For many people involved in its niche critical discourse, “the internet” can be a very dark place. But for bubblebyte.org co-founder Attilia Franchini Fattori, that doesn’t have to be the case. Fully aware of the issues but more inclined to focus on the positives, the London-based art curator specialises in working with young and emerging talent, while devoting much of her time to bubblebyte.org’s digital space as “container, artist and gallery”.
It makes sense then, that Franchini and collaborators, Rhys Coren and Paul Flannery, should be involved with artist Hannah Perry’s Have a Nice Day. A two-month collaborative process, culminating in a performance at the Barbican on Saturday, July 13, HAND is a multigenerational project featuring a select group of creative practitioners and roughly fifteen South London teens. Along with youth-oriented multimedia workshop Click-Click Pose!, the venture functions within a complex network of intersecting disciplines and platforms, resulting in a live performance, a film and a curated takeover of commissioning body Create London’s website by bubblebyte –their specialty.
Featuring dance and movement, film and video, sound and music, while crossing into the online realm with bubblebyte’s SUCCESSONE ‘integrated soundboard’, the event will no doubt be a dynamic one. “There are still lots of things that, suddenly, when you change setting and you change space, are different,” Franchini says in a strong Italian accent, five years in London doing little to soften the strong melodic lilt and anomalously voweled word-endings of an Adriatic upbringing, “and you need to really adapt everything but this velocity-in-the-making is a beautiful feature of it”. Always open to the unexpected and thrilled by what she calls the “lightness” of the web, hers is a sentiment of playfulness and proactivity in a context of perpetual flux.
Young voices are obviously important for art to progress and it seems like bubblebyte.org, and other projects working within a similar schematic, function on a consciously naïve approach.
Attilia Franchini Fattori: Totally. I find that approach interesting because there’s less structure. I’m very open to what you don’t expect. I think too much expectation, generally in art but, as well, in life is wrong because you stop looking at surprises. You stop looking at what comes to you, understanding what comes to you and your surroundings. If you just have a prefix set of expectations, sometimes it cuts out new developments, in a sense. I think that, this project particularly, has been a challenge, from every point of view, because none of the people involved have ever worked in this capacity. That was highly difficult because, where there are 10 or 15 people involved, it’s not that easy. But on the other side, it’s been extraordinarily rewarding and everyone has improved their life skills, artistic skills and just collaborating with excellent musicians. It’s still very exciting and not often you get that capacity of collaborating with people. You need to sometimes be forced in a situation.
Do you think that’s what attracts you to the online side of your work with bubblebyte, because when you don’t fully understand the technology, interesting things can happen?
AFF: Clearly the Internet is a very playful place already. More, if you want to do art and you want to organise art exhibitions. When you have the possibility of working online, you have the lightness of not having a physical space and the lightness of not having a gallery context; and not dealing with the art system itself, not dealing with the market, not dealing with collector, not dealing with framing, additions etcetera, etcetera. The lightness it definitely a very good drive towards creativity and, actually, we always felt that bubblebyte was very serious, but very playful on the same level and we did want it because of that.
We do it because we love it. We don’t do it because we’re making a living out of it. We just want to do things that interest us and, thank god, we’re playful; we’re not just very academic, very serious and Deleuzian and that’s quite important. Sometimes there’s too much seriousness. Not that there are not very serious issues to talk about, but you can also approach things differently and sometimes you discover different points of view.
I’m not a web designer and I don’t know anything about web design, so I would say that, for me, that playfulness comes, as well, from the fact that I don’t understand that technology from deep inside, from a ‘making’ point of view. But I understand it very well as a strength of possibilities. I enjoy using it very much and I enjoy people that engage with it. I guess, in the history of art, everyone has been relating to their peers, wanting to engage with their peers, and it happens that our peers use the Internet a lot [laughs]. That is, from their rooms because they’ve got less space to produce, less space to exhibit, less money to make it happen. So the Internet becomes a necessity, on top of the possibility.
A reason why I’m interested online art is because so much of it is really aesthetically pleasing, while still being political. Somewhere at the turn of the millennium, it felt like art became ugly, and so abstracted that it was almost pointless. Now it seems like there’s an actual dynamic to it.
AFF: I totally agree with that. For a while, political art has been very post-colonial, in the sense that it was mainly reflecting outside of Western cultural situations, highlighting political events, or unhappiness, in places more far away. But now, it is really looking at Western culture with a really critical eye, being political, much more than just addressing the political. I find the usage of tools, and the so-called ‘meta-materialism’, very beautiful. This clinical and technologically driven aesthetic, as well as the choice of presentation, is very aware and very thoughtful.
That’s something that emerges a lot when you translate the Internet to the gallery system, and vice versa. There’s still a sort of duality and, even if this duality has been reducing itself over and over again. For the work of some artists that are producing work for the Internet and then suddenly being called to be inside the gallery system, how they translate to the gallery system has always been very problematic because something that exists on the Internet still has a certain context that is different from the gallery context.
Putting a gif on a monitor doesn’t look like a gif on the Internet. The gif has its own life and its own movement, and its point is sharing and being used by other users. So, objectifying this type of work is problematic and there are artists that are incorporating this problematic side very bravely into their work. They’re translating it so it’s not something for the Internet, it’s for the gallery and there’s something in between that is the work.
You mentioned before that the integration of randomness into a fine art, or gallery context appears to be a response to those conventions of linear streams introduced by contemporary social networks, like Facebook and Twitter.
AFF: I’m someone that has been always working with young emerging artists because I find that’s when you can have a discourse, you can have an exchange and you can talk about things that are not settled yet. It’s a communal development and communal journey. Whereas, when you look at linearity and retrospective, and when you approach things on a linear level, it’s a totally different curatorial act. It’s something that looks at narrative or an historical perception but it’s also understanding history as a linear flux.
I find it quite problematic because still, as Foucault was saying, there’s a lot of history and it’s just a question of who is writing these histories, which way it’s being presented. Because history is never a cause-and-effect type of reality. It’s much more a series of [laughs] rhizomatic elements.
It also seems to me that, in the face of a growing consumer culture focussed on selling individuality, artists are seeking a deceptively homogenous aesthetic in response. Do you think there’s something reactionary about that?
AFF: It’s very ‘Internet-looking’ from my personal point of view and I think that contemporary artists, not all of them but a lot, are incorporating the internet into their thinking about the world but slowly, slowly. It’s impossible to not look at it. I know that they’re still informed about the Internet.
Even the most classical fine artist will, now and then, invite people to their exhibition. You still use your Facebook and your email account. It’s a slow process but, more and more, there’s less division between practices. It’s like when, in the 60s, the first portable video camera was produced by Sony and was used by someone like Nam June Paik. Suddenly, all New York was making film and a lot of that aesthetic got incorporated into totally different practices that were not video. I think modes of production influence each other a lot, even if the material use and the reflection you’re doing is totally different. There’s still this exchange and the Internet is driving a lot of this change and exchange.
I suppose that’s what you’re doing with Have a Nice Day, in terms of exploring all these different modes of production.
AFF: Yeah. It’s also looking at how you form and inform an artwork; including other people, sharing your skills and knowing that you’re good at something and someone else is good at something else. Using two people sometimes is better than just doing it by yourself. I find it, as well, it has been surprising in that sense that lot of people were not aware that they were good at music, the participants in particular, or being good at performance or dancing or video-making, they thought they wanted to be photographers.
At the beginning they were saying, ‘no we don’t want to perform. We don’t want to be on stage,’ but by the time of the public rehearsal, they were in the middle of the stage, looking at the camera and making their moves. That’s quite beautiful. Sometimes just getting involved in things gives you courage and maybe that can expose you to different interests. At that age, in particular, which is what Hannah looks at, it can even maybe change what you want to do.
Having worked with these kids, probably born and raised on the Internet, do you think they have the same awareness about it as you do?
AFF: I think, for them, it’s still another tool and they don’t think about it too much. They’re not internet obsessed, they don’t all have an email and a few of them use Twitter much more than they use Facebook but it’s a totally different criticality towards it. I’m really curious to see, in 10 years, or maybe 15, which is unfortunately our age, what type of criticality they will have towards the world.
This discourse that we’re having now is a very niche discourse. Not many people, unfortunately, are that critical, or not that many people are that aware of the power of this tool and how to relate it on an economic and political level, how it can be very powerful. I’m curious to see what’s going to happen in 10 years, when these pure digital natives will be producing works and will be, most probably, confronting themselves with the gallery system and the art system. I really want to see that process and how it’s going to change.
For some, there is this apprehension of that lack of criticality toward the Internet and its potential as a mode of manipulation. If that generation isn’t thinking about that, it could have dangerous consequences.
AFF: But, at the same time, when I think about who I was when I was 15, clearly, criticality is something that came through knowledge, though experience and through understanding the world and it didn’t come before age 25, 26. I wasn’t that switched on [laughs]. **