artist as an expert exhibition started as a part of make world festival at lothringer13
on october 19 2001 and became very successful due to the brilliant artists featured
» expertbase record

Artists are experts. Who could have thought they were just kissed by a muse. Some artists are experts by aestheticizing special knowledge sets and using more or less advanced techniques and technologies. Some are experts in communications; engineers of human souls. Some are experts in constructing or deconstructing institutions. Some become experts just because there are no other experts around.

For sure, there are as many different ways of becoming an expert as an artist, but the interesting question is: how to challenge the commonplace and trivial definitions of expertism.

Being an expert means: to be confident there is always an easier way to do it, that there is always a more direct confrontation with reality which might yield an interesting spin-off, that there is always the possibility of an incalculable effect, which might turn everything upside down. An expert is a person, who has collected a certain amount of experience in a certain field. To experience means to go through changes.

Questions by Dragan Espenschied
Photo by Armin Smailovic

CA -- Cory Arcangel
PBD -- Paul B Davis
JPB -- Joseph P Beuckman
JB -- Joseph Bonn (who could not attend as he was surfing)

» What are "fat bits" and "post data"?
PBD:  "Fat Bits" is a metaphor for escaping the restrictions which consumer software places on our interactions with computers. We call the bits that we poke "fat" to describe their expansion beyond the intentions of Adobe and Macromedia and Microsoft and Avid and Apple and etc.  
CA:  Technically fat bits is the term used to describe the grid mode on a few old paint applications available on the Apple/Mac line of computers ... we use it to describe one of our Nintendo Projects. I like the term because it reminds me of the days when I used to stay up late and make animations on my apple computer. Paul might say something different to this question though...  
Post-Data [coined by Joseph Bonn] is the name for our philosophy also described in our Make-World bio as "intentional computing".  
"Intentional Computing" is the process of making work which is aware of this relationship, and work in which the artist demonstrates a complete understanding of the machine he/she is composing on [from the CHIP to the display]. We like to use obsolete computers and file formats because we feel since they offer limited options we can more easliy understand the effects they have on the output. On modern computers this understanding is harder to achieve, and even more difficult to obtain when one uses some consumer software ...  
JPB:  We're interested at the hardware level - before corporations write their proprietary "anything goes" interfaces. Computers have personalities, shapes and architectures like a canvas that influence what we make. We don't want to build a flat white surface over that and ignore the features of the machine.  
» You are well known for making jokes about people like Markus Popp (this years' winner of Ars Electronica in Electronic Music) for the tools he uses. What is the background of this and what is important about choice of tools concerning digital media?  
PBD:  When you are using a computer, I think the question of tools folds back in on itself in a few ways ... First as if you're using a mold or some sort of custom fabrication machine - it creates tools. But secondly, the division between the influence you exert on the computer and the influence it exerts on you can, with the use of many Microsoft products for example, become difficult to determine. When we put together one of our beloved Powerpoint presentations using its Auto-Content Wizard, who's the tool? The computer, or us, as we mind-numbingly bend to the whims of corporate design? Another huge danger is something like Flash where the tool and the delivery system are one and the same, and it's being promoted even by the art community as a standard and is taught in art schools. This coming from a company (Macromedia) who's founder Marc Canter once said: "Artists do not use computer languages if they can help it." Dragan I believe you would use your term "Analog-popper" to that.  
I think that "Made with Macromedia" gives Macromedia credit on a conceptual level to anything made with their software. And even people who make things with MAX and MSP and brag about how you can write your own objects in C ... what's the point of that? If I'm going to bother writing something in C, I want it to do something cool - not be stuck in some slow, bloated programming environment on a Macintosh that can send midi notes to other applications.  
Our position is that, because we program everything ourselves, the tool we truly use is the computer - it's not the software. And likewise our medium is also not software, it's the computer.  
What's happened with Mr. Popp is that, as far as i know, he cannot program a computer. So his "tools" are the programmers he hires. And, at least with ovalprocess or whatever it is, their "tools" aren't actually programming languages, but Director(tm). This is bad. What it means is that for all his high-falutin' notions of digital aesthetics and computer music, it's hard for me to believe that Mr. Popp knows anything about his chosen medium. His creative interface with computers is purely secondhand, and even then through the most evil of corporate softwares. The significance here is immense because he is so widely accepted as a foremost thinker in the field of computer fine arts. And as a sort of unwitting Executive Producer, I think Mr. Popp has possibly set an exciting trend for years to come in terms of career options for unskilled digital artists. It just proves once again that if you don't understand the bits, people will fool you all day.  
JPB:  Factory patches, plugins, templates, incompatibilities, needless complexity, general standardification, all these things are bad. Confronting the data where it lives opens the possibility of community with the data. Hiding behind high-level scripting languages does not promote meaningful relationships with the bits.  
The worst are operating systems and software that provide their naive users false and meaningless descriptions of the power available in their computers. 
Companies assume that people don't want to learn about their machines and indeed they don't want people to know about their machines. Companies are trying to sell *their* interface ideas which mostly have nothing to do with how the computer works.  
» But in what way are you opposed to standardization? Isn't it great that i am at least supposed to be able to print my MS Office documents on any computer in the world?  
PBD:  Certainly data is defined by prior intention ... what some people might call a "format", or maybe even a language to some extent. Without this everything is garbledygook, like when you open up a Word98 document in Word95 and there's crap all over the screen. I don't think anyone cares about people just wanting to use a computer for word processing, even with the difference between Microsoft Word and the ASCII standard. Where it gets us is when these same tactics of writing crap software and then forcing it on everyone are used, is when they are applied to creative activities.  
Photoshop, Flash, Director, even java - which i never understood why there was a need for it, wasn't ANSI C supposed to be cross platform? - it just compromises the essence of what an artist does. No one is going to agree that standardization is good in the context of art - a field that applauds original thinking. And most of this software barely let's one think at all. If someone wants to have their activities on a computer standardized, then fine.  
But if they want to break from it, it should not be such a huge mess. I'm ok with acknowledging the division between creative and non-creative computer activities in this way, because it doesn't interfere with usage potential - it keeps the bits fat.  
» Is there any political implication to your use of technology? I remember the video where Cory shows how to circumvent the restrictions of a software by changing its machine code, "cracking" it, having the needed MC68000 codes written on his arm. It appeared like an agitation.  
CA:  By having 68000 codes on my arm I was simply pointing out the idea that as a computer artist I should have a complete understanding of every work I make down to the actual machine code. Nothing political.  
This is the goal ...  
PBD:  I don't think cory had any political leanings with assembly langauge on his arm, and we don't have any sort of agenda or goals for ourselves, but I would say (and this might differ from everyone else) that there are political implications of our work. We are inherently supportive of open-source software, and not supportive of companies who monopolize the art world with tools that don't allow the creation of unmitigated art. Digital distribution is a concern, and I at least am very skeptical of copyright covering both art and software. Also government attempts to regulate internet traffic are very worrisome.  
In the USA right now there are some possibilities that what I consider normal use of computers (cracking software) will be prosecuted as terrorist activities. This in particular is rediculous, as cracking is already illegal in terms of copyright. But why? You paid for the computer, those bits are yours. If some company produces a piece of software that is degrading the experience you are having with your machine, you need to be able to change it. You can change a bunch of bits that might erase an entire program, but yet you can't change one bit so an icon is modified or a password is removed?  
Anyway, i would hope that some of our work would create an awareness that many of society's ideas about computers aren't grounded in the truths of the machines or our interactions with them, but of corporate and government/media attempts to codify, regulate, and profit from most people's inability to use them for what they were designed for.  
» How did your style of working evolve?  
PBD:  Lots of really bad cocaine, i think.  
CA:  I think a few years ago we simply applied all the ideas we learned studying classical instruments to making work on computers. Paul was trained as a classical pianist, I a classical guitarist, Darius also I believe rocks a piano [he plays organ at hockey games too!], and Dwayne (Joe Bonn) plays madd bass and guitar.  
The idea behind a classical training is that one must obtain a relative mastery over the instrument before even attempting to interpert any composition. For example I had to play only studies and exercises 6 hours a day for 2 years before one professor would allow me to play any work. So somewhere around 1997 as everyone started fooling on computers [with no regard to even attempting to understand the tools they were using] we came to the conclusion that one should obtain a relative mastery over their software/hardware. [I had been rocking hypercard/director and things since early versions so I was lucky to make all the same mistakes people are making now when I was 12...]  
We started using fixed architecture machines, computers which are no longer being developed, at this time because it is impossible to keep up with commercial software and hardware. Imagine trying to play Bach on the piano if they switched keys around every few years ... and charged you for it! Plus the limited capabilities of these computers allows us to understand every aspect of the machine. Thus we can [pardon the phrase] become "experts".  
Oh yah, and they are about 15$ and can often be found in the trash. [even more than "net art" this can be thought of as art anyone can do...]  
» Aren't you often accused of being retro or limiting your artistic options?  
JPB:  People assume we are involved in kitchy promotion - trying to remind 20-30 somethings of when they were 5-12. They generally giggle when they ask us about it.  
CA:  No one calls Slash [from Guns'n'Roses] retro when he uses a 1960's Gibson guitar, or Orbital when they use an 808 and these machines are actually older than the machines we use ... hmmmmm ... you figure it out. But generally we have had very good response from art critics once they listen to our styles and see that we have good reasons for using these machines and are not just blindly cashing in on a fad. [Once they see our love for the sauce!]  
» What role does letterpress, hapsichord and vinyl records play in your work?  
JPB:  They are our interests.  
PBD:  For a specific example, I took my starting point as ASCII art and applied its aesthetics to letterpress printing and came up with what i call "ornamental portraiture" ... using type ornaments to model grayscale pixels. I see this as different to how aesthetics from other media, namely print and TV, are just stuck on the computer and called an "interface" in that I was trying to do the reverse.  
With the letterpress I was trying to legitimize computer aesthetics by applying them to a very traditional printmaking practice seeing that after thirty years of computer art it's still not widely accepted.  
With all things we do there is the same appreciation for the various media and desire to have total control over our art.  
CA:  Harpsichord: frills
Letterpress and vinyl records: paying the bills
Computers: skills  
And due to our intense dislike of "mainstream" computer art we are always looking for ways to bring our ideas out of the box and into people's homes, thus records, letterpress, silkscreens, game carts, ... and maybe even in the future childrens books.  
» You think that computers coming to the mainstream and more people using them will change people's view on data?  
CA:  Data is no longer respected. Data is tossed, turned, and twisted by people who have access to it only through third party Graphical User Interfaces [like Flash]. This keeps me awake at night.  
JPB:  I don't think data is that popular or more than 7% of people even know it exists. I think what people are "excited" about are USB multimedia-enabled cell-phones that do "e-commerce".  
» What is your relation to Computer Science?  
CA:  I took a few computer science classes but did poorly. Once I forgot about the exam, went to it 20 minutes late, and then had to ask all the people around me for a pencil and paper cause I did not bring any. I think I got like a 40%. I did not get a CS degree because I have no interest in learning how to write 16bit loops in 6502 assembly, or learning how to sort efficiently through arrays unless it is to paint a pretty picture on a processor/system I found in the trash.  
JPB:  I studied computer science at Southern Illinois University @ Edwardsville. My project was a system of genetic algorithms that produced short themes. Neural networks were to learn how to grade the themes for "fitness" or "phatness." It was written in Microsoft Visual C++ using Microsoft Foundation Classes and never worked.  
I ran out of time. About a third of my time was spent writing the program and two thirds reading about why Microsoft feature A didn't work with Microsoft feature B. I should have written the program in pure C++ under Linux. I used FreeBSD machines to plot the neural network error surfaces and that was the smoothes/most enjoyable part of the project. Window makes me depressed when I use it.  
PBD:  If I were studying computer science I would have to learn horrible things like ASP, databases and silly Microsoft API's ... these things make you feel bad when you use them.  
Like my dear friend Dragan Espenschied who, whether he knows it or not, has his soul slowly eaten away when he programs shit javascript for money because that's what companies pay for. He is a stronger man than I, I could never do it, and this is what computer science is these days at university's and I have no interest in it.  
I think studying the computer within the context of making art or music is much better right now, and I should say that I hope to go back to school at some point and do this because there are so many facets of it I wish I was better at.