Subject: <My Real Face>
Date: <Thu, 28 June 2001 01:32:40 + 0500>
I recently took part in a series of public
presentations on web art at the Power Plant in Toronto. "Connecting
the Dots: Web Art and the Bigger Picture" brought together many prominent
critics, curators and new media artists to discuss the impact of net.art
on established practices and institutions.
Mouchette.org was featured as an example of an invented web identity
based on a fiction mixing the role of the creator and the artwork in one
virtual figure. With the co-operation of the Gallery I had arranged that
my 12 year old friend Kyla would stand in for the web character. Kyla
would do the website presentation and surf the best pages as a sort of
performance for the audience, who would be well aware that she was merely
playing the part. We had rehearsed many of Mouchette's stock phrases and
she knew how to browse her favourite parts of the site. An hour before
the presentation I got a call that Kyla had come down with stomach flu
and could not appear. In a panic I gave in to pressure from the organisers
and agreed to give the presentation myself although I'd never intended
go public in my own city. I went to the podium and said: "my name
is Mouchette, I live in Amsterdam, I am nearly 13 years old..."
The audience's reaction to seeing a Canadian artist coming out as Mouchette
was unexpectedly chilly. Nobody laughed and the questions that came after
a long silence were aggressive, even hostile. People seemed offended that
a white middle-aged man would play with issues of femininity and child
abuse. I was asked what my position on child abuse was as if I was the
abuser. Some of my friends in the audience started asking very personal
questions, suddenly inquiring what I had been up to while living in Amsterdam
last year. At this point, I felt so embarrassed that I could barely speak.
Even the moderator’s attempts to shift the discussion back to a
more critical perspective on web art could not restore the atmosphere
of an artistic discussion.
I realised that the art audience and my personal friends might have felt
betrayed by my coming out as an alternate persona, but I felt even more
betrayed by the fact that no-one supported my identity construction as
an artistic project. I have nothing but regret for my foolish candour
and I already fear the embarrassment of having to deal with this double
identity in my social life in Toronto.
Now you might ask yourself: who is this writing? How much of this story
of the Toronto artist is true, how much is made up or exaggerated? How
many people witnessed these events? And will they talk about it? Were
Are you the art context?
Is this an artwork?