Raimundas Malasauskas interviewed Caterina Fake (Caterina.net), Paul Perry (Alamut Bastion of Peace and Information) and Jouke Kleerebezem (Notes Quotes Provocations and Other Fair Use) by email, on the noble art of weblogging, November 2003, soon to be found at NU-E. My answers I allow further elaboration here:
RM: i cannot escape thinking about the beginning despite the non-linearity of the flow of cyber-events. could you please tell me how did you start your weblog? and why.
JK: NQP followed up on Shadowplay which is an autobiographical text on the web, first uploaded 17 October 1995, while away from home. In a sense it is more of an autobiography than NQP, since it follows the time line of my life rather faithfully (optimistically projecting a 100 year life span). NQP on the other hand, while showing sufficient autobiographical detail, to myself seems more of a fiction, in its elaborate narrative, in its writing/design style. Yet again Shadowplay is less a journal than NQP, there is no everyday account of events in my life. It is after-the-fact, where NQP hopes to be 24/7, which of course I can not produce/perform.
In Shadowplay two axes scale my interests. The time line is its merciless horizontal line, a solid block of future years eaten away to become distinct dates, event dates; the vertical axis is composed of miscellaneous keywords to my prime interests, alphabetically arranged, from people to dates to subject matter to books to events to titles of works (some still to be made) etc., etc. Shadowplay has these disappearing in the background colour links. I figured once you'd have clicked them you'd know where to find them. Like when you look up a word in the dictionary and open it on just the right page. There are no external links. All is on site, it is a kind of map to my life and times. But there's only parameters there. Every time I revisit it I am invited to fill in some of the territory. Most of that material I can probably find somewhere in NQP.
What always interested me is the notion of an active biography: as graphein the bios writing the life while it is being lived. I started NQP also because event paced commodity based life and work does not attract me in the least. Yet, I am a materialist, I love my objects and my spaces for what they are and how they inform me, but I cannot see their value just to measure my time and individual development as they do when they write most artists' curricula. The whole idea of such development is strange to me. I want to see and show ideas and work in a progression, competing with the everyday while being an integral part of it.
RM: i can tell you how i came across them - i guess it was in 1998 when i was browsing the web and came to alamut.com via some link (it's always so interesting to note by which link you enter one or another site as it always defines your experience of it) and after a while of reading short notes on disparate subjects i find out that they were put up by paul perry whom i'd met in 1995 in vilnius. it was no so surprising to find a link to jouke's site on paul's site as they came together to vilnius. then i wrote a short message to paul about 'how happy i was to discover his open diary on internet and how fascinating to me was the concept itself' to which he replied that it's an open notebook rather than a diary. do you still claim that difference between a notebook and a diary?
JK: To me a diary isn't public. Certainly not while it is written and most diaries remain undisclosed after. I have never had an interest to keep one. On the contrary I have always been writing notes in a parallel production to my other work. This writing is largely unpublished. A lot of it is about work. I stopped it when I closed my studio around 1993. Only with NQP I started to publish my life and mix it with work in a public format. Today I keep no other notes than what is published on my sites. And to do lists. Then I seriously try to maintain a few individual correspondencies.
Correspondence is a mystery to me, one I've always remained attracted to, even after my pen pal years in high school. The disembodied crossing distances idea of sending a letter to someone you haven't met and after a while receiving one in return from out there, which is a reply. The dynamics of over distance communication, the actions taken to send out something well put, then waiting to receive a return, are of an in-explicit eroticism I think it would still work better in a postal world.
RM: do you keep a never-public diary separately from the weblog? isn't the relationship between private-public pretty fuzzy?
JK: The private/public relationship is fuzzy. Everywhere. Old and new media and technologies keep further mixing the two domains. Personalization is in our hardware, our software and our content. Reality TV and mainstream media are mixing the two domains. Architecture and design have always mixed them. Art has with more and less success tried to mix the two domains. Politics mix them all the time. The private and the public have always been fuzzy. They have mutually invaded each other, lived at each other's expense, perverted each other, in every societal system, in every age.
This may seem like a sweeping statement but if you want you would find proof of it wherever you look. What is new or recent is the communication media saturation of the private and public sphere, and the commercial powers that thrive on their mix and match. The weblog is no exception to the rule. It's a way to format the private/public, or as much the personal/political problem.
RM: the whole phenomena of blogging received a certain historic dimension already. one can probably talk about a certain evolution or a history of a subject as in any other media. would you be interested to describe the one?
JK: Weblogging invites serious research, that's more than one can do in an interview. To me the mode of publishing would be central to such research. And to education. Pervasive publishing is where communication, interaction between the personal/public spheres is going, on a mass global scale.
RM: (...) to recount one's day - not because of the importance of the events that may have marked, but precisely even though there was nothing about it apart from its being like all the others, testifying in this way not to the importance of an activity but to the quality of a mode of being forms part of the epistolary practice: lucilius finds it natural to ask seneca to "give him an account of each separate day, and of the whole day too." this quotation of michel foucault from 'self writing' perfectly describes the blogging impulse and practice to me. especially if we talk about a foucauldian sense of 'life as a piece of art': the weblog seems to be the most adequate medium for such a life in the information society. of course, life is a medium in itself, but isn't there some two-way street: a weblog can become a certain software to organise one's life in the same way art has a potential to do. or: weblog is an interface between different practices and flows of everyday, a sort of connecting-linking device that makes sense out of details.
JK: I think I follow your speculation here, testifying (...) not to the importance of an activity but to the quality of a mode of being is exactly what I have described in Daily Operations, as the un-eventful which for me is the main focus of my weblog and what I appreciate other weblogs most for. So indeed, as a linking device, which connects and herewith relates, contextualizes disparate ideas and practices, over time and between locations. Keeping a weblog (and reading some) structures ones experience. It is so much time based, endurance based, sustainable. I'm every time surprised that it actually is a live activity which seamlessly blends with the everyday and yet articulates life out of the everyday, into a symbolic order which it shares with all other arts or mediated experience.
A weblog can at once level different kinds of attention from the abstract to the immediate while at the same time it articulates every bit of the author's life and times by lifting it out of both the mess of the everyday and out of the equal mess of institutionalized culture. Adding to this the unprecedented functionality of networked content, the unique quality of instant read/write/linking of the web, personal publishing enters a new mode of cultural production and life in the information society as you call it. Meaning also for example that understanding what it means to publish and communicate in an open media environment will have to be added at the top of the educational reform list.
RM: to which extent weblogging could be considered as art; and whether it is necessary to claim it as art at all (in the art-centric universe some of us inhabit). or whether the weblog is a witness of a universe where art has evaporated and became only a software of a daily life?
JK: I am convinced that art needs weblog to come to its senses in many ways. If art includes the production of artefacts, their access by an audience, their critique a make and break history process then it constantly needs upgraded models of information gathering, processing and production, distribution. So to me it seems rather irrelevant to claim weblogging to be an arts practice. There are it seems few artists who do them. To me as an artist personal publishing however is another example which contrasts the art world and market's gridlock routines of the vernissage ruled spectacle.
As I first read with infamous usability guru Jakob Nielsen, the material world is increasingly modelled after the information world, trying to compete with its mobility and accessibility as long as it can keep the pace, which is not for very long I'm afraid. If weblogs are to be an art form, then they would be closer to a performance than to an exhibition. This performance could never take place in any old art format.
Then who says all personal publishing should be usable, accessible? Accessibility has nothing to do with it, as in all major arts.
RM: one could claim that journalism and design are two interdisciplinary practices merging into weblogging. regarding the latter: hal foster claims 'design a crime' and 'contemporary design is part of a greater revenge of capitalism on postmodernism - a recouping of its
crossings of arts and disciplines, a routinization of its transgressions.' he also brings up the idea that design in our time is a perverse reconcillation of art and life (hal foster 'design and crime',
2002). what do you think? how often do you change the design of your
JK: Hal Foster is clearly not a design critic, and a conservationist at that, but here he seems to jump the design and media bashing bandwagon. I haven't read his book so I can not be more precise. I wonder if he notices that today design measures time (time and date stamps it) and changes the world. Like technology does. Like art used to do, hoped to do. While at the end of the day it only changed art and curricula. Which is important enough! It's what art is for, if it would not first of all be profoundly use-less, thank god.
Design makes new media old. Weblogs can be as much anti-design as that they could be (an) art (form), which perverts time, doing away with its linearity. A weblog design change can be in other details than in its interface. Paul at some point using we instead of I was a design change. The way you introduce links, the underlying architecture, navigation, opening new rooms, distinct writing style decisions are all design changes from a generous contemporary notion of (sometimes called editorial) design, one Foster is probably less attracted to.
In many such ways I keep changing the design of my weblog. Not only the interface, which finally seems to have come to a rest in its third remake, but in the detailed way images and text relate, when and how links are provided, etc. I am my weblog's first reader and I want it to offer what I as an artist would aim for it to offer. Just like in other art forms...
New issues of NQP are started when I feel the need for them. I do not adhere to the calendar faithfulness of some weblogs. When connections were still slow I opened a new one when the current one would reach a certain size, slowing download time. Today at some point an issue has exhausted its possibilities and I open a new one. Then there is the NQP numbering, I'm the only weblog I know which does this. A design decision? Certainly it comes from habit: serial publications in print are numbered.
RM: does the design of your weblog correspond with your living room or design of your everyday life experiences, so that the virtual and
physical merge or interact?
JK: This is a good question! If only my life could be half as organized, thematized, designed and coherent as is NQP! There are plenty relationships, if only because my lemoulindumerle.com annex is conceived as a part of the physical place where I live. I can hide there like I could hide in the house's attic. I use parts of it to properly build the site. The other way around my physical life follows so much my information habits, to the point of being terrorized by it, that I have to force my living situation away from it. We moved from the center of Amsterdam to rural France, to this big old extremely labor intensive place, and small community, for contrast and balance.
RM: are there collaborative weblogs? or is this by definition an individual activity? would you be interested in one?
JK: Proper collaborations I know not of. There are multi-author weblogs, with more interaction going on between authors than between Caterina, Paul and myself and our linked parties, but I can not think of a proper collaborative weblog which is not a forum of some kind.
Sharing a publishing format can be interesting enough without the collaboration. I'm interested to see how gaming and other shared interest social activities will develop online. Myself I publish for personal reasons, to build a memory, to mark up my life and times, to share my challenges.
RM: how could weblogging be characterised in terms of gender?
JK: Hm. There's only one place to find out: on the net. There are some engines that will tell you, when you feed it a chunk of blog. How could art or literature be characterised in terms of gender? This is another serious research question. Weblogging will soon enough be widely analyzed and interpreted, from every academically correct niche in the world. If think the male/female balance in weblogging is about 50/50. Compared to other also creative activities how would such a ratio relate, I don't know.
RM: how many people visit your weblog daily? is the notion of quantity important for you?
JK: As an artist I've always denied the importance of quantity like if a 1000 visitors to your exhibition would be better than 10. Having contributed an exhibition that was visited by 3,5 million people, but for the wrong reasons, taught me a lot. It's not the eyeballs that count but how people are informed, introduced, hosted, educated, challenged, answered to, etc. NQP has a steady amount of between 150-250 visitors per day, with most of them coming in via a search and some I hope to be regulars.
RM: what is the temporality of weblogging?
JK: It is all now. The weblog hails a present, the current one and the past ones. It connects present attention over time and between people. It does not so much respect linear time, it flows it back and forth. Which is a neat quality. I like Paul's re-reading cycle for Alamut a lot, but a 5 year jump is a bit random. I know of his interest in deep time and how he enjoys like how The Atlantic can throw you back hundred years in their publication's presence. It happened to me that I search a topic via Google and hit on my own past writing. I actually retyped an Agamben quote when halfway i remembered to have used it before.
Browsing time is a different story in time based media than it is in material, dead media. A friend just sent me a copy of a January 1971 Whole Earth Catalogue. Nothing can link against that piece of paper.
RM: i like to put 'from non-existing weblog' into the subject line of some of my email messages. do many weblogs disappear or get de-activated? is there any link with 'dead media archives' by bruce sterling? do you have an idea where does deleted information disappear in general?
JK: Can you actually delete information? A lot might be still where it was, on some discarded non-recyclable piece of hardware in the scrap yard. Whether it still should be considered information I doubt. Then it should again have to be deciphered. Information disappears (back) into mere data, or noise. Data can be erased. The secret life of NQP is in noise. The books on my shelves are noise, until someone scans the titles, picks and opens a volume and starts reading. The books on my shelves are a pretty picture too. A pretty picture is information. Objects on my table are in the background, a gentle noise, until I focus.
Media are attention based and dependent. The beauty of this is that you do not know where content hides when it is not paid attention to, it just simply isn't there, or its it. Do you remember where it was, what it was? Your attention can be multiple at a time, certainly when it tries to connect disparate moments and media.
RM: do you ever upload your log from a palm or any other handheld?
JK: I wish I owned such device that would monitor the more mobile times in my life: take the picture, author the writing and beam it up to some public platform. But no, I still have to hassle. Weblogging is a mess.