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Aug. 29th 2001: Interview with Petri Raappana

[August 29th 2001]

Attention, please
Petri Raappana
exhibits three computer works on the first floor of the exhibition space Overgaden on Christianshavn in Copenhagen from the 4th of August to the 2nd of September 2001.

Kristine Ploug conducted an interviewed by e-mail to find out what it's all about. Translated by Sophie Pucill.

I would like you to - in your own words - describe what your present work is about.

The exhibition at Overgaden is made up of three works. The two alphabet works on the little computer are primarily made for viewing at music venues. These are shown at Overgaden as a supplement to the work "Attention", which has been created especially for this exhibition. Both versions of AlphaByte are made as drawing programs but also function as music-sampling programs. The difference between "AlphaByte (vocals and some other letters..)" and "AlphaByte (jazz)" is that one consists of sounds from techno music and the other of sounds from jazz music. This work is the result of collaboration with a techno musician (Michael Thin Noeddelund, 2000) and a jazz musician (Thomas Agergaard, 2000). Both versions of AlphaByte are based on a place specific strategy, on socio cultural aspects and on language.

As a viewer one has to be active. The way I experience it, you click around without knowing whereto or why. In one piece you move letters of the alphabet around on a screen without really understanding the system and in the other piece statistics appear, related to the random choices the user makes. In both works the movements and choices of the user result in music. What importance does the confusion on the part of the viewer have, for the experience of the artwork? Is confusion a part of the project?

'Attention' is built up in such a way so that the user doesn't immediately understand why certain effects and situations arise. This strategy creates a situation, which can give the user a sense of detachment, confusion or helplessness, when faced with the functions of the work. But as a contrast to this impression "Attention" also presents a puzzle-like situation in the form of a fragmented city map that the user in turn is asked to make complete. The situation has an effect on the user, which is almost like instinctive, a need or a wish to create order, surveillance or control disorder. I partly got the idea for "Attention" when looking at statistics. Statistics are a way of reducing a large amount of information, to do with things like certain actions or behaviour, and converting these into charts, graphs and other mathematical forms. Siegfried Kracauer [1889-1966 red.] used a theoretical term "Ornaments of the Mass" that describes the image of a mass of people carrying out the same movement in synchrony. These images can look like a military parade or a band of cheering supporters. In these images the individual is reduced from being his or her own character or value to being only a part of the greater picture, exactly like a single tile on the roof of a building. The work "Attention" is a way of talking about a certain visual language and perception, which tends to reduce subjects and to render reality as something made functionally and technically intelligible. But as I have said earlier, this work also shows a situation that might describe a need or instinct for controlling and unifying what is fragmented.

The two AlphaByte works are to be shown at music venues - I'll look forward to seeing them…. Is computer art especially suitable for breaking out of the conventional exhibition spaces and entering into new contexts and relations?

The "AlphaByte" work was firstly made to be shown at music venues but has also been shown in more ordinary exhibition spaces. Part of contemporary art is shown, and formed, to function within traditional exhibition places and contexts. The positive thing about this is that the art work here can take on a different content and have a different form than what you would expect in more traditional set ups.

What is fascinating about mixing technology with art?

Technology is just a "tool" that art makes use of. This does not mean that they have to be a mix but more that they can be part of each other. Film is a marvellous example of this. Interactive computer art has a physical character reminiscent of performance and events. These works involve their audiences in a way that a more static work of art can't. They can give people an immediate sensory influence, as the user makes his or her choices, and at the same time the work partly governs those choices.

AlphaByte (vocals and som other letters)

"AlphaByte" will also be shown at the following exhibition:
"Contingency/Kontingenz/it could be otherwise"
Stengade 30 in Copenhagen N
Arranged by "12-18", Molotow, Hamburg.
The 16th of September 2001 from 14:00 -20:00.

Petri Raappana was born in 1966 in Finland. Educated at The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Art in Copenhagen from 1991-1998 and HBFK, Hamburg, from 1994-1995.



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