A R C H I V E2 0 0 1  
19th
  Netochka Nezvanova
nato. 0+55+3d.Modular
 
  France 2000
Software
 
Netochka Nezvanova is a myth or, more precisely, several myths in one. Literary television viewers will know, of course, that 'Netochka Nezvanova' was the title of Dostoevsky's first novel. Netochka Nezvanova translates into 'Nameless Nobody', which brings us a little closer to the concern of this avatar. For Netochka Nezvanova is the pseudonym of the group of programmers behind it. Over the past year they have been creaming off all the prizes with their videomix software 'nato'.
It all began with 'cw4t7abs' (later 'antiorb' and 'integer'), one of Nezvanova's online personas, that tried to flood various mailing lists with cryptic texts in a hybrid language. Scraps of words in English, French and German are mixed and sampled until literally everything turns up in code. This suggested a collaboration of hackers working in various languages. Nezvanova is probably just waiting for someone to programme a decoder to make their mails legible and comprehensible. The mailing list 'Rhizome' was in any event receiving sometimes up to 30 mails a day, until Nezvanova was blocked. In the meantime their mails are again being allowed through into many mailing lists, or in other words copied by subscribers to the list. 1999 saw the appearance of the software 'nato.0+55' under the same pseudonym of 'Netochka Nezvanova', but bearing the additional description 'machine art'. This programme converted the programming midi-tool 'MAX' into a comprehensive video tool kit. Nezvanova began to carry off prizes and awards everywhere. And they were well merited, for this software is actually able to produce images, taking advantage for the first time of the potential of computer-generated video.
How does 'nato' work? If you want to explain 'nato.0+55' to someone you have to know what 'MAX' actually is. 'MAX' was developed for the Macintosh around twenty years ago by IRCAM in France. It was later taken over by Opcode and is today being supervised and improved by Cycling '74 in California. Version 4 has just been released. It is a kind of multimedia development environment and to name just two examples it has been used by the rock band U2 to steer the light shows at their concerts and by Brian Eno to control his sound installations. Cycling '74 then eventually introduced 'MSP' as an addition. This is an audio extension to MAX and is best known for its plug-in package called 'Pluggo'. Since MAX consists of individual objects, you can assemble and create your own MAX objects. Anyone familiar with the C programming language can easily produce their own tools for MAX. Many Laptop musicians do it already, or at least they claim they do.
'Nato.0+55' is thus actually nothing more than a collection of MAX objects, enabling you to access visual material. The material can be altered in real time, which is to say that it can be coupled to specific data and events. For example, when the news comes up on CNN this event can be linked to a particular function. The visuals in a disco then respond to the news from an HTML-site at CNN. It's quite simple. 'Nato.0+55+3d', the newer version of 'nato.0+55', is also capable of producing three-dimensional objects.
When multimedia festivals began to award prizes for software, they regularly went to this software programme. The most recent such occasion was the 'Transmediale' in Berlin, where it carried off another trophy earlier this year. Nezvanova also received the 'Top 25 Women on the Web' award. Somewhere among the managers of Hewlett-Packard and Cisco there must be a virtual person who is no longer quite sure of the level of reality he/she now inhabits. How does an avatar come to be flitting around all these festivals? It's done quite simply by sending out a woman pretending to be Nezvanova, leaving the programmers sitting peacefully at home in Denmark working on the development of their software. For the programming group did not receive the prize in person, but sent a young female student who introduced herself around as Nezvanova. Meanwhile all kinds of Nezvanovas have been sighted at various events. Netochka Nezvanova has worked recently with 'Irena Sabine Czubera'. Are the programmers women perhaps? The first wave, as it were, of a new breed of advanced female information technologists who neglect no opportunity to conceal their identity completely? Or are these females just the programmers' girlfriends? It will be interesting to see what they are working on at the moment. Clearly they have a lot of new, or more practical options in store for the video jockeys (VJs) who are an absolute must at any party these days. Based on Apple's multimedia-standard QuickTime, 'nato' enables you to manipulate and generate new images in any format supported by QuickTime (QuickTime films, QuickTime VR, Flash-Movies and also OpenGL, the Quasi 3D standard). With MSP you can analyse incoming audio data and attach it to visual events using 'nato'. It also works perfectly well as a video mixing desk with effects generators. Any project produced in this way can be stored as an executable file, and anyone who doesn't have MAX/MSP or 'nato' can always look at the projects. Quite a lot of these projects can already be downloaded from the 'nato' website.
However, this notion of a purely fictional or literary identity does not work completely. For the Netochka Nezvanova of the mailing lists and the Netochka Nezvanova of the software are at odds with each other on certain points. This software costs a lot of money, which rather flies in the face of the anti-capitalist maxims that Netochka is so fond of putting on the lists. Furthermore, their software will only work on standard capitalistic and commercial platforms such as Apple's QuickTime, which hardly puts them at any great moral distance from the 'corporate fascists', to use one of their own favourite expressions. To get to this product on the Web it takes a few tries before you realise that it's a product site, and not net.art. In fact it explicitly renounces any claim to be art. You've done well, Netochka!

Marcus Hauer


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