(Front of Museum of Contemporary Art)
This is a re-edited interview previously published on Digicult Magazine February 06 issue:
This interview is published in Italian, Spanish and English
Troyano is a collective of independent Chilean artists from Santiago, which organizes cultural activities relative to art and technology.
The collective was part of the VII Video and New Media Biennial (18-27 November 2005) participating with a critical position in the section dedicated to New Media, for which they organized an international symposium. Their project is called Elena in the honor of the virus which installs itself in a hard disk to then erase its data. This project aims to give a critical picture of cultural, critical and artistic production which in the last ten years has been consciously relying on emerging technologies.
They want to propose in the contemporary Chilean society a debate on the â€œcreativeâ€ use of media in opposition to a purely economic, utilitarian and commercial vision of technology diffusion. Chile has been in close commercial relationships with Japan, Taiwan (and now China) for decades, it’s an important copper producer (the copper is a fundamental component to produce technology), and it has been always projected to a reliable and dynamic â€œmodernityâ€ (but also neo-free trader and reassuring for Western Countries). So, the critical position taken by the Troyano group at first appears without a foundation.
(Video Installation detail of one of the projects curated by the Troyano Collective)
But adopting a critical and socially conscious use of Media is a resolute and radical position to take in a Country which has just come out of ten years of Pinochet’s Dictatorship. A Country which is still guided by the same military dictatorial bureaucracy, it has spent the last ten years in a pitiless privatization of the social state (like Argentina ), and it has not legalized abortion yet (and it obtained divorce in 2004 only). In Chile contrasts and conflicts are still radical and they are often simplistically worked out in the dualism â€œOfficial natureâ€ vs. â€œ militant revolutionary Pan Americanismâ€.
The interview of three of four members of this group (formed by Ignacio Nieto, Italo Tello, Ricardo Vega ed Alejando Albornoz) can be described as a collective reflection on Troyano’s experience at the Biennial.
L.C. Why did you decide to participate as an artist collective by proposing a curatorial project?
Ignacio Nieto: It was an emergency: since now there is no New Media geography in Chile. Everything started at Rosario , Argentina , where we participated at a festival dedicated to new media. We became aware that in our Country there were no specific interests on this subject. We participated in the Biennial as a collective to show some contemporary cultural practices related to new technologies.
Ricardo Vega: In this Country despite a huge commercialization of electronic and digital instruments there is no awareness of the possibilities these new technologies offer. On the side of the government one finds the idea of innovation and progress ( Chile is the Latin American state with the biggest number of internet connections, more than Mexico ) the reality is that this country doesn’t produce technology, it just consumes it. What kind of dialogue can we have with technology if we just consume it?
Italo Tello: In our Universities there are multimedia labs but we do not have a great technological awareness. Nobody wants to know how a machine is built and developed, there’re no academic courses about it. In addition there are no local cultural references to new media. Students of art study Picasso and Duchamp, but they are not interested in studying technologies because – unlike Argentina – artistic academic courses don’t consider Net Art, Hackingâ€¦
(Top View of an installation, Museum Lobby)
L.C. Do you know something about the international debate during the last years on these â€œnewâ€ artistic practices?
Italo Tello: here in Chile artistic referents are mainly theorists and artists who worked during the 70s and the 80s.
Ricardo Vega: There are some well prepared theorists but they are â€œislesâ€. It’s difficult to incorporate and spread the theme of technologies in the contemporary art debate and its critics. I’d like to underline also our interest goes beyond art: I’m a designer but I’m interested in these practices, in these new hermeneutic models and communicative paradigms in the society. At the collective level not only at the individual level.
Lucrezia Cippitelli: you said Chile is investing a lot of money in technology. Some stops of the Santiago ‘s subway have a Wi-Fi free internet access (not even Paris has it). You also have a New Media Biennial which has come to its 7th edition (14 years of activity!). So what’s the matter?
Italo Tello: There is no will to go beyond consumption. As a collective we’d like to show that even with minimal economic investment, if it’s a logical investment and you really want to communicate something, you can make incredible things happen.
Ricardo Vega: We are Latin America ‘s pioneers regarding connectivity but we don’t know how to use it. The New Media Biennial is an example of this. It has been a Video Biennial since last year and even now it remains a kermis dedicated to video. There’s no adequate content on the container. The official infrastructure proposes a technological improvement without substance, it’s just a commercial method to advertise the idea of a â€œdevelopedâ€ and â€œadvancedâ€ Chile which doesn’t exist.
(Last night performance by Ruidistas, Museum of Contemporary Art, Santiago)
Lucrezia Cippitelli: …and even â€œdemocraticâ€ and â€œtrustworthyâ€â€¦
Ricardo Vega: …and on the other side there’s the society that doesn’t take advantage of this â€œdevelopmentâ€.
Ignacio Nieto: People want to buy the super expensive last mobile model and then they don’t know how to use it. It’s just a status. Touching back on our initial comments, historically Chile has developed an important avant-garde musical production. Electro acoustic music in Chile has a fifty year history. It’s a circuit which is very close to technology production and engineering studies but it’s a very exclusive circuit: pioneers of these experimentations built up themselves the machines they work with. Computers with a 7kb memoryâ€¦
Italo Tello: As Ignacio was saying here if you visit a very poor house in a very humble area you’ll find they have a huge TV or the last mobile model. The problem is they donâ€™t use it as a means of expression and to critic the system. Chile is divided into two parts. There’s a Chile that has developed a critical and expressive language deriving from Pinochet’s dictatorship and they resort to the aesthetics of barricades, to the themes of counter-culture , desaparecidos , politic and suburb. On the other side there’s a generation who’s grown up with Mtv, Nintendo and videogames.
This generation has no cultural models. In Chile there are no critical referrents: people who analyze New Media cultural production.
Lucrezia Cippitelli: Is there a Hacker community?
Italo Tello: Yes, there is but it’s completely involved in hardware and software development. Hackers, here, don’t deal with politics, they don’t build communities.
Lucrezia Cippitelli: A definition of New Media.
Ignacio Nieto: It’s not easy to give a definition of New Media. I find this name very commercial, a melting-pot od different practices.
Italo Tello: It’s a standard term, it’s wrong to connect it with computers only. Every epoch has its new media, it’s not correct to give this term a strict significance.
Lucrezia Cippitelli: Why did you chose to present yourself as a collective? Where does the idea of a virus come from? How did you chose artists?
Italo Tello: At the Biennial we attended at everything concerning New Media. We wrote an open call and we divided it into three themes: Net Art, Software Art, Tactical Media. We also included some experiences of working with new technologies from a social point of view. For instance the pirate television channel SeÃ±al 3 that broadcasts from its quarter la Victoria or the Software Libre Association.
Ignacio Nieto: As a collective we worked as archivists. At this moment a critical work on new media would be too pretentious and complicated. As regards virus, virus is a code entering a computer. We found its name in the McAfee archive of virus definition: there were funnier names but we chose â€œElenaâ€ because it fitted our collective name Troyano and Helen of Troy. The characteristic of Elena’s virus is it installs itself on the hard-disk of a computer erasing all its data. We wanted to install ourselves in the Biennial erasing its presuppositions and re-writing a new story.
Lucrezia Cippitelli: I think the most interesting aspect of this experience is the building up of a network among persons who had the possibility to present their works, meet and share their ideas, skills and resources in a much less academic way. How are you developing in the future the work you started with this project?
Ignacio Nieto: First of all we got to put the editorial material we developed during conferences online.
Italo Tello: We have to capitalize everything we said and heard and record it in a catalogue or a DVD which will become the missing local New Media point of referrence.
Lucrezia Cippitelli: What are in your opinion the best results of Elena’s project?
Ricardo Vega The existence of a practice, a way of acting which is shared among persons with completely different origins. We know we use instruments which aren’t stable yet but now we know we can work together. I also think the concept of hard-disk re-writing was positive.
Lucrezia Cippitelli: I think the Elena’s project had the positive effect to connect â€“ at both local and international levels â€“ music, free software, activism and cultural critics.
Italo Tello: Someone said we’re pretentious and too elitists, that our proposals can’t get a wider audience. Now I can say we showed it’s not true.
Lucrezia Cippitelli: In your opinion is New Media an important form of communication and expression with possible potential for the so-called developing Countries?
Ricardo Vega: We only talked about very elitist practices in the ecosystem of a Southern Country. I’d be very interested in analysing the possibilities beyond â€œmedia centrismâ€ elitism.
Italo Tello: The access theme is central. I work at a public school in a very suburban area of Santiago , a very poor and problematic area, and I teach music to children. A national project realized the set up of multimedia labs: dozens of computers connected to the Internet. I realized that the teacher who has to instruct the children is regularly outmoded by them. They are incredible.
Ricardo Vega: …in a Country where there is Wi Fi in the subway and the New Media Biennial.
Ignacio Nieto: Here’s a metaphor on Chile : at the Biennial they installed on fake raw wood tables a very scenographical series of Sony Vaio Laptops. This area was called Media Lounge. Here computer were chained to tables and personal computers didn’t have internet connection. In a Biennial dedicated to New Mediaâ€¦