PM
Video Pool Studio (3rd Floor 100 Arthur)
Free

In September 2009, I was fortunate enough to have downloaded a copy of Anders Weberg’s 090909.

090909 is a 9 hour, 9 minute and 9 second long audio visual excursion made as part of Weberg’s p2p art project. The film and all the files used to create it were deleted on 09/09/2009.

Come join us at Video Pool for the screening of 090909 in its entirety. Feel free to stay for as long or as little as you like. At the end of the screening, I will be deleting the file from my computer and thus will possibly be deleting the last available copy of this film forever.

***Special thanks to Video Pool for lending us the space and equipment!!!***

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From Incite!: Journal of Experimental Media & Radical Aesthetics included as part of Back + Forth on March 1, 2010:

conversations on (con)temporary art: an interview with anders weberg

Anders Weberg is a Swedish media artist and filmmaker working in video, sound, new media and installation, and is primarily concerned with issues of identity in the digital age. The human body is the root of his projects that formally and conceptually chart identity and its construction as a preamble to broaching matters of violence, gender, memory, loss, or ideology, in which personal experiences co-exist with references to popular culture, the media, and consumerism. Utilizing new technologies, he aims to mix genres and ways of expression to explore the potential of audiovisual media. Currently based in Malmö, in the south of Sweden, Weberg has exhibited at numerous art and film festivals, galleries, and museums internationally, including the Sydney Biennale, the Berlin Transmediale, and the Japan Media Arts Festival, among others.

I first discovered Weberg’s video work in 2006, by chance, through his website on p2p-art. As a nerdy cinephile obsessed with rarity, I was fascinated by Weberg’s conceptual temporary art process. He would create emotionally charged, feature-length experimental videos then delete the work after sharing it. I periodically re-visited Weberg’s p2p site looking for new work. With each year his videos became progressively stronger as his aesthetic sensibilities grew.

My digital communiqué with Weberg started in 2008, when I left a question on his Vimeo comment page about his p2p-art project. The following transcript is an edited version of conversations that have taken place since that time through Vimeo, Facebook and Gmail. These conversations have been edited to remove irrelevant information, informalities, formalities, and Swenglish. We have made every effort to preserve the original sentiment of our ideas. So far, we have not met in person.

CONVERSATION #1

CE: Tell me about p2p-art and your project, there’s no original?

AW: p2p-art is art made for peer-to-peer networks. First, the artist shares an artwork online until someone else has downloaded it. Immediately after it is downloaded, the artist deletes the original file and all of the materials used to create it. Hence, there is no original–the original is destroyed in the process. From that point forward, the artwork is only available if people share it.

I started to conceive this project in the late-90s. At that time, I had just started using the Internet for publishing videos; it was around the time that Napster [an online music file sharing service] was released. The project, however, didn’t materialize until I released the first video in 2006.

CE: What have you released so far?

AW: I have released five videos to date: Filter (released and deleted 2006/09/15), Transient (released and deleted 2007/09/15), Emphasis (released and deleted 2008/03/16), 080808 (released and deleted 2008/08/08), and A N O N Y M U S (released and deleted 2009/04/21). I am currently working on my sixth release, 090909. This video will be released on September 9th, 2009 and it will be 9 hours, 9 minutes, and 9 seconds long.

CE: Where do you plan to release it?

AW: I’m not sure yet. When I release work as a BitTorrent there is a torrent file that remains. So perhaps I will release it using a different file sharing protocol. Other than that, I am thinking about finding a gallery that will screen the full piece once, live. Directly after the screening the files and original copies will be deleted; like a performance.

CE: This performance-presentation would fit nicely with the ephemeral nature of the project. Nothing would remain but a memory of an event. Once a video disappears, how do you feel about the potential mythology that will be created around the work?

AW: It’s interesting. A friend of mine who lives in a really small town overheard a conversation his neighbor was having with a visitor from England. The neighbor was telling the visitor about an artist that made feature-length films, which he deleted (destroyed) after sharing a copy of them online. The interesting thing is that his neighbor only uses the Internet for paying his bills, and probably is unaware of how file sharing actually works.

CE: That is wonderful antidote. As a Manitoban, I am naturally hungry for mythologies.

CONVERSATION #2

CE: Where were your other ephemeral p2p videos originally released?

AW: Pirate Bay and Emule.

CE: Do you personally know any of the people who first download your work?

AW: Not at all.

CE: I have seen four of the five p2p-art projects; however, I haven’t been able to track down a copy of 080808.

AW: The 080808 video survived for only three days after its release. It is now gone forever. From my point of view, it was the first time that the project really worked. My first p2p video, Filter, can still found on file sharing networks. Even though this is amazing on the one hand, it wasn’t intended to still be available three years later.

CE: In other words, you feel 080808 captured the true ephemeral nature of the larger conceptual project. With that being said, would you be disappointed if it re-surfaced?

AW: To put it simply, yes. However, an important aspect is that I delete the original materials. This means all that ever can resurface is a digital copy (XviD encoded file) and this doesn’t bother me at all. Others have the criticized the project by claiming that the artwork never disappears if someone has downloaded it and saved it on some external media. However, that is only a copy. The “original” or “master” disappears once I delete it.

CE: I have a similar critique and I am hoping we both can expand on it and dissect it a little. To put it in the form of a question: What does “original” mean to you in relation to the video medium? What constitutes an “original” is obvious when we’re referring to a painting: I’m sure we can agree that the original is the canvas the painter first made the painting on. Prints are considered copies of the original and are just that, copies. You seem to infer that once you encode your original lossless video file using XviD, or any other codec, and delete the lossless version, you have deleted the original; after all, all that is left is the XviD version. According to this definition, it seems that videomakers destroy their “originals” all the time. For instance, being a video artist who has (until early 2009) worked exclusively on a Pentium 1 computer with a 20 gigabyte hard drive, I destroyed my original lossless files all the time due to lack of disk space. That being said, I would feel uncomfortable if the only available copy of my work existed via a p2p network. Can you expand on what “original” means to you, in terms of video?

AW: I see where this is going. The whole idea about the “precious original” in the digital era is one of the concerns of this project. My background is in making films and music videos for broadcast; so for me, “broadcast quality” is equivalent to the terms “original” or “master.” The file, in its native format and resolution, is the “original.” That is my definition.

CE: There is something to be said for creating a limited supply. Do you feel that the more rare something is, the more in demand or valuable it becomes?

AW: Not necessarily. I can understand that human beings are natural collectors. Also, we currently exist in an era where almost everything is within keyboard reach, and, at the same time, we desire things that are not easily accessible. That is part of human nature.

CE: It is an interesting concept: creating scarcity with the same technology that is intended to make information readily accessible and reproducible.

CONVERSATION #3

CE: How does the content of your p2p videos relate to the p2p concept?

AW: It doesn’t.

CE: Well, could you expand on the content of the videos themselves?

AW: They are quite experimental and non-linear. I start with different themes, and the work usually sorts itself out from there. For example, the next release, 090909,is based entirely on places that I visited in 2009. The raw material was collected with the camera that is built into my mobile phone. The material is then up-scaled and post-produced.

CE: Do you feel the overarching ephemerality of your concept transcends the videos you are producing for the project?

AW: In a way. However, the videos are, to me, an important part of the project. I see myself as a video artist foremost (as opposed to a conceptual artist). On that note, some of the videos I’ve made for the project have been well received in and of themselves. I know there have been some offline screenings in Berlin and Budapest where the organizers downloaded and screened copies of my work. One thing that surprises me is that no one (to my knowledge) has downloaded my work and remixed, reformatted, or reused any of the material.

A lot of artists say that they wouldn’t be able to delete (destroy) their own work, but I don’t feel anything at all after I delete the work. Once I am finished with something I move on to the next thing. It’s not the best way to build a career, perhaps, but that’s the only way I can work. The process is more important to me than the work itself.

CE: Somehow, I don’t think the vagaries of p2p distribution will be detrimental to your career as an artist. Any closing remarks, or anything you would like to add?

AW: Since this art project is meant to comment upon and raise questions around issues of authorship, fair use, copyright, attribution, citation, accreditation, intellectual property, and the notion of the “precious original” in the digital era, it is nice when these discussions arise. Thanks for contacting me and hopefully we can continue this in real life.

– Clint Enns

———————————–

From Uptown Magazine March 11, 2010:

Experimental film, indeed
Anders Weberg’s 090909 gives new meaning to McLuhan’s old adage ‘the medium is the message’
Kier-La Janisse

Author and cultural commentator Tom Wolfe had a story in his book The Painted Word about the greatest artist who ever lived; he was too poor to afford paints or brushes, so he dipped his finger in the free water he got from a café, drew his idea on a napkin and then died right there on the spot. Eventually, the water dried up and there was no evidence that the world’s greatest work of art had ever existed.

An experiment in this kind of aesthetic ephemerality is being mounted this weekend with the Winnipeg premiere of Swedish artist Anders Weberg’s 090909. This public screening of Weberg’s stunningly beautiful nine-hour experimental film is not just an exercise in temporal endurance, it’s also employing the last known copy of the film – which will be destroyed immediately after the screening.

090909 is the sixth instalment of Weberg’s ongoing P2P art project, wherein a film is uploaded to a file-sharing network such as Bittorrent, and then the ‘original’ is permanently deleted from Weberg’s hard drive. He retains no physical copies – the film will only survive as long as it is being shared via peer-to-peer networks and runs the risk of being lost forever. Weberg’s hope is that the films will disappear quickly. “On Aug. 8, 2008, I released 080808,” he recalls, “and that film was only shared for four days, and has not resurfaced since then. That, for me, was the first time the art project was successful.”

In light of this, what effect has curator Clint Enns had on Weberg’s concept by “rescuing” the film and screening it in 2010?

“What Clint is screening is a copy, so that has no direct effect on the concept,” Weberg assures. But complicating this concept is the muddy distinction between what constitutes an original and what constitutes a copy. With film, the original would be the negative, which is a tangible artifact you can hold in your hand. But video is, in essence, a storage format, so the concept of an original is more elusive. “That is a huge question and this is discussed everywhere in the digital era,” Weberg concedes. “I think the ‘precious’ original will always have a place in people’s hearts, but today, most of us approach media very ephemerally, because everything is available and free online.”

Curator Enns is quick to recognize the irony inherent in Weberg’s use of the Internet as a platform: “I think it is a wonderful concept,” he says, “creating scarcity using a technology that is intended to make information readily accessible and reproducible.” On one such network there is an offering from Weberg entitled The Torrent is the Artwork. But if the torrent is the artwork, is it sufficient to have the torrent on your hard drive and not even watch the video? If the means of dissemination reduces the work to the discussion and devalues the video itself, perhaps Tom Wolfe was right in asserting the flaw in conceptual art: that the art disappears and we are left only with art theory.

But as Enns rightly points out: “The theory may be just as ephemeral as the art if no one is writing about it.”

– Kier-La Janisse

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~ by cineflyer on February 27, 2010.

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