Emilie Gervais is a Canadian artist living in France. Her early recognition of the profound, universal impact of the internet on all our lives has made her a vital voice in new wave of new media art. Gervais reveals the true soul of the internet in her hyper-saturated explosion of glitching colors, vintage computer graphics, and disposable internet ephemera. The spectacle of her sensory overload does not diminish the deeply intelligent heart beating at the center of all her work.
The uncompromising nature of her subversive visuals have only made her message stronger. Feminist artists have found a unique venue for free expression in the internet and Gervais has remained at the leading edge of that movement. She uniquely inverts and distorts the language and aesthetics of the primitive internet to create work that is unquestionably modern and sublimely meaningful.
I’m a Member of a Secret Internet Girl Cult, 2015
Christian Petersen: What are your first memories of computers?
Emilie Gervais: A very old beige desktop computer my mom brought back home one day along with a box full of floppy disks and a printer. I spent countless hours creating geometric drawings on it. Not long after, my dad bought a Dell computer booting to Windows. My two favorite CD-ROMs were Microsoft Dangerous Creatures and Encarta.
The artist with her first home computer. Via Instagram
CP: When did you first realize that you could use them creatively?
EG: I’ve always used computers creatively, but I consciously realized I could use them both creatively and professionally very late.
CP: How have your parents influenced your creativity?
EG: They influenced me globally, both differently. My dad introduced me to different ways of approaching, “thinking,” about the world very early. When I was 11 and bored, he gave me this book to read about Wabi-sabi, a Japanese aesthetic philosophy. I spent a lot of time drawing in his office while he was working on different architectural projects. My mom is very energetic and spontaneous, “living in the moment.” Around 45 years old, she started playing ice hockey for fun.
Hit me baby one more time, 2015, g(URL)_FREAX VOL 1, Church of Templehead, Chicago
CP: When did you first realize you could use the internet as a platform for your ideas?
EG: I’m not sure—I’d say in 2009, but I was much more “Post-Internet”: affected by internet culture, but not primarily using the internet to create nor to mediate artworks and ideas.
CP: Were there any specific artists or artworks that inspired you?
EG: There were no specific artists or artworks that inspired me to use the internet as a platform for my ideas. In 2007, I read ETC’s number 76 issue, Le numérique. It inspired me. A bit later, I concluded that art made no sense if it didn’t take the internet into consideration because the internet was such a big part of our lives. I guess I was more inspired by Craigslist and Montreal’s freak folk vibe than anything else.
No Zoom Thing, Computers Club Drawing Society
CP: When did you first realize that there was a “new media” scene that you could be a part of?
EG: I realized there was an internet-based new media scene when I began using Facebook as a tool in late 2010. Françoise Gamma introduced me to that scene, amongst other things. Using Dump.fm and exploring Computers Club’s website made me realize the potential of that scene. It made me feel confident about web art.
CP: You once said “Thinking of net art as a movement is like thinking of phone art as a movement.” What did you mean by that?
EG: Both are forms of art and refer more nowadays to a style than to a movement. Maybe a movement is to come. I believe net art as a movement died in the 90s or somewhere along the lines.
Dirtsider II, 2016, R.I.P. Net Art, Electric Objects
CP: How do you currently view the notion of net art in comparison to its origins?
EG: Net art is a misleading archetype based on its origins. What is perceived as net art today is web art to me (www art).
CP: What do you think makes something “new media” as opposed to other types of art? Is there a relevant distinction any more?
EG: The distinction is relevant from an historical perspective, but I don’t think it is otherwise. All art is new media except when it is isolated from its mediated form.
CP: What was your experience of art school like?
EG: It was a great overall experience. 99 percent of the students were not interested in the internet. I didn’t make a lot of physical works after the first year, which resulted in me staying home a lot to work directly from my bed. #bedartschool
During my last two years, I only went to school for the hypermedia class taught by Douglas Edric Stanley.
CP: You are from Canada but you live in France—do you notice any difference in their approaches to new media / digital art?
EG: Yes, it is very confusing. I have not been able, so far, to relate to how people live and understand internet culture here. They seem to think and overthink a lot; they are way less spontaneous in how they interact with everything internet-related. It’s probably why my favorite French YouTube video is still and forever will be Les cagoles de Marseille (Rap hardcore), uploaded by Tissina aka Vlout aka Nola Shiro, in 2007.
Cum Fetish, 2016, Most Famous Girl Online GIF series
CP: What music and musicians influences your work the most and why?
EG: I’m currently not into any specific musical phase. A couple of months ago, I was really into the Batcave club scene and how it affected the goth and post-punk scene. I’m everyday influenced by Joan Jett, same goes for Kathleen Hanna. Creatively, I enjoy using music to hear visual aesthetics. Music either restrains or opens space for creativity. It’s a great tool.
CP: What of your project have you been most proud of and most disappointed by?
EG: It’s hard to say. I’m most disappointed by Museum of Internet because it has a lot more potential than what it currently is. I’m most proud of my creative process.
♥_♥ Glitter, 2012, Forever Life GIF series, Fach & Asendorf Gallery
CP: What are your thoughts on the term “post internet”? What does it mean to you?
EG: I wrote all of my thoughts on the term "post-internet" in A Letter to Young Internet Artists in 2014. My thoughts on it haven’t changed much since. (I stopped thinking about it after writing the letter.)
CP: New media art has been embraced by yourself and a whole generation of feminist artists. Why do you think that is?
EG: There is space to be.
Take care of your pixels, 2015, ITAF 2015
CP: What are some political influences on your work? How will you react creatively to the rapidly changing world we live in?
EG: There are no direct political influences on my work, but everything I do is crafted upon my political beliefs. I’m not sure yet how I’ll react creatively to the rapidly changing world we live in. I’m currently focused on acquiring a French passport.
CP: Are there any specific works of new media art that you feel make a particularly powerful political or social statement?
spending a moment here (Tumblr homage), 2016
CP: What else do you do you have coming up?
EG: I’m currently working on two websites and a new series of visuals for an exhibition in March at L’Unique, an art center in Caen, France.
We run an online magazine, so of course, we're interested in what's happening with art on the web. We invited online gallerist, founder, and curator of Digital Sweat Gallery, Christian Petersen, to write a bi-monthly column for us. Every other Wednesday he selects a Web Artist of the Week.
(Image at top: Punching, 2014, Room Three, Panther Modern)
Tags: Wednesday web artist Emilie Gervais post-internet new media, digital