This text is republished in collaboration with Digicult.it. It was released on March 2006, and has been edited for republication.
For a long time I turned whirling through gorges in the Net, searching for a project able to astonish me and speed up my mind: A project able to throw the basis for a happy integration between the virtual world behind our net cable and the chaotic universe of multimedia performances.
Nowadays, most can see how audio-video lives often times walk a path in opposition to the common one — A path that belongs to a society where aesthetic rules are more and more conditioned by the huge potential of technologies. Often auto-referential, sometimes incomprehensible or purely a stylistic exercise, a media life often leaves even the experts disappointed. Try to figure out those who want to approach this media world via the potentially infinite digital matrix for the first time. Surely the landscape they find is not as fascinating as a Matrix fresco. One could almost certainly be disappointed, especially if searching for true emotions. I was, and I’m still convinced, that the Internet is the new emotional resource: The big agora of associations and meanings, of consciences and shared perceptions, of creativity and emotions, able to prefigure new scenes and amazing solutions for the multimedia performances of tomorrow. (Though we are perhaps not even allowed to think of this!). 
Then I discovered the WJ-s Project: A moment of multimedia performance in the shape of an electronic jam session; whose contents are virtually present in the big Net hard disk. It lives and vibrates and changes every day because it is captured by its own nebulous center. I smiled. When I saw the final result of this infant project, I perceived the lightness of the barriers we were talking about such a little while ago. It was then I understood that the bases of that bridge to emotionality were built. The fact is that sometime it takes so little to feel oneâ€™s self within an emotional flow as big as the entire Net: It’s sufficient to see it and to hear it.
Anne Roquigny has been managing net art projects and creative works on the web for over ten years. She has worked for the French Culture Ministry organizing an online platform with 50 projects purposely created for the web. She has organized a series of meetings with net artists from all over the world called â€œ Tour du monde du web.â€ She was a member of the Flash Festival jury at the Centre Pompidou of Paris in 2005. And, she has organized a round table about the history of network performances for the festival Villette NumÃ©rique. She is the soul of the WJ-s Project and can provide the most insight to answer questions about the project, about the philosophies that guide it, and about its potential and future development.
Marco Mancuso (MK): Would you like to tell me about WJ-S Project; how it started, and from which basic idea or personal need?
Anne Roquigny (AR): “WJ-s” is a software and a flexible, public, high-speed connection device for web performances which allows actors on the Internet, (such as sound and image artists, net artists, bloggers, graphic designers, flashers, programmers, curators, hacktivists, new media theorists, pioneers and web mutants, etc.), to play live with the full breadth of the contents on the web available to integrate. Working for more than ten years as a new media curator, I have always been searching for appropriate contexts, ways, devices, and situations, to present the works of artists exploring and experimenting with the Internet as a creative space.
Although I have tried to avoid the boring situation where the presentation of websites is reduced to a selection of links on a few machines placed somewhere in a venue, I have often had some feelings of dissatisfaction and frustration because exhibition situations often decrease this exciting feeling you get when we are on your own, in front of your computer, in your own cozy environment. A website presented outside the context of a personal browser, on a small screen, frequently looses some of its energy, its power, because it was not meant to be shown in the situation of a public exhibition.
MK: In the project overview you write, “taking out the network from the web: The idea of the WJ-s Project is to disrupt this tendency by offering a strong, captivating, sensual and slightly altered cybernetic surf where the feeling of being immerged in the flow and the extreme pleasure of browsing are shifted to a live performance environment.” Would you explain this idea more in depth to me?
AR: Because surfing is often an extended, solitary adventure, led be an intimate relationship with one’s machine, the virtual experience is seldom as successful when extended into a different space or another time frame. This is the reason why the WJ-s Project was developed. The WJ-s device bears in mind these considerations, and tries to recreate a fluid situation where oneâ€™s proximity to the content, the sensation of the real time, the spontaneity, the unexpected accidents, are present as part of the fragile and subtle ingredients contributing to the pleasure surfing.
MK: Can you explain how the WJ-s Project works? I mean, how it works technically and what kind of device you give to the artists.
AR: WJ-s/ystem is a network of machines all connected to the Internet and communicating together via the WJ-s/oftware. One of these machines, the WJ-s/tudio, is a webdeck controlled by the WJ, the web-jockey– the artist/ performer who mixes, synchronizes and dispatches different web sources on different screens simultaneously. With a very simple interfaces the artist handles online texts, sounds, videos, animations, etc. that come directly from the web, this giant hard disk. The Internet is the only space that facilitates these merging and converging practices. But, finding your way through it is sometimes difficult because one does not have the time, the knowledge, or the keys to negotiate and enjoy the experience of the surf.
The WJ-s Project offers a widened, shared, and liberated context, with the complementary association of people and points of view. Artists subjectively create for an audience a sensitive and lively navigating situation. The WJs become â€œguides,â€ helping people to explore wide unknown territories by showing them that there is much to see beyond Google and other commercial web sites. The singularity of each performance is also due to the staging of the equipment; the way the contents and formats are put together. WJs are given full latitude, and deal with a wide range of potential scenographies, writing, forms, combinations and practices
MK: Did you ever consider creating an online platform in which performers can meet and perform together with material stolen from the web? Have you ever thought about this as a further development? Are you familiar with projects like Placard Headphone Festival?
AR: I have already curated and produced network performances, online collaborative projects with artists performing simultaneously from all over the world. But in this situation itâ€™s another context for the artists, the participants, and the audience because they are all in the same physical space. At present, the beta demo version of the WJ-s/oftware allows only one artist to play at a time. But the next version of the software will allow multiple WJs to play together, and also allow the audience to participate if the project requires it.
In the near future, all the machines could also be controlled at distance. The WJs device is a condensed model of the Internet; a metaphor for its codes and showing the way information can flow on the network.
Yes I know the Placard and the creators. I have collaborated many times with the team, and Sylvie AstiÃ©, one of the creators of Placard, is WJ-ing with us! 😉
MK: Can you tell me about some the experiences you have had with the WJ-s Project? What insights did you gain from these experiences, and how did they make you feel?
AR: The project is very new and we have now produced three â€œprototype” web experiments: One at Rex in Belgrade, Serbia during the Dis-patch Festival, another at Centre Pompidou, Paris and the third at Ecole Nationale SupÃ©rieure des Arts DÃ©coratifs, Paris, (see http://www.wj-s.org/-WJ-Sessions for details). Each presentation was very challenging because we had to adapt to the different parameters of each venue, such as the software, the bandwidth, the screens, and the computers that were provided.
Each comment, each reaction from the audience, each test, each bug, and each problem was part of the experience, and gave us ideas on how to upgrade and optimize the system, and fueled our desire to continue exploring the potential of the situation. These workshops, like the one we did in Belgrade, brought rich exchanges. The Serbian artists meeting the French artists was great– everybody sharing his own practice on the internet, each of them selecting their best bookmarks, and trying to find the best ways of taking the audience on a unique tour of the Internet. The next workshop and performances will take place between 17 â€“25 March 2006 at the National Museum of Contemporary Art, Bucharest (RO) (www.mnac.ro).
MK: From your description, it seems that you consider these web performances and the WJ-s Projects more experimental, more creative, and occurring more in real-time than VJ and DJ performances — Is that true?
AR: They are not only different because the WJ-s Project allows for myriad hybrid approaches, but because the works can take on many forms. Sometimes they do resemble VJ and DJ performances. However, with the WJ-s Projects, the content is not on a local hard disk. It is inspired from processes and original actions that are related specifically to the network’s activity. The result gives birth to manifold practices, unidentified and unexpected oddities of all sorts.
The artists, (Sylvie AstiÃ¨, Jean-Baptiste Bayle, Lucille Calmel, AgnÃ¨s de Cayeux, KRN, Anne Laforet Olga Kisseleva), I invited for the first experiments have purposely different artistic, technical, and cultural backgrounds. But they all enjoy exploring and experimenting with the changing and fluctuating territories of the Internet. They subjectively articulate its intimate contours and zones. They play with the erotic and heated atmosphere of video chat rooms, with the world of artistic algorithms and computer art, mailing lists, etc. And with an exacting choice of plastic, graphical, sensitive, political, social, aesthetic and narrative works they select on the realm of the web. (See www.wj-s.org/-WJ-Sets.)
MK: Finally, is this the idea of this project limited to you and a small number of friend and artists, or are there wide networks and communities on the Internet working as WJs, drawing material and sources from the web and mixing it in real time? In other words, where might it be possible to find these WJs working, and on which websites or platforms?
AR: The idea is mainly a result of personal, endless questioning on how individual and collaborative online productions, in different geographical sites, can become moving collective events to which an audience is invited. The idea was born from this wish to find an appropriate tool to show and share some artistic content on many screens in a live situation.
The software did not exist so I had it developed by Stephane Kyles, the programmer I work with. Thanks to the help of an inner circle of artists, beta testers, friends, and partners, the project started to exist. The project is new, and my wish is to have more and more artists playing with the project and to provide improved versions of the software with more options for more experimentations. We are only a few people doing it at present, but I am sure it will emulate and hopefully contaminate a wide network of enthusiastic addicts wanting to share Internet content in such a way.
Videos photos: www.wj-s.org/-WJ-Sessions
Network scenographies: www.wj-s.org/-bookmarks
 Fresco here means that the electronic live audiovisual contest is a landscape that sometimes, for people not used to these esthetics and live performances, is not so fascinating like a supercool imaginary world like the movie Matrix.
 Sometimes it could be a very stupid exercise to try to think about the future and the possible changes produced by the new technologies, that are so quick in their technical developments. Many people in the past, thinking about great [futuristic] theories, trying to figure out new landscapes, were dramatically in error.