Q&A- An Interview with multi-media artist Joana Moll.
The work of Joana Moll captured our attention because of the critical gaze she produces towards the society we live in. Her video installations often engage with the controversial realm of the digital world; creating discourses on the problematic as well as the potential of the Internet in revealing, shaping and interfering with our understanding of social realities.
We are very excited to share with you the interview we had with her, hoping that her practice can inspire further reflections on the shifting terrains of the digital medium.
EM: Can you give us a brief summary of your path as an artist?
JM: My work is at the intersection between art, technology and society. I studied a BA in Fine Arts and I pursued a MA in Digital Arts in Barcelona. My early works focused on exploring the visible manifestations of the transmission of information between machines when being intervened by human processes. Later, my interest centred in the effects that technological procedures had in social behaviour. Currently I am investigating the impact of human behaviour, when mediated by technology, on the ecosystems. Transdiciplinary research is another important element in my practice. In the last years I’ve been collaborating with several researchers, coming from different academic disciplines, in order to develop my projects. Likewise, I try to disseminate my work in academic and artistic circuits.
EM: What is the main interest of your research and practice?
JM: As I briefly stated in the previous question, the main concerns in my work are art, technology and society. I particularly focus on exploring the way in which the techno-social mechanisms inscribed in our electronic devices transform and affect the social body. Nowadays I concentrate on investigate and reveal the material impact of the alleged digital immateriality in the ecosystems. Transdisciplinarity, or in other words, merging knowledge from different disciplines, is another essential factor in my practice. Latour argues that our reality is too complex to be approached from a single discipline. Thus, although I believe that artistic research practices are necessary, as it allow including non-scientific methodologies such as intuition, are not enough to contextualize and apprehend a specific problem. Therefore, during the conception of my projects I try to combine scientific and popular knowledge with artistic processes.
EM: You predominantly work with digital images and the Internet. What are, according to your experiences, the strengths and the limits of such a powerful medium?
JM: My exploration of the digital medium is an on-going process. As I progress in my research, my perception of its limits and power change. Nevertheless, I think that the strength and the weakness of the Internet lies precisely in this fact: the absence of specific boundaries, which makes it very hard, for us, the humans, to determine its real power and to measure its real impact on the social body and the environment. The technological paradigm it’s an entity in constant expansion. The amount of information on the Internet it’s growing at a frantic rate every day, light years ahead of the pace of human perception. Virilio states that what moves fast dominates what advances slow. Thus, the constant acceleration of the digital medium represents a powerful tool in order to bring the user under the will of the system. The Internet does not propose spaces for thought and reflexion, just the opposite, the actual configuration of the net is based on supressing any action capable to obstruct the production of information and diminish its economic benefit. From my point of view, one of the most dramatic consequences of this technologic status quo is the repeatedly objectification of the user and the subsequent loss of individual subjectivity. However, I do believe that the horizontal and open structure of the Internet constitutes an extremely powerful paradigm for political organization and social action. The Net has the potential to subvert its actual configuration and become a parliament capable to include all kinds of voices.
EM: In what way do your projects can expand the debate concerning discourse of web surveillance and illegal migration?
JM: From 2013 I’m a member of an art-science collective based in France. The collective is formed by artists, scientists and professionals that study the mutations of the contemporary border control technologies. During this time I’ve been closely collaborating with sociologists, geographers and anthropologists specialized in immigration policies. None of these researchers knew the phenomenon of surveillance executed from the net by civilians. Therefore, I believe my projects bring to light an unknown situation, which can help to generate critical thinking towards the actual discourse of illegal immigration. On the other hand, I’ve been showing my work in several international museums and galleries, especially in the US. There, the public’s general reaction when contemplating my installations is that of consternation and guiltiness towards the actions carried out by their people. In the aesthetic disposition of my projects I try to create spaces to promote thoughts and reflexions toward an “intangible” reality with the aim to place this reality back to its materiality. Thus, I believe that my pieces might be able to re-formulate established popular narratives towards illegal immigration and civil surveillance discourses through inviting the viewers to feel and reflect.
EM: Do you consider yourself an Internet activist?
JM: No, not really. I see myself more like an Internet “documentarist”. As I see it, an activist is a figure that actively intervenes in the system with the intention to modify it. However, although the main goal of my practice is to modify certain established techno-social configurations, just like an activist, my work approaches this objective embracing thought and reflexion, which are passive and indirect processes compared to the mechanisms of direct action associated with activism.
EM: Are you working at any projects at the moment? If yes could you tell us toward which direction your research is going?
JM: As I argued previously, my current interest lies in the material impact of digital technologies, specially the Internet, on the ecosystems. Last month I released a pieces called CO2GLE, which calculates, in real time, the amount of CO2 emitted by the global visits to google.com every second. Nowadays I am working in a project that will allow visualizing and reducing the CO2 emissions derived from our interaction on the Net. On the other hand, I’m part of an artistic collective called The Institute For The Advancement Of The Popular Automatisms, which studies and subvert the effects of the quantification culture of the post-capitalist society in the human body, mind and language.
EM: Is there anything more you would like to share with us?
JM: Together with a group of digital artist, we are working on a Manifesto, which aims to promote sustainable processes in the contemporary artistic practice, especially when dealing with technology. We are planning to release the text during April. Any idea or suggestion on that matter is more than welcome!
(All images featured in this article are the intellectual property of Joana Moll)