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Exclusive: Eva and Franco Mattes of 0100101110101101.ORG Go Into the Danger Zone

Plan C from .

Eva and Franco Mattes, aka the artists behind 0100101110101101.ORG, make art that demands reaction. Known for projects such as blown-up, Warhol-esque portraits of avatars, reenacting famous performance art pieces in Second Life, and most recently, faking a hanging on Chatroulette, the pair use new technology not only as a tool, but as a subject, and a place to premiere their work, which has also been shown in galleries and museums worldwide. For their most recent project in collaboration with artist Ryan C. Doyle, which is still developing, they went into the Zone of Alienation surrounding Chernobyl. We talked to them about what it was like, why they did it, and what they see in the future of provocative art making.

Why did you go to Chernobyl?
We wanted to visit Pripyat’s Amusement Park. The city was evacuated two days after the explosion, and the new Park was never inaugurated. We scavenged materials from the Zone, and built a Soviet style carnival ride with them. It is now functioning in Whitworth Park, Manchester in early October for the Abandon Normal Device Festival.

How did you get the whole group of artists who collaborated together to go?
Plan C started with Eva getting drunk in a bar in Barcelona with Ryan C. Doyle, a 6’6” tall and 248-pound tattoo-covered machine artist. In the morning they had decided we needed to go to the Zone. It may have had something to do with our common obsession for Tarkovsky’s Stalker, who knows. So we went there, with a bunch of characters: DIY artist Jeff Stark, best organizer on Planet Earth, film director Todd Chandler, whose in-progress Flood Tide movie we had just seen (he too a Stalker freak) and gonzo photographer Tod Seelie. We met in a bar in Brooklyn and discovered that going to the Zone was his dream too. I think he’s one of the best living photographers. Later on Oakland fabricator Steve Valdez joined the Plan too. You couldn’t find better companions.

This newest project is quite a departure from your earlier work, both contextually and content-wise. What led you to Chernobyl, to photography, film, and welding, to the topic of nuclear devastation?
We felt we were losing our inspiration, so we had to go to the Zone to get it back. It’s said to grant the deepest, innermost wishes of anyone who steps inside.

What do you think about the threat of nuclear proliferation?
It’s just a threat to us humans, nature doesn’t seem to care that much. Trees and wild animals thrive in the Zone.

Even with the protective suits and gear you were wearing – was the area you entered still hazardous to your health?
The whole 30 Km Zone is highly contaminated, but eventually everything will go back to normality, it’s just a matter of time, it’ll take about 55 thousand years.

Did you have to trespass to get in?
To enter the Zone you need permits and pass through checkpoints.

How did you feel while you were inside? When you came back out again?
It’s one of the strangest places your mind can deal with. Fascinating and frightening. In the Zone there are pretty clean spots and super hot ones, where you don’t want to spend more than a few seconds. You need a Geiger counter, so you know where to step next.

Have you read John D’Agata’s book About A Mountain? What do you think about Yucca mountain and the proposed art projects developing around it?
We don’t know much about it. None of us have any scientific training, what we did in Chernobyl was totally improvised. We actually paid the consequences, as Doyle got contaminated. The whole idea started with meeting James Acord, the world’s first nuclear sculptor.

In a previous interview, you said, “We have always been very attracted by things we don’t like: Nike, the Vatican, or Hollywood crap movies.” How does this apply to your decision to make art from the debris at Chernobyl? To your work at large?
Maybe we are attracted by things we don’t like because we want to discover how those monsters came about.

In reference to a question about your appreciation for Warhol you said: “Video games are part of today’s pop culture. If Warhol were still around I’m sure he would use printers the way we’re doing.” What implications to you think this type of reasoning has for the art and artists of the future? Do you think there is still a place for the art of the past to be made today, or do you think we are moving beyond it?
What seems like old art for us was new back than, and what’s considered new art now will eventually become old. I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t use today’s tools. Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel for example is ancient virtual reality, 3D immersion in a simulation.