Eva and Franco Mattes are the cheeky artist-provocateurs behind works like Stolen Pieces, composed of dozens of fragments broken off from masterpieces by Duchamp, Warhol and Jeff Koons. The Brooklyn-based pair pioneered net art, blurring the line between real and online life with staged suicides on Chatroulette and re-enactments of performance art on Second Life. Wonderland sat down with Eva Mattes to discuss the couple’s first exhibition in London, Anonymous, Untitled, Dimensions Variable – which opens tomorrow.
How did you two meet, and when did you start making art together?
Eva: We met during a trip to Madrid in 1994. Franco was playing in a punk band and I was into graffiti. We kept travelling around Europe and the US for the following two years visiting museums to realize Stolen Pieces, our first work together.
Describe your London exhibition in five words.
Anonymous, untitled, colourless, odorless and tasteless.
Theft is a running theme in your work – taking people’s private photos, identities, even stealing small pieces of art. Is there anything you’d consider off-limits?
We’ve never been very creative, and stealing seemed like a good way around it. Drawing is off-limits. We never had the balls to really learn it, and probably never will.
What prompted you to start restaging performances in Second Life?
We are too young to have seen the original performances, and at the time it was hard to see the video documentation. So we thought we’d just remake them in our own way.
Is there a difference between performing for an online audience as opposed to a live crowd?
The art audience is usually not very reactive. However radical, provocative, loud, crazy or dangerous the performance, they stand there politely watching. Even if half the audience think you’re retarded, you’ll still very rarely ever hear some actual reaction, somebody who stands up to say or do something. And that’s usually when the security intervenes… On the internet, people act as they please. Most of the time this means insulting you, but hey, at least they do it openly.
So how did people online respond to No Fun (watch the video below), when you staged a suicide on Chatroulette?
Some people laughed, some were completely unmoved, some insulted the supposed corpse, some took pictures with their mobiles. At one point a guy started masturbating. So while we expected our “performance” would shock the viewer, we were the ones shocked. Maybe it turned us from authors to spectators?
When the Internet first started out, nobody could have predicted that we’d be sharing everything about ourselves online in 2012. How has your art responded to that?
This is so weird for us. In 2000 we started a project called Life Sharing that lasted three years and was exactly about sharing our life through the internet. Anyone could read and copy all the contents of our computer: texts, images, software, even our private email. We felt like being guinea pigs in this weird experiment of radical transparency. We couldn’t expect that in few years everyone would have done it, although maybe for different reasons.
What else can we expect from you both this year?
We’d like to make a piece that is invisible, that it’s impossible to view, and yet you want to see it… Is it possible?
Anonymous, Untitled, Dimensions Variable is open to the public from 10am tomorrow at Carroll/Fletcher Gallery – 56-57 Eastcastle Street, London W1W 8EQ. It runs until 18th May.
Words: Zing Tsjeng