Attilia Fattori Franchini and Rhys Coren, the pair behind the new online arts platform bubblebyte.org, looked to the unhinged wackiness of the 90s cult gaming show 'Crystal Maze' as inspiration for their upcoming exhibit 'Il Labirinto di Cristallo'. Showcasing works from over 20 artists embedded in themes such as Oceano, Futuro, Industriale and Azteca, the exhibit is a celebration of the diverse virtual world exploring portrayals of the symbolism and meaning of water, sci-fi tinged treks through time, urban environment and the lost discord between a way of life far from the modernity of the internet.
Fusing these themes together in a platform readily available for all, bubblebyte.org is a gallery for a generation of artists whose adoption of the internet has now become second nature. Dazed Digital caught up with Franchini and Coren to find out more about the site’s creation and the future for an ever-changing digitalised platform of artistry...
Dazed Digital: How did the idea for the site originate?
Rhys Coren: We met one day last year and almost straight away it turned out that the artists we both liked all seemed to have something in common, and that was that their work was considerate of the internet, using it as a raw material, an actual medium, or that they just seemed to have a strong web presence. In fact, it was the artists who were capable or maintaining a duality in their practice that we are really in to - artists who were equally at home making work for galleries as well as the internet. London doesn't have quite the defined and acknowledged communities of artists who are working or conversing online so it was quite exciting to find someone with similar tastes.
Attilia Fattori Franchini: We talked about experimenting and the artistic possibilities of the web, unifying our skills and points of view towards one direction. What we wanted to see was how you could create a virtual situation with all the characteristics of a classical gallery space while promoting a variety of not-just-web-based artists and artworks. The lack of funding made us take on this challenge with a very much DIY approach, pushing the multiple possibilities of a £50 investment and a small communication strategy directed to friends, people and institutions we admire.
Rhys Coren: Attilia's point of view is one of a curator, and mine as an artist with a penchant for nerdiness, so with her desires to want to show the artists she liked, and my ability to do the online stuff, after just a few months of knowing each other, the idea came up to do bubblebyte.org. To be honest, it's the perfect professional relationship - a curator and an artist, a crazy Italian and a moody Englishman…
DD: What does bubblebyte.org aim to do?
Rhys Coren: We had no set manifesto, really. It's relatively natural for us to do it, but one thing that has come about through our initial hindsight is that we want work that is considerate of the internet to reach a much wider art community. This may sound a bit harsh, but we want to dispel the idea that ALL art that can be viewed in a form that is supported by the internet is pink, glitchy, void of criticality and made on MacBook Photobooth. And we wanted to slow the pace of consumption down a little bit too. I think we felt it can sometimes devalue the work to have it almost 'blogged' and eventually disappear as 10 more things get blogged over it that day, then the next day, until it's just somewhere in a distant archive.
Attilia Fattori Franchini: We decided early on to not keep an archive of shows. After the 4/6 weeks the show disappears, as it would do in a physical gallery, living in the memories of the spectator. The web is a wild jungle of information, as reality is, and the majority of the artists dig daily into this huge amount of information derived by popular taste. We find the output of it incredibly fresh and real at the same time allowing a sort of psychedelic and synesthetic reproduction of reality. We try to show artists that experiment with this reproduction and create their own vision of it using various defined aesthetic. London seems to be a bit out from the more influent LA/New York or Berlin intern-art conversations. A lack of institutions and galleries dedicated to new media approaches made the internet-considered art community less cohesive. There are few people interested in this practices but I feel there is a lack of places able to create a discussion and a representation of an artistic practice constantly creating and transforming itself.
DD: Can you tell me a bit about the themes in the current exhibit?
Rhys Coren: The current show pays homage to the most insane 90s television game show that perfectly epitomised the overt insanity and ridiculousness of Englishness. When I first showed Attilia a youtube clip of a bit of The Crystal Maze, she didn't believe it was real. She just couldn't believe what she saw. But what was a bit of banter between us then seemed to make perfect sense...
Attilia Fattori Franchini: And it is the first group show we’ve organised and we took the challenge of imposing a curatorial line selecting singular works for each participating artist. I think it is crazy and every time I open the front page, I just love it.
DD: As an artist, how has the digital era impacted the way you work and seek inspiration?
Rhys Coren: The sheer amount of information you can consume is frightening. And you can talk to anyone anywhere like they are sat in the same room. Within seconds of having an idea you can share it. I probably make art on my computer, look at art (both art made for the internet and documentation of offline works) read interviews, listen to pod casts, watch documentaries and such for around 10 hours a day on average. Even when I am making physical things, I have a documentary or film playing on my computer, or some juicey little early 80s house number. I've taught myself how to use several complicated computer programs through online tutorials, and have managed to become fairly self sufficient as an art maker because of the internet. Studio time is genuinely more enjoyable too, so the length of time I can commit to the making of art, or the researching of new art and artists, is vastly increased. That's one perspective I have. It's a shame that something gets lost, though. I feel a bit sad that future artists will share less things in common with the masters of the past. The typical traditions of the art maker... but maybe Monet would have been better had he had some awesome Soul II Soul youtube playlists and photoshop. But I always try to balance out the fast pace of the information superhighway with some good old-fashioned offline sensibilities. I guess that's partly a bubblebyte.org concern - benefiting from the best bits of the technology but not totally giving in to the pace of it.
DD: What do you think are the main implications of art as a result of the digital world?
Rhys Coren: That’s a very daunting question….
Attilia Fattori Franchini: I don't have a final answer yet. I think it's all in progress, there is no result yet. I believe that people like to try new things, artists like to try new things too and appropriate themselves of new tools to express what they want in the way they want. The rapid advances and high penetration of technology in our daily activities has augmented the amount of production and re-production of visual images. The consequences are a fast changing scenario with constantly transforming characteristics. I believe that soon art will more and more appropriate itself to technological tools, seeing the internet as a interesting place to understand our daily lives more than a form of minor art, dedicated to a niche of people. Increasing the accessibility of it, you increase the penetration and consequently the appreciation. I think that is also something that should start from Institutions and artist-run activities more and more showing and promoting while contextualising certain forms of expressions.
DD: The future?
Rhys Coren: Well, bubblebyte.org has managed to become fairly settled. I guess we see it now as an experiment, seeing just what the possibilities / potential life span is from a small initial investment and word of mouth.
Attilia Fattori Franchini: We would like to keep supporting our artists and keep collaborating with them while extending our audience. We would like to work as connector and platform to exchange visual content. We have lots of developments in the horizon but for the moment we want to see out bubblebyte.org’s first birthday with the platform staying exactly as it is.
Il Labirinto di Cristallo; bubblebyte.org, 26 July – 02 September 2011