An interview with Artistide Despres
Bryn Oh: Where are you from? And who are the most renowned (not necessarily the best) artists from your country in your opinion?
Artistide Despres: I was born in Normandy, France. The most renowned artists… difficult question as there are so many of them. Charles Baudelaire, Arthur Rimbaud, Auguste Rodin, Francis Picabia, Yves Klein and even Serge Gainsbourg to
diagonal line through time and disciplines. I'm not even sure my mum knows
Picabia. I could have added a lot of impressionists, and listed the ‘Musée
I've undoubtedly forgotten so many people, some are not really French by the way, like the film director Jean-Luc Godard who is French-Swiss and the photographer Brassaï who was a Hungarian. Once upon a time, France was an attractive place for artists.
Bryn Oh: Often the average person outside SL is perplexed with virtual worlds in general. When people unfamiliar with the virtual ask you what you do how do you explain it?
Artistide Despres: This is true, many people are unfamiliar with virtual worlds. Maybe I would say: Imagine you're living in Italy and you would like to meet a good friend from Japan
in the MoMA in New York. This will
require some organisation. After an evaluation of the costs, maybe you will
renounce the project. Now, imagine that a good representation
of yourself and of your friend (avatars) meet in a space that is a good
representation of the MoMA. That you could walk together, chat and share the
same feelings about this (virtual) environment. If you have felt this illusion
you have successfully entered or used a virtual world.
Bryn Oh: Who are a few of your favourite artists and why?
Artistide Despres: I will give you 500 names… Any discipline?
Let me try per century then:
- XXIst - Too many. All those 15 minutes of fame. No, we have just entered the XXIst
century, haven’t we? My students in
a few years :)
- XXth - Marcel Duchamp because of his clear and intelligent discourse on art, especially the interviews he gave in the 60s. I like the way he splits art in ‘retinal’ and ‘non-retinal’. Jean Cocteau because he was such a ‘touche-à-tout’. Pier Paolo Pasolini as a poet, writer, film director and politician. Many photographers: Robert Frank, Bill Brandt (such nice persons).
- XIXth - Paul Cézanne, because you can feel the cubism coming alive in his work, especially in “La Montagne Sainte-Victoire”. Gustave Moreau because he fits so well in this century. Sculptor François
but I don’t know why I like his work.
- XVIIIth - Goya of course, he was so modern for his period. Do you know any more artists of the XVIIIth century?
Or did you mean in SL?
- AuraKyo Insoo because her work comes from the heart. We miss her a lot. I hope she is safe.
- Rrose Selavy because I have always been jealous of this artist’s realisations (that's a good sign, isn't it?)
- Bryn Oh for showing us the perfect storytelling in SL.
Bryn Oh: Whose artwork do you personally dislike the most and why?
Artistide Despres: Well the artwork I dislike I generally cannot remember, I annihilate them from my memory! In RL I truly hate Salvador Dalí’s work, but more because of his personality.
In SL? Well, bullies don’t produce art in SL, they are too busy, luckily.
Bryn Oh: Which of your own works are you most proud of? Do you feel any failed and if so do you now know why?
Artistide Despres: My RL work is mainly photographic. Twenty years ago I made a series of pinhole exposures, traditionally printed on water-colour paper as kallitypes; they are still my favourite creations. In SL I like some of my music instruments the most. Especially ‘Etude sur Olivier Messiaen’, maybe because it still astonishes me whenever I watch it. I will certainly miss that one the day SL stops working. My work relays on Havok®
(proprietary physics simulation
software) because I always use physical objects and complex scripting.
Unfortunately I am not able to transfer my creations onto another virtual
world, not even on a local server. It will not work.
Petite Etude sur Olivier Messiaen:
Bryn Oh: Do you have a method when creating? If so how does it often progress?
For example do you sketch or write out ideas first for weeks or do you perhaps just jump directly into the project with little planning and adapt as you go?
Artistide Despres: Generally I have an idea that comes up and I know how I have to handle it. Some work involves a lot of research. The ‘Fukushima’ installation needed some realtime data of the amount of radioactivity. Finding a good feed was quite hard.
The tuning always takes a long time. In SL some factors are unpredictable, like the quality of the server you have been assigned or new implementations that can slow down processes you were used to. For my photographic work it is quite the same, I spend a lot of time selecting and refining.
Bryn Oh: What are you currently reading, listening to or looking at to inspire your work?
Artistide Despres: Actually I give more priority to my photographic work. My direct source of inspiration is the world around me. I teach in an art school (it is wonderful to work with master's and bachelor students) which gives me very few time to read, except during the holidays. Pier Paolo Pasolini “Contre la télévision” was the last book I read. And I enjoyed the fiction-documentary ‘Sunless’ by Chris Marker (1983), which I related to a RL project I am still working on.
Bryn Oh: Does your work have an overall theme and if so what might that be? If not please describe how you tend to pick your topics.
Artistide Despres: I feel concerned politically by topics like ‘war’, ’tolerance’ and ‘endangered nature’. For example my ‘Fukushima’ installation or ‘Where I found my Ivory Tower surrounded by a Huxleyan World, which turned out to be an Orwellian World’ project. In fact I have always had social or political themes.
Where I found my Ivory Tower surrounded by a Huxleyan world, which turned out to be an Orwellian world:
Bryn Oh: Have you ever had to deal with negative publicity or a disappointing rejection of your artwork? How do you deal with it?
Artistide Despres: In SL it is ‘take it or leave it’ because it is not easy to evaluate a project. The public is generally not very difficult, in terms of quality and content. I would be rather glad with an utter rejection, because that means it's a 'true' reaction. It happened to me when I presented my installation ‘Les Petits Soldats’. It was an anti-militarist artwork where notions like ‘honour’ and ‘patriotism’ were heavily discussed. It resulted in verbal fights and a lot of commotion. We need more instances like that one.
Les Petits Soldats:
Bryn Oh: Would you like to take a stab at explaining what defines virtual art?
Artistide Despres: I am not a philosopher, nor a good writer, so I may need to refer to Gary Zabel’s thesis about virtual art. Film and books are immersive but they don’t
constitute virtual art. A game or a good website is interactive
but they are far from being virtual art. A 3D representation is impressive
but I cannot live inside it unless I am virtual too. What about combining all these factors
and meeting other creative persons virtually?
|Artistide Despres Image by (I think)|
Bryn Oh: What would you say makes virtual creations unique over other art forms?
Artistide Despres: The mixture of immersion, interaction, the feeling of space, the possibility to work through the network with other persons (avatars) is certainly unique and constitutes a new art form. I almost forgot about coding and writing script, which is an important procedure when you are working with virtual arts. When scripting will resemble poetry we will probably have the ultimate form of virtual art. (When the difficult task of scripting won’t be a technical challenge anymore.)
Bryn Oh: Centuries ago there was no such thing as an "artist" just craftsmen, as time progressed superior technical ability and creativity created the elite "Master" artist whose work stood recognized above all others. In 1917 Marcel Duchamp submitted a work entitled "Fountain" to the Society of Independent artists. He stated "... He (the artist) CHOSE it. He took an article of life, placed it so that its useful significance disappeared under the new title
and point of
view – created a new thought for that object" He wanted to shift the focus
away from technical craft to more of an aesthetic intellectual interpretation.
Some say that because of him almost everything is considered art today. From an
elephant painting with its trunk, a Banksy, a child's drawing to someone
vomiting paint onto a canvas. What is your perspective on this?
Artistide Despres: I would like to think that art is the ‘thermometer’ of human intelligence. Therefore ANY painting made by an elephant is NOT art. Duchamp’s Fountain was a big statement on art. The object was eventually lost and destroyed (The actual object is a remake). It is stupid to think that because of him almost everything is considered art today. Duchamp was far more selective. Art must be linked to the context of its creation (Why? When? How? For Whom?). Duchamp’s set came at the right time: the concept became more important than the representation. Sometimes, random circumstances or specific persons improve the quality of art : The invention of Photography and Film, Cubism & Dada, Dodecaphonism, and Sound synthesis have been huge steps for art. Virtual Art might be such a step as well.