What is the relationship between art/aesthetic and sex?
At its best art can be a sexual experience... Through my work I’ve experienced how little art deals with sexuality. There is lots of art-istic works depicting it, symbolizing it, wanting it, but few artists who really deal with sexual practice or sexual experience. So in reality, outside of the symbolic domain, the relationship is rather weak. That is, art has a very superficial connection to sex. In my work I combine a) art as an experimental field with b) the body as an experimental playground. The intriguing result is that the aesthe-tic experience is turned inward. The artistic experience — if this exists — is internalised, pointing toward the inner, embodied ex-perience. In this case it becomes evident that the common notion of aesthetics is challenged. Rather than being a pure, reflective pro-cess it also becomes dirty, desirable, cheap and very human.
What is the future of sexual practice?
Sexual practice is as all cultural phenomenons a matter of fashion. In the nineties we saw a focus on the “machinic” practice. This arose due to sexual economics: the demand for new fictions — represented by the provoking image of cybersex — was rare, and therefore costly. Once cybersex became a common practice as chatt-ing and email-dating it became available — and less valuable. Now we’re in a phase of desiring the physical body again. I think this is a timeless issue anyway. The real value of cybersex is in offering us the experience of other, fantastical and different sexual practices.
How does “Inter_skin” relate to your earlier “cyberSM” piece?
In cyberSM we created an extroverted, action-oriented system. After having built and exchanged 3D cyberbodies, you had to click the body of your “friend”. When you discovered and “touched” your friend by mouseclicks, you would simultaneously trigger different stimulus onto his body through the suit. This first system was therefore very screen-based and 3D game-like. In Inter_skin I wanted to get rid of the interface. At least the visual one. A telehaptic system is about sensing and sending a body of NOW-sensations. It’s about who I am, what I feel, what I want — right NOW! I wanted a system where you exchange bodies rather than images and data about the virtual body. To realize this I had to build a two-way suit: a suit that could both sense and stimulate a body. This was made by designing skin-like sensors who where paired with the vibrotactile stimulus (custom made vibrators). In the final system there was no monitor. The only thing the participants had to do was to touch themselves. This auto-erotic stimulus sent corresponding stimulus to the “part-ner”. This made it possible to exchange bodies — or at least get an impression of the other body: what it would be like to be touched inside your body. Such an inward oriented experiential design turned away from the externalisation of communication. By using the skin instead of the monitor we exchanged the inter-face with inter-skin: the skin as a surface for communication.
What is in your opinion today’s status of the body?
The body is becoming increasingly important. Due to contemporary phenomenons like new-conservatism, the Worlds Health Organization (WHO), the fear of terror and many, many more trends, we are as a culture re-stating the value of proximity, intimacy and interpersonal care. A definition of the body cannot escape Merleau Pontys pheno-menology. Being in the world is about embodied perception. We cannot exist without a perceiving organ. But how we conceive of these perceptions is certainly and slowly changing over time.
Instead of aiming at the sex-industry, you have chosen art to be the context of your invention — what makes it art?
Inter_skin goes beyond the superficial sexual dimension, into the body as a sensing screen for different, other, strange experiences. The goal of the experiment is not as much about cumming as it is about accessing the world in a different manner. The installation lets you feel and see different. As a perceptional-manipulative project it is probing the possibilities of using the body as tool as well as ma-terial. This otherliness combined with the auto-erotic introspection can be seen as a tool for thinking. I find this to be an art project in as much art is about experimental practice. The artistic domain is — relatively — free of moral limits, and even promotes alternative ex-pressions. The sex-industry does not invest in such practice.