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Ursula Endlicher


When did you start working with algorithmic / computational / Data /Tech art and what inspired you to do so?
“Tech art”, I guess I can call it like that, started in 1990 - with experiments on an Amiga! The first art works I did using computer technology were actually digital prints embedded in installations. Next I started working with Macro Media Director and built my first interactive works. And with the rise of the Web (1994) I started working with HTML/Java Script. These tools offered the possibility of building interactive “scenarios” that combined a completely new way of working. I had studied Fine Art and Theater prior to studying “Computer Art”, when it seemed that by then – with the Internet as this new platform and “world” really - I could put my “three-legged” interest into one by building visual, performative and participatory works…

You have such a prolific career! We literally got lost in your site. (In a good way) What are some of your favorite and / or pivotal pieces?
That’s such a nice thing to say!! Hahaha, love it that you “got lost” in my site... I have been updating this website for more than 10 years now, so lots of work can be accessed or looked at. Generally, I try to keep all my Internet-based work “alive” and/or documented, as much as possible. And you can, when you go deeper into my Website, really also see an older Web, a different look and feel… Though there’s lots to keep updated also all the time… Pivotal piece: The first one that comes to mind would be html_butoh and the html-movement-library from 2006. The html-movement-library is an open-for-submission short video-clip database of movements and gestures participants are invited to come up with to represent HTML tags. This database is accessed to “enact” the daily Top Global 500 Websites per day, and “perform” their real-time Web code as participatory performance (html_butoh). The piece was commissioned by in 2006 and has been running since online. Early this year the whole historic archive of Turbulence’s 230 commissioned NetArt works (from the last 20 years) is getting moved to a new server at the Electronic Textual Cultures Lab (ETCL) at the University of Victoria, Canada, and will be up and running soon again, hopefully. By translating HTML into physical movement, letting the body claim a space in a disembodied system, inserting the body physically into the Web’s architecture makes these underlying mechanisms experiential… in the end, and as Alexandra Boutros writes so perfectly in a review about html_butoh on Furtherfield back then, “Recalling the ethos of butoh, what takes place in Endlicher's work is not just translation, but metamorphosis. Websites are not simply reinterpreted; rather they become something else altogether. If Endlicher is humanizing the web, she is also mechanizing humans, their movements and bodies caught in digital code, endlessly looping as we watch.”

We discussed when we met at knockdown the importance of revealing data sets and their narratives or ‘meaning’ in seemingly unconventional ways, i.e. staying away from the data viz trap and transferring information and systems of information to various media and applications. Can you talk about your catalyst for this way of working? When and why did you become interested in data and information systems as an artist?
This started probably in 2005 with an online series called “Website Portrait Performances” that was built on the hyperlink-structure of “famous” websites (such as the White House’s or the Vatican’s) and translated these sites first into a visual language and in turn was read as instruction sets for movements. So for instance Java-scripted “Rollovers” would be physically interpreted as some sort of somersaults, filmed and become, as short-movie clips, representations of the link in a performative way… Or it could have been in 2004 with “Website Wigs” where I braided hair of Wigs based on the hyperlink structure of Websites such as or So for instance, color-coded links were represented by color-coded rubber bands, or an “https” became a specific knot in the hair… At this time I started with the idea of “enacting” Websites, taking on the character of a Website as a performative or theatrical “role” really, and that my script would be the script of the Website… this lead eventually to HTML and movement as explained above.

The piece you did for the Whitney: “Sunrise/Sunset is a series of Internet art projects commissioned by the Whitney specifically for to mark sunset and sunrise in New York City every day. Unfolding over a timeframe of ten to thirty seconds, each project accompanies a transition of the website’s background color from white (day) to black (night) and vice versa.

Christiane Paul, the Whitney’s adjunct curator of new media, notes: ‘What distinguishes these projects is that they use as their habitat, disrupting, replacing, or engaging with the museum website as an information environment. This form of engagement captures the core of artistic practice on the Internet, the intervention in existing online spaces.” … I too look at the internet as an environment in many of my works, do you think this is common for those of use that see emerging technology as more of a ‘natural’ occurrence rather than artificial? And how do you feel the internet evokes itself as environment, is it the timelessness but cyclical nature of it? The sense of structure and space that is ordered but spontaneous?

A living system? I provocate with my own words, but curious how you see these things.

The original idea for this piece was triggered by my fascination of juxtaposing the Internet as this ever-growing organism with biological or even other “human-built” networks, while exploring these morphological parallels… In “Light and Dark Networks” a mushroom mycelium covers the Whitney’s website for 30 seconds at Sunset in New York City depending as well on the city’s CO2 level, humidity and temperature levels, which biologically have an effect on how mushrooms grow. CO2 changes how large a mushroom cap grows (changing the size of the cap image in the piece) while humidity triggers more mushroom to pop up (the amount of videos that show up at that moment). At sunrise a spider web takes hold of the website being blown in a certain corner of the Web browser depending on wind direction and wind speed in New York City, and CO2 levels alter the amount of mosquitos that buzz around the Web… On a personal level, physical networks make me shiver… there is something about the structural component that attracts and repels me… I am horrified by spider webs and in the same time fascinated by their architectural beauty and smart navigational layout. The same with mushrooms and mycelium, I have a very strong reaction to them since I was little. So it made lots of sense to me to work on a piece where I actually have to deal with these strong attractions and aversions towards their textural and organizational components… Interesting that you are talking about the “cyclical” nature or the Internet… what are you specifically referring there? The timelessness, the non-linearity, the structure, and yes, the “aliveness”, this inherent possibility of change - makes networks this always changing “platform” to perform on. Internet art works and works that utilize the real-time structure of the Internet have this performative and improvisational component built in therefore…

Back to the piece at the knockdown center, can you tell us about that in process and application, and how it was received?
In the installation “Input Field (Password) Plates” Internet structures, such as the Web’s Hypertext Markup Language, are put to new utilization while transformed into physical objects. HTML Input> Tags transcend their usual format and become ceramic plates on a dinner table! These Input Fields are “freed” from their usual function as Web-based executors of control and personal data collection, giving back to the user instead by offering food and movie-clips… The installation at Knockdown Center restages the Google account sign-up form: each plate refers to a specific Input Field in the form serving snacks or movies inspired by each field’s original functionality. The snack menu changes for each round that I show this piece. The piece is very social as it invites the audience into a tour of the whole input field… Many visitors – and participants of the exhibit – came by to get a tour and try out the food selections ;-): Input Field (Password) Plates works best with a “human algorithm” guiding through the piece, explaining the functionalities of each plate/input field, taking questions and then offering/”returning” a treat to the visitor….

What work are you excited about of your own coming up and why?
Two projects are coming up, next on June 10 at Eyebeam, FAR-FLUNG’s (fx) form – Module 2, which is part of the performance series “FAR-FLUNG” that questions the physical and metaphorical interfaces between computers and humans. FAR-FLUNG’s (fx) form is third and last round of these large-scale performances driven by real-time data, and is in itself modular, and consists of public research scenarios, performative installations, and development workshops, leading up to the final large-scale performance. Along the way, one of these modules, FAR-FLUNG’s (fx) form – Module 2, shown on June 10, invites the visitor into an “alert” space eager getting to know its audience while taking note of their behavior and rewarding them later with a performance based on their collected data. I am working with new ideas, really rethinking the “character” of that space or system, and applying some new approaches involving aspects of Machine Learning. The second work is called “Input Field Form” and will be shown at Agrikultura in Malmö, Sweden starting July 1. There is a parallel with the piece Input Field (Password) Plates in that is turning an HTML input field form into a physical setting. But this time around, the artist’s submission form for that exhibit gets turned into an agricultural field where radishes, lettuces, and other vegetables but also, “electronic plants”, are growing – all of which are depending and changing by the same parameters such as sun, humidity, or soil moisture. The field also offers a gathering area for instance: the input field for “community involvement” will host get-togethers where all participants will be able to enjoy the harvested plants and watch the videos playing on the devices. Interviews
Ursula Endlicher Vol 1