BridA/Tom Kerševan, Sendi Mango, Jurij Pavlica is a collective made up of graduates from the Venice Academy of Fine Arts, formed in 1996 during their university years. The group that produces artwork across a wide spectrum of contemporary artistic practices exhibits both locally and internationally, and has participated in numerous international residency programs, workshops and seminars. BridA's works have been purchased for a score of international contemporary art collections. In 2015 they received the highest award of the Municipality of Nova Gorica, the France Bevk Prize, commemorating 20 years of their successful activity; in 2018 they received the international Tesla Award. They are recipients of the Iaspis scholarship awarded by the Swedish Ministry of Culture, and Culture Bridges, awarded by the British Council under the EU.
Change the Colour!
The exhibition of the BridA art collective (Sendi Mango, Jurij Pavlica, Tom Kerševan) represents a selected overview of their work that has been followed closely in MGLC ever since 2007. Their first appearance in MGLC was in 2008, when they participated at the exhibition A Third Look – The multiplicity of graphic art today with a series of computer graphics entitled Printed Circuit Boards (PCB). A year later they participated at the 28th Biennial of Graphic Arts with the project Trackeds 1.0 - Como and in 2010 they displayed their series of paintings Modux Datascapes: Ljubljana 2010 at the exhibition We want to be free as the fathers were. The collective was formed in 1996 at the Academy of Fine Arts in Venice, when the members with a traditional education in painting and graphic prints started to cooperate and jointly think about the creative processes and roles in art. The members of the collective use their projects to treat and emphasise the role of the individual within the collective. They research the meaning of collective creativity and authorship, the role of the artist in society and the importance of the creative processes. They pay special attention to the research of graphic prints and painting, which have in their more recent projects outgrown the traditional frames of the two media and adopted the social function of art which discusses the role of the artistic creativity processes. Through their interactive projects they have also managed to actively include the public and bring them closer to the understanding of the authorship problem as well as provide them with an insight into the use of contemporary technology and scientific achievements in art. This exhibition is especially important because it is nowadays almost impossible to see a solo presentation or a 'historic' overview of the work by a single author or group that would be closely linked to the development of contemporary technology and the developments in science and that tries to actualise the process as an artistic operation. These artists tend to present themselves exclusively through projects and never show their development over a longer period of time. It is therefore a question whether this is in reality a planned merger of science, technology and art or merely a fascination with the developing technology and scientific achievements. We can find the answer in some of their projects that appear completely different at first glance, however a closer look shows that they have interesting connections and a common thought process behind the conception of a work of art that is easiest understood if we step into it and experience it ourselves. In 2007 they recorded a CD (Do It Yourself) which consisted of voice instructions that guided the listener through the process of creating a painting. This interesting project that was originally conceived already in 2003 makes us think about the concept of creating, painting, drawing, i.e. artistic creativity, while following simple instructions. Regardless of the fact that we are given instructions as to how to paint, the emerging painting overcomes and thrills us. We can see the painting emerging, how we are literary printing it line by line. In the skilfully conceived project the sound instructions can be understood as an illustration of computer software, to which we respond as an image producing machine. The process of recording or painting the thirty one lines lasts approximately one hour and is always a result of a randomly selected order (in the event that we wish to paint a number of paintings, of course). There are endless combinations of lines thus making it almost impossible for a painting to be repeated (even though it is theoretically possible). Such a mathematical (totally rationally conceived) painting is comparable to the series Modux Datascape, in which the paintings were created on the basis of calculating the collected data and then letting it down to the computer to generate objects and decide upon the number of layers that create the paintings. Approximately halfway through the process we encounter a conflict in the instructions as we realise that the drawing process can be simplified, the form can be changed as can the colours be defined at the beginning. The automatisation of the painting process that has been with us from the very beginning is transformed into contemplation and a search for patterns. We discover sequences, logical continuations and we are disappointed if the instructions do not opt for the colour that we had foreseen in our mind and with which we would like to continue. However, if we radically and emotionally intervene in the process, we cannot bring it to an end and finish off the painting, thus we memorise all of our creative solutions, so that they can be used the next time we paint by instructions. The DIY project is important if we want to get acquainted with the works of the BridA collective, for the experience of painting by instructions brings us closer to the ideas behind the collective and their projects. With the use of mechanical instructions they reduced the painting process into a description of the painting and brought the end product closer to the text, thus creating an analogy between the painting and the text. In this phase the artist was removed from the equation and the making of the painting was left to whoever decided to follow the instructions. It is permitted, maybe even desired, to add personal interpretation of the instructions, for this would represent a new personal and creative experience. The comparison of the numerous works that have been created with the use of these instructions could reveal the different ways in which we understand a painting, how it can be made, how long is it possible to follow instructions in a robot like manner, how long do we believe these instructions and when do we start to doubt them and start thinking about what we are doing and why. The research into the way information is passed on and the effect this has represents the core of the project that is repeated in various ways in their subsequent projects: Modux, Informational accelerator, Trackeds, etc., especially when they are interested in the treatment of the information itself, the manner of its preservation and passing on and finally also in the effect this has on the viewer. How can we use the above described experiences to make sense of their video Lunch Break, which seems to be an error within the system? When performing the DIY project there comes a moment during which our concentration falls, when our attention to the extremely mechanical and rigid recording process escapes somewhere else, i.e., when our thoughts are not one hundred percent at our work, but we are merely following the instructions – we follow the conveyor belt, and this is when the mistakes can happen. During creative discussions and while conceiving art works we are certain to encounter the problem as to how to continue, how to develop the idea and improve it or make sense of it. When this happens we opt to search for additional knowledge, perform additional research, planning, etc. Or, we simply take a break so that we take our mind off what we are doing, and then rethink the situation with a clear mind. A similar idea can be found behind the video Lunch Break, which depicts spontaneous research into the technical and formal possibilities of filming and editing. If we take a closer look at the video that depicts the members of the group preparing for a lunch break we notice that it consists of two parts. The first part is similar to the DIY project in the sense that it is made from a static record, this time a video record that researches time and space in a way through which a number of temporally postponed records leave us in uncertainty as to what was recorded before and what later, what is in the foreground and what in the background. In the first part of the video the authors research the temporal and spatial dimensions, however in the second part this was built upon, for it is clear from the video that they started realising the possibility offered by such a recording. The members of the collective intervened into the recording with humour, for they started to perform unexpected actions – first they are sitting at the table enjoying their food, and then they sit on other people's chairs, even though people are still sitting on them, at times all three of them sitting on a single chair and this turns the video into a sequence of unexpected actions – variables. The video can thus be linked to the DIY project as it has a controlled beginning followed by a less controlled and spontaneous action (similar to when we are painting following the sound instructions and various creative ideas that might improve or change the system creep into our thoughts). The video can also be linked to the series Modux and the paintings from the series Datascapes with which it shares the covering and modelling of space on the basis of variables, while the manipulation with information and the formal effect this has are completely comparable – the layering of surfaces is the formal starting point that becomes the conceptual base for the paintings. It would be wrong to conclude that Lunch Break was a side product of one of their larger projects, on the contrary – it is one of their major video works that helps us understand their projects in their beginnings, their conceptualisation and the research of ideas. In comparison with other works we could also set the thesis that the video emerged on the basis of the Informational accelerator – another project it can be linked with. Even though the Informational accelerator is more a formal depiction of the travels of information and its role in today's society, it could also be understood as a futuristic tool for creating video works – especially the aforementioned Lunch Break. The video Layers, which through the layering of the picture and by merging various spatial and temporal video records researches the concept of space and time can also be placed into this segment. The videos Lunch Break and Layers can be linked to the series Trackeds and thus also with the project that followed. The components of reality and computer generated information that builds upon this reality and makes sense of it, are researched in the work Les Mouches from 2009, in which they merged real slices of Karst prosciutto and a recording of flies flying around them. The effect of this fusion is that we can no longer recognise whether we are dealing with real or computer generated images. The play of passing on information as regards to what we are watching is so efficient and seductive that we find it easy to accept it. A similar situation was merged in the series Trackeds (HD photography and a computer generated drawing on its surface). It is only when we closely observe the playful and entertaining installation with the prosciutto and flies that we can see its real and virtual components that are merged in order to test our observation skills. At the end we have to mention another video work in the opus of the BridA collective. This was created in 2009 in cooperation with Oppy De Bernardo. It is a simple form of a video record of a tractor driver who is followed by two individuals carrying bags in their hands that combines numerous solutions that were the subjects of their previous projects. The scene runs horizontally, with the tractor driver always in the centre. We can see the various layers of the moving horizon: the foreground passes by quickly, while the tractor driver in the centre remains virtually still. While observing the horizon in the background, the corn field and the hills, we can notice additional layers that are moving proportionally slower due to their distance from the camera. They use the type of shot that can often be seen in animated films or in home movies filmed from a train or a car. Due to its poetic and formal characteristics the video steps out from their opus, but still falls in line with their research of space and time as well as their research into the various forms of recording such information. This exhibition of the BridA collective is not the usual overview of artwork, but depicts the development of technology and its levels that influenced the art and the individual projects created by the BridA collective. The exhibition is a depiction of the demystification of contemporary technology, interweaving of science, art and other processes linked to the production of art in the contemporary world. From one project to another they gradually reveal that the environment in which we live is not merely biologically determined, but is composed of various spatial and temporal views, stories from the recent and distant past, personal experience, fantasies and other informational reality that we reveal and analyse through layers.
Is Brida Male Or Female? Interview with Sendi Mango, Jurij Pavlica And Tom Kerševan
When I was invited to contribute to this catalogue, the idea was to write a text. I first met BridA in Linz in 2008. Since then, I've met them often, I've seen many of their works in person, I've spent some nice time with them, and I've included them in a couple of shows. In a way, I can say that I know them quite well and that I definitely have something to say about their work. As the methodical worker that I am, I started collecting texts and information about them and I read everything. Suddenly, I realized that I didn't know that much about them, and that the material I had collected was not that useful. Or, to tell it in Sendi's words: » YOU CAN'T KNOW US, IF YOU DIDN'T LIVE WITH US FOR A WHILE. FOR EXAMPLE, DO YOU KNOW THAT I'M A HISTORY FAN, SPECIALIZED FOR THE SECOND WORLD WAR? THAT JURIJ ADORES THE DRAWINGS OF TURNER, CÉZANNE AND MICHELANGELO? AND THAT TOM LOVES JUNK FOOD AND PACMAN? « I needed to hear their voice. I couldn't live with them for a while, but I could ask them for an interview. And I did. Personally, I think that interviewing a collective is much more interesting than interviewing an individual artist. The latter is usually a boring person that doesn't recognize that her work is as much the result of a relationship as it is the output of her big, fat ego. A collective is a peculiar individuality grounded in a relationship that can vary a lot from case to case. Sometimes there is a leader, other times a spokesman, sometimes a bunch of individuals that, though working all together, can't resist expressing their own thoughts individually. Sometimes they say "I", sometimes they say "we". Sometimes they choose a collective name, others simply string together their individual names. Sometimes the collective identity even uses sexual connotation. Is BridA male or female? Maybe, this should have been my first question. But I didn't ask it, so it's up to me to reply. For me, BridA is definitely female. Not just because her name ends with "A" (the usual ending of a female name in the Italian language), or because it's Sendi that usually replies to my emails to the group address; but because she (BridA) has a female approach to the issue of identity. Her collective identity is not fixed and self affirmative, but liquid and mutant. Sometimes she acts as a traditional artists' collective, other times as an institution; she usually makes art, but she doesn't refuse to act as a curator, or to take part in more complex projects where her role is less defined. No surprise, the interview is focused on her identity, but also addresses another issue that I find pretty interesting: her use of cutting-edge technologies to raise traditional questions of representation, usually connected with painting. That's enough – let's listen to BridA's voice now.
DQ: You are all from Nova Gorica and you all studied at the Art Academy in Venice. When did you meet for the first time?
BridA: We first met while studying at the Academy of Fine Arts in Venice, somewhere between 1995–1996. While working at the Academy and socialising in the studios and in our free time, we had long discussions about the possible innovative approaches in visual art production. They were mainly discussions on being able to use scientific analyses and new technologies in the process of creation and development of artwork. We were studying painting in the nineties, at a time when society was flooded by digital media and computer graphics. In our discussions, and with our exchange of ideas and viewpoints, we decided to participate in various projects in the field of computer graphics, design and digital photography. A kind of spontaneous collective action began to develop and we learnt how to bring together ideas and different skills. We well remember the conversation about how to write an algorithm in order to calculate the objective value of an artwork. It seems that it was precisely this conversation that marked the path of our long-term cooperation.
DQ: Did you finally develop the algorithm? It would have definitely been useful to art galleries and auction houses! It's interesting how in the beginning you joined a conceptual legacy (do you know this piece by John Baldessari, Tips for an artist who wants to sell, 1966 – 1968) with the irony against socialist rules and values shared by many artists working in post-socialist countries. An approach still present in your recent work, such as DIY (2005). Can you expand on this?
BridA: We've not forgotten about the algorithm. But it's also true that we never developed it into a rule as dictated by John Baldessari. The Modux project also began as a kind of algorithm, which was in its duration and repetitions supposed to produce a sufficient amount of comparable graphic patterns and forms for us to begin to manipulate and directly link them to concepts. Like for example the artificial language, Esperanto. Later, the algorithm in our projects has an important role, particularly as the controller of the process in the project, although it is never the only guiding principle for attaining results. It seems to be most comprehensive in the DIY project, where an analytical and systematic process leads the viewer to an unexpected and paradoxical role in the artistic process. The observer becomes the producer and consequently also grasps the process of creation of the artwork, he no longer asks himself about the value of the final product, his attention is focused on the audio instructions that are narrating the process of production of the image. The DIY project achieves its goal by forcing the audience to participate and actively produce images, while simultaneously exchanging the role of the artist and the observer. This project, despite its extremely simple and synthetic form, conceals almost everything that defines our utmost thought and investigative motivation in the creation process and the relationship of the audience towards the artwork. In many public performance actions, in which the audience actively participated in the execution, we realised that by completely moving away from the process of producing the image, we opened up new possibilities of perceiving the artwork. It was interesting when we played the audio instructions in Hoxton Square in London and random passers-by, included business people, actively stepped into the process of image-making, even for just a moment.
DQ: Why and when did you decide to become an artists' collective? What is the meaning of "BridA"?
BridA: Establishing the group or collective action was not deliberate. It happened gradually through discussions and conversations, as well as cooperation in joint projects. We first used the name BridA for our project proposal in a public call for submissions for a poster for the 50th Anniversary of Nova Gorica in 1997. We didn't really go into the meaning of the name in any depth; Brida is the name of the village fountain in Šempas, which is right next to our studio. First, we intended to use the name only temporarily in the project proposal for the call for submissions. This is also when we wrote the name for the first time with a capital B and a capital A at the end, which was actually a misprint. So much about a mysterious compound of words hiding in the name of BridA. The meaning of the name BridA formed over the many years of working together. You could say that with time, the meaning of the name also changes.
DQ: Which meaning? I guess it has something to do with "hybrid"…
BridA: Today we look at this name differently of course. This is the name by which we have presented ourselves for many years and to which all our joint projects are tied. Actually, this is not a word that would mean something objective in the past, nor a concept which could have comparisons in contemporary times. It is more a designation which we have taken on, and is over time becoming a synonym for our work together and way of working. The meaning is not of an objective nature. We ourselves attribute a processual and experimental tendency within the art field to the name of BridA, but don't want to attach meaning to a particular condition or concept. It appears that we'll have to wait for a more objective description of BridA. And until then, "hybrid" cannot be ruled out either.
DQ: You were all trained as painters. Your career might have been easier if you kept on painting, even as a painters' collective. Why did you stop?
BridA: In fact, we've never stopped being painters, we began to analyze the process of artistic creation by using various systems and analytical methods to determine how to change something in the classical approach to artistic creation and thus expose the relationship of the painter artist towards his precious artwork. The aim was to break this hermetic system, this almost intimate relationship, which every artist so carefully hides for himself. It is precisely with this idea that our attitude to artistic creation changed radically and began to gain different forms and manifestations in comparison with the classical definition of painting.
DQ: What you are saying is that, even if you stopped painting in a classical fashion, painting still works as a framework for most of your works. This is actually what I felt when I first saw Modux at the Ars Electronica Festival in Linz. However, I have an objection to what you say. You want to demystify the work of a painter, but what you did with the Modux series and with Trackeds (2009–2010) carries the risk of introducing into the world of art another mystification – the magic of technology. I mean, one needs some technical knowledge to understand what you did there, and just a few people share that kind of knowledge today. Without it, the risk is to be stuck with flashing lights, processes and robotics, without really getting the piece. How do you deal with this?
BridA: The fact that the project was presented at Ars Electronica may have led to such an association in relation with other projects. We are convinced that only few understood that this was a project that was tied to the art product, which would bring about a different perception of the content by the viewer. We do not demand any prior knowledge from the observer, we position him in the reality that belongs to the project and not to a general perception of technology in relation to art. It could be argued that our projects deal with both, on the one hand, the demystification of the notion of painting, and on the other, the playing with established and standardized technological concepts. Part of the truth of today's day and age is that technology is becoming a kind of excuse for the process of understanding, like for example a calculator which replaces our own logic and already gained knowledge. Artists are also often accused of being fascinated by technology because of this. A part of the misunderstanding could also be attributed to the observer and his fascination with technology, which makes it impossible for him to detect the subtle nuances of art. A knowledge and command of technology enables a person to eliminate it and think about art more easily, while viewing, for instance, an art installation. There are probably at least two main aspects to the perception of the way we function. The first is that the works are merely a kind of work station in the duration of a given project and are therefore deliberately not finished as presentation objects. The Modux project is still in development. The second element is our focus on the process by giving the viewer access to the backstage of the project, which most are perhaps unprepared for.
DQ: When did you get interested in new technologies? When BridA was formed in 1996, they were just starting to have a greater impact on everyday life. Also, there was a long tradition of artists working with new technologies, but it had little visibility, especially, I guess, in the periphery where we all are from. So, what was your starting point?
BridA: We came to the Academy with different background knowledge and experience in the technical, IT and marketing areas. We put our knowledge together, sharing it with each other with joy, of course, we didn't invent anything new in the field of new technologies, we just made a step towards something that could dramatically change the process of artistic creation. We uncovered all the stages in the process of artistic creation, doing so by incorporating interactive audience participation, production of automated systems, robotic applications and programming. That path brought us many new experiences and knowledge about new media, high technology and science, but we never abandoned drawing and painting (e.g. Modux Datascapes, 2010). Often though, using or even recycling so-called new technologies enables us to conduct our investigations in painting more quickly, differently and even in a field in which this is not possible using a classical technique. Also, the start of our new projects is not spurred on by a technological impulse or a certain possibility within technology. The initial idea is always more complex and it often happens that it is unfeasible precisely because of the limitation of technological tools. Moreover, the use of new technologies is closely linked with knowledge and science, and it is therefore reasonable to include it only where we have clear ideas about what we can do and what its relationship is to the artistic value that we wish to highlight.
DQ: Most Eastern European artists getting involved with new technologies in the mid nineties were fatally attracted by the most glamorous, accessible and widespread of them all: the World Wide Web. On the contrary, you were never interested in using it as an art medium. Why?
BridA: This is true, we never used the Internet directly or for any of our art projects, if you're referring to the context of Net Art. Mainly because it was our interest to analyze – dissect the process of creating art with the intention of including the audience, regardless of the medium used. Even though we have used the Internet several times, but only for the transfer of information using a protocol (http, UTP, FTP), for various applications within the projects e.g.: the control system in the project Modux 3.0 (2007) and Trackeds Parliament in December 2010 in Galerija Kapelica. In this case we used Google Talk for instance to transfer data from various locations in real time. For the Dodai project (Galerija Škuc, 2008) we set up an interesting interactive Internet portal (Internet blog), intended for the communication between the artists and the audience. Last but not least, for the TimeForNano project we built a communications platform in conjunction with the YouTube networking video channel. It should be emphasized that a new medium or new technology have never been an impulse for the realization of a new project.
DQ: It is assumed that, when artists are working as a collective, they are refusing the classical notion of the artist as an individual genius, whose intimate and public life must be studied in order to understand the work. What is the relationship, if any, between your life and your work?
BridA: We have always believed that the modernist vision of the artist as an individual genius is the main problem of contemporary artists. We are pleased that we have happily survived this step back from the social role of the artist with mythical connotations. As a group that justifies its ideas and work, we are not a subject equal to the individual person. But we have, with our projects, discourse and the time spent together, developed a kind of inherent objectivity, which allows us to look at our work objectively, while to the outside, in the eyes of the public we function as a subject. We recognize the same model in the relationship towards our own lives, which need to be connected to the wider society and our families, but at the same time satisfy our artistic needs. In a dependence towards the person who is observing us, we can be the BridA group or just Tom, Sendi or Jurij. This is also why we're a group, which in the role of a small democracy, retains enough self-criticism to overcome any obstacles and builds fresh projects.
DQ: Artists' collectives are often either a couple or a group of friends. You are an exception, being a couple (Jurij Pavlica and Sendi Mango) plus a third member (Tom Kerševan) since the beginning. Does it work fine? On which kind of relational dynamics is your working process based?
BridA: We consider the long-standing cooperation of the group a remarkable achievement! It really is rare for a group of artists to create together for such a long time and at the same time manage to maintain good mutual relationships. It is precisely because of this that we like to define our work together as a phenomenon. When we're developing and pondering upon new ideas, we never have personal interests in mind. Ideas develop through the dynamics of a kind of collective thinking. Interestingly, when we're reviewing projects already carried out and when we're talking about them, we're succumbed by a fascination over the thought that this would have never been realized if we'd been working individually.
DQ: Well, being so interested in the process of artistic creation, it's no surprise that sometimes you put yourselves under control. In a way, it's what you've tried to do in your video Lunch Break (2008), which is still one of my favourites. The trick you used there – overlapping various layers in a single "event" – turns an everyday moment into something meaningful, where every gesture and every movement seem to respond to an inner logic, and to display a process. Why did you choose to focus on the lunch break?
BridA: Lunch Break includes preliminary experiments, when we were thinking about the multilayeredness of information in the Modux project, in which the various layers of the measured values are converted into graphic elements and overlap on the canvas. Actually, we performed our first experiment in this direction simultaneously with the DIY project, when we carried out a project somewhere on glass thus creating a multilayered view through the transparent glass surfaces. On that day, we also captured video and audio footage, changing them into overlapping dynamic graphic elements and recorded them on DVD like a video. Actually, this was pure experimentation. But Lunch Break is still a bit different because we made a decision not to edit any of the video material and attempted to build a new image in the duration of the original footage by overlapping unrelated layers of information (two layers of video, subtitles and audio). In fact, it was about a kind of transfer of an idea from other projects and experiments into video. In this sense video is more direct than a static image, while at the same time, due to the characteristics of the medium, the technology is safely hidden in the background. The process itself is concentrated on the two continuous performed scenes of the meeting and the lunch.
DQ: You recently launched an artists' residency at your own place in Šempas. This is quite unusual, both for the host – an artists' collective, instead of an institution – and the place – a small village in Slovenia. Do artists apply? Why? How does it work?
BridA The residency R.o.R in Šempas formed over time and very spontaneously we could say. Various people are always stopping in our old house and studio, who are either simply travelling past Šempas or coming for a visit. We slowly began to add content to this. So we can still say that we have constant visits, but included in these visits are also artists who come to us in order to also stay for longer. In such a way, for example, we hosted the English artist Sally Noall, who developed the Onlookers project during her residency, and presented ourselves in Galerija Alkatraz in Ljubljana. With Hans Diebner we developed a concept for the Data Collision exhibition, whereas Oppy De Bernardo focused more on getting to know the local community and developed the Dear Čezare project with us, which was later shown at Galerija Meduza in Koper. The idea of the residency is actually very simple. Due to the nature of our work and the experience that we have, accepting a temporary member or group is a sort of upgrade of the BridA collective. The residency, although labelled as such, is not comparable with the residencies offered by institutions, where artists normally step into a controlled environment through a programme. The scope of our idea is much broader, open and therefore also less feasible perhaps. Artists are supposed to come into our process like a kind of change, thereby changing it. In the same way we are supposed to show them our experience with working in a group as a change within their own projects. Of course such an approach is quite experimental in nature and allows for a series of improvisations. The point of such a residency is of course the exchange of experiences and the attempt to participate in the development of projects. When selecting artists, we go for those people with whom we've already shared some fleeting or more in-depth work experience. In contrast to other residencies, this is only a creative spending of time in a situation where the visitor is placed in the role of a "family member", since he is practically living with us. Whereas we place ourselves in the role of someone who accepts a longterm visitor. Sometimes the situations are quite delicate, since we both have to make quite an effort in order to fall into a certain synergy.
DQ: Your participation in Time for Nano, a project sponsored by the EU and focused on designing a communication strategy for research on nanotechnology, is quite interesting and raises a whole bunch of issues. Why did they choose artists, instead of designers or advertisers, in order to "promote an integrated, safe, responsible and socially acceptable approach for the development and use of nanosciences and nanotechnology"? How was your identity as a collective redefined by such a collaboration? Are you proud of the results?
BridA: The European Commission (EC) carries out similar projects constantly. Huge funds have been allocated to projects related to nanotechnology and this is one of the most important global projects for the EC. Similar projects are also underway in the United States and in Japan. What they have in common is that they want to bring nanotechnology closer to the people. It is about demystifying the concept and spreading the knowledge of what nanotechnology really means. Although science is far from having mastered the technology and does not know all the advantages and disadvantages, it plans and predicts that nanotechnology will be one of the essential mediums in the future of mankind. Informing people about its progress and knowledge in this field seems a logical introduction to this special era. Above all, the EC does not want a situation like the one that occurred in the past with genetically modified food, which was presented to the public literally without any notice directly in shops. Our role is merely to participate in one of the projects, TimeForNano, in which science addresses primarily young people. Interestingly, the EC has here for the first time consciously involved artists in a scientific project, with the thought that the creative and artistic approach can contribute to the opening of dilemmas about new technologies and promote a critical discussion with active involvement from the younger generation. Since this is a kind of subscription package, we had some concerns initially. The project is almost at the end and our feelings are quite interesting. As an artists' collective we are pleased especially given the rather spontaneous development and dimensions of the project, experience, knowledge acquired through countless experiments, creative work with young people and embarking on new work. We would not have experienced all this, had we not accepted the project. As the central medium of communication we selected video and animation, mainly due to a combination of the younger population, the potential of spreading it through social networks, the YouTube channel, and the process which is necessary for the making of an animation itself. In the animation, we consciously used the well-known "stop motion" process of production, which besides posing the creative question of how to convert the new knowledge of nanotechnology into stories and confessions, also forces participants to understand the process of creativity. The nonlinear moving of objects is thus consciously dictated by the product, which however, is not visible during the stage of the process. Like in a linear animation, the product can only be understood at the end, when the process is concluded. And in this moment a review of the undergone process is necessary, in which we find out what we have actually done. An additional element that utterly consolidates both the content and understanding of the process is YouTube, which allows for immediate reaction with its super-kinetic spreading of content and feedback. The online use of video sets a new foundation for the perception of the now almost old-fashioned medium, which is not only reflected in the speed of communication, but also in the form where embellishment or editing are no longer required in the transfer of information. From this perspective, we find this project particularly interesting since the end result of the TimeForNano project is a series of video projects made by young people from the various countries of Europe, through which they expressed their views on nanotechnology. One of the projects that is indirectly linked to TimeForNano is also Nanoplotter, which was presented at the last Triennial of Slovenian Contemporary Art in Moderna galerija. The interesting aspect of this project is that it translates the functioning of the Atomic Force Microscope with a plotter, which plots a comic strip by moving particles of cornmeal, blurring the image as it goes along with the vibration, which reflects the unpredictable physical properties of the nanoparticles.
The heterogeneous work of the art collective BridA is widely diversified throughout the various fields of contemporary art practice, thus we are often surprised when we discovered their works in the unmarked territory between art and science. In their work we can recognise a number of clear thematic sets and media approaches that are often independent one from another. For instance, some video works do not formally nor through their contents discuss the issues that the collective poses in the new media works in which they deal with the possibilities of contemporary painting, the importance of information as artistic matter or with the visualisation of the systems of control in the public sphere. The three members of the collective operate as a single genius who covers the entire spectrum of tasks that a contemporary artist 'has to' conduct if one wishes to enable one's own work. One has to work with a wide variety of media, from traditional to new media practices, successfully gain funds for the production of his work, establish social networks on the local and international level, etc.. In order to operate relatively independently and successfully the ideal contemporary artist would have to be one's own manager, archiver, theoretician and technologist. Members of the BridA collective (Tom Kerševan, Sendi Mango and Jurij Pavlica) have these distinctive qualities that are interwoven and blurred at the same time. In opposition to collectives that strive for a monolithic visual language, manifestative statements and programmes as well as for an ideologically coloured operation, the BridA collective does not censor the creative impulses of its members, but rather assimilates them and adds them to the works they have created so far, thus making their opus characteristically heterogeneous: from poetic video works to technological installations, from organising group exhibitions to formal painting research. This text will focus on the layer of their work that has been slightly inaccurately placed into the field of contemporary investigative practices due to the use of technological programme procedures. In these works the BridA collective is not primarily interested in the contents that emerge from the new media , nor from story-telling , but in the research of the formal possibilities of painting in the contemporary world, which is no longer possible without digital media or else it would belong to a different pre-information technology era. Their works Do it Yourself (DIY), Modux Datascape, Modux 1.0, Modux 3.0, Modux 3.4 and Trackeds 1.0 deal with the processes of automating painting and with removing individual authorship. The central theme of BridA's automatic painting will be opened by a series of painting impressions entitled Vedutas of Ljubljana (2004) that I present with a slight reservation as the series is a mimicry, for it does not at first glance reveal the central essence of the project that is hidden in their production techniques or in the final product. It was in this project that they started to consider the role of the painter in the contemporary society, who is still believed to be a creator or a genius amongst the plebeian public. However, in the information age the artist is no longer a creator but an organiser of visual data. In this statement we can hear the echo of constructivist statements and retrograde principles, the only difference being that the BridA collective does not understand its processes in such a declarative or performative way, but with much more humour, as characteristic for the subversive artistic statements throughout the last decade. The second lever that led the group to vedutas, was their thoughts as regards survival strategies. They ascertained that within the modest local art market impressionist paintings remain the best sold art product, simply because the public 'likes them'. With this loose criterion of likability the members of the collective stepped up to randomly selected passersby and asked them what sort of paintings do they like: red, gold, with a cloudy sky. The instructions for painting were taken into account at the photorealistic depiction of the Ljubljana town scenes that the public accepted with tremendous applause. They exhibited these paintings in renowned local and international exhibition spaces and unbelievably successfully fulfilled their criticism of the art market that was based on the decorative democratic taste. As regards the survival tactics the series resulted in an important byproduct for the collective as they became recognised in that segment of the general public that is poorly acquainted with contemporary art or investigative practices. As the essence of their work does not lie on the end product, they decided to focus on the transparency of the art process and the demystification of the alchemist process associated with painting. They asked themselves, how could one establish complex relations that would not be based merely on the literal reading of the visual message within a work of art, but reveal the structure of the systems that govern our organism, similar to the way software controls hardware. From the psychological aspect BridA has, with the participatory audio installation Do it yourself (2005), conceived an inversive automatic painting that is the exact opposite of what the surrealists were doing. The sound recording was conceived as a series of exceptionally rigorous instructions for creating a painting with four colours: red, black, light and dark grey on a surface of choice. The instructions were calculated with a mathematical formula that was translated into sound instructions without the artists ever seeing the original matrix. The creative process that was primarily in the domain of the painter was through this transferred to thepublico. The dictation ruled out the original expression of the painting subject, although BridA knew that mistakes will appear, for they are an unavoidable part of any system: painting, legal, monetary, computer or any other system for that matter. If the conscious action was a mistake in surrealist automatic painting, the subconscious action is a mistake in the painting produced by the automatic painting programmes of the BridA collective. As shown in the individual development phases of the Modux system the members of the collective gradually eliminated the role of the artist as the creator of the work of art and increasingly begun to work as constructors of systems for automatically generated paintings. The first development phase Modux Datascape (2005) originated in their affinity for formal art problems. This time they addressed the issue of realism in painting. How does one depict an environment or landscape and take into account as many of its variables as possible? In the past Bogoslav Kalaš dealt with a similar issue of realism when painting in the aerography technique and he found the answer in the additional transfer of the photograph onto the canvas. The widespread use of computer images has changed our view of the world. The basic technical procedure for representing reality is no longer a photograph, but the smallest particle of the digital visual information: a pixel. Perceiving the social environment as a network, something that has derived from the use of computer technologies, has also brought a redefinition of the relation between the artist and the object and the object and the environment, for these relations are no longer static nor hierarchical, but fluidly influence one another. In the project Modux Datascape BridA preserves the painting as a two-dimensional surface, however it no longer perceives the painting as oculus-centric, but as data-centric. The painting surface, on which a landscape is depicted, becomes a simulation of environmental data – measurements of humidity, noise, temperature that were gathered in selected locations. If people were included in the paintings they measured their blood pressure, body temperature, etc. They translated each measurement into a digital variable that was in turn translated by a computer programme into a data noise that defined the colour on the pantone scale - with the use of a special algorithm. The collective applied the layers of automatically selected colour to the canvas with the use of video projectors. The algorithm also defined the grid of the colour layers that was defined by square pixels and size. At this the question appears as to what is more real: the visual transformation of the location or the exact data as regards the conditions in a certain location. Even more important is the question, as to which paradigm are we more likely to believe and why. With the series Modux Datascape BridA created visible data landscapes that surround us every day as we look at the watch, monitor the level of nitrogen and solid particles in the air or when we trust our lives to the navigation system in an aeroplane. A decisive turning point in the work of the collective, a moment that tilted the slider in the direction of contemporary investigative practices and science, was their guest appearance at the Department for New Media at the University of Maine at the end of 2005. In the Modux Datascape system precise measurements obtained from scientific laboratories using instruments for the geological measurement of atmospheric changes in the ice cores in Antarctica were used for the very first time. At the time they were already considering that they need to activate the painting surface and its variables. The first step in this direction was the next version of the Modux 1.0 (2006) system, in which they once again activated the public and set the painting surface into motion. They obtained the basic data on police documents, unemployment, marriages, deaths, births and similar from the statistic office in Maribor. The data was shown to random passersby and they were asked to read out one of the pieces of information and define a colour square to accompany it. The collected colour values were applied to a wall painting, at which the video projector no longer played the role of a matrix for painting but became a moving video-variable that kept moving across the graphic surface. Modux 1.0 obtained its typical of the Modux form: a long format painting surface with a generated sound and visual image that responds to the measurements collected within a specific environment. During their residency at ZKM (Zentrum für Kunst und Mediatechnologie) in Karlsruhe they developed the Modux 3.0 system (2007) with the use of precise measurements and technologies, and this enabled them to create algorithms, precise data processing and generative automatisation of the painting process. In their work they included the measurements of gallery visitors who thus invaded the algorithm for the generated painting and the transfer of data from two geographic locations: the Ljubljana Modern Gallery and ZKM in Karlsruhe. The final painting also included a photographic base that was prepared in advance and that was recorded at the two locations. So far the most sophisticated version of the project is the system Modux 3.4 , which operates as an entirely autonomous object, even though it is also based on gathering environmental data. The system is composed of four photographs, all with a similar motif, but with a different view – ranging from microscopic to macroscopic: the microscopically enlarged image of a blood cell, a shot of a ciliate paramecium, a macro shot of an anthill and a photograph of the street hustle and bustle. A monitor slides along the painting surface, which is in this project built into a light object which dictates a generated change in the symbolically marked geographical points and retinas on the surface that translate the gathered data. The work is formally linked to the multimedia installation Trackeds 1.0 (2008) that registers the dynamic topographic structure of the town by monitoring systems and drawing curves that are reminiscent of the random structures created by Yon Friedman. In ideal circumstances the painting would generate itself, however this is not a totally autonomous process, as the visualisation of the work still depends on the decisions made by the collective. Whatever the case it can be said that it sufficiently breaks the hermetic structures of art production. The artists do not create a finished work of art, but a sort of semi-product that reacts to the environment. »Science is originally included in the Modux project as a real and comprehensible component that enables data manipulation and only serves as a tool for achieving sufficient dynamics for the production of an art act. However, when a process like this is being built, answers spring up to questions on verification, origins as well as pragmatism.« The scientific procedures have saved the BridA collective from the dictatorship of the individual's expression and gave their paintings an autonomy that is relatively independent from the physical states of the artists. In the same way as utopic ideas announce the dystopic future, the Modux system includes the criticism of the data-centric society.
Dr. Gerald Geilert
The group BridA / Tom Kersevan, Sendi Mango, Jurij Pavlica was established in 1996 while the three Slovenians were studying at the Accademia di Belle Arti in Venice. In this text, their latest project Trackeds 1.0 will be introduced; whereby, the history of the locations, the recording technology and the processing of the information will be explored. Furthermore, the notions of visibility which form the basis of these dynamic, audio-visual installations will be discussed. On the way to our jobs, while shopping or at public events, we are increasingly being monitored by cameras nowadays. Aside from our physical movements, which are recorded and documented, our Internet activities, our bank transfers and our telephone calls are also being registered. Data about our activities are saved on servers or other types of storage medium, creating clouds of data, which fluctuate through electrical cables or even through the air. Sometimes such clouds create downpours at unexpected locations. Private data suddenly appear somewhere on the Internet; bank statements or information about accounts in tax havens are sold to revenue authorities. In Venice the artistic collective BridA / Tom Kersevan, Sendi Mango, Jurij Pavlica presents three audio-visual installations titled Trackeds 1.0. The series has until now been tested in the northern Italian city of Como, at Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin, and on the square in front of the town hall of Kassel, a city in northern Hesse. The black-and-white stills of the public places—which appear on a screen or are projected depending on the presentation form—are reminiscent of a surveillance camera image. They serve as a stage for the real action. In Como the Piazza del Popolo was monitored from a bird's eye view. In the lower left of the frame, the view shows the flat roof of the Casa del Fascio, built by the fascists as their party headquarters. It was designed by the architect Giuseppe Terragni and built between 1932–36. It is considered a prime example of Italian fascist architecture. The building's facade is directed towards an earlier center of power belonging to the Catholic Church, the Duomo di Como, which was completed in 1770. One can only see the lower portion of the apse's outer wall and the right-hand portion of the transept in the upper right of the frame. Here, the two seats of power confronted each other. Moving yellow and light blue points, superimposed over this historically loaded scenery, emerge and vanish. During their brief existence, they are connected by curved lines. This results in two permanently changing, dynamic optical webs that over lap one another. The at times rhythmical movement is accompanied by a symphony of low and droning to short, clear and high-pitched sounds. However, they can't be clearly attributed to the lines or points, which buzz over the picture plane like mosquitoes. Any attempts to understand the composition's structure are quickly thwarted by the complexity of the information created by Trackeds 1.0. The fact that the framing of the background stills evoke memories of surveillance cameras suggests that the trajectories of the cars, streetcars and pedestrians are being delineated. However, if one follows the spots, it becomes apparent that very few of them move in an uninterrupted path across the frame. Nevertheless, the lines and points are based on the movements of the above-mentioned objects and subjects. Image sequences are fed into the system and processed by software developed especially for this purpose. The coordinates of pedestrians, who cross the square, are captured and transfigured into yellow points. People stopping at a crosswalk before they cross the street literally vanish into thin air. The same holds true for the light blue points—a vehicle might be held up by red light. Thus, only the movement on the square is visualized. Unlike surveillance systems, the recorded data isn't used to track down the identity of the individual it pertains to. The data are not being saved. They are only transferred to a dynamic information processing environment which computes a real-time scenario. The audio-visual symphony is based on a process in which motion data is converted into a new system. The data is interpreted and modulated by an autonomous, sophisticated device, which gives it a different tonality. Via an arithmetic operation— which in Trackeds 1.0 uses mathematical equations that are based on the observation of the Brownian motion of molecules—, the basic numerical data are transmitted to a new system of sequences. Rather than merely portraying science, knowledge and understanding of scientific principles has become an integral part of the work. This approach is insofar significant for art history as BridA's works are no longer based on the rules of geometrical optics. They can also not be considered abstractions created according to classical rules of composition. The artists take into account the previously mentioned everyday reality of bits and bytes, and thus enter uncharted waters. The data processing systems designed by BridA belong to a new generation where visibility is no longer understood as a view through an open window, as Leon Battista Alberti described it in the 15th century. Also the notions of interiority and distance from the outside world, which the camera obscura made possible, can't be brought in line with these lively images. Instead of simply retreating to the seclusion of the dark room, the artists use the digital camera as a measuring instrument. They aren't interested in making nice snapshots or high-quality digital prints; instead, they extract small pieces of information and create visual counterparts of our modern information society. As indicated at the beginning of this text, personalities might be described by using collected data. If all of the digital data about an individual were gathered centrally, digital portraits could be generated that would have even more explanatory power than photos, paintings or drawing—which only represent the visual level. To a certain extent, this method is already being used today in small, useful digital applications, such as Google's predictive search, for example. Medical science's body image has also changed through the centuries. To diagnose patients, doctors measure blood pressure, blast the body with ultrasound, shoot x-rays at it or count the number of active blood cells. A completely new picture of the individual emerges that is no longer exclusively based on visibility; non-visual methods are widespread among the diagnostic tools of today. In the case of ultrasounds, distances measured from echoes are transformed into an optical images. Taken to the extreme, the portraits physicians draw of their patients should provide information about heartbeat, blood pressure, body temperature, blood sugar levels, etc. In accordance with this method, the former painting students from Venice's Accademia di Belle Arti no longer only concentrate on external optical manifestations. Instead of people, however, the artists study public places, such as in Trackeds. Rather than creating history paintings, they collect data like scientists that's fed into information manipulation systems, which processes the data autonomously as described above. As in a Petri dish, merely the parameters are specified. Within this setting the information oscillates. Almost any place can be examined using this method. As is also the case in science, the experiment can be repeated at the same location. However, unlike in science where the goal is to achieve an empirical result, the aim is to allow the object of investigation to be appreciated by the senses. The instrument was used a second time at Checkpoint Charlie. Unlike Checkpoint Alpha at the border between West and East Germany and Checkpoint Bravo in the south-west corner of West Berlin, this border crossing at the south end of Berlin's Friedrichstraße was only open to foreign tourists, diplomats and Allied military personnel. The crossing was opened on August 23, 1961, ten days after the Berlin Wall was erected around the American, French and English sectors. The checkpoint—between East Berlin's Mitte district and West Berlin's Kreuzberg district—became internationally renowned only two days later on 25th of October, 1961, after the Soviets decided that East German guards should examine everyone passing through. As a reaction to this violation of an agreement between the Allied forces, the Americans stationed tanks at this border crossing. The tracked vehicles stopped at the corner of the building across the street. The outer wall of the building facing Zimmerstraße, which passes vertically through the upper left of the image, sits directly on the border. Even the spot from which the image is shot is directly located on the former national border. Only a few vehicles would have been recorded, if the data had been collected shortly after 25th of October, 1961. The tanks, even if they must have seemed menacing, would not have been visible, because they hardly or didn't move at all. While only a few yellow points would have appeared in the animation back then, in 2009—20 years after the fall of the Wall— many tourists, pedestrians and souvenir sellers move freely across the former border. There are also no longer any barriers to stop cars from driving to former East or West Berlin. Even though the American guardhouse still stands, the graphics seen on the projected image show that the political situation has changed. A third and for the time being last experiment was conducted on the square in front of Kassel's town hall. The building—whose gable can be seen on the left of the image— is situated on a property that the Jewish industrialist Sigmund Aschrott donated to the city of Kassel on the condition that a permanent civic center would be build there. The hall was inaugurated in 1914 and used for trade fairs up to the 1960s. Today congresses and conferences take place there. The Aschrott Fountain, which was financed by the same benefactor, was heavily damaged by Nazis in 1938 during the Kristallnacht and then officially torn down. By contrast the civic center, constructed during the Kaiser's reign, remains a popular venue. In 2002, the square was redesigned and hardly anything reminds one of it's history. Only the two small temples bare witness to the fact that the city's border used to be here. The artists' approach to historical locations is not one in which past events are turned into a visual equivalent, such as a painting or collage. Alone the transmitted, abstracted motion data from Checkpoint Charlie suggests that no one is being checked here anymore. As opposed to the surveillance cameras, the graphics don't provide any clues to who is crossing the street. It is not of interest whether a sports car or a truck, a woman with a stroller or a lecturer is being taken in the system. The behavior of individuals is not being studied in Trackeds. People are not being controlled, identified or monitored. As in statistics, information is made anonymous. However, as opposed to statistical methods, Trackeds 1.0 does not systematically analyze data in order to reach empirical results. Nevertheless, scientific method plays an integral role in BridA's work; whereby, science isn't glorified or simply put on display. In order to implement their complex systems, the artists depend on a close cooperation with scientists and experts in information technologies. This interdisciplinary cooperation allows them to explore the possibilities of information processing and to question present conceptions of visuality. BridA's work defies the rules which are normally attributed to paintings by art critics. For example, art critics will first seek the subject when dealing with paintings. In the three examples described above, public places have been investigated by the apparatus. However, it might as well be attached to a microscope. Thus, the movement of microbes might be examined. Bees or flocks of birds could also serve as a subject. A wide range of applications or updates could be thought up. This is because the artists have specified the process and not the subject. A further important difference to conventional painting is that the artwork isn't completed and supposed to hang on the wall for all eternity. The apparatus creates vivid, oscillating images, which lack an artist's signature. An anonymous data center is in fact directing the fluctuating graphics. The artists don't try to give the image a final touch. The point isn't to catalog something or to store it for the future. They are interested in the process of image production. Only here do the artists consciously intervene. Archetypes in art history can be found in Slovenian art, for example. Before the appearance of today's digital means of image reproduction, Bogoslav Kalas developed a painting machine that could copy color by color. A further point of reference is the Slovenian artist Marko Peljhan's Makrolab, a laboratory where scientists and artists could cooperate. One is also compelled to draw a comparison to the media artist Nam June Paik, who in 1965 distorted the picture of an analog television set with a magnet. However, BridA has taken another decisive step: The artists act according to the logic of the prevailing digital information world. Unlike Kalas, their apparatus doesn't create finished products. Instead of creating a solidary place for cooperation, they quite simply work together with scientists. Nam June Paik's Magnet TV seems to have the most affinity with the work of BridA; whereby, Paik's manipulations now seem antiquated, even though they seemed just as fresh at the time as the Slovenian art group's work does today. As stated in the introduction, diverse digital systems process and administer personal data in this day and age. Our notions on reality are based on systems that record personal data, process and sometimes visualize them. The artists explore the fact that many images are calculated and simulated by computers nowadays. Through their work they point out that everything depends on how the compiled data is handled.
BridA: Homo Faber Becomes Homo Luden
Dr. Gerald Geilert
The term 'Homo faber' is used in anthropology to describe mankind as a living being, which uses tools to change its environment. Today, we are surrounded by a lot of devices, instruments or apparatuses to exert influence on our surrounding. Most of these tools are designed to make us more productive. Only some of them fall in the category of play or celebration. Vilém Flusser came up with the idea that it might be possible for mankind to become what he called 'Homo ludens': Man the Player. In this text, projects of the art collective BridA/Sendi Mango, Jurij Pavlica, Tom Kerševan will be explored with regard to Flusser's utopia of a telematic society, in which mankind will primarily be playing or even be celebrating, since everybody will be empowered to do so by a new imagination. The following quote by Flusser gives a broader view on his philosophy and shows the potential of BridA's computational artifacts: First, man took a step back from his life-world, to imagine it. Then, man stepped back from the imagination, to describe it. Then, man took a step back from the linear, written critique, to analyze it. And finally, owing to a new imagination, man projected synthetic images out of analysis. This is the short version of how Homo faber becomes Homo ludens. The first sentence points at a characteristic that all pictures have in common. This is even true for the 36,000-yearold mystical pictures of the – meanwhile extinct – woolly rhinoceroses on the walls of the Chauvet cave in France, because they were designed to be viewed from a few steps back. This might seem trivial, but the stepping back also involves the process of "somehow simultaneously retreat[ing] into oneself." To distance oneself from the objective world by producing images means to gain subjectivity, no matter what the pictures express or stand for. Later, images were critiqued in linear writing, since the structure of books became the model for thinking. The concept of history evolved to propose linear developments, which begin, continue and end eventually. It has been stated that this approach, this linear, purposeful way of thinking, bears some problematic features. Nevertheless: "To write meant, in the past, to render opaque images transparent for the world." In the tradition of this linear way of thinking, it might be stated that the visual endeavor, which may be called 'likeliness', found its completion in Renaissance painting, although this optical enterprise has been criticized for many reasons. One of them is that "they [pictures] present themselves before the objects that they should be representing." This argument plays a central role in the Christian tradition of casting doubt on pictures, called iconoclasm, which is opposed to idolatry. The analytic process took its path and as a result synthetic images evolve, which are based on calculation. At this stage calculated images produced by BridA gain importance. The concept of BridA's Trackeds (Fig. 1)
is to place a camera at a high position and monitor how people or vehicles – like motorbikes, cars or trucks – move about. Those movements are detected and marked by software so that the spectator of the computed animation can see blue or yellow dots, which are connected by bowed, dynamic lines, floating on a screen. At first glance, one expects this system to be a device, which is recording movement to analyze and optimize traffic streams. Since the cityscapes transformed by BridA are taken from a bird's eye view, they are not like the optical impressions we experience when we encounter individuals in real life. Immediately, those aerial points of views remind us of some omniscient vantage point. God sees everything from above. In medieval times the lords of the castle kept eye on the country to control it. Today armed military drones are scanning parts of the world. In recent 3D-movies aerial views are used to jack up the amount of adrenaline in the bloodstream of the spectators. The images produced by BridA differ: They do not show airstrikes or special effects. They are rather connected to animations Harun Farocki presented in the video installation Deep Play in 2007. Farocki showed the final of the FIFA World Championship in 2006 on 12 monitors. One of them shows close-ups of soccer stars (Fig. 3).
Another is focused on either one of the coaches and others are showing images taken from surveillance cameras. One of the screens shows how some experts produce a protocol of the game. Other animations look like those BridA is presenting. One of them (Fig. 2)
shows the white lines of a soccer field on a green background. Eleven dots stand for the French team and the others represent the Italian players. All the spots float on the stable image. If the ball is in the game and a French player controls it, blue lines connect the players like a star. Those lines show the opportunities the players have to pass the ball on to their teammates. White lines connect a couple of dots – members of the Italian team – so they form an imaginary defense line. These two-dimensional constructs float around the field and switch structure if the other team gains possession of the ball. The beauty of bodily movement we usually adore on TV is translated into a kind of dance choreography. The observer is made to see the final through the eyes of an expert. More than that, one may also watch what experts are doing to analyze the interplay of the competitors and to make it more 'functional'. In the context of the art world the installation Deep Play becomes an artwork about analyzing or analytics. Farocki shows images of optimization, to make us think about them. BridA uses surveillance and optimizing software to a different end than those experts who create protocols and statistics of a professional soccer game. BridA superimposes their analytical computational animation on top of stills of intersections. Two systems of graphs move around the plain surface. Those movements are even subject to 'sonification': The algorithms are transformed into a vivid soundscape. The calculation is not performed to gain anything. Dynamic data is celebrated. Thus, BridA is taking the notion of playing one step further. [O]nly when one produces images of calculations instead of facts (it does not matter how "abstract" the facts) can "pure aesthetics" (the joy of playing with "pure forms") find its true expression; only then can Homo ludens replace Homo faber. BirdA's project Modux datascapes is a good example for what is meant by playing with pure forms in a celebratory manner. They threw different data sets into an environment of purposeless play. In the case of the painting The City Of Ljubljana (Fig. 4)
they fed the following factors into a calculating system: "date and time of data collection; surface of the city; population location coordinates; average temperature (high values); average temperature (low values); average of raining days; number of criminal acts; city budget". A computer program converted this data into a couple of sets of colored shapes. The resulting schemata were projected on a white picture plane in a gallery; the visitors of the exhibition fixed those shapes by rolling out fresh paint. Thus, the gallery space was transformed into a studio. The artists set up the procedure, while the visitors became part of the artwork. Those who look at the paintings will not be able to recognize what they see no matter how familiar they might be with Ljubljana because the inner logic of the image is not analogous to the visual perception expected if one 'steps back' and takes a look at picturesque Ljubljana. The image does not show the conventional, iconic features of any anticipated scene. The basis for the visual constructs called Modux Datascapes are not light beams, which follow the laws of physical optics. Another logic, a creative principle other than likeliness, is introduced: High-tech environments are used as a basis for expanding and amplifying imagination. Homo ludens uses all kinds of information and computational possibilities to develop new, freely programed images or imaginations. The artist is not the genius who is inspired or enlightened by some spirit anymore. If BridA's visual concepts and ideas are compared to the animation that visualizes the strategy of the soccer teams, the difference between playing and celebration becomes obvious. Soccer games have become part of the leisure industry. Just like yoga, vacation or even therapy, this type of leisure is built into the economic engine of industrialized societies. According to Flusser, people take a break: They may relax to be more 'productive'. BridA demonstrates how the momentum of leisure can be built into everyday life, including work. They show how a "leisurely life of contemplation and celebration" may be created. They do not calculate to gain advantages. The phenomenon of calculating images is reflected in BridA's way of thinking. High-tech environments are made palpable in many ways by BridA. Do it yourself! is another one of their projects that involves audience participation. Visitors are asked to follow orders that are prerecorded. The participants start painting colored squares from the left to right side of the picture plane. So, they start in the upper right corner, pick another color, leave a square blank, pick another color, start another row, and so on. This process may be seen as an equivalent of what a computer screen does at an incredibly amazing speed. In this sense BridA is downgrading technology. The images are much smaller; they consist of fewer spots than pictures on a computer or television screen. It is made clear that popular high-tech devices are able to produce images much faster than humans. The visitors, who follow the orders, symbolically plunge into the computational process of creating an image. Thus, they are able to experience structural differences between human thought and digital media. Participants constantly felt the need to discuss their feelings while this procedure was put into practice. People were not standing in front of great works of art quietly. Instead, they were debating their personal experiences and entering "dialogical life." BridA's programs or procedures form a model. They produce their own software, which is not interpreting visuality according to the regular, functional, bureaucrat logic. They cast a personal, subjective sight on imagination. BridA interprets by programming or by setting up procedures: For Homo ludens it is important to create their 'own programs', this goes along with a dispossession of the senders who own the software, set the rules. "Thus, telematization would be a technique for tearing the programs from the hands of the senders, to make them the property of all participants." Participants of the Do it Yourself! scheme discussed how they might become pawns in the new game of digitalization. This is the first step to prohibit the possibility that everybody becomes a pawn controlled by a sender, who might be media experts or politicians. BridA takes part in the "socialization of imperialistic programs": To own a program signifies 'dispossession' in this context. A project, which makes this attitude explicitly, is Trackeds Parliament: One of three projections show how many members of the Slovenian parliament were present the day a discussion about insulation of Slovenian buildings took place in 2010. Another projection documents how badly the parliament building was insulated. The third and most interesting projection shows the TV broadcast of the debate. This broadcast, produced for politicians to send out their messages and control public opinion, is combined with a graph of the speakers' stress level, which is detected by software that takes the broadcasted sounds and pictures as a basis. The pyramid of control is turned upside-down: By reprogramming BridA transforms the protagonists of the state into subjects of control. By running their 'own program' they make us think about contemporary communication techniques. Their latest project is called SpreadKOM (Fig. 6 and 7).
It also focuses on communication. About fifteen devices, which function as nodes of a network, are set up in a forest. They are equipped with microphones and powered either by water or the sun. These autonomous systems are able to register a certain sound frequency, which can be produced by a bird singing or somebody whistling. The devices react to the signal and send out sound waves, which may trigger other systems and so on. That way, a sound collage is created, which can be experienced in physical space. People who walk into the soundscape can even navigate by listening. Everybody may take it as a game, which nobody can win and anybody can contemplate or celebrate. Homo faber may become Homo ludens: BridA's projects are not protuberances of a telematic society but artifacts produced by avant-garde thinkers, who promote self-reflective reasoning in a digitalized world.
BridA, Somewhere between art and science
There is a fundamental difference between artists, who use science as an object of social examination, and artists, who believe that science represents a component of their expressive style. The idea that different ideological manipulations of the Art&Science concept can cause a distorted view on this fascinating and at the same time controversial relation is becoming clear. In our projects we use different technological and scientific applications; to us technology is an integral part of our artistic expression. The scientific and analytical approach that we use when we investigate and solve various operations within our projects, indicates that our system is based on collective and systematic work and it allows us to understand better the different problems and relations of contemporary society. Art has always played an important role in the system of the communication of ideas and feelings in a tight connection with contemporary society. No wonder that the artist today uses the methods and technologies of modern and sophisticated devices. We are all users of new technologies, developed with the help of scientific discoveries in order to satisfy our needs. Anyway the belief that society borrowed research in the field of science and technology in order to survive is incorrect.