Angelo Plessas

Divining #ETINTERBRO5, Sri Lanka by Andreas Angelidakis

21 November 2016

Artist, writer and architect Andreas Angelidakis shares his experience of Eternal Internet Brother/Sisterhood, organised by artist Angelo Plessas, taking place in Sigiriya, Sri Lanka, from October 10 to 18.

I was ambivalent about joining the 5th Eternal Internet Brotherhood/Sisterhood (#ETINTERBRO5). I had a lot of work to do and was planning the move to a new apartment after ten years of staring at the sea. But could I miss spending a week in the jungle in Sri Lanka, living in a treehouse? I went to I Ching divination online to tell me what to do. The hexagram that came back said:

FELLOWSHIP WITH MEN in the open.

Success.
It furthers one to cross the great water.
The perseverance of the superior man furthers.

It was a done deal, I booked my ticket.
Angelo and I leave Athens around midnight, landing in Doha first, the Qatar airport is vast and empty. I recognize the Swiss chairs: ‘don’t they cost something like 1000 euros each?’ It’s a sea of these chairs, in every color of expensive leather imaginable. The next morning in Sri Lanka’s capital Colombo, just after the passport control, we arrive at the shores of duty free ‘hope’ appliances (that was a typo, but I’ll leave it, I meant to write ‘home’). Rows, and rows of washing machines and fridges are the first to greet you when you land. Later we find out that these white goods aren’t addressing us but the Sri Lankans who arrive home after having worked in the United Arab Emirates or Europe; affordable luxuries for returning workers can buy for their relatives. We cross and head over to a kiosk to top up our cell phone, 5GB of mobile internet.

Heaven together with fire:

The image of FELLOWSHIP WITH MEN.
Thus the superior man organizes the clans
And makes distinctions between things.

Luca Pozzi in collaboration with Kris Lemsalu on the Pidurangala rock, 'The Wind of Change, ceremony', (2016). Courtesy the Eternal Internet Brother/Sisterhood 5, Sigiriya, Sri Lanka.
Luca Pozzi in collaboration with Kris Lemsalu on the Pidurangala rock, ‘The Wind of Change, ceremony’, (2016). Courtesy the Eternal Internet Brother/Sisterhood 5, Sigiriya, Sri Lanka.

The next day, we gather outside our small hotel in Colombo. It is the first time we meet as a group, 19 of us boarding a flight to Dambulla, the main village of Sigiriya, with a quick stop at the Goethe Institut for a thank you for their support. Finally we’re outside Dambulla, in a kind of endless suburbia made up of one long village of grocery stores and mirror panel shacks, selling something. You can see traces of earlier British colonial rule, not so much in the architecture but in the school uniforms of children waiting to be picked up by their parents on motorcycles. The place that Angelo picked for this edition is a compound called Back of Beyond, in the historic Sigiriya. I can’t help interpreting the village name into the Greek word ‘sigiriya’, which translates to something like ‘coincidence’. We are heading toward a coincidence in the jungle. I keep looking at the time, because we’d read online that check-in before 6pm is preferred to avoid the elephants. They like to come out at night when it’s cooler. We arrive when it is already pitch dark, prime elephant time.

Nine at the beginning means:

Fellowship with men at the gate.
No blame.

Where we arrive is not there, really. There seems to be nowhere to stay, just a pond and a lot of trees. We’re guided to the dinner area where the Back of Beyond team are waiting with some drinks. The tree houses have no walls, just a platform and a roof on a tree. The group self-organizes into subgroups, each in their own elevated space. Angelo and I pick the one place that isn’t really for rent, it can only hold two people and is the hardest to climb, three stories of rickety ladder in the jungle.

As the days go by, we gradually find our routine. We visit archaeological sites, the incredible Buddha caves and the post-metabolist Sigiriya Museum, where artist Jagath Weerasinghe gives us precious insight into the history of Sri Lanka. Project proposals begin surfacing, because jungles bring inspiration. Artist Luca Pozzi, teaming up with muralist Ruwangi Amarasinghe and Kris Lemsalu heads up to the Pidurangala rock — with its ancient monastery and round boulder — to perform laser drawings on a light-sensitive kimono. I stay back at the treehouse, studying the books we bought at the museum bookshop. Luca and company bring back astounding images of Kris on top of the ancient rock, looking like an ethereal being, wearing the fabric while Ruwangi drew on her, the sun collaborating by setting. I can’t help but make a connection to the text I’ve been reading, Sigiriya, Art of the Sunset, about the murals on the side cave of the rock, depicting women sitting on clouds. It explains that these were not humans but rare star constellations. I notice a tattoo on Ru’s arm, which she explains is its own rare sequence of stars. Now it makes sense that Luca insisted they perform at sunset. It was all a strange ‘sigiriya’, a coincidence we couldn’t avoid.

Six in the second place means:

Fellowship with men in the clan.
Humiliation.

Another book I picked up at the museum is The Message of the Peacock. It speaks about ‘Cloud messaging’, a tradition of poetry called Meghadūta that comes in the form of a dispatch. You would ask an element of nature to deliver it to a loved one. A peacock, a monkey, or, of course, a cloud would travel carry this message, but the point of the verse is to describe the places between you and them. Is this some ancient form of Facebook messenger? Has my overused emoji seen places as amazing as what the peacock of this poem would have? Why I am suddenly interested in poetry? It all makes sense when Imaad Majeed suggests we collaborate on a project. I had told him what I do on our first night at Back of Beyond, using buildings as actors in storytelling. Imaad is a poet and a peaceful Tamil activist, and he’s fascinated by the story of the mosque in Dambulla, threatened with demolition by the Monks of the Golden Temple.

Nine in the third place means:

He hides weapons in the thicket;
He climbs the high hill in front of it.
For three years he does not rise up.

Who knew that Buddhists could be violent? Our collaboration makes sense because I’m an architect interested in a poem, and Imaad is a poet interested in a building. After an afternoon at the Buddha cave complex and the ultra glamorous Golden Temple of Dambulla, we split up from the group for a discreet visit to the tiny mosque across the street. Not so much a building, but a shack assemblage, the Imam Imam explains that they are indeed being forced out but the final decision is pending. I pretend to pray, and follow Imaad’s lead, pointing my index finger to Mecca as my sweaty forehead touches the directional carpet on the floor. The next morning, back at the Back of Beyond compound, Imaad performs his ablutions, stepping onto a little raft and paddling out to the center of the lotus pond. There, he scribbles a modified version of the Meghadūta poem on the water as the sisters and brothers of #ETINTERBRO5 watch from the shore. Is the little mosque asking the rain to deliver a plea of help to the ancient rock of Sigiriya, and is Imaad the sender or the messenger? Would I be the recipient or the translator of this message into architecture? When I Google ‘Meghadūta’ to check the correct spelling, my Safari browser asks me if I’m looking for ‘Metadata’, and I wonder if that’s all it comes down to.

Nine in the fourth place means:

He climbs up on his wall; he cannot attack.
Good fortune.

At night, we are all sitting at the Sri Lankan artists’ treehouse, which is the best one really, but in being the cautious technocrat, I wonder if it would carry all our weight. Artist Candice Jacobs pulls out three tarot cards drawn by a fellow witch in California. Candice is softly spoken and gentle, and whispers that the first card I picked, the Emperor, means people look to me for support. I anxiously remind everyone that we are all too heavy for the treehouse and it’s going to collapse. The second card is the Magician, which might be interpreted that I’m making something out of nothing. I slip quietly into a haze as I listen to Candices’ meditation mantras, mixed in with the sound of raindrops and wild birds.

Nine in the fifth place means:

Men bound in fellowship first weep and lament,
But afterward they laugh.
After great struggles they succeed in meeting.

The next morning, Kris and Danushka Marasinghe slow dance in the little river that crosses the Back of Beyond compound full of fish that eat dead skin to the sounds of Kylie Minogue and Nick Cave singing ‘Where the Wild Roses Grow’. We cross the rainforest where Isuru Kumarasinghe and Dinelka Liyanage have installed sounds for us to listen to, or maybe the jungle is listening to the beeps and interfaces, and we are just there to witness the exchange that is the Eternal Internet Brotherhood/Sisterhood.

Angelo Plessas, 'Statement' (2016). Written and performed in Back of Beyond in Sigiriya. Courtesy The 5th Eternal Internet Brother/Sisterhood.
Angelo Plessas, ‘Statement’ (2016). Written and performed in Back of Beyond in Sigiriya. Courtesy
The 5th Eternal Internet Brother/Sisterhood.

Danushka places his giant SLR camera in front of his face, and begins talking about how it is hard to look into anybody’s eyes and have an intimate conversation. How the viewfinder would help him break down the distance of social conventions. I look through the camera lens at his face, struck by how intimate a jungle can be.

Jan Moszumanski, in yellow facepaint performs a ritual on top of Sigiriya Rock, as a little snake slithers by. Angelo rushes to capture it on video, and I wonder how far he’s come from the days when he would freeze at the sight of a reptile.

An #unknownartist moves like a friendly ghost through our compound, tying branches around branches, plants onto trees, making shelving and coconut walls, and even little washbasins for the birds. We discover these things daily and wonder if the legend of the aging female minimalist artist who disappeared one night in the jungle were true. Is she still alive or is her spirit becoming our #ETINTERBRO sister?

Nine at the top means:

Fellowship with men in the meadow.

Looking back at our eight days in Sigiriya, I wonder if I’m the only artist at #ETINTERBRO5 who didn’t make anything. I realize that letting go of my habit of laptop production, being intuitive and spontaneous is what is hardest for me. At some point, I take a picture of some branches that look like a door, posting it on Instagram with the tag #Metaphor and #EttoreSottsass — echoing the work of the Italian architect and designer. Why didn’t I continue the thought? I could have easily built some ‘Metafore’ (a series of photographs by Sottsass 1972-1979) of my own right there in the compound. As I sit in the car leaving Back of Beyond, I see the perfect combinatory reference: In honor of King Kashyapa, the villagers would build small freestanding bamboo facades in front of their homes, without any interior whatsoever. Maybe this building-less veneer is the metaphor I imagined. Maybe that’s why I didn’t build any of my own. Or maybe this text that I’m writing right now, is my contribution to the 5th Eternal Internet Brotherhood.

No remorse.**

The fifth Eternal Internet Brotherhood/Sisterhood was on at Sigiriya, Sri Lanka, running October 10 to 18, 2016.

Header Image: Ruwangi Amarasinghe, ‘Personal Hotspot’ (2016). Courtesy the artist + the Eternal Internet Brother/Sisterhood 5, Sigiriya, Sri Lanka

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The Eternal Internet Brotherhood/Sisterhood + Malaspina Castle

11 September 2015

Founded four years ago by Greek-Italian artist Angelo Plessas, The Eternal Internet Brotherhood/Sisterhood is an object of social innovation, network hyperactivity, and acephalous communication. It’s a project that seems like the format for a Gesamtkunstwerk, a total artwork, in the age of techno-relational capitalism: a retreat for artists, writers, architects, curators, gathered in isolation to experiment with practices of extra-urban networked/un-networked forms of life-work. The first of the nomadic getaways was held on the Greek island of Anafi in 2012; the second in the surrealist park of Las Pozas in the jungle of Xilitla, Mexico the following year; and the third on the shores of the Dead Sea in Palestine (reported on here) in 2014. This year around fifteen participants gathered during the summer days of July 6 to 15, at the Malaspina Castle of Fosdinovo, a proper medieval castle, with castellations, frescoes, and ancient armours.

Ylva Ogland, ‘The Rituals of Castello Malaspina’ @ The Eternal Internet Brotherhood/Sisterhood (2015). Courtesy Angelo Plessas.
Ylva Ogland, ‘The Rituals of Castello Malaspina’ @ The Eternal Internet Brotherhood/Sisterhood (2015). Courtesy Angelo Plessas.

Life in the castle is divided along micro-happenings, solitary work, and intensive sessions of collective browsing, when everyone was sitting around a table glued on their laptops, iPhones and iPads. A visit by Gianni Pettena, a historical exponent of the Radical Architecture movement, is one of the highlights, together with a dinner prepared by Ylva Ogland. It consists of black and white food, a chromatic opposition that appears often in her work, followed by a ritual administering of homemade vodka distilled with crushed rubies and stones from the Parthenon along with a sprinkle of breastmilk. At the same time, #ETINTERBRO is being represented by Plessas in Athens by what he describes as a “promotional stand”; an immersive installation at the Museum of Cycladic Art, which was awarded the 2015 Deste Prize on September 7 (You can read the #ETINTERBRO catalogue text here). However, the news coming from Athens is that of the post-referendum Greek political quandary. Between conversation about the crisis as the Greek government is capitulating to the requests of international creditors, a collective quantum meditation is lead by artist Sophie Jung. There is a chance for a walk in the forest, where each participant decides to produce a spontaneous and ephemeral work. Events taking place in the castle are articulated on dual the representation of time, both online and off, as participants rush to upload their best pictures and videos to the internet. It feels like everything around us is being remediated in the form of a sort of live online happening, merging the #ETINTERBRO hashtag with private memory. Then there are the countless conversations: about art, work, life, which will remain unreported.

Soft Baroque, ‘Firework Chair’ performative design @ The Eternal Internet Brotherhood/Sisterhood (2015). Courtesy Angelo Plessas from aqnb.com on Vimeo.
 

On the one hand The Eternal Internet Brotherhood/Sisterhood is a fluid situation-generator, a conversational machine, and an escapist context-shifting invention: “For me this is the Brotherhood“, says Plessas, “it’s about finding ways to experience your feelings and your limits in another situation”. On the other, it’s a comment on one of the most traumatic transformations in the production and consumption of culture. Abandoning the traditional function of the artist as a content provider, Plessas takes is upon himself to explore the function of social media in contemporary culture: that of context provider. Because with #ETINTERBRO, Plessas makes his job as artist to create a situation for the participants to explore different ways of communicating, for creative gestures to be exchanged. The result is a synthesis between the visions glued together in those Superstudio‘s collages where people lived in harmony with natural landscapes crossed by network reticulations and Facebook’s constant swarming of producer-consumers. Removed from an urban setting and immersed in a suggestive location, the Eternal Internet Brotherhood/Sisterhood feels like Pettena’s Radical Architecture is happening all over again and it is real: people inhabit landscapes of communication grids and the internet fulfils a liberating function. **

Event and installation photos, top right.

The fourth Eternal Internet Brotherhood/Sisterhood was on at Tuscany’s Castello di Fosdinovo, running July 6 to 15, 2015.

Header image: Angelo Plessas with Danai Anesiadou’s work, The Eternal Internet Brotherhood/Sisterhood (2015) @ Castello di Fosdinovo, July 6 to 15. Courtesy the artist.

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Porn to Pizza — Domestic Clichés @ DAM Gallery, Sep 4 – Oct 24

4 September 2015

DAM Gallery is hosting the Porn to Pizza — Domestic Clichés group exhibition at its Berlin space from a preview on September 4 until the closing on October 24.

The group exhibition bases itself on the acknowledgement that the 4Ps of domestic clichés—porn, pets, plants, and pizza—have left their realm of domesticity and started to exist in the virtual space of the internet.

Inviting over 20 international artists to participate, Porn to Pizza — Domestic Clichés play with today’s domestic spheres and personal comfort zones, revealing “how daily life has changed with the internet and how the conflict of the “real vs. virtual” invades our personal comfort zones”. Some of the participating artists include Petra CortrightKate DurbinFaith Holland and Angelo Plessas.

See the exhibition page for details. **

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Eternal Internet Brotherhood/Sisterhood @ Castello In Movimento, Jul 6 – 15

9 July 2015

The Eternal Internet Brotherhood has finally heard the chorus and is launching its 4th edition at the Castello In Movimento in Tuscany’s Castello di Fosdinovo under the new title of Eternal Internet Brotherhood/Sisterhood from July 6 to July 15.

The initiative is organized and curated by artist Angelo Plessas, culminating in an annual ten-day collaborative residency/summit/happening, in a new location every year. Launching in Greece in 2012, the project took over Edward James’s surrealist park Las Pozas in Xilitla, Mexico in 2013, and the Dead Sea in the West Bank of Palestine in 2014 (reviewed here).

For its fourth instalment, the it invites dozens of artists, writers, curators, designers and researchers—including Sophie Jung, Matthew Lutz-Kinoy, Santiago Taccetti —to develop ideas on the spot and experiment with new concepts under the them of “the spiritual side of technology”.

See the project website for details. **

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Angelo Plessas @ The Breeder, Feb 19 – Mar 28

16 February 2015

Athens gallery The Breeder is bringing the latest solo exhibition from Angelo Plessas, consisting entirely of the artist’s websites and titled Mirage Machines, running from February 19 to March 28.

The Eternal Internet Brotherhood founder has made a career of internet art, using the online as a vehicle, playing with domains like iconography and notions of abstraction and subjectivity, creating “mechanical landscape generators, where his online environments are visionary propositions that have been begotten in browser windows”.

For Mirage Machines, and in line with previous collections, he has created an exhibition space out of a web domain, titled after the work, where his electronic animated drawings mingle and reproduce on millions of computers.

See the Mirage Machines exhibition page for details. **

the breeder

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The Eternal Internet Brotherhood + the Dead Sea

2 May 2014

Gil Kuno points to the moon explaining that the filmy aura around it is the result of the salty atmospheric haze of Neve Midbar, at the northern basin of the Dead Sea and over 400 metres below sea level. It’s our first night at the lowest point of land in the world, the shock of the busy car park and compound-like resort still resonating as the mosquitos start to sting. Kuno is an artist, spending the last two months across the Dead Sea coast for some comparatively brief respite from eczema, his skin now dark and leathery, lips burnt to a peeling crisp. He sets a laptop on a plastic chair and plays his past projects: an impressive tower of single-string-picking people playing the sideways composition of The Six Strings Sonics and a music video featuring a porno-ish CGI cyborg flouncing to Japanese lyrics screamed over the cracked and looping tech-metal of ‘Daisuki Me’. This is “probably” the first ever net-band to come into existence. It’s called ‘Wiggle’, was signed to Universal Japan in 1996 and was produced remotely between Kuno and an Australian teenager called ‘Kwook‘ who may also be a furry. There’s a group of us watching it, sat on a brown and sandy incline with the orange glimmer of lights reflecting off the water emerging from a craggy shadow to the east, and we’re all well aware that this is an exceptional situation.

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Neve Midbar: it’s meant to mean ‘oasis’ but to my ears it suggests its situation as a mid place, a perpetual limbo –even a kind of purgatory –positioned at a crossroads between Jordan, Palestine and Israel. There’s certainly an unreal quality to the region and, although I have no doubt hindsight has a lot to do with my dreamy glance back to a time equal parts therapeutic and uneasy, that The Eternal Internet Brotherhood is a special place to be.

It’s a nomadic residency that floats in the cloud-based ether for most of the year, finding form for ten days when artists, technologists and writers; an actor, architect and urban planner, converge in a location with spiritual, therapeutic or mythological properties. Here the multidisciplinary group are free to work together, interact and bond over their diverse and divergent backgrounds brought together by a common blanket of networked culture. As temporary aliens, perpetual ex-pats and explorers, #ETINTERBRO (as Twitter understands it) descends on a neutral space with limited Wi-Fi to sometimes talk, sometimes stare silently at their smartphones.

Except that this is hardly neutral space. It’s one fraught with a history of conflict, uncertainty and injustice that is hard to ignore, whether it’s through distant gunshots coming from Jordan, too-late warnings that after dark dips could attract the unwelcome attention of Israeli patrol boats and complicated stories on how to see Eminem live in Tel Aviv as a Palestinian. On any given day –beyond the low-rising fencing of the shade cloth covered wooden ‘China Huts’ where we’re staying –there’ll be Palestinian school groups in the week and Israeli revelers on Shabbat; Malay tours and Nigerian pilgrims visiting Neve Midbar, all seeking their own specific answers tailored to their own particular questions.

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“Jean, why you hate the internet?” founder and intrepid organiser Angelo Plessas asks me in slightly broken English as part of his ‘Golden Question’ series. He’s sat on a now familiar gold sheet, the symbol of the trip that swathes a hut, an Arabian horse, a manicured kibbutz lawn and the black mud of Neve Midbar. Stunned and slightly embarrassed, I say I was being facetious; part of an offhand comment while stoned and seeking answers via Meir Kordevani’s ‘Vision Quest’ card readings –read in the light of birthday candles jammed into the seven arms of a mini-Menora. But I kind of do hate the internet, or at least am wary of its existence. Otherwise I wouldn’t have opted out and offline for the duration of the trip, not just as an ironic gesture but as much-needed rest from the over-stimulation of constant connectivity. The true irony though is that there’s no real escape from the internet’s influence, whether logged in or not.

“Man’s relationship to technology is bipolar”, curator and gallerist Ché Zara Blomfield says to me, paraphrasing an article channelling Bruno Latour during one of our inexplicably existential bedtime conversations in a shared No. 23 shack. That’s probably part of the reason a handful of tech-savvy creatives would elect to rough it on the Dead Sea as an extension of a largely online practice. Luca Pozzi would realise the “suspended moments as frozen in time” of his ‘Big Jump Theory’ in a series of photos featuring the artist leaping into the rectangular void of a sheet that resembles a PhotoShop pixel grid, framed by awesome nature. He insists we stop the car and run up a rocky mountain to do so on more than one occasion. Vincent Charlebois marries the experience of the harsh conditions and isolation of seasonal tree planting in the Canadian forest with a cloud-based art practice to develop his idea of anti-utilitarian “contemplative software”. It’s a duality that manifests itself quite literally in his physical body dotted with tiny Unicode tattoos.

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The idea of the body as canvas, sculpture and mode for self-expression extends to Elcin Pia Joyner’s practice, where the double-meaning of the Sanskrit word for ‘thing’ as also ‘event’ inspires her yoga-as-sculpture exercises for ‘Breath’. Anastasios Logothetis makes up for the lack of an image projector with a different kind of energy transfer via the group’s mud-smeared hands on his nude form for ‘The Possibility of a Beach’.

Therein lies the persistent question characterising #ETINTERBRO’s Dead Sea residency: how does one distinguish the artist from the person, the event or the experience from the artwork? Danai Anesiadou and Alkistis Poulopoulou insist there is a distinction between their Pranic healing sessions and their chosen fields as artist and “mostly theatre actress”, respectively. The former going as far as to jokingly inscribe “no work only play” in my notebook when asked to write down what art she intends to make over the week.

The border between life and art is further blurred by someone like Mirko De Lisi whose online presence barely exists beyond Instagram and Facebook. His focus is perpetually on the idea of the spontaneity of art-making through dynamic social relationships and identity-creation. He and Mai Ueda use a voluntary ‘lottery ceremony’ for allocating shared sleeping arrangements in an attempt to initiate, experiment and observe individual reactions to randomised inter-group connections.

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Beyond that, there are opportunities to see how an artist’s personality comes through in their work and how their work comes through in their personality. Mike Calvert, ever independent in his attitude to group excursions, takes an almost contrarian approach, choosing painting as his medium for representing a “new style of computer aesthetic” at #ETINTERBRO, while –during an obliviously dangerous first night swim in the buoyant salt water of a pitch black Dead Sea –he describes a Milan gallery’s outrage over an exhibition with fellow brotherhood member Miltos Manetas in 2001. There the latter long-established artist’s paintings upstairs were met with Calvert’s adorable ‘strawberries and pizza’ animation below.

But then, testing boundaries is what the dynamic fields of art and technology thrive on. If it isn’t Israeli Kordevani calmly crossing into Jericho to meet with some newfound Palestinian friends, then it’s Israeli-born, Brighton-based artist and philosopher Aharon (hands down the strangest and most sincere member of #ETINTERBRO) literally skateboarding between cities to bring Palestinian artists to us. That’s all via a localised pop-up internet hub called the ‘CommunityBox’ carried in his bumbag. Eventually a handful of the Dead Sea group make the trip to Ramallah to see the artwork and meet the artists for themselves.

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But communication isn’t limited between people, but human, beast and object too. Urban planner and horse owner Mia Lundström takes us to meet and ride Arabian horses at the Yasser Arafat-founded Jericho Equestrian Club. From there, the comical and sometimes rather dramatic outcome of clashes of character between #ETINTERBRO members and these famously temperamental horses are later laughed at by instructors Hussein and Amer over coffee and a narghile that night. As for the seemingly inanimate, some people joined Andreas Angelidakis for a visit to Zvi Hecker’s Ramot Polin housing in east Jerusalem. It’s a neighbourhood designed around the Metabolist principle of what Andreas calls in his blog “buildings as living organisms”, a sort of modulated architecture that could continue to grow after its initial construction. These dodecahedron pods have since lived up to the promise of extension and evolution thanks to its Haredi Jewish inhabitants, except that the new additions and extensions involve square walls, stairs and awnings –not just more pentagonal windows. It’s the sort of customisation, corruption and disruption that leads Andreas to dryly suggest that this could in fact be the IRL expression of “a post Metabolist internet hood”.

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The #ETINTERBRO post-internet hood on the other hand, with its 15-plus people from Japan, the US, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Italy, Greece, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey, exists as a dynamic cluster, uprooted and dotted across the globe in the nebulous online vortex of the Easyjet generation. That’s a freedom of movement not everyone has, as we’re reminded by towering red signs flanking the roads and warning against Israeli entry into Jericho, Palestinian movement ruled out of areas via checkpoints, permit regulations and uncompromising concrete walls. Hire-car insurance clauses and a GPS message cautioning, “selected destination is in the West Bank Territories. Entering these areas might be risky. Proceed?” sends a message that our own is restricted to the sanctioned spaces and motorways of a highly controlled urban landscape.

But that restricted infrastructure goes well beyond the physical geography of our immediate surroundings; further still from that small pocket on the Mediterranean Sea nestled precariously between Lebanon, Syria and Jordan. There, beer-fuelled late-night conversation centres around surveillance, Google search engines and Facebook; mailchimp mail tracking and unnervingly pre-informed border police. Here, the distant flutter of dread still lingers. **

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The Eternal Internet Brotherhood is an annual nomadic residency, that this year took place at the Dead Sea, April 2 to 12, 2014.

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An interview with Angelo Plessas

10 February 2014

He’s not one for camping but prefers to be near nature, an Internet artist looking to disconnect from it, a human seeking community in isolated places. Athens-based artist Angelo Plessas’ ideology is a contradiction in terms leading to a spiritual pursuit via a medium grounded in hard science and human-made technologies – The Eternal Internet Brotherhood. It’s an online and offline art initiative and remote residency, bringing net-based artists, technologists, researchers, writers and publishers from around the world to a single physical location, with metaphysical properties, to disconnect, dislocate and interact with like minds for a short stretch of time, away from the noise of civilisation.

Just to clarify, #ETINTERBRO is not limited to ‘brothers’: “when you translate the word ‘brotherhood’ in Greece, it’s αδελφότητα (adelfótita), which means people are getting together to do something,” Plessas volunteers through video chat from his home in the Greek capital, “I thought about putting ‘sisterhood’ later but then it’s becoming too long and I think, ‘ok, it’s a post-gender moment’.”

Photo by Angelo Plessas. Image courtesy the artist.
Photo by Angelo Plessas. Image courtesy the artist.

A post-gender basis for a post-internet movement, focussed on integration. Now in its third year, with previous participants including the likes of Attilia Franchini, Rózsa Farkas, Jesse Darling, Harry Burke and Yuri Pattison, the idea of getting away in order to get in touch was originally birthed in the audience of a Biennial panel discussion: “I was having friends and people asking me, ‘why, in Greece, there is no residency or artist run spaces?’,” says Plessas, “so I made this question to these people and they responded in a way that was, ‘we cannot do everything. You do it!’ which was quite clever.” From an irate reply came the impetus, and before long #ETINTERBRO had gone well beyond an abstract idea, of escaping the turmoil of Greek bankruptcy to southern India and starting an “Internet art ashram”, to conceptualising a fantasy tour of an historical and out-of-bounds island during a Dazed & Confused takeover led by LuckyPDF. “I started getting emails from people asking how they can participate. But even the island was totally utopic because Delos is this uninhabited archaeological site. It’s totally forbidden.”

By the Summer of 2012, though, Plessas and a handful of artists found themselves on the remote mythological island of Anafi, accessible only by boat, in what would be the first of an ongoing project as The Eternal Internet Brotherhood: “We went to this very beautiful beach. We set up this really nice camp and we said, ok, ‘let’s stay there for seven days’. It was so experimental. I’ve never done camping in my life,” he adds.

Since then there’s been a trip to the surrealist park of Las Pozas in Xilitla, perched on a rainforest mountain, and a renewed indiegogo campaign for a planned trip to the Dead Sea this coming April. “Somehow, when there is no money involved, where there is no hidden agenda involved, you feel much more liberated to do things that in another situation you would never think,” says Plessas about the totally independent initiative born from an increasingly “unbearable” situation in Greece –government funding there being out of the question.

That’s part of the reason why he’s seeking out the specifically “therapeutic” effects of a natural resource, situated at the centre of political conflict (the area borders Israel and Palestine) while instigating a potentially costly artistic exercise in the middle of a financial crisis. But then, its one of those queer dualities of life, where innovation comes with adversity, creativity from contingency, and ritual communion in total isolation.

Photo by Vincent Charlebois. Image courtesy Angelo Plessas.
Photo by Vincent Charlebois. Image courtesy Angelo Plessas.

In terms of this focus on therapy with the Dead Sea, do you see any parallels between the art and the commercial worlds? Moving from a corporate aesthetic and then into these ideas of mediation, there’s an element of mirroring the behaviours of people in the workforce.

AP: I was reading this book recently, where all these corporate situations –in either the art world or real corporations –they’re just appropriating some sort of a ‘green’ attitude. Still they are corporations, money’s the goal, plus all these neoliberal factors. They are appropriating all these green things that can make their profile somehow more human, more relaxed. It’s a mosaic. I mean, there is also some element of that in art but it’s also a counter-cultural situation so it’s good.

We just have to see because I feel in general, there is this financial crisis that we entered now and we are also entering a very, very big social crisis as a people. Even for the Internet, for example, even though since the time I started working with it in the late-90s, which was totally different, it became more participatory but at the same time it’s more dystopian, it’s more corporate and, I don’t know, it supports some individualistic attitude. All this information pollution we have, we are always distracted; all this makes us unbalanced. And because we tend towards the urge for more visual stimulation, we are addicted to it. Everything at the end is becoming instantly old, boring and uninteresting. That’s why I’m thinking, with this project, that it revives a bit of the spirit of communion, ritual and community.

When you talk of this ‘social crisis’, and obviously money, there’s still a certain set of people that have access to the Internet, and high-speed Internet. When it comes to artists working online, it’s still centralised around those major cities like Berlin, New York, London…

AP: Exactly. There is a very transitional moment now. People are just rethinking what it is and where we are going in this situation. Actually, I live in a city but I choose to live in a ‘semi’ situation. I personally always want to have a very powerful organic setting around me. If I show you around here, I have a view of the sea.

I don’t like to be in the city and to be caged in little apartments in the centre and downtown here. Also, practically speaking, in my city the downtown area is becoming –because of the crisis –really, really, really unbearable sometimes. But also, this reality of the city in general, is becoming a little bit more unbearable. I think we should go back to nature, at least for a while; stay there and forget what the city’s all about.

Photo by Mirko DeLisi. Image courtesy Angelo Plessas.
Photo by Mirko DeLisi. Image courtesy Angelo Plessas.

Living in a bigger city, it does drive you a bit crazy.

AP: Exactly. I was in Berlin two days ago and I realised, it’s great to be in Berlin, but there’s too much art context there; there is too much information, too many things. I have this motion towards disconnection from this hyper-connected hyperactive thing. It’s an attitude which is so contemporary and you see it everywhere now.

So there’s the therapeutic element to situating the project on the Dead Sea but there’s this whole political situation there. Is that sort of a nudge to this ‘privilege of escape’ that the ‘Brotherhood have as artists, that maybe someone in Palestine, for example, doesn’t?

AP: This is a very good point because, it sounds a little bit too activist maybe but I strongly believe all the people in the world should have the same right to be mobilised and move around the world, equally with others. That’s why I chose this place because, apart from this interesting therapeutic part, it has also this conflicted side; it’s the place where everybody wanted to have a piece of the history over there. They’re things that, people like you and me, we’ve never experienced.

Do you think that you’ll encounter any problems?

AP: You mean, politically? So far I’ve never been there, so there might be some impromptu things but I like this organic evolution of the project. It depends on how we get there, physically, and the physical conditions are evolving how this project is taking shape. I have all these ideas of how things can work and evolve. It’s very unpredictable there. That’s also why I chose that place.

It’s like the ‘IRL glitch’ that you might lose when working exclusively online.

AP: There might not be Internet there. There are three options of where we’re going to stay. There’s an open air one –it’s on a slope and it has this beautiful house –and another, they have these beautiful huts and the other is a another remote place, so I don’t know how connected we will be there. Actually, we will be totally dislocated and disconnected, which is somehow inspiring for me and that’s the goal of the project. It’s a very, very economical way also, to do something with other people. Already the list is around fifteen people and everybody is cool, easy-going, younger and older, local and totally dislocated; people coming from different places, so yeah, we will see. **

The Eternal Internet Brotherhood residency is running in the Dead Sea, April 1 to 10, 2014. The indiegogo campaign for raising funds is on now.

Header image: Photo by Vincent Charlebois. Image courtesy Angelo Plessas.

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‘Il Bardo di Timperley’ @ Art Licks Weekend

1 August 2013

bubblebyte.org‘s Il Bardo di Timperley is a collaborative exhibition and online moving image collage featuring 16 artists from around the world, including Angelo Plessas, Constant Dullart, Rhys Coren and more.

Running for over a month, from September 9 to October 20, moving image art works will be added to the bubblebyte.org site every few days, slowly building on and revealing a larger collaborative work in the form of a collage. The finished piece will be unveiled at this year’s Art Licks Weekend, a three day initiative presenting emerging creative talent in London (running October 4 to 6), with bubblebyte.org representing digital arts.

See the Art Licks Weekend website for more details. **

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Angelo Plessas @ Cell Project Space reviewed

20 June 2012

A suggestion: check Google Street View before attempting a visit to Angelo PlessasThe Twilight of the Idols at Cell Project Space in person. Set back from Cambridge Heath Road, Cell has one of those typically understated, slightly obscured East London gallery façades that requires a bit of pluck to find and access. Once across that threshold though,  you will find yourself thoroughly rewarded but, given the nature of internet art, don’t expect the challenge to be over just yet.

As part of his ongoing Every Website is a Monument series, Plessas himself began this project by navigating the city’s major landmarks via Google Street View. Using virtual landscapes as a starting point for his interactive web based works, Plessas creates alternative worlds where the audience is invited to play using just a mouse and a screen.  In SheIsMadeOfTheTruth.com‘ the movements of our protagonist, who looks like someone born of a marriage between ClipArt and a Miro painting, corresponds to the pace and location of the cursor. The website is also a musical instrument; each part of the screen releasing a series of percussive sounds, creating a unique composition of bells and whistles as our glyph of a woman dances.

SheIsMadeOfTruth.com. Image courtesy of Cell Project Studio.
Angela Plessas, ‘SheIsMadeOfTruth.com’. Image courtesy of Cell Project Studio.

Plessas’ websites stop short at being animated games because there is no point system and no end goal. Instead, they feel a bit like the off-road nothing spaces of Grand Theft Auto, where you abandon the game in search of hidden features and glitches (referred to by gamers as ‘Easter Eggs’) at the edge of the program.  This is exciting territory. The promise of these secret encounters elicits a kind of feverish, compulsive state in the player, where they can spend ages wandering and clicking aimlessly. Inspired by idleness, Plessas’ websites masterfully unlock this absurd urgency within us by using a language we intuitively understand whilst leaving us wondering why we spend our time doing it.

Friends and contemporaries of Lucky PDF, Raphael Rozendaal, and Miltos Manetas (fellow Greek and founder of the Neen Art Movement) Plessas is part of a generation of artists using the Internet to explore the interplay between viewer and maker. In this exhibition, four websites have been projected from elaborate housing; large white architectural shapes that function as sculptural objects and as giant mouse mats.

The gallery is immaculately finished too. Every surface is pristine white and reflects the moving light from the projectors, taking the online works and transforming them into a completely immersive experience. You could access all of these works online now, their URLs are live, but what the gallery exhibition offers is an opportunity to take our intimate computer worlds, splash them across four walls and step inside.

Momument. Image courtesy of Cell Project Studio.
Angelo Plessas, ‘Monument’. Image courtesy of Cell Project Studio.

Angelo Plessas Every Website is a Monument: Twilight of the Idols at Cell Project Space runs until July 22, 2012.

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