“We do pranks” says Franco Mattes in this interview with VernissageTV at the occasion of Eva and Franco Mattes’ solo exhibition at the new media art institution Plug.in in Basel. This is a nice understatement, of course, since Eva and Franco Mattes are among the pioneers of the net.art movement and the artist-provocateurs behind the infamous website 0100101110101101.org. They have manipulated video games, Internet technologies, feature films and street advertising.
The exhibition titled “AD/HD” is Eva and Franco Mattes’ first institutional solo exhibition in Switzerland, featuring their most recent net-based interventions and videogame performances. The works refer to the history of performance art with its notions of body, space, emotion, social interaction and communication – notions that are then experimentally renegotiated by interlinking physical and digital space, physical body and avatar. “¨On show at Plug.in are works such as their Synthetic Performances, and their Chatroulette-based work “No Fun“. Read more after the jump.
Eva and Franco Mattes aka 0100101110101101.org: AD/HD at plug.in Basel. Interview, June 10, 2010.
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A series of Synthetic Performances took place in the online environment Second Life, performed by Eva and Franco Mattes through their avatars, which were based on their real-life physical features. People could attend and interact with the live performances connecting to the online game from all over the world. The series started in January 2007 with reenactments of historical performances by Marina Abramovic, Vito Acconci, Chris Burden and others, and was continued by Eva and Franco Mattes’ own Synthetic Performances.”¨
In “Freedom” (2010) we are faced with a live performance set within the popular first-person shooter videogame “Counter Strike”. Here, the artist, Eva Mattes, is refusing to accomplish the basic goal of the game, to kill the enemy. She instead tries to convince the other players to save her life because she is “trying to make an artwork”. The result is the performer being endlessly and brutally killed and abused by the other players.
“¨For Plug.in’s guest booth at LISTE – The Young Art Fair, Eva and Franco Mattes developed the performance “The Rude Dude”: “The Rude Dude welcomes audience, critics and fans into the obscure under-the-stairs-corner of art, where the most secret, unpleasant, potentially scary conversations take place. Ask him what you never dared to ask about art, because he knows and will tell it out loud. The Rude Dude offers something slightly different than the regular art fair stroll. A live performance, a Net Art piece, a liberating experience, at least for him…”
“Reality is overrated” – this slogan by Eva and Franco Mattes contains central aspects of the Italian artist couple’s work: Their interest in reality in the age of digital forgery, the blending of fact and fiction – and their appetite for provocative statements. The artists provide evidence of the latter yet again in their most recent work “No Fun”: Franco Mattes simulated his suicide in the popular webcam-based chat room Chatroulette. Thousands of random people watched while he was hanging from the ceiling, swinging slowly for hours. The video documentation of the performance presents an unbelievable, at times very disturbing, sequence of reactions: some laugh, some are completely unmoved, some insult the supposed corpse, some take pictures with their mobiles. Notably, only one out of several thousand people called the police. Moving beyond the aspects of shock and provocation, this touches on a basic question: What does “reality” mean in the digital age?
Eva and Franco Mattes works have been shown internationally including: Collection Lambert, Avignon; Fondazione Pitti Discovery, Florence, Postmasters Gallery, New York; Lentos Museum of Modern Art, Linz; New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York; ICC, Tokyo; Manifesta 4. They received the Jerome Commission from the Walker Art Center, and they are among the youngest artists to ever participate to the Venice Biennale. In 2006 they received a fellowship from Colombia University, New York. Mattes’ works are part of several private and public collections such as the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; MEIAC, Spain; 21c Museum, Louisville.