CH: Besides neural networks, your artistic output encompasses websites, interface performances, algorithmic videos, online interventions, print-on-demand books and now also artistic Prezi presentations. Is the creative adaption of digital tools and software elementary to your work as a Net artist?
SS: I’m not interested in creative adaption as a means to turn something problematic into something sexy. For example, going back to your previous question, an AI based on art or artists should not be something that makes Facebook’s AI sexy, normalizing constant surveillance and prettifying inhumane optimization.
That said, as the invention of a new technology is also the invention of a new type of accident – to loosely paraphrase Paul Virilio – it’s also the invention of a new way of subverting power relationships. My piece »Search by Image« was born out of a specific moment and realization: when Google launched their reverse image search, they had little control over it. Photos of dogs were linked to naked people and so on. This enabled new way of looking at their archives.
It’s also what I’m trying to get at with »I Will Say Whatever You Want In Front of a Pizza,« and with my speculation on Easter eggs, there are ways to subvert these systems that govern us even if it’s only for a brief moment or a quick smile. That’s already something. Now, if there are two or three people enjoying that moment with you, then you know you’re not alone in all this.
CH: But the role code plays in your work has changed over the time …
SS: While I used to be more focused on code as a site for analysis, I’ve come to think that as important as code is, what’s going on there is maybe not just very hard to communicate, but it could also be somewhat of a distraction.
What is there that does not become visible on the surface, especially as code always needs to be performed? As we are all programming all the time – liking things, placing orders, instructing Siri and Alexa, and so forth – the question is how are we being programmed, how do we program others, and how do we program ourselves?
»As we are all programming all the time – liking things, placing orders, instructing Siri and Alexa, and so forth – the question is how are we being programmed, how do we program others, and how do we program ourselves?«
Most of the times, coding is about efficiency, speed, optimization etc. It’s about getting rid of what’s deemed superfluous. So it’s a question of ethics and of ideology.
I realize this is somewhat of a non-answer that’s even contradicting itself. Maybe I can put it like this: I’m less interested in the inner workings of a machine than I’m interested in the kind of machines that we are turning ourselves into.