Pioneers of Net Art, Eva and Franco Mattes’ practice inhabits the web and skillfully subverts mass media to ultimately expand into and affect the physical space. Their controversial interventions, often bordering on illegality, challenge dominant power structures, including the hierarchical status of the art world, and explore the impact of technology in modern society. Moving beyond the classic understanding of fact and fiction until they become indistinguishable, their actions interweave the “real” and the “virtual” space to create complex open-ended narratives that present a mirror to society, emphasising the multiplicity of personalities that construct our identity.
The Mattes placed contemporary art and its system of order in the critical spotlight through the creation of Darko Maver (1998-2000), a fictional Serbian artist who achieved cult status and was included in the 48th Venice Bienniale. With Catt (2010), an internet meme turned into a sculptural piece presented as a new work by the revered artist Maurizio Cattelan, they challenged the art system’s fetishisation of originals. Their Synthetic Performances (2007-2010) – a virtual re-enactment of historic performances from the 1960s and 1970s, including Marina Abramovic’s Imponderabilia and Gilbert & George’s The Singing Sculpture – reinvigorated these significant pieces, freeing them from dependency on the art institution.
The artists’ strategies to disrupt and critique the status quo involve plagiarism, hacktivism and culture-jamming. They created and released a computer virus, exhibited in the Slovenian Pavilion at the 49th Venice Biennale, erected fake architectural heritage signs, ran a media campaign for the non-existent action movie, United We Stand (2005), convinced the populace of Vienna that Nike had purchased the city's historic Karlsplatz and was about to rename it "Nikeplatz", and in No Fun (2010) documented a simulation of Franco’s suicide in a webcam-based chat room with the real time responses of the participants. At a moment when the potential of the net and social media to affect political change is manifest, their practice reflects this urgency.
Selected solo exhibitions include Site Gallery, Sheffield; Galeriji Vigalica, Ljubljana; [plug.in], Basel; Postmasters Gallery, New York. Their work has been included in numerous group shows and biennials such as Collection Lambert, Avignon; Lentos Kunstmuseum, Linz; New Museum, New York; NTT ICC Museum, Tokyo; Manifesta, Frankfurt; Performa, New York; MoMA PS1, New York, and the Venice Biennale. They received the Jerome Commission from the Walker Art Center and a fellowship from Columbia University, New York.