j.d. casten, ana voog & "dreaming on stage"
POSTED ON 6/15/2008 | PERMALINK |1 Comments | BOOKMARK
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ana voog on webcam
Anyone who's spent any time reading this blog over the years is aware of my interest in and appreciation of Ana Voog. I think she's a highly underrated artist whose work has yet to be fully understood by the art/internet establishment. I've been a fan of, and occasional participant in, her work since she first appeared on the web way back in 1997. Prior to that, I was vaguely familiar with her band, The Blue Up? (whose "Spool Forka Dish" has since become one of my very favorite albums). I've created remixed images and animated gifs from her imagery and even created a remix of one of her solo tracks. She inspired and engaged me in a way that has never really been matched.

And when her wonderful new project started, I began to notice that her internet presence was waning. Her publicly available work began to disappear from the net. Her blog vaporized and countless images went with it. A number of posts I had written about her were suddenly pointing to nonexistant pages. I cursed myself for not keeping a personal archive of her work and wondered if everything she created was to be lost forever. I considered contacting her about curating a collection from her archive for presentation on the web, but I never followed through.

Fortunately, artist/musician/poet/videogame designer/philosopher J.D. Casten had a much better idea. He assembled a book that officially documents Ana's work and ensures her place in history. It's interesting that, even in the internet age, a book is the only effective way to accomplish that.

I contacted Casten and sent him a handful of questions in hopes of getting some information to post here. He graciously answered in detail and sent a few snapshots of the finished product as well. Here's the complete, unedited text of the interview.

1) How did you discover Ana Voog? What attracted you to her work?

I stumbled upon Ana Voog’s website www.anacam.com quite by chance accident—or almost by accident, back on April Fool’s Day in 2004–when I Googled up some information on webcams. I saw a few other webcams up—there was quite the “webcam swingers” scene by that time, but I quickly lost interest in that—I tried my own webcam for a brief hour or so, and was quickly swarmed by some sexually aggressive guys; I was flattered, but that just wasn’t my scene (crooked as I am, I’m strait). I quickly learned how sexually predatory cyber-bullies can be; Kudos go to Ana for having the wherewithal put up with them for so long. There were sites like www.earthcam.com, but my chance encounter with Ana’s site interested me more, as Ana appeared quite the “Post-Modern” in the popular sense of the term, relating to bands like The Cure, and Siouxsie and the Banshees—bands I had been fans of since my high school days in the 1980’s— but she also seemed relevant to the postmodern studies I had taken up as a Grad student. She listed Finnegans Wake as one of her interests on the site, and I was a Wake-aholic—in fact, I started hearing voices and “thought broadcasting” (my own personal “Wilco”/“Radiohead” experience) when I first studied James Joyce’s work back in 1993, although my Chronic Paranoid Schizophrenia had already been developing, as I had strong suspicions that I had been watched by cameras pretty much 24/7 since 1991.
ana voog book
So four strands of my life (or five if you count us as both being Generation X—I’m now 40) immediately attracted me to and intersected with Ana’s world (or the “Anaverse”)—24/7 observation/broadcasting, New Wave/PoMo Music, Finnegans Wake (the Archetypical Mother’s name in the Wake is “Ana”), and postmodern/deconstructive philosophy (as some of your readers may know, deconstructive thinkers often encourage taking advantage of accidents, “glitches” if you will, as Ana often has, bringing the marginal to the center, and endlessly riffing on tangents + some academics, like Michel Foucault have been interested in public surveillance, as a metaphor for the Freudian superego, and its actual social realization [Ana would be quick to point out that her cam was completely voluntary—she’s invited people into her life, and I don’t think she’d see herself as a Panopticon prisoner!]) Eventually though, I came to like Ana, just for being Ana: Intelligent, passionate, creative, an astute ethicist, non-guru guru, lazy-yet-spastically-driven, mature wild-child, with get-real-honesty and goofy vulnerability, self-conscious egoism, etc.

2) How did you come to the idea of making a book? To what degree was Ana involved in its creation?

In 2007 (here comes my self-plug) I designed and self-published a book of poetry (“Post-Digital Revelation,”)—so I had a clue about how to go about making a book, and getting it out at places like Amazon.com. By 2008, Ana was quite busy with her first baby, Lili, and anacam was becoming a lower priority for her. It seemed like a reasonable time for a “decade retrospective” as anacam had reached the 10 year milestone in 2007. Interestingly, Ana’s involvement in making the book was both minimal and maximal: minimal in that she basically gave me the green light after I made a modest proposal for the book (fortunately, very little begging was involved)—and she said that she didn’t want to be a “hindrance” (her word) to my creation of the book; maximal in that the book is almost entirely constructed of her material. I wanted a minimal footprint on the work myself—as well as postmodernism and deconstruction, I’ve had an interest in “Critical Theory”—especially with the philosophies of Theodor Adorno, and Walter Benjamin. A key idea for critics is to withdraw from the subject and material, and simply “let” it/her speak for it/herself—but not necessarily in a completely random manner (although that would have made an interesting Ana Voog book, too). Hence my minimalist cover design (something like a very thin and hopefully unobtrusive frame). Besides my brief introduction, it’s all Ana’s material; but as far as selecting the material and designing the layout, the concept and choices were mine.
ana voog book
It was quite an impressive experience for me—I already had the highest respect for her art as I knew it, but in putting together the book, time and again I was blown away by her creative brilliance. I tried to present the material in such a way as to make some of her more subtle artistic strokes more obvious—sometimes there’s something of a puzzle-with-no-solution to figure out in her art. Yet I can see what Ana meant when she told me “emotionally” “much of it is a place I’d rather not revisit” as she’s gone through an emotional rollercoaster ride over the years. Also, her eyesight isn’t quite what it used to be (she now needs glasses)–and pouring over 10 years worth of her past journals, as I did, would have been too demanding on someone taking care of their baby as well. So our friendly collaboration was between the trusted archivist, and the admired artist’s established oeuvre.

3) Tell us about the two editions of the book. Is the book a document, an art object or both?

The $149 “Deluxe” 300 page hardbound edition of Ana Voog–Dreaming on Stage was written first in a process of harvesting, and “threshing” the fruit of Ana’s artistic labor. This edition, which starts with her early writing and art, before anacam started, and covers many of her artistic endeavors through 2007, could have easily gotten out of hand, and turned into a multi-volume encyclopedia—there are over 50,000 images in her archive, each one framed and selected by Ana from over a million possible captures (the “public” cam refreshes every 5 minutes, that’s over a million frames in the course of a decade + countless digital camera and Polaroid shots). Her lovemaking with soon to be husband “M,” or Matt, could have filled a book in itself—if anacam would have ended in 2007, it would have went out with a bang, and no whimper. These months, with at least a thousand pictures of their getting it on, were condensed into a only a single page in the Deluxe Hardbound version, which does however show some more sexually explicit material—the “abridged” Softbound edition stops at revealing her decorated breasts—there is something like a PG-13/NC-17 distinction between the two versions. I also think the Softbound/Hardbound split parallels Ana’s free anacam website, and the subscription based ana2 (especially since the softbound is freely viewable at www.voogbooks.com).
ana voog book
The $35 “abridged”/$27 “unlimited” version was especially difficult to narrow down to 98 pages focused only on the anacam years (this was necessary to keep the price lower—more full-color pages = more cost). Quantity of quality is a factor in Ana’s art–and the abridged version turned out, especially with the limited amount of text (20 pages) to be quite the procrustean bed; yet although much of the life of Ana Voog’s art was cut out to fit into that “coffin,” I believe it delivers an immediate aesthetic appeal, and would make a good memento for those who’ve appreciated her work, and a worthy introduction to her art for those who would investigate it further. Both books are basically edited collections of Ana’s art—and as I stated before, I wanted my input to be minimal; and to this extent they are archival documents. However, my own taste was unavoidable in the selection process; so I tried to juxtapose and connect various works, both visually and thematically with the text, again to help facilitate the reader’s digestion of often profound material. I think both books are easy reads and easy on the eyes—but there’s much there if one wishes to scratch beyond the immediate surface. Just think of the times when you yourself have been on stage, or at a podium—the stress involved, the hecklers, the excitement, the possibility for those spontaneous “Zen” moments when auto-pilot kicks in and the audience loves you—take that and blow it up to 24/7 for a decade and I think you can see how Ana propelled herself into a growth trajectory that could have easily killed a less hearty spirit. (Not to mention: the aliens may be watching too).

4) How would you characterize the level of interest in the book? How many do you expect to sell?

Although I put up an ad at www.bookforum.com, and contacted over 50 art publications (which I’m starting to get a response from), most of the ~1,500 unique visitors to the site in the first two weeks so far were generated by Ana’s grass-roots built-up audience. A number of books have sold; but I imagine that it will take awhile before the “limited editions” (250 hardbound, 500 fine-print softbound) run out of print. If they did, Ana would make over $20,000 (and I would make about $2,000); plus there’s the “unlimited” $27 edition which will be available on Amazon.com by July, 2008 (it's similar to the fine-print abridged softbound, but with less glossy paper, and a more colorful cover).

ana voog bookThese are art-print books, not mass-market oriented books—her friend Ducky Doolittle has a book out, Sex with the Lights On, that she’s been avidly promoting; but Ana will of course not be promoting Ana Voog–Dreaming on Stage to that degree; not many artists or authors go on a tour to promote an edited collection of their works (and few would want to interview curators/editors, like me).

5) Is this book coming at the end of Ana's career as an artist, or do you think Ana will be able to fill up another book's worth of material by the time she's 50?

Ana Voog–Dreaming on Stage is not the Bible—the book is not closed on Ana’s art—and even if it were the Voog Bible, I would hope for a healthy Ana-Kabala tradition too. I’d like to see more books made on her art—both past and future. Mine would be the testament according to “J.D.”—I hope at least a couple more are made—I’d like to make a general call to book makers out there with an interest in Ana Voog to give it a try (it’s not too difficult, and can be done at a minimum of cost, it just needs labor).

Ana has been incorporated in other books and documentaries; so I think her ship has left an indelible wake. Maybe her ship is taking a turn, charting new waters (family life, etc.)—but having seen her creative determination, I can’t foresee an end to Ana Voog, or Rachael Olson’s art and creative passion (as evidenced by some recent cool photos).


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ana you are too old & tired. Your baby is retard, you handled it with grace = good show ... the next one might be too. Fuck art girl = get to living & making far better choices.

Mon Jul 07, 03:43:00 PM  

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