Will the Real Mez Please Stand Up??…the net.Art & Cybertimes of mezflesque.exe

Mez is an professional artist that has been working via the Internet for approximately 5 years now. She creates works that integrate text and images primarily in a way that breaks down and reconstructs the narrative; there’s no simple storylines or easy explanations/meanings in these online creations. The name “mez” is also a bit challenging in relation to her actual real-life persona, as several of her net.art pieces aren’t credited to her as such, but have various author titles attached – mz post modemism, mezchine, Tech.no.whore, flesque, e-mauler, and mezflesque.exe (her latest incarnation). Ask the net.artist mez about her real (birth) name and listen attentively through the gagging noises that emanate from her throat. You might hear an intelligible answer, but I doubt it. This isn’t because she’s got some exotic speech impediment or strange form of throat disorder. It’s all down to the fact that she’s been changing her author name almost as frequently as her hair style. And this frequent name-changing behaviour is somehow inextricably caught up in her extensive net.art creations. I’d guesstimate that her alias-swapping has occurred about 8 times in the last 4 years. Better yet, I’ll just ask just her.
NDP: I wanted to ask you about your net.art practice, in relation to your use of different personas/avatars. Why the hell do you change your name on an net.artwork? It’s all the same you, right?
Mez: Well, in a sense it’s all the same me, as in I’m the one that primarily creates the artworks. But in a way it’s not me, when I adopt a name it’s for a specific reason, for example, my first alias was Passe Parvenu (meaning “old upstart”) and this choice was governed by the way I wanted the work perceived by a larger audience; I kept it gender-nonspecific and conceptually geared so people would actually have no pre-conceptions of the work they were about to see. This follows through in most of my net.art practice, and those in the viewing audience who are more attentive towards my work get subtle rewards – if they mentally add up that if I used the name “mz post modemism” on a work, then I’m obviously trying to take the piss out of the drive to create the next big thing [after post-modernism] and punning on the fact that I’m actually trying to experiment around and inject some humour into the whole art scene. They’re rewarded through gleaning meaning cues that extend from the avatar names into the work itself – if they get this humor angle from the name alone, then they might begin to realize that the work itself should be viewed in a similar light.  Also, the use of aliases reflect the fact that I’m getting ideas and cues from a multitude of sources, all to do with the fact that I create and show these works in an online environment. Several of my works are collaborative, but even if there isn’t another artist directly contributing to the work I am influenced so much by heaps of online activity – online chats, regular email dialogues, even online gaming – and this gives me the freedom to play around with the artwork that I create, mesh these elements and have fun with them at the same time.

NDP: So this use of avatars/names reflect this experimentation?
Mez: Yup, but my use of language reflects this more.

NDP: How exactly?
Mez: Well if I knew that then I’d probably be producing trite theme-driven artwork that was boring as all shite. Seriously though, I have several different types of net.art that I create, and one is devoted almost exclusively to the de/reconstruction of language. I call this “mezangelleing”.

NDP: That sounds painful.
Mez: No, not especially, though it can be for some of the people that are too fixed in their perceptions to have a go at reading it. I get lot of abusive mails from people saying “Just speak plain English willya!!”. I’ll give you a simple example of what I mean. If I create a typical narrative writing piece I’ll alter it so it doesn’t read as straight prose but reads as hypertext in plain text – for example, I’ll take a line from my latest mezangelle piece “Sky Scrrr[l]atchez” . Actually, explaining the title will do just as well. The writing piece was constructed specifically to send out onto several mailing lists, almost as a email performance piece, and the title went into the subject line of the group email. Because I already new that with an audience a little over 10 thousand at a conservative estimate, not everyone would be keen to receive an artwork via their email, so I decided to hardwire this knowledge into the title itself. So the title morphed from “Sky Scratches” into “Sky Scrrr[l]atchez” in order to indicate firstly, that the piece would require multiple readings as the word “scratches” associates with “latches” meaning in a hinge, or a catch is needed into the work itself (as my stuff can be very complicated, or not, depending how much effort a reader/audience member is prepared to put in).  Are you following?

NDP: Just. Can you explain it a bit more?
Mez: It’s like when you read a novel, all these sparks and word associations go off in your head, right? Well in my mezangelled texts, these associations and ideas are alluded to in the text itself….I might write “Eye c” instead of “I see”, playing around with the idea of vision and the direction of meanings, and at the same time emulating the abbreviation style employed on many chat channels, like “R U there”?  A reader may have to read it a few times to get it, but even if they don’t grasp the meaning I intended, hopefully they’ll come up with their own specific cues and byways into the work. I make it specifically in order for this to happen.

NDP: Right. So how long have you been creating work like this online? Do you plan to continue doing so?
Mez: For approximately 5 years. I started off contributing to an experimental webspace at Wollongong University, and nowadays am exhibiting all over the world – from having digital prints in SIGGRAPH in Los Angeles, to online exhibitions in Tokoyo and Europe. And you betcha I plan to keep it up, I’m just reaching my peak ( we’ll at least I like to think so). If you’re really keen to see my stuff, have a look at my online work at http://wollongong.starway.net.au/~mezandwalt. And remember, I always appreciate feedback.

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