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Production: Michelle Kasprzak (artist, co-curator of year.01, Toronto)
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Production: Michelle Kasprzak (artist, co-curator of year.01, Toronto)

> transcript  

Speakers:>  Michelle Kasprzak

Production: and artist and curator discusses production, including Pixel Plunder, and Mouchette.

Michelle Kasprzak

I’m just going to try and restart again to see if I can coax the Internet out of this cable, but in the meantime I’ll just introduce myself and get going. My name is Michelle Kasprzak I’m an artist based in Toronto. I’ve been heavily involved in a number of collaborations recently. I am also a hanger-on at Interaccess, a pretty active member and a member of Year Zero One, which is an online artist run centre.

What I’d like to talk about today is I’d like to introduce a couple of ideas that are probably not new to anyone here but as examples of certain cases I’ve come into contact with recently. There are certain yardsticks of success and failure particularly in this emerging realm. We are applying some models of success and failure, which are tried and true to some new approaches, which while they old approaches are not necessarily bad or wrong they may be simply inappropriate. I’m also going to talk a bit about some role definition issues, particularly the artist curator hybrid, and then respond to an email Sarah forwarded to crumb list from someone who called into question the hybrid as being a negative thing and I’d like to talk about that.

Let’s see if the net is back. If it is not we will go ahead without it. It doesn’t look good. Okay, well anyway. That’s fine.

So what I’d like to use as an analogy is a model of cosmology and how we arrived at our current understanding of the universe. So I’ll just play you a little audio clip. This is professor Stephen Hawking talking about how we came to arrive at our recent cosmological model.

“A much simpler model, however, was proposed by 1514 by a Polish priest, Nicolas Copernicus. At first, for fear of being accused of heresy, Copernicus published his model anonymously. His idea was that the sun was stationary at the centre and that the earth and the planets moved in circular orbits around the sun. Sadly for Copernicus, nearly a century passed before this idea was to be taken seriously. […] At the same time Kepler had modified Copernicus’s theory suggesting that the planets moved not in circles but in ellipses. The predictions now finally matched the observations. As far as Kepler was concerned, elliptical orbits were merely an ad hoc hypothesis, and a rather repugnant one at that, because ellipses were clearly less perfect than circles.”

Thanks Stephen. That’s what I want to focus on, the idea of elliptical orbits versus circular orbits. So if we look at the roles of the artist and curator, presentation in a museum or gallery versus a more ad hoc situation, another yardstick for success being presentation in the media, being written about or not, without completely inverting these but suggesting they may be turned on their ear a little bit… applying them differently is something I'd like to propose. Taking into account there is a place for these kinds of things but places where these orbits are meant to be elliptical and we’re trying to make them circular despite everyone’s best intentions. So a case in point which I’d love to show you but can’t, is We initiated a project called Transmedia 2000. The idea behind the project was to present video in a different sense, in a sense that was in a public realm. So we approached a number of people who provide services for large LCD advertisement boards in downtown core. In terms of collaboration between art and industry this was an interesting case. No one was really interested in it; and “do you have any idea how much this costs?” kept coming up as a question. Eventually someone bit and the person who did was rewarded with recognition in the media, etc. for accepting such a project. What we were interesting in was in presenting things in a different way where the videos, because they were presented in a public forum and a method where ads were spliced in-between videos. The people who made videos that most reflected a concern for public space found themselves to be the most successful videos in the series that were really appropriate and caused people to take a pause and reflect on what was happening here.

We proposed this as a project to happen in public, we had an online archive, and this was secondary. So while we are primarily an online entity, it took a back seat to this project.

The most interesting project in terms of this conference in terms of this conference that I can talk about today is our most recent project, Pixel PlunderÓ, which we initiated with my co-curator Michael Alstad who unfortunately couldn’t be here today. Here is where the ellipses versus circles comes into play.

We put out a standard call for commissions and… [Side two of Tape One] we got a submission from net artist Mouchette that we were happy with but we hmmed and hahed about it and we came up with what we thought was a better idea. So we sent a quick email to Mouchette and said ‘we don’t know who you are but we’d love to hack you and present that instead’ and she said ‘alright, strange people, that is very agreeable to me but I’m still not going to tell you who I am and I’m not going to give you any information, and you’re free to plunder whatever is on my site.’ Trying to keep it under wraps we presented it as ‘author unknown – I love Mouchette’ and presented this and it became a real collaboration between myself, Mouchette and Michael, with the three of us working to create a new identity for Mouchette. We proposed that while there has been great speculation on who she is, we determined that she should be a teenaged black girl who lives in Toronto. Mouchette didn’t object and refused to tell us if our guess was close or far to who she really is so we went ahead and produced this site. What was most interesting though was how it emerged over time and the collaboration between us as curators and Mouchette as artist in terms of the email communication between us and Mouchette, her willingness to be submissive and let us pillage what we would from her site and put it back together in a way which maybe would have not have agreed with her original vision but was our vision of the new identity for her, as a black girl living in Toronto who we have discovered. As a component of the “I love Mouchette” site there is a message board that was another one of the Internet’s great finds, the dream message board, where teenagers go to discuss their dreams. So in creating a third fictional character of ‘JD’ who was, I have to hand it to Michael Alstad for the creation of JD which was really special, this person instigated discussion and debate on the message board about Mouchette and what her site means and complaining and insisting he was having dreams about Mouchette and what did they mean and could anyone help him, etc, and etc.

This inspired a lot of interesting comments from people – who knows who they are, are they teenagers or are they perverts? – It’s a place where people just collect. It inspired a fair bit of debate on these topics. So in the creation of this identity of this person who is obsessed with Mouchette, and also by pillaging her site and creating an almost frightening perspective of someone who is maybe trying to stalk her or who is obsessed in an unhealthy way, was something that was very intriguing and some of the mail in feedback has concern for JD’s mental health. In a sense a glorified online soap opera perhaps but nonetheless what we felt was a very interesting collaboration between Mouchette and ourselves.

Then that begs the question – what is the role definition between artist and curator and how can this be blurred for positive effect? Now it could be argued that some people would say that what we produced together was not necessarily beautiful or art or what have you, it being a mode of action more than anything, the message board being the most active part, the faked photographs becoming the least interesting part, but it was in a sense collaboration which created that culture. That was very interesting as I’m sure that Mouchette dropped in once or twice under a pseudonym and posted. Also what became interesting was the impersonation of JD on the site, which completely mirrored Mouchette’s concerns in her work of identity and falsification of information. So this became better than imagined in a sense because of this fruitful mirroring of her own concerns in her own practice. I had to phone Michael and say did you really post that? And he’d say no, someone is posting as JD. It was very interesting and then we started posting as other people and it became quite a fight.

To bring it back to the orbits, I have another little example. It’s something called the Jaipur foot. I’ll just hold up this magazine so you can see it. This magazine is wonderful, it’s called Cabinet. [Michelle is reading this]

“In the mid 1960s Dr. P.K. Sethi established a rehab centre for below the ankle amputees in Jaipur, India to redress some of the basic inherent inadequacies in prosthetic design and accessibility. Sethi helped to design a new kind of prosthesis made from discarded rubber tires and other industrial detritus available in abundance in Jaipur and across India. The centre trains recent amputees, from street beggars to middle class housewives, how to make new feet. Once it is slipped over the ankle stump it can serve as a cosmetic foot replacement, a weatherproof shoe, or both, and at a cost of five dollars it is a mere fraction of the price of a Western prosthesis.”

So, this is what I would call an appropriate technology. In terms of the Jaipur foot being an example of taking what is available and around you and appropriate for the purpose to create something that is incredibly functional. I would call the Jaipur foot an elliptical orbit as opposed to a circular orbit. What would have been proposed to these below the ankle amputees is that they should get a manufactured prosthesis such as some people have in countries around the world. However what was realistic in Jaipur was to create these feet out of things that were available and accessible. I’m suggesting that a similar attitude be applied to notions of creation in terms of internet art, streaming, basically anything to do with emerging practice and technology (internet art being old news now) apply this to newer things like art and science collaborations.

In conclusion, essentially what I am suggesting is that when looking for the most appropriate thing to do in these situations often the answers are right in front of you. If we could endeavour as artists and curators, or both, to seek out the Jaipur foot that is just around the corner and take the elliptical path instead of the circular path I think we would all be very happy and perhaps better off. Thank you. The website is at – all these projects are in the gallery section of the site. Also you can email me at


Sarah: Michelle, do you want to talk about your performance last night?

Michelle: In my performance last night I was creating live visuals with 3D graphics generated in real time. I was using a tool called Touch101. It is in beta right now, and is produced by a company in Toronto called Derivative Inc. They are swell guys, very cool, the guy who is the CEO is a great partier and a great mind and he won an Academy Award for Technical Achievement for this technology. Anyway, it was a video of myself interacting in ways like this [Michelle gestures] with 3D objects. I am interested in the edge between 3D generated imagery and the computer and music, with my collaborator, Rod Caballero. He was using a generative audio tool called Koan, from Sseyo That’s what we were doing last night.





  Michelle Kasprzak