Touching without Touching
Interviewed by Olga Goriunova and Alexei Shulgin
OG and AS: Some of your works such as Simple Sex Site & Cyborg Link Harvester (http://simplesexsite.com) and DOGS (http://runme.org/projects/+dogs) refer to themes that are found on the edges of the socially acceptable (abuse, hacking, pornography). They employ the 'weaknesses' of technologies and also of people (clichés, myths, 'dark desires', incompetence, etc). Why do the grey zones of what is socially acceptable attract you?
Sintron: Natural disasters such as hurricanes or tornadoes come to mind. These acts of nature are accepted as is. They imply no connotations of evil or psychotic behavior. They are merely events that occur as a process of our existence on this planet. Yet they exhibit and produce all the causes that we would consider deviant: death, destruction, dismemberment, social disruption, a lack of compassion, pain. When the storm is over, a new perception of our surroundings automatically begins based upon passed experiences. The social-political spectrum of human interactions must then be reconstructed.
The technology storm magnet, much like a tornado, has attracted our mindscape into an environment where new kinds of natural disasters can develop. Our minds have become attached to our bodies in such a way that it is no longer necessary to physically kill or assault another human being in order for a crime to be committed. All crimes in the future will eventually be acknowledged to be committed entirely on the mind.
The works that I have been creating engage this new paradigm of social behavior. Nothing that I have done so far has actually physically touched anybody. In fact, I consciously steer away from any physical contact whatsoever. There is nothing you can physically touch in my works. There
are no issues of texture or tactile stimulation often attributed to the plastic arts, yet a visceral experience occurs. This is why I often use software to create. Software programs the computer and then the computer reprograms the mind of the viewer. I call this method of creation touching without touching.
The weaknesses of the technology are analogous to the weaknesses of the mind. All technology is based on memory. Memory as humans possess is the most distortion prone element of our existence. The human mind with its fallible memory is in constant flux with what is acceptable and what is not acceptable. Something that one day is considered proper may be considered
obscene the next.
Simple Sex Site and the Cyborg Link Harvester along with DOGS are projects that on one level deal with human incompetence and its comical attempts to save face.
The DOGS project seemed to extend itself further than I had planned. It was supposed to be a short psychotic ramble on the negative ramifications of surveillance but turned out to be much more than that. After the software bots sent out the initial email detailing that a spyware app was installed on the personal computer systems of every community member related in some way to the creator, a large number of women responded quite heatedly. Outrage and rape were the words of the day. In turn I, under a pseudo-persona, responded and castigated their points of view. Someone somewhere will always want to be watched even under the cry of oppression.
This grey area of being attracts me because it allows me to truly understand how silly the majority of people are, myself included of course. When you ask someone what color grey is, you will get an answer but you will never get the truth.
OG and AS: What do you research with your works?
Sintron: I usually do not research anything. Researching does not allow the subconscious to express itself. Experience, feel, and do. Do not think. Most of the information I use in my works is attained before creating the works which makes the creation process quite efficient. There are times, as an afterthought, when I need to look up a definition or the history of some issue but on the whole most every project I create is improvised from prior knowledge. I also get a lot of feedback from friends who point me to certain references that are related to the project at hand.
OG and AS: Your project GOD's eye is very similar to the project Every Icon by John Simon and was created at about the same time. Nevertheless, since you were not part of the proper communication channels, Every Icon received "all the fame" and your project stayed widely unknown. This story is not a new one (DeskSwap by Mark Daggett is similar to the Russian project Ispy.ru (which can be accessed now only through Archive.org)). How do you feel about this?
Sintron: I did not have email working properly then and did not know how to program very well. I was also very young and not very well connected to the art community. I also did not hear about the Every Icon I project until several years later. The EI project is a mini version of God's Eye. The EI project was somewhat shortsighted in scope and did not convey the metaphysical aspects of God's Eye but at the same time attracted a larger audience. EI was a pop piece even though it could have been much more. Even with its exposure, I do not think the mass public paid much attention to it beyond a small circle of techno savvy academic individuals. The mass public is not currently capable of understanding these kinds of works. God's Eye was something I felt needed to be out even if misunderstood and unappreciated at the time.
OG and AS: How would you describe the role of software in your art works?
Sintron: The software component of my projects is very essential but not the starting point. I use software because for me it emulates human behavior and at the same time is much more efficient and practical for the kind of projects I am involved in. Software simplifies logic thought. Logical thought is essential in any systematic process. Human thought is irrational and contradicts any kind of logical outcome. Software can be considered a paradox in this case. Yet the software I create is created for the purpose of irrational introspection, another paradox without reason. I probably
would be driving taxi cabs again if it were not for software.
OG and AS: Is it natural for you to use/develop software or is your starting point a concept and your choice of tools a consequence of that?
Sintron: At this point in history, software has become so powerful that it has become a launching pad but not a starting point. I think that all starting points for any project begin with the desires of basic human needs. Everyone wants some form of their reality to manifest itself. Software gives the programmer that ability. Think of MS Word. When someone wants to communicate in text with someone else they are likely to be relegated to the tools and functions that Word has to offer in order to communicate effectively; Bold, Times New Roman, and 12 point font. That says something about the text and has now become an accepted practice. Whatever software
tools I choose to use will always have a front-end that mimics the most effective graphical user interface of the time. No one cares about the back-end software because it does not make any sense. I can use SQL, Perl, Java, C or any programming language to do the same thing but in the end it is only the text and image or the end product really matters.
OG and AS: How do you work?
Sintron: Idea, viable concept, then, after developing a viable concept, I interact with the audience in a real-time manner, constantly mutating and reacting to the input I receive from people. The projects I work on span relatively long periods of time so I am able to adjust and change things in order to create an ongoing narrative I could not have conceived from the start. This is the most exciting part of the process since I really have no idea how things are going to turn out. My job from that point on is basically to keep things interesting and fun.