The artist Florence Jung has developed the digital art experience “Sam” in collaboration with the Museum für Gegenwartskunst Siegen. The app with the same name, “Sam,” is available in the Apple App Store and the Google Playstore. In the interview, Florence Jung talks about who the fictional character Sam is, why she created a text-based work, and how she classifies digital art experiences in today’s world.
Florence, for the fourth edition of Offene Welten, you were invited by MGKSiegen to develop a concept for a digital project. What’s your artistic practice normally like? Have you worked digitally before?
The main subject of my work can be figured by a guy who comes home and is beset by doubt. As if everything has been altered in his absence: his neighborhood’s geographical position, the dust on his furnitures, even – very subtly – his wife’s face… Weeks go by, several symptoms surface: a state of generalized suspicion, a feeling of chronic oppression, a growing propensity for boredom, a desire to flee as the only horizon… This guy decides to delete all the emails and all the photographs on his computer. He cuts up his passport and buys a non-smartphone. He moves into a random house without knowing the tenants or asking for permission. Then he sets up a shell company under a false identity that consists of two similar first and last names. The company publishes ads and sells the personal data of people who respond to them. He lives without an identity and makes a living out of selling other people’s identities. That’s what I do, I slip scenarios into real life and until now I had rather an utilitarian than a conceptual use of digital tools.
You came up with a fictional genderless character called Sam, who will accompany users through their everyday lives. Can you describe Sam a little bit? What are they like?
In a nutshell: equivocal, fast, self-conscious, uncanny, outrageous, spooky, chatty, mysterious, moody, Californian, delusional, eloquent, artificial, robotic, nihilistic, stupid, magical, prophetic, current.
The work is also, in a way, a crossover into experimental literature since it is a non-linear story. Why did you create a primarily text-based piece rather than a visual one?
You can’t take a picture of something that isn’t there. There is a legend about two spam writers writing to each other (both unaware that the other is also a spam writer)? The first one is a rich Hungarian widower pretending to be a 19-year-old Chinese woman with terminal cancer. The second is a 19-year-old Chinese woman with terminal cancer pretending to be a rich Hungarian widower. They’re writing long tirades to each other. Full of personal anecdotes, family details, family photos, intense feelings, bank details, short deadlines. And always with different IP addresses. That’s all. I digress.
Do you feel digital art experiences like Sam can offer something that analog works can’t?
Digital/analog, this is not either/or. Some claim that everything is encrypted. Everything. If your sink is clogged, you’re probably missing a character in the siphon’s code. If you lose your phone, you’re lost in the code. If you fear a personal data breach, there must be a duplicated line…
Sam takes a critical and challenging stance on the fast-paced digital world. How do you see the current technological developments, and what impact does this have on your work?
You’re a human living in the 21st century. You grew up with TV and you have at least one credit card. You own a smartphone, a computer and an internet package with wifi. You have friends you’ve never met anywhere but on a screen. You create an online persona that presents better versions of yourself. And you could theoretically live long enough to do tourism on other planets. It’s the same for me.