Chatroulette proved to be the perfect medium for Eva and Franco Mattes' "No Fun," a conceptual art piece in which the Italian couple simulates a suicide by hanging, then edits viewer reactions into a 10-minute video.
As disturbing as the premise and execution may be, the responses from those who stumble upon it are in some ways even more so. Toward the end, the artists meet their match in the form of a man in a ski mask — possibly a performance artist, a disturbed individual, or both — who raises his fist in salute and then stares blankly at the simulated hanging while droning tunelessly on an electric guitar.
Because the artists were traveling, we ended up doing this interview by e-mail. You can view the YouTube-banned video on the duo's webpage at vimeo.com/11467722.
Is that you hanging there in "No Fun"?
Yes, it's me, Franco, while Eva is behind the webcam.
Is it a still image or a loop, and if not, how hard was it to keep from moving or even laughing?
It was a performance, I was hanging there all the time. People watching me could actually see themselves reflected on our computer monitor on the bottom-right corner of the shoot. You can see it in the "No Fun" video. Some people realized it. That proved it was live, and not a recorded video, which was very important for our idea.
How long did you hang there and how many people viewed you? (And is it true that only one person called the police?)
Out of several thousand people who saw it, only one called the police. I was hanging for a week but I had to stop every 10 minutes because it was so painful. But when the guy called the police he didn't want to close the connection so I had to keep hanging for almost an hour, without pauses. My legs were purple, there was a puddle of saliva below my feet, and after that I lost neck sensitivity for a week. That was stupid, we should have shot a video instead.
You say you hung there for a week — how many hours a day? Did you use some kind of climbing harness to suspend yourself?
I was hanging each afternoon 12 to 7. I used a fallout protection harness, hidden under the clothes. It's like a torture device, don't know how people stand wearing them all day long.
As conceptual artists, what larger point were you making with this project?
Since we live online, I thought, then we should get used to die online. That's why we did "No Fun." Actually, the "spectators" did it.
How would you say it fits in with your other works?
Once we invented an artist, his name was Darko Maver, and after he became popular enough we killed him. Maybe "No Fun" is a sequel to Darko Maver, but this time we decided to kill me instead. Fake artist, fake death, nothing changed.
Do you use Chatroulette or other social media in real life?
Any other comments you'd like to make?
Hope I won't die again.