6 questions for Andreas Gajdošík
Interview by Robin Ujfaluši
Czech Centre Bucharest continued its art residencies program this summer, when the Czech artist Andreas Gajdošík came to Bucharest for a few weeks. ‘Born 1992, based in Brno. Is an artist and coder. He focuses on useful art, socially engaged projects and artivism which often incorporate programming, new technologies and interventional provocative attitudes. He is interested in ethical source software, sharing, DIY culture and experimental forms. Is member of experiemental band European Union, was member of dissolved Pavel Ondračka collective. Award holder of Jindrich Chalupecky Award 2019.’ (bio from https://gajdosik.org/)
- What is art for you and how do you perceive its role in the modern society?
Recently I have this feeling that art contains a mistake, an error, a glitch in itself. It is everywhere in the art: it does not make much sense to start studying art (parents call it a mistake), to make exhibitions for zero wage (so uneconomical!), to start an independent artist run gallery, to continue with your practice when the scene does not recognize you, to spend money and time on artworks and yet there are thousands of people around the globe doing it.
That is what fascinates me about art recently – it is this erroneous aspect of art which goes through the lives and works of artists: somehow artists deny official scenarios, they stay off delineated paths. They do not follow neo-liberal scenarios. They stay uneconomical, illogical. Is there any other human interest in which this is as common as it is in art? Sure, there are quite commercial artists, but even they started off with this illogical move to outset an uncertain and totally insecure art career. Sadly, it disappeared from their life.
But for most of the art there is this error in it somewhere. Maybe that’s the societal role of art – being a mutation in contemporary narratives and official scenarios, telling the story of the other, being the other.
- In your work, you often combine art, IT programming and activism – how did you come to this unusual combination of fields? And what does it enable from your perspective?
I have started my studies at multimedia (aka new media) studio at Faculty of Fine Arts in Brno. I thought the studio would be about video and music which was my interest at that time. However soon I have found out that the studio is also quite nerdy – those folks were programming interactive video installations in Open Frameworks or Processing, creating games, building crazy experimental synths and using Arduino platform. The Arduino and Processing got me back to programming because it was much clearer and usable than Pascal or C which they taught us during high school.
However after a while I got this feeling that I am not so interested in sound or visuals anymore. As the world around was falling apart (and still is) I felt the need to react to the issues around – to replace aesthetic topics for political ones, to reach to random people on internet. The refugee crisis was peaking and somehow it seemed that everybody in Czechia was a racist pig. I started coding in Python because it seemed the easiest “proper” language and soon I have realized how easy it was to get data from Facebook. I got this idea to misuse data of anti-Islamic Facebook pages. I have created a web server called National League which gathered comments from those pages and then made fun of them.
At that time I realized that it was quite an unexplored field. The web of that time – the web 2.0 – was well explored from the user oriented perspective of the trending post-internet but it seemed that not so many people were exploring it from programmer point of view – the nerdy net-arty way of working somehow disappeared in the end of ’90s. However I am still interested in this perspective. It enables you to see the apps, webs, the world around in a completely different way. The difference between GUI (graphical user interface) and API (application programming interface) is still quite shocking to me.
- You are quite an engaged artist – where is the line between the engaged art and the creative activism for you?
I think that it is this erroneous aspect which differentiates the engaged art from the creative activism. If you are creating a campaign as an activist, you have some examples from history, from abroad, you have some experiences and some new ideas. You combine it. But in the core the main quality you follow is the efficiency. As the result you often deploy something logical, something expected. And it is completely ok – because your role is to maximize outcomes. And so you make safe bets. As an engaged artist you do not care about all of this. You can cross borders, go irrational, bring something with an error, with some logical glitch in it. And that’s when engaged art happens, I think.
For the residency project I have created a bot (can be seen here) which goes through code on Github (social media platform for sharing open source code) and replaces mentions of the words “master” and “slave” with “main” and “subordinate” which does not have connotations to slavery. It would be probably more effective to just focus on changing big projects, do it manually and make the changes completely correctly. That would be the solution if I was in the role of the pure activist.
But I was not. I somehow felt the need to reach even the smallest and most forgotten code repositories and propose changes to them. I am not sure if it was effective or the most successful way of “unslaving” the IT lingo and code. However the moment when owners of the repositories reacted to the bot’s requests for change seemed quite magical or strange if you can call it that way. Maybe it was a small shake in their days. Maybe they do not care. Maybe they think about it. I do not really know. But surprisingly quite a lot people accepted the changes.
- As an artist awarded by the prestigious Jindřich Chalupecký award, you decided not to go to the U.S. for a residency in New York, but rather chose to head the other direction, towards the East, to Bucharest. Why did you do that and what do you think about that decision after some time?
The exhibition of Jindrich Chalupecky award of 2019 was ecologically themed. The exhibition was run by solar cells and energy stored in batteries. We made our projects less energy consuming, we used just a few LED bulbs in each room. It was an experiment to see if it is possible to run the exhibition on solar energy and also to get an idea how much CO2 this exhibition would generate. It was still quite a lot – one two-way flight to the New York!
Due to the ecological aspect of the exhibition, some of us, the finalists, agreed that we would not fly to NYC. So it was not just my call, but also call of Pavla Malinová and Comunite Fresca. On the ceremony I have disclosed the plan to not fly, but rather go somewhere in the Europe. A few weeks later I was contacted by the director of Centrul Ceh in Bucharest that they are open for collaboration and I liked the idea so much! Romania did not come up to my mind as a destination before that mail to be honest but after that it seemed as ideal possibility! I do not regret changing NYC for Bucharest at all!
- How do you like Bucharest (Romania) so far? Be it the city itself, the local art scene, or simply the opportunity to be in another country during these unusual COVID times?
The opportunity to be with my partner Klára Lázničková out of Czechia for one month during the COVID pandemic was quite magical. We liked how many faces Romania and Bucharest have and how fast it can be to change them. One minute you are standing on a crossroad in front of the Palace of Parliament and everything is so scary and monumental, then you take passage to a side street and everything is calm, smaller, it even looks like some street in small town or a pretty village. Other times you just climb over some strange hill which is in reality an embankment of Văcărești Natural Park and suddenly you are not in the middle of a noisy capital city but in huge and vital jungle. Magic!
As most smaller galleries were closed we really liked the possibility to explore the scene at least through Street delivery festival. It was so nice to just spend a few days cycling around the city looking for the murals – newer and older. One day we have also infiltrated to the courtyard of Faculty of decorative arts and design and observed all the murals on buildings and also some sculptures. It was a nice short visit and I would totally love to explore also the inside of the school, to see more works and meet the people.
What we also enjoyed were the food markets with wonderful vegetables and fruits, the flea markets Targul Vitan and Targul Valea Cascadelor and also the relaxed daily life in the beautiful and huge city parks which helped us to survive and appreciate the hot days. One of the most unforgettable moments was the visit of Văcărești Natural Park and the evening spent on island at Lacul Morii with all those old socialist constructions somehow reflective of antiquity and renaissance but made of concrete. One would expect crowds to be there on a hot day, but there were just a few fishermen, some sun bathing people and a group of teenagers jumping into the lake. That place probably sums up my feelings about Romania – full of beautiful places which are not occupied by capital and monetized. Forcibly exploited. Instead, there are still plenty of fruitful places to just hang out and be. Which is more and more rare nowadays.
- Did you think of coming back to Bucharest/Romania at some point in the future? And if so, what would your motivation be?
Totally! Romania is a lively place with lots of errors but they give it a spice. I would love to see Bucharest after the COVID pandemic in its full gloom – to explore galleries which were closed now and also meet some more people at show openings. Due to COVID we have stayed with Klára quite asocial – did not want to spread the virus potentially, it was a constant block in our head. So yeah, I would love to get back to Bucharest. And also to visit Timișoara for more than one hour, the city looked quite bike friendly, which is nice. Over and above, there is the tempting nature in Romania be it hills, mountains, sea, rivers or delta. One year would not be enough…