matter and memory / matière et mémoire


What was he thinking about? berlin? praha? ljubljana? skopje?

Interview with Igor Stomajer by Valérie Lamontagne conducted over email, January 2003.

Q1: How do you perceive the notion of the "heart" and intimacy as playing a role in your work What was he thinking about? berlin? praha? ljubljana? skopje?

Igor Stomajer: It's one of the most personal, therefore also one of the most intimate projects for me. I love these cities, I love specific people there. I'm in love with them.

Prague (Czech Republic) is the city for crying, especially in early April or November. It's so emotional, so grey, so lonely. And people there are so beautiful, soft, kind, romantic, sad, and sexy.

Skopje (Macedonia) is another experience. It's a non-stop party place, people there party 24 hour a day. Music everywhere, food, wine. They party at home, on the streets, in bars. You don't have to know them personally, you just come there and you become a part of this river, of this crowd moving, shaking, dancing, making love.

Berlin (Germany) is erotic. It's a dynamic place where you have to fight hard for your love, you have to be active in order to enjoy and you have to do it in a hard way. Indeed. But here you can realize all your fantasies, even the most secret ones.

Ljubljana (Slovenia) is home. It's a place to relax, to refuel the batteries, to rest and to sleep. It's like coming home to your mother, where you feel safe, warm and protected. It's a very small town where nothing can harm you.

Sure, my Ljubljana, can be someone else’s Madrid, my Berlin can be someone else’s New York, my Skopje can be someone else’s Rome, and my Prague can be someone else’s Montreal, or whatever. And it is. Even for me there might be no difference between Prague and Montreal, both of them are romantic and beautiful cities with sad and sexy people having a lot of fantasies.

The notion of heart and intimacy is therefore very personal. I go around and I leave pieces of my heart around. Sometimes even my sperm. What's the difference...? There isn't any.

I love people very much. If I wouldn't, I would join the army.

And that's how I see this project, What was he thinking about? berlin? praha? ljubljana? skopje? A man went around, he experienced these cities and people living in them. He's in love with them, with those people and consequently with those cities. He left something there and they gave him a lot.

And who cares if Berlin is really London or Athens, if Prague is really Amsterdam or Helsinki?

I say to the visitors of this project: "I often cry, why shouldn't you?"

Q2: You come from a theatre background and your work combines text + video + performance. Do you consider yourself a multidisciplinary artist?

Stomajer: I do come from the theatre background, but there was a time I wasn't really happy about it. Theatre is a pathetic structure where actors are exaggerating, over-reacting and not telling the truth. There comes a man on stage, pretending that he is prince Hamlet from Denmark, but I know that he is Tom, living in my neighborhood, because we had a coffee last night together. And theatre people are awful. They always tell stories, they exaggerate like sailors, they want to have all the attention of the audience and they feel happy only if they are in the focus of the event, on stage and in the bar (who knows if they can tell the difference). I really hate them because they are violent and aggressive. They love and adore the past, so they are the people of yesterday. They have nothing to do with the future.

Now I’ve come to the next phase, where I don't care about them anymore. But I needed some time, of course. No, I have nothing to do with the theatre. I see myself as an intimate mobile communicator, which only means that I create intimate works, using the internet and other mobile devices and protocols. It includes video, but only as an interactive net video, it also includes performance, but only as little as necessary and not as a stand alone (f)act. My performances play only on the internet and they depend on remote protocols, software and mobile digital hardware.

Q3: What influences your practice most at this time?

Stomajer: Sex, pornography and fantasies. Sex as trauma, pornography as frustration, fantasies as broken communication. Our fantasies are such a deep and never-ending magic box that I can't stop working on them. We live in a world where human relationships are frustrating because the communication is disappearing (one of the reasons is certainly because there's so much of it). So I'm focused on touching each other's skin, eating each other's saliva, and feeling sad and lonely. The key words for my current artistic activities are radical emotions and boring fantasies. Boring as my projects. Yes, I think they are boring because I'm always telling the same story, using the same software, etc. And I like it, because it's a reflection of our world (I didn't invent it, I was born into it).

In 2003 I'll work on several projects, an erotic Scandinavian soundscape, which is actually a net symphony, music created for the internet protocols, then some intimate surveillance net videos, and intimate terrorist social networks. Since I'm going to travel a lot, from Slovenia via Belgium, France, Finland, Germany, and back to Slovenia in December, I'm going to stop and work in these places, researching local emotions and local traumas, combining them in a global picture. My plan is to get totally confused this year, to displace, deconstruct and dis-emotion myself completely, to do things I've never done before. Even the most radical things are not going to be radical enough for me in 2003!

Q4: Can you describe some of the web performances you have recently done?

Stomajer: I will briefly mention just two of them from 2002.

In August 2002 I did a project called MomEnt.16: Orgasm in Berlin; low-quality high-standard self-composable net video kit which is an interactive net video system showing that things are beautiful when they happen without any reason. There is no reason, just consequences. It also introduces a new conceptual dramaturgy, which I call "no-reason dramaturgy", invented especially for the side-placed net performances. The project is available at: http://www2.arnes.si/~ljintima2/moment16

In March 2002 I did Ballettikka Internettikka | Part Two - ballet.net together with the composer and musician Brane Zorman (MC Brane). We went to Moscow and illegally entered the basement of the Bolshoi Theatre, the famous classical ballet theatre, and broadcasted (via internet, using laptops, web camera and mobile phones) a live internet ballet from there. I was dancing the net ballet and he was conducting the MP3 orchestra. Some critics called it artistic terrorism, we called it live invasion, whatever it means. The project and all the documentation are archived at: http://www2.arnes.si/~ljintima2/ballet

We decided to perform the ballet in the top place for ballet, the symbol: The Boshoi. The performance took place in the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, on March 28th 2002. First it was unknown how we are going to enter the Bolshoi on that day, but we prepared three different options/plans. All options were illegal.

Option N.1 was called JamesBond: tickets for the Tzars Bride, an opera by Rimsky.Kosrakov, performed that evening on the big stage, were bought in advance. We wanted to enter the Bolshoi using the main entrance for the audience and dance in the Bolshoi's toilet (at 20:00 GMT+3, one hour after the opera started on the main stage). We failed because the security guards discovered laptops, mobile phones, cameras, etc. in our bags, so we left the building at 18:44 GMT+3.

Option N.2 was called ARTinvasion: at 19:49 GMT+3 we re-entered the Bolshoi via a small window in the left wing of the building and performed the ballet.net action in the abandoned part of the cellar. We successfully left the building at 20:17 GMT+3.

Option N.3 was therefore not deployed.

All three options included emergency escapes from the building.

This illegal action was carefully studied as an invasion. Watches were synchronized and all the details were prepared. We used hi-tech mobile and wireless equipment for invasion and live broadcasting (portable computers, mini digital camera, MP3 audio systems, mobile WAP telephones, etc.). Laptop and MiniDV cam, together with Webcam32 (version 6.0) software were used for visual signal broadcasting (running over Intima Virtual Base FTP server). Another laptop and MP3 player with online interface SHOUTcast (version 1.8.3/win32) was used for live sound broadcasting (running over Beitthron FTP server). Russian GSM mobile phone operator MTS/RUS (Mobile Telesystems 2, GSM 900) was used for mobile internet connection.

Live broadcasting of this illegal ballet.net performance started on March 28th 2002 at 20:00 GMT+3, Moscow time (18:00 Paris time CET - Central European Time; 12:00 New York time), and lasted exactly 11 minutes (until 20:11 GMT+3 local Moscow time). It was available on my website (www.intima.org). We had 416 live viewers from different parts of the world, because the project was publicly announced in advance.

Our slogan was: "We shall fight them on the beaches. We shall fight them on the landing grounds. We shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills. We shall never surrender." (W. Churchill)

Q5: Are the performances a strategy to become more intimate with the online public? How does that play itself out?

Stomajer: Yes, they are. First to become more intimate with them, to come as close to them as possible, to touch their soul and emotions, and then to show them how this intimacy is nothing comparing to physical intimacy. For sure it is more intimate for them to make love with the people they like than to watch me dancing on the net and doing other crazy things!

All my work is a strategy to become more intimate with the online public, every single project. I ask them about communication, eroticism, perversity, masturbation, sexual relationships and practice, art, pleasure, fear, loneliness, anxiety, etc. These are very intimate and dangerous questions. But the audience cooperates because they feel safe and they want to take part in my projects. How couldn't they, all of these projects are talking precisely about our intimate world, mine, yours, theirs. It's impossible to avoid it, to pretend (like in the theatre) it's something else, something that doesn't have anything to do with every one of us personally and individually.

Q6: I feel that, as a society, and as artists, we are increasingly dependent on email and the internet to communicate with our ever geographically expanding community. Do you find that email/web is your primary form of intimate communication? If so, how does technology colour (change) the way you personally communicate?

Stomajer: I would never replace a computer's mouse and keyboard for soft breasts, sweet legs and wet lips. Yes, I spend an enormous amount of time touching the keys on my computer, having a very personal erotic relationship with it, but I always try to spend more time touching other people's skin, kissing them, licking them. So my primary form of intimate communication is having sex. E-mail/web is secondary. And e-mail/web is a sad, broken, frustrating, painful, traumatic communication, that's what I'm saying in my projects.

Of course we depend on the internet, I'm addicted to it, I'm also addicted to other toys and gadgets, like small digital cameras on watches, powerful mobile phones, mobile GPS devices etc., but if I'm very honest, I must say that I'm much more addicted to the smell of the vagina, the beauty of pubic hair, the softness of breasts. I probably couldn't live without these two elements. Knowing my secret desires very well, I experience a lot of frustrations, just because I'd like to realize my fantasies. A fantasy that is not realized is a painful experience, a new frustration. In general it's bad, but could also be beautiful, that's another thing I'm saying in my projects: frustrations are beautiful!

The fact that I chose the internet as the tool for my artistic expression helps me understand the mysterious ways of communication, its sadness and its emotional handicap.

Anyhow, the technology does change the way I personally communicate. Since I’ve started to use the internet and e-mail (1996), I talk more directly, I say exactly what I mean and I don't go around the subject, whatever the consequences are. But is it really the effect of e-mail communication, or is it because I learnt how to survive, how to get what I want and how to make things more simple? Would it have also happened without e-mail?

One thing is for sure: without the internet I would never talk to so many wonderful people all over the world and would never meet them physically. Would never be able to love them and to suffer because of them. My emotional state would be more normal, peaceful. I wouldn't have to create all the projects inside my Intima Virtual Base (www.intima.org), which I did because of the impossibility of realizing all my hidden fantasies and to put out the pain, instead of living a happy life.