FRAGMENTIN LAUSANNE: INTERVIEW & BURNINGCOLLECTION.TV

Recently, Andy meets Warhol came across Fragmentin, a collective based in Lausanne, Switzerland. An interview was conducted to find out more about its practice as well as its recent release of《Burningcollection.tv》, an artwork related to COVID-19.

Tell me about Fragmentin, how did you start this collective, who are the founders and what is its focus?

The collective was started by Laura Perrenoud and Marc Dubois, right after finishing their Bachelor at ECAL in 2014. David Colombini – who previously studied at ECAL with the other two – joined the collective in 2017 after finishing his master’s at the Royal College of Art in London.

The three of us always had a common interest for questioning the impact of technology on society through different forms of art and medium. Working as a collective allows us to confront ideas and to create more ambitious artworks.

Tell me a bit more about the artwork burningcollection.tv. How did the cooperation with Lauren Huret and with Paris come about, which artists are involved?

Lauren had two of her pieces planned to be shown physically at Jeu de Paume in Paris as part of the exhibition “Le supermarché des images” which opened in February 2020 (currently closed). Additionally the institution came to her to commission a new online work for their virtual space.

In January 2020 she invited us to collaborate on the project.

We met Lauren for the first time during Art Basel in 2018 where we both have been granted the Pax Art Award. In addition to the prize, each artist was offered the opportunity to present a solo show which took place during the exhibition “Swiss Media Art: !Mediengruppe Bitnik, Fragmentin, Lauren Huret” at HeK, Basel in 2019.

Regarding burningcollection.tv, all four of us were involved in the conceptual and visual aspect. The programming of the website is realized by Fragmentin. In that context, Marc & Lauren also took part of a discussion panel together with french philosopher Yves Citton at Jeu de Paume in February.

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How does the process of burningcollection.tv work: from video to print? Are these works unique?

The real time superposition of this ever-changing chimerical videos is the core of the project.

Additionally, every hour, our program automatically saves a screenshot of the broadcast and orders it by date in the archive page.

Since one week, online-visitors can also acquire a unique print on aluminium of the archived images. Each image print is unique and sold only once. The work is delivered with a certificate of authenticity, signed by the artists. On the back of the artwork the following information are also indicated: The URLs of the 5 videos source that are composing the image, the common theme of these 5 videos and the date of image generation.

The closings of exhibitions and institutions supporting the work of artists that followed the outbreak of COVID-19, put artists in a difficult financial situation. Buying a printed artwork from burningcollection.tv is one way to support us in these challenging times.

Which videos are involved in this artwork, from which sources? Internet or TV? Are these videos which were shown during the coronavirus crisis?

We have created a programme that automatically selects in real time the five most-watched videos on a famous online content sharing platform. This selection is carried out according to a precise semantic field that we have defined in advance and kept secret until the end of the project.

Every time the visitors enter the website or reload the page, our program selects and aggregates the five most watched videos from a particularly up-to-date topic.

When we started burningcollection.tv we made a selection of several topics/keywords in French and English. The sound from each video is not modified and the five accumulated soundtracks provide some clues about the original subjects of the source videos.

Interestingly, since mid-March, without having changed the semantics, images from the coronavirus seem to have reached our platform.

What is the role of video during the coronavirus crisis? What is the role or opportunities of video art during this crisis?

The role of video during the crisis is to spread information which also often takes the shape of “fake news” or falsified images. Watching online videos and in particular online TV shows have become a key hobby during the lockdown.

Since the lockdown and the exhibitions closings, we have seen a lot of institutions proposing open calls for online art (not only video art but also virtual tour, interactive art experiences, online residencies, interviews, new web formats, etc.)

What do you think of the increasing impact of new forms of digital video based on social media apps on the humans and the arts? Is it still possible to focus? Does online videos and media rather confuse us further instead of inform us?

Being constantly reachable and connected to multiple digital channels has become a challenge for our brains. The constant growth of digital data online including videos on social media is part of that issue. This overconsumption of images is also what we try to highlight in burningcollection.tv.

One possible solution would be to give an expiration date to a data file (which would delete itself automatically after a certain time) as proposed in the book “Delete, the demise of forgetting in the digital age” written by Viktor Mayer-Schonberger (2009).

The function “Sun(e)rase” from the webapp of our artwork “The Weather Followers” – which deletes your data according to the sun intensity – is supporting that particular idea.

What is “famous platform” you include in this work, is this Youtube or Instagram?

You can easily guess.

What do you think is the impact of virtual reality, video apps, AI on our psyche, consciousness and privacy?

Videos we are watching in our everyday life have strong visuals codes. They are in fact very similar and repetitive. In our mind, this produces a unique way of understanding and decrypting news and facts. Burningcollection.tv is an attempt to reveal this codification, this collective psyché.

Another point is the fragile notion of “free will” undermined by some GAFAM services or AI technologies: For instance, the more we look at a certain type of content, the more the online platforms will keep suggesting us similar one, thus leaving us in our own “filter bubble” defined by opaque algorithms. These applications are also designed to be addictive and urge us to consume as much content as possible. This was highlighted in the ARTE mini series “Dopamine” (2019).

Here it’s not about privacy, spying on people or monetising personal data but more about the normalisation of our vision.

Traditional TV vs. digital technologies: what is the relation between both, the differences on the impact on human beings and their perception of reality and, or information?

It depends on which digital technologies we are talking about but the main difference between both is the interactive aspect. While traditional TV is a contemplative media, web technology – the so called web 2.0 – has allowed spectators to also become active users. In a way, it has also become a space for personalisation.

Media information or politics are sometimes debated in an hostile way by users hidden behind their screen and “pseudonyme” on online social platforms.

What is reality to you? What impact of digital technologies and online activities on our perception of reality. How can we control this impact and be aware, critical of it?

David: For me, the notion of reality can be linked to the perception and the combination of our 5 senses. In contrast, most of our digital technologies tend to push us to focus only on two senses: sight and hearing.

In that context, one of our artwork (2199, 2016) questions the notion of reality, authority and vulnerability especially in the context of immersive technologies such as virtual reality.

2199, 2016, screenshot Photo ©Fragmentin
2199, 2016, screenshot Photo ©Fragmentin

Laura: Digital technologies give us the illusion of having access to a complete and objective reality. For me, reality is always a perception that must be questioned and balanced. With digital technologies, we have access to more information and therefore it is our responsibility to look further, to look for multiple sources and to question. Moreover, I don’t think we are able to differentiate between an experience lived personally or lived by someone else through a screen in the way it can impact us. It’s important to be aware of that impact.

Marc: As Laura and David say, our reality is all about our perception of it. We can be critical by simply changing our habits, using a different web browser for example, to see how our perception, through the different interfaces we choose, can be modified. We can have a little more control by searching alternatives to mainstream tools. laquadrature.net proposes a lot of them.

What other exhibitions, collaborations are planned in the time after coronavirus with Fragmentin?

We just finished an online residency on the platform IsThisIt? curated by Bob Bicknell-Knight.

During that time, we have started a new work called Obsology: a neologism coming from a mix of the words obsolescence and archaeology. It takes the form of an ongoing series of still and animated CGI images on the topic of Post-digital archaeology and will later be materialised in a printed format or become an inspiration for the production of sculptures for an upcoming exhibition. In that context, we are also looking for a gallery to represent us.

We are also working on the production of a new sculpture and VR installation to be exhibited at Art Safiental – a biennale of Land and environmental Art in the Grisons – this summer.

Later in the year, Displuvium and Your Phone Needs to Cool Down, two of our pieces will be shown in the exhibition “Stormy Weather” first at Kunstraum Vienna in September and then at the Centre Culturel Suisse Paris in December.

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Are there any artists, past or present, that have inspired your work? What do you think of Andy Warhol’s impact on media and video?

We can mention: !Mediengruppe Bitnik as pioneers in the Swiss Media Art scene, the work of UK artist and writer James Bridle, Ryoji Ikeda for his powerful minimal audio-visual installation and Julian Charrière for his sculptures and video work on the topic of climate change. We are also inspired by critical writers such as Alain Damasio.

Andy Warhol’s work has impacted the way art is duplicable and reproducible.

His work acts also as a mirror of the consumerism and materialist society started after the war, during the glorious thirties.

In that sense, we can draw a parallel with the “digital consumerism” of today materialised by the overwhelming amount of videos produced and diffused online, as highlighted in burningcollection.tv

Apart from using the digital technologies in your artistic practice, what is the extent you use it in your private life?

David: I use a smartphone and social media daily (especially Instagram) but assume I should reduce my digital consumption. My MA thesis entitled “Recycling data, a discussion around digital moderation” was decrypting this particular aspect of digital addiction.

Marc: My use goes from entertainment to information, to communication. The omnipresence of digital does not bother me. The important thing is to be able to manage your digital environment, choosing the right tools.

Laura : I watch and read a lot of content from social media, news websites, art related platforms, etc and I do enjoy this digital consumption. However I am becoming more and more bothered by this constant flow of information and interruption. Therefore I am careful about saving some time off where I limit the possible distractions by muting conversations, disabling notifications, etc

More generally, the key is to be aware of the impact of our online actions. In that sense, we try to choose the softwares and tools we are using and prioritise – if possible – open source ones. However, the online tools and products proposed by the GAFAM are often the most stable and are…free to use (although they are indirectly making money through the collection of our personal data). We also fully avoid using any smart gadgets or AI assistants.

What role does digital play on (young) artists nowadays, do you think it makes a difference in terms of being represented by a gallery, institution to be “online” popular?

Having an online presence (website, social media) as an artist is important but is not necessarily the key for success. Lauren Huret is a good example, she rarely publishes images of her work online and “does not trust the internet, neither you”.

We define ourselves as artists or “media artists” questioning the impact of technology and the digital. Although we use emergente (digital) technologies in our work, for us the message and the questions raised by our art pieces is more important than the choice of the medium we use.

At the same time, art created with digital technologies is also bringing new challenges on the table such as how to collect, conserve, sell or exhibit such artworks.

In that regard, The HeK in Basel – which has recently acquired Displuvium for its collection – has positioned itself as a pioneer in Europe in the field.

The website https://daata.art/ or institutions such as Jeu de Paume in Paris – which commissions artists to create online work for their virtual space – are also investigating in that direction.

More on Fragmentin:

Fragmentin is an artist collective based in Lausanne, Switzerland, founded in 2014 and composed by three ECAL (Lausanne University of Art and Design) alumni: Laura Perrenoud (*1991, Lausanne), David Colombini (*1989, Lausanne) and Marc Dubois (*1985, Basel).

At the crossroads of art and engineering, Fragmentin’s work questions the impact of the digital on everyday life by investigating these technologies’ disposition towards control and opacity. Influenced by the likes of Alain Damasio, Eric Sadin and James Bridle, Fragmentin’s works are often conceived as spaces for discussion on crucial contemporary themes and issues such as climate change.

Through installation, video, interaction and performance, the studio’s artworks demystify complex systems and reveal the tension arising from emergent technologies.

Fragmentin’s pieces have been exhibited in Switzerland and internationally and have been acquired for collections of institutions such as HeK in Basel or the Art Foundation Pax.

Since 2017, The three artists have been awarded several prizes: the App Art Award at the ZKM in Karlsruhe in 2017, the Pax Art Award in 2018 at the HeK during Art Basel, and the Prix du Rayonnement de la Fondation Vaudoise pour la Culture 2019 at the new MCBA in Lausanne.

Full bio: https://www.fragment.in/biography/

Website: https://www.fragment.in/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/fragment.in/

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