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BlipTalk with Rosa Menkman

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Every technology has its own accidents. Rosa Menkman is a Dutch visualist who focuses on visual artifacts created by accidents in digital media. The visuals she makes are the result of glitches, compressions, feedback and noise. Although many people perceive these accidents as negative experiences, Rosa emphasizes their positive consequences.

By combining both her practical as well as academic background, she merges her abstract pieces within a grand theory of noise artifacts, a ‘glitch studies’.

Rosa has performed at festivals like Haip (Ljubljana), Cimatics (Brussels), Video Vortex (Amsterdam) and Pasofest (Ankara), Blip Europe (with Paris), and collaborated on art projects together with Alexander Galloway, Govcom.org, Goto80 and the internet art collective Jodi.org. In 2009 she started a PhD at the KHM (on the subject of noise artifacts).

Blip: Before you began doing visuals, where you into doing any different types of art or music?

Let me start by bragging a bit about my (former) mad soccer skills. Here it comes:

When I was young, I played as a striker in the soccer team of district Middle-Netherlands, which was almost as good as it could get (at least for my age at that time). I did not need to listen to the tactics, they were for the other people, my work was simple; I wanted to be faster, better, shoot and score!

Besides soccer I was not really a striker. I cut and pasted the schools newspapers together and I was a high school DJ (I mostly stood out for my really bad mixing). Then I started studying new media in the University and I was never the best at anything anymore, my body kind of grew into the familiar computer curves, while my knowledge, capabilities and money could not keep up with any of the new technological developments. Since then I am not a striker anymore, I have to use tactics.

It might seem weird to put so much emphasis on soccer, but there is a reason for this. Lately I have been recognizing artist and theoreticians developing similar striker positions in their fields of work. I Think for instance about a presentation Lev Manovich gave last month at Society of the Query Conference in Amsterdam. In his presentation, he showed the visual outcomes of his supercomputers, for instance a very big nicely shaded pixel image, that he later explained was a diagram that showed the changes of colors used in the Times covers from the beginning until now. Unfortunately, the explanation stayed on this level of ‘product’, he did not elaborate by giving a deeper insight or interpretation to his image. Although some people in the audience questioned this, Manovich seems to be able to get away with this lack of tactics, I think maybe because he is ‘the striker’ of ‘team humanities’.

In a way all of the teams, whether theory, technology or art, or even teams from chiptune, glitch or demoscene possess strikers, that seems to be addicted to the flashiest new outcomes, to reach the goals cleaner, faster, nicer, better (whatever these terms mean, or how they can be scored). They don’t care about the procedural, the tactics of creation, but just about the outcome, the final design (chiptune made in an emulator, a glitch image made in photoshop etc.).

Blip: How does your background influence your current work?

I just started a practical PhD in audio visual noise artifacts (glitches, compressions and feedback) at the KHM in Germany. Theory is thus closely intertwined with my (audio) visual work. My research on glitches grew out of my love for the Dutch net art collective jodi, who first opened up my eyes to this ‘new’ anti-language.  Of course I also played videogames and worked with machinima. A couple of years ago (2006) I even organized Machinimabits festival for which I hired – and first came into contact with – Goto80. My current work however is not so much connected to videogames. I do still work with the prince of happy data destruction.

Blip: How did you first become aware of the possibility of visuals, and doing them in the style that you are doing them now?

I grew up with a fascination for the dutch rave VJ Micha Klein. Looking back at these visuals today, they might seem silly but I really liked (and still kind of like) all the flying rave symbols; the 3D hearts, peace symbols and XTC pills. But obviously this is not what I am doing today.

A couple of years ago I started making (music) videos, but many of those are quite silly. New opportunities arose when Goto80 explained me how he uses the Commodore 64 sound chip (the SID chip) for the creation of music. For example, the volume envelopes for sounds are difficult to stabilize due to bugs in the chip, while the filters are partly analogue and vary between computers. Goto80 uses these bugs to achieve dynamics and unpredictability in his music. I noticed that the bugs Goto80 exploits give a very specific texture to the sound, and more importantly, that these textures have visual equivalents. I gradually found more and more of these correspondences between audio and visual technologies and started using them in my works that I came to think of as ‘Videoscapes’. In these Videoscapes I set out to create new environments consisting of both sonic and visual artifacts, like for instance glitches, compressions and feedback.

During these modes of working, I often found that the tools I used were not neutral objects. Some functionalities were ‘illegal’ or erroneous. They were rejected by software as invalid or unsupported and fell outside the preprogrammed field of reason; they are an example of digital madness that I find very inspiring.

Before I started vj-ing myself, Goto80 and Entter invited me to tag along to a vj festival in Geneva (Mapping Festival). I ended up finding a cheap airplane ticket some days before they all arrived and after a lot of sensory deprivation during the many lonesome rave nights I came to a conclusion when Entter just arrived. I screamed out to them (backstage between all the other VJ’s) ‘all vjs are losers’. Soon after this declaration of love to hate (early 2008) serendipity struck and Geert Lovink (my professor at that time) decided that I was a vj and offered me a gig at his conference’ after party at the best club in Amsterdam. Since then I am one of them (vjs).

Blip: Where do you see yourself in the greater chip music/art/visualist community?

I guess I fit in anywhere, because glitches exist in any medium, and I also don’t feel stuck into 8bit or any kind of other technology, hard or software. I don’t want to get stuck in one community anyway. I guess glitches are heavily used in chip music vj:ing, so it makes a lot of sense to position at least some of my work there.

Blip: Who are you most excited to see at blip? Why?

I know how to answer this question because the prince of data destruction told me: little scale.

Blip: Where do you see your progression as an artist heading? Deeper into your current style, or perhaps something different?

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Rosa Menkman is performing visuals on all three days of blip. More info here.

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