E AREA may be perceived as a certain turning point in your work, for since the moment the E AREA project began to be conceived as a specific space, it has also been used as the name for the whole group. seen from today’s perspective, i consider it as a crucial milestone in your work, which might thus be divided into pre‐ and post‐ E AREA
Back in 1998, the point of the visual turning point was that for the first time we attempted to focus on architecture of the E AREA project, which resembled a university. When I say university, I do not mean it in the sense of certain exclusive education. At that time, on the other hand, I conceived universities as spaces monopolising or laying claims to knowledge, so I imagined new forms of teaching or new forms of communicating information. Looking back, you may definitely interpret the name E AREA, with the letter “E” standing for emotions, ecology, electronics or earth. Then, we were captured and inspired by all that. Ive always had a feeling that E AREA was given by your inner tension leading to an alternative way of education. To what extent do you find it important to build alternative spaces aimed at any form of education or self‐perfection? i mean spaces independent of any institution. i perceived it as a desire to build your own institution. First of all, it seemed to me that communicating very interesting information through a text, curves and physical or mathematical equations, is too complicated and I wanted to create a completely intuitive space. At that time, there was a lot of excitement about virtual reality, and we thought it could serve as a suitable tool for communication information, following the principle of replacing reality. Just imagine that you are observing a process and, instead of it being explained to you with the help of an experience of any kind, you can experience it yourself thanks to the technology… you can experience the percept directly via neuronal communication in virtual reality. In any case, I have always asked myself whether developing systems replacing reality makes sense, and whether there are any other alternative ways more connected with the natural perception of space. It is a matter of chance in which space you emerge or you are born, and what mankind will perceive natural and artificial in the future. E AREA was a certain culmination of this stage. How do you perceive this first period in the 1990s, and what do you believe to have been the most characteristic? Suppose you were asked to look back; you started as a sculptor, then became interested in ecology, you gradually left material behind, then E AREA which is architecture, although it should be filled with an idea… When I remember that, it was 1998, which was particularly important, when I above all attempted to provoke discussion. Quite naively, I called it neuronal discussion, which means discussion not limited to words only. With my team, I considered various technologies linked directly to thoughts. So, we abandoned the term “virtual reality” very soon, since we understood that it leads to nowhere. Mainly due to the fact that it isolates the human being from reality. We realized that it is necessary to create things in harmony. E AREA itself had several developmental stages, ranging from an enormous building to smaller cells, which tend to be connected to a certain educational or scientific center. In essence, we aimed to reflect the area of Prague, which I am attached to in a way; I thought it was interesting to create a center which would attract new ways of thinking owing to its shape and matter. Everyone searches for a space in which they feel good, escapes from it, or on the contrary, they search for it. Thus, the initial stimulus was to create an interesting architectural magnet for people from all over the world. At the same time, there was a desire for discussion and shaping new opinions of the globalised world. Due to the fact that, back in 1998, Prague lacked a developed Internet network, I realized that a center like that must give rise to a certain network; a network of small centers, small inter‐connected cells. Basically, this was the reason why we were happy to finish the development three years later, since creating a megalomanic center is, in fact, against all natural processes. And that’s what we didn’t want.We met for the first time just before the e‐forum. To me, it was very special, since until then i had perceived you as an artist working with objects and virtual reality, while moving around different forms of art. but in the e‐forum, the art began to fade out, thus becoming the discussion or the network itself. Why was the e‐forum so important to you as an artist? In 1998, the first annual international conference Forum 2000 was held. The conference was founded by Václav Havel and Elie Wiesel, and it was there where I met young people, politicians and philosophers thinking in a similar way. René Kubášek, one of the Forum’s main activists, was really helpful to us. It was he who initiated the E AREA’s presentation at the Forum 2000. We took part in the first three years, developing our own accompanying E‐forum, reflecting our views and issues from the sphere of digital culture. We complemented the main Forum 2000, in which leading intellectuals, such as Francis Fukuyama or Fritjof Capra, participated, with a very subtle yet extensive network connecting over 300,000 individuals at one moment, which was a huge success in 2001. What was important was the fact that we connected the E‐forum with universities, destroying communication barriers and getting the discussion into the network. Over those three years, I really said to myself that the discussion had the power to change something since I was also dissatisfied with the situation in our society. By this, I mean stupidly taking over the already obsolete and out‐of‐date capitalism (dying elsewhere) in our society. The E‐forum discussion was supposed to generate new observation as to how network‐ and fractal‐based thinking society may function.
you often talk about things such as education, whether in connection with e AreA or e‐forum. i see in it an inner desire to learn something more. Are your projects based, to some extent, on self‐ ‐perfection of any kind, or on the desire to overcome barriers? At the beginning, I said that certain space gives you the possibility to concentrate on sharing or spreading information. Self‐perfection works, quite obviously, as the first stimulus. At the same time, however, when you feel that a certain network is missing in the space we move around in, you attempt to create it. I thought this was natural or what society needs. It was also one of the impulses why the Digital Media programme was established at the Faculty of Social Sciences, where we both teach. In the case of the E‐forum, it was very pleasant to have created a space which (thanks to electronic media) wiped out the barrier of shyness, the barrier of psychological obstacles, leaving a space where you can express yourself freely.I have always perceived these projects as, say, intellectual and highly societal. And, in the case of sakura, suddenly, i had a feeling of a certain turning point that you need to delimitate or identify yourself with society. i perceived your need of a critical view. Towards the E‐forum’s end, I realized (and thus concluded naturally) that there was evidence that it was all connected to what might be labelled as a snobbish space, which is no longer truthful but rather exclusive and closed. And that’s something I have never wanted. Yes, it may be said that it was intense techno‐optimism that was expressed by the Sakura project, appearing naturally through the Mnemeg and Sembion projects, yet 5 years after the E‐forum. It expressed a technocratic view, searching for harmony between the body and the technologies distorting and hybridizing us. Sakura was all about searching for an escape from such distortion, where freedom has no room, where the technologies create a cage and where our emotions are distorted. It attempted to find a way with the help of a certain techno‐mission.Each work of art reflects the author, in particular. you have always been an artist whose creation is perceived to resonate directly with new technologies. Where does your anger come from then? At least, i thought it was anger… Sakura, and all other works in essence, originate from network thinking. Yes, it is I who provide the initial impulse, but later, we all seem to be absorbing together, working with ideas as thoughts, as if with matter. One may say that even such collective perception was reflected in Sakura. A critical view of the techno‐space is a question of experience and the question of how I perceived myself, how I change in relation to the environment and to nature. More intensively, I started searching for contacts with a natural environment; with a scent, wind and feelings that are primitive and archetypal.
i am also asking you this because the artist is often alone with their original idea. And as you work on it for some time, you might become isolated. i do believe that frequently it is hesitating between being somewhere alone in peace and quiet, resonating with the environment, regardless of the fact whether it is nature or the surroundings, and on the other hand, there are things heading directly towards society where they resonate. Do you feel the need to overcome such isolation? Do you want to be heard? It is similar to when you go to sleep at night to regain energy and you communicate during the day and get it out. The waves of people and society you feel are about the fact that first you drink this energy and then you make up a filter so that what you create is not confused. The projection into society, the desire to communicate is just natural, but it must be somehow reflected, it must go through a filter taking place in peace or concentration. I have been making lots of efforts not to produce rubbish. I try to produce what is healthy and what makes room for healthy growth. I don’t long for decadence; I always search for what is fresh. This might be the reason why there is also the desire to search for new technologies not carrying the burden of the past, that’s why there is the desire to work with sound and projection, which is extremely non‐material, being close to thoughts.One may perceive it on two levels which might seem traditionally contradicting. you are bound to the city, you live in it and you like to move around it. i guess you like its hustle and bustle. And on the other hand, there is the ecological way of life and perceiving something that is wild. At first, I do not see any contradictions at all, but absolute harmony. Imagine a wild Indian coming from the Amazon to New York, reflecting society around through his or her own perspective. The city’s chaos must be a torture. Whenever I arrive somewhere, what I am interested in is searching for the absolutely clear view in myself. I arrive in the city as if entering an extreme order of right‐angled urbanism. The wilderness, on the other hand, means extreme movement and fight for survival. It is where I feel happy, where I dive into accumulated thinking and the city‘s inspiration. What calms me down is the change in the light, noises, scents and temperature of the wilderness which is in sharp contrast with the digital quiet of the electronic forest.To what extent do you attempt to reflect this in your work? At first glance, no such inspiration from the city is visible. for example, you have never dealt with street art, while on the other hand, these are not things that would be completely ephemeral. When you are preparing a project, it is a long‐ ‐term process. can you see the clear shape of the result from the very beginning? The thing is that the most subtle and sensitive is always born in chaos. It is recorded by hands, by wrist movements and Chinese ink. When I come to the city, I see the liquid movement of data which may be recorded by technology. Take the Sembion project, for example. It’s an organic form stemming from a syntactic analysis, so it must have been created inside a city person; it couldn’t have been born elsewhere. When I was 16, I said to myself that I would never portray reality directly since it makes no sense. I’ve been interested in augmented reality, disturbing the space with strange objects, pushing to think in a different way. This means that you leave the installation space with neurons in your head being layered differently, providing you, generally speaking, with other impulses to your life. The preparation may take a long time; you may need up to ten years to come up with a single project. I am not interested in working on a number of projects but I want to say to myself: “Yeah, this is it, this might be useful or inspirational. It may have
the power to disturb the grey mediocrity and stereotypes in society!” To a large extent, human evolution depends on various institutions. How did you perceive an institution like a university where art is taught? or an art gallery where lots of works of art are displayed? or an art magazine writing about art? i am asking this question because you make me feel that you often identify yourself in contradiction to institutions, keeping your own view. How did you perform at school? Art is a very peculiar space, you can move around it freely, being different from what society tells you you should be like officially. It is a space where you can truly be extremely free. At secondary school or the Academy, or any other institution I attended, I always felt some institutional protection. Nevertheless, I respected individualities and the clever, while speaking out against bureaucracy confining us. So, when asked to produce a five‐page text, I came up with a single word only. I believe it was my father who brought me up in this way, for he was a South American revolutionary. And there’s also been some influence from our family Sephardites, Spanish Jewish ancestors.I think it is somehow related to you delimitating against what you call clerical art. When i take it in general, i believe you may have difficulty filling in tables… Wherever I feel laziness, laziness in thinking, and stupid reproduction of social models transformed into art, that’s what I call clerical art or the art of statistical clerks. I don’t want to sound as if I am quick to condemn somebody, since everyone has the right to do what they want, but there are things where I feel a kind of calculation in the sense of parasiting on and mediating something that has been examined before, or that has undergone a certain process, and thus being nothing more than further rearrangement. Harping on. It’s like when DJs are working with music, sampling it into a new form. Although it is absolutely alright, there are also composers who create. So, to me a DJ is a clerk and a composer a creator. I am sorry. What i also had in mind was the fact that a table is a pattern and your work lacks exact tables, it is not something that could be pressed under a scheme. your work is liquid, variable, or in incessant movement. recently, you have also concentrated on architecture, working, on a number of occasions, with so‐ ‐called blobs. but it was back at the beginning of the 1990s when you started working with this shape. At the turn of 1992 and 1993, the Thomson Digital Image (TDI) company provided us with software as an experimental plug‐in designed for testing chemical processes, which they wanted to implement into animation processes. That was the first moment when we touched an the blob software as a modelling tool. One may say that it was the beginning of liquid architecture, because the blob simulates certain instability. Grey Lynn, the king of blob architecture, started using it five years later, when the software was eventually launched onto the market. I can openly say that these first blob‐like objects, ascribed to the company Alias Wavefront in the dictionary of world architecture, had appeared in a French piece of software which we had, coincidentally, used back in 1992. When you observe a person’s movement in any kind of space, it is always blob‐like and organic. The blob attempts to simulate and create such organic liquid movement. We conceived this liquid essence with the E AREA team (though not bearing this name then) as a natural process, similar to a river flow. Liquid footprints of human activity in the landscape, shaped by geographic and social and ecological regularities. We aimed to pour architecture into the niche, where a space for living emerges without blindly respecting the right‐angled order, which does not respect spreading data using optical fibers, for example. We are turning to the movement of cars, to the obsolete system and the principle of spreading information. We are looking out of the windows, gazing at horse carts which are not there any more, though. It is necessary to work with liquid bits and data of a new city and urbanism.Earlier, you used to work with sculptures. A sculpture or an object is bound to a certain material which might be dangerous at times, or which may disturb the environment. is your move towards software somehow linked to ecology? Apart from the unbelievable possibilities of intuitive modelling, software has a dematerialising tendency. This means that what you design does not fill up the physical space. After 20 or 30 years of work, you still can’t see anything behind you, nothing like the space exists, and you may materialise it at the moment when necessary. You don’t flood the planet with useless things.Back to the 1990s, you started working with something non‐material…First, I was interested in ecology and perceiving what grows though the invisible. What you don’t perceive has a certain genetic code, which may be a generated digital form. Second, I was also keen on perceiving our mental processes which are non‐material; immaterial thoughts. I am convinced that the thought creates matter, although it is not so trivial that I say something to myself now and make it out of splinters or soil. The key point is that the process of thinking itself creates matter, i.e. what surrounds us. The past creates the future. It is thinking in a kind of holo‐field, generating matter and our bodies in the presence. The current processes are a thing of the past, since they are already a reflection, vibration or echo.In essence, this means that whenever you are creating a piece of work, whether it is architecture, an object or a programme, it is the idea that is most important to you beforehand, since you work with it for quite long after that. How do you come to the final shape? And on the contrary, what is at the beginning?
At the beginning, it may be a feeling of the city; sound, a vibration or shiver of any kind. It can be a dialogue with friends, which is the starting point of the so‐called network thinking. Definitely, I wouldn’t like to say that it’s a thought in my head that materialises all of a sudden. It’s a network of inspirational sources, which then searches for an adequate material for creation. Therefore, already back in the 1990s, I believed, just naturally and intuitively, and maybe naively, that software could approach the impalpable feeling of thoughts, since it allows simulating a nascent process; it isn’t the matter only that lies in front of you. It’s as if you irrigate something with words, and the words are the liquid needed for the matter’s growth. That is to say that all the projects form a single continuous structure, undergoing the process of modification and spilling over to some other consistencies, or being incomplete in some other parts. This is important.Sembion has several versions. Do you think that contemporary art or (better put) contemporary works of art wind off in versions? That they are no longer closed in the frame of a specific art gallery space or possibly its exact determination? Ten projects have been created over ten years, while in fact they’re all part of a single project. Individual projects, shapes or installations have always reacted to the specific environment, as if flowing into that space. If you were asked to map it from the outside, then you’d find connections between Generatrix, Sembion or Mnemeg. Essentially, there are different versions of the same thing, just bearing different names. Can you imagine returning to the very beginning, to painting?
As a child, I used to say to myself that I must learn the technique perfectly, because I felt that my wrist didn’t listen to me but that it is very important so as to manage the flow of energy of ideas so that my hand can become free. At that time, at the age of about sixteen, I was interested in Caravaggio, experimenting with a kind of confrontation. I painted the Burial of St. Lucy in a specular view in order to test my technique of visualising reality. After some time, I sprayed the painting in Jackson Pollock style, attempting to imply that the path does not lead through a realistic depicting of reality, but rather through its abstract perception. I said to myself that this is the way. And I followed it. Over the last three years, I have devoted myself to the technique of Chinese painting, for a simple reason. When you paint with Chinese or Japanese ink onto rice paper all the strokes are visible, recorded whether you think of them or not. Within the Fluid project, I went to China, where I observed Chinese masters painting landscapes, bamboos or lotus flowers. I realized that it is technique polished over a thousand years, allowing you to paint a picture in a completely different way than the European tradition tells you. I observed them moving their wrists and hands; they have thousands of different ways to lay a sheet of paper, to stroke the paintbrush, how long to push it or what shades of black should be used. And they are well aware of all this, confronting one another. It was the time when the Fluid 1 project was coming into existence, searching for the original archetypal rituals in contemporary society. Thus, I said to myself that using this old technique is ideal to record energy.When observing primitive nations and tribes, I am always fascinated with their relationship to what cannot be described. Neither using mathematics, physics, nor words… it is a relationship, as we say, with the wind or a mountain. For them, a mountain is alive, the sun is alive, which is something Europeans find hard to understand. For us, the sun is a source of radiation and heat, while for them, it is a living organism. The relationship is established with the help of rituals containing movements with a specific meaning. In Asian culture, such moves have been transformed, for example, into kung‐fu or the spiritual movements of yoga. Among Indians, on the other hand, it is an uncoordinated chaotic movement, closer to the wind and scents. What I was interested in was the perception in contemporary society, and I realized that it is particularly substantial in the area of sport, such as Formula 1 racing. I chose Formula 1 as the first project because it combines technologies and the cooperation of hi‐ ‐tech industries operating on the highest level of quality and collaboration in our society. Let me give you an example: when a Formula 1 car approaches the cockpit, then there are 30 people cooperating at the same moment within the space of six seconds. Each one of them has a ritualized movement, similar to a shaman’s movements. In these six seconds, they produce something that gives new energy to the driver. He then becomes a medium perceived by huge audiences. And now I’m getting to the point. Imagine the enormous energy looking at the driver. This energy is mediated through media technologies; the power of emotions of victory is, within a second, mediated all over the planet. A huge explosion of impalpable wave spreading through the space within a single second. And all this owing to technologies. This is absolutely unprecedented in the history of humankind. It becomes very natural due to an artificial and digital space. Imagine the explosion of billions of people when they shout out. What does it do to materialising thinking and the matrix of the information field from which we are born? What does it do to the vibration, essence, and our genetic code? These are subsequent questions explaining my fascination with Formula 1. So, I tried depicting the ritual using the technique of Chinese painting, which allows, within a few seconds, depicting the movement of the hand, the movement of energy, lacking any thoughts and being similar to the energy spreading around when replacing tires in the pitstop. To make it even more complicated, I blindfolded myself so as to be able to concentrate as much as I could, and not to be disturbed by anything. I set myself the task to paint as fast as I could until the moment an idea comes up. The painting was then inserted into a specially designed case in the same way as the pilot’s immaterial, fragile body is inserted into the Formula 1’s aerodynamic cockpit. Brno, 2008