By Shruti Shreya:
A chip off a urinal here, a manufacturer’s label there, Franco and Eva Mattes, the infamous pioneers of the net art movement, have been scourging art galleries all over the world by collecting pieces, literally, off famous art works. The “urinal” in question is actually a famous porcelain installation in a museum by artist Marcel DuChamp that he dubbed art by calling it “Fountain”. The art prankster couple however made headlines after they flaked off a fragment of it and similar such pieces of artwork and held a show on them, called “Stolen Pieces”.
Owners of the 0100101110101101.org, the Mattes are taking the world by a storm with their cheeky yet surrealistic works of art that in Franco’s words are “celebrations of real life”. Cloning, remixing artwork, hacking and manipulating net arts, impersonating famous artists, the notorious nomadic couple has done it all. They believe that, while artists are busy shocking the world with uncomfortable works of fiction, the real disturbing facts of the world are staying hidden beneath layers of paint and scum and hence their version of art, however bold and pert, is an attempt to display the realities of the organic world we live in.
They want the people to step out of their “media-anaesthetized” bubbles and embrace the ugly murky side of the world for what it is. This message was conveyed shockingly when they jilted the mainstream art world by inventing the cult Darko Maver, a Serbian reclusive radical artist, who modeled his gruesome pieces of work on the murder victims of the Balkan war and was celebrated in the Venice Biennale before being exposed as fiction. Their large body of work also includes campaigns against fake action movies, almost real-life fixtures and installations in heritage locales, conning the people of Vienna into believing that Nike was going to rename the city’s historic Karlsplatz into “Nikeplatz”, to mention a few.
They forged the way for the Net art movement through projects like the “13 Most Beautiful Avatars” on Second Life and “Freedom” on the game Counterstrike and their constant two-fold message is that the world and its cultures are based on plagiarism since nobody can really claim to create something original, something that has not been influenced or reproduced from earlier works. Their apprehension for the growing sadism in people was shown through an experiment called “No Fun” that makes use of Chat Roulette wherein Franco actually hung himself during live chats with random people all over the world and noted their reactions to the incident which shockingly exhibited how people showed concern, screamed or took pictures but none ever made a single 911 call for help.
With every new project they continue to shock the world even more than before and with their new exhibition “Anonymous, untitled, dimensions variable”, being showcased on May 18 in London, they seem to have crossed the line of privacy by using a hacking software that has pulled 10,000 embarrassing images from the hard disks of random people and displaying them as a slideshow in order to share their concern for privacy issues on the Internet.
While the art fraternity condemns the Mattes for using unconventional, and in some peoples’ opinions, completely inappropriate mediums to send out messages, the real concern here should be whether there is some worrisome truth to their messages and are we simply hiding behind veils of technology to realize its impact on our society, culture, lives and our own brains.