The written version follows the original e-mail interview.
Simon Hadler: Your main subjects are: the visualisation of networks, typographic experiments and 3D-Experiments (including writing your own 3d-Software)- most designs being computer-generated;
Marius Watz: My background is in programming - I got my first computer when I was 11 years old. I started programming and knew instantly that it was going to be what I would do for the rest of my life. Then I got to university and studied Computer Science, but found it extremely boring. By coincidence I started working with multimedia back in 1992 and got involved in doing graphics for the Oslo techno scene. I dropped out of university to do graphic design as soon as I learned that such a thing even existed.
I have no formal training as a designer - I'm a complete fraud. From I was a child I've had a block against doing anything by hand, so I never draw or do anything manually. That's probably the reason why the computer has always held so much interest for me.
My introduction to graphic design was through the "more is more" strategies of designing for a hedonistic techno culture, combined with early 90s radical thinking from American graphic designers like P.Scott Makela and the Cranbrook school. My own style now is more influenced by modern British graphic design genetically spliced with Japanese pop culture.
My main visual interests are as follows:
- Algorithmically created shapes in 2D, 3D and animation
- The combination of organic and mechanical influences:
- Pop culture references:
- Visual instant gratification. This is where pop culture rules supreme. From Japanese toys to chemical stimulation, it it's fast, brightly coloured and noisy I'll probably like it. :)
SH: you work for several different media: tv, cd-rom, print and the net.
MW: Yes - I will work in any medium I can get my hands on, as long as it is possible to generate output from digital originals. At the moment I'm looking at creating actual physical output from my shapes by various techniques.
SH: you work both commercially (phonebook.) and non-commercially
MW: Yes. My bread and butter comes from web design through the two-man studio Play, which I set up last year with Erik Johan Worsøe Eriksen.
Commercially I have a strong background in understanding strategic design, brand building, all the usual stuff. Play works by understanding the client's communication needs, then solving them in the appropriate way. "Appropriate" can mean anything from radical design to old-skool corporate work. We do everything from web sites and advanced interface design to TV design and record covers.
Non-commercial work has always been important because I rarely get to use my own visuals in our commercial projects and because most of my own work comes out of playing.
Play has a policy stating that we want to be initiators and not just consumers. We want to curate exhibitions, organise lectures and club nights, publish magazines - whatever seems like fun. When you work with high-level commercial clients it's important to come up with creative distractions.
SH: Do you think that webdesigners have a special position in between the "old-fashioned" net.community and the dotcoms?
MW: I think they have the potential, but many web designers are too young to know the "old" net.community and not all of them are interested in inventing a new one. I get angry when I meet new media yuppies who have no understanding of the net as a medium for social interaction, and who only think of people in terms of dollars-per-click.
There is a vast underground of web designers out there who publish their own web sites just for the enjoyment of sharing and experimenting with new design. I think this scene is the origin of the most interesting work on the web and some great design in general. But web designers lose contact with the evolution of graphic design if they ignore what is being done in print and motion graphics. My biggest heroes are Renaissance designers who embrace all media.
I think computational design will be the first form of design to truly realise the potential of the computer, preferably by going beyond the old interfaces of screen, keyboard and mouse. People like Praystation (US), Lia (AT) as well as of course Golan Levin and the Aesthetics & Computation Group at MIT are doing wonderful work.
SH: you were (still are?) active in the art-scene (with sense:less at ars electronica, coordinator for electra 96.).
MW: This is true to some extent, and I plan to get more involved again. Sense:less was never shown at Ars Electronica (we just got a honorary mention), but it was shown in Oslo, Rotterdam and Istanbul.
I have problems with the politics of the electronic art scene, but I love some of the work. I dislike the constant rhetoric, but when you see the playfulness of someone like Toshio Iwai it's all worth the while.
SH: What problems with what kind of politics of the electronic art scene?
MW: Hmm - the Ars Electronica scene is a very closed circuit with a very specific agenda. They are responsible for the development of important theory regarding the impact of electronic media and new technology on Art and society in general. But at the same time this focus can result in projects that are more "proof-of-concept" than well-executed art. Having said that, the festival last year had some very good pieces and I think the focus on computational design (i.e. John Maeda + co.) was a piece of excellent timing.
I remain very sceptical of the "net.art" scene, which is rapidly disappearing up its own back passage without producing any work worth looking at. As always there are many exceptions, and a lot of beautiful work as well.
SH: what was fascinating me even more than your graphic design was the archive of the future-culture mailinglist. It started 92 and ended 98, right? Interesting that a lot of the subjects that are now being discussed on nettime, rhizome and other lists have already been discussed in 92! You people discussed the commercialisation of the net before others even knew it existed.
MW: Funny you should pick up on that, but I think I would have to agree with you. I'm no longer involved in that whole culture, but I remain focused on the old-fashioned idea of a net.community in the face of all the hot air of the dotcoms. I was always pro-commercialisation, so I'm happy to see that despite the efforts of many the net still refuses to conform to someone's idea of a shopping mall.
SH: so you see the existence of non-comercial communities on the net as sign for that the commercialisation of the net does not "kill" the net as a media for non-commercial means?
MW: In 1995 noone knew what the commercialisation of the net would look like. The Internet could remain an Ivory Tower for academics or become a real-life medium for interaction. Commercialisation was the only thing that could make that happen.
I think that as long as the Internet remains based on open protocols like SMTP, TCP/IP, HTTP and FTP it will remain non-proprietary. Anyone can develop content (and business) for the web with a minimum economical investment and a lot of time.
The big corporations have the money to pay for advertising, elaborate backend systems and fancy design, but content remains king. And the most exciting content is always developed by the independent producers, writers, filmmakers and artists.
And the means of production are always getting cheaper. The revolution in digital filmmaking is one example. Now it's getting professionalised, so in a few years the independents of today might be the monopolies of tomorrow. Then some fresh upstarts will come and kick them on their arse again. It's a healthy cycle as long as the basic foundations of the Net remain open to all.
You can't beat Microsoft at their own game, so avoid MSN like the plague!
SH: .)Why did you turn away from that kind of mailing-list-culture and .)What happened to the future culture list?
MW: I suffered a kind of net.burnout around 95, just too much exposure to feeling strong emotions for people I'd never seen in the flesh. I think it happens to a lot of people. Also, I got married and then I worked on the Electra exhibition for a year. So I naturally drifted away. FC is a kind of community where you must participate to get the most of it, and my priorities are different now. I get nostalgic, though :)
I think FC is still running somewhere, I just haven't checked in for years.
SH: So you work together with your wife kate pendry a lot?
MW: I used to, but not since we split up a year ago. :)
SH: Most of the biographies I found about you on the net were rather outdated. could you be so kind to also give me a little update about what you are working on at the time being?
MW: Ah - current work:
Moving into physical output of my pieces
More non-commercial work: Untitled002:Infinity, a video project set up by Belief in Los Angeles, http:www.belief.com/exp/
"Time:base" - A workshop in Porto in October which will produce pieces to be shown at the "Odisseia das Imagens" festival (other participants: lia, maia, jodi, rev-design)
Continuing commercial work with Play.
Various Product of Play projects: A possible club night, more lectures and definitely a poster series.
"Sone2", Broadcast profile + web, TV 2 (as Play)
Cover illustration, Phone Catalogue Oslo 2000
Java animation for permanent installation, Telenor Mobil, Oslo International Airport Gardermoen
3D animation for OnceTV, Mexico (w/ Alex Tylevich)
"Bubbles", Java applet for Wired Magazine
TV bumpers, Channel 1, Los Angeles
"Vysochastotny", Bronse, National Broadcast Designers' Awards (USA)
TV bumpers, Channel 1, Los Angeles (w/ Halvor Bodin)
Design for flyers, posters, record covers for Zone Productions (w/ Halvor Bodin)
Interview with Marius Watz
The written version follows the original e-mail interview.