The mouchette.org homepage
Type of site
|Created by||"Mouchette"(pseudonym) for Martine Neddam|
Mouchette.org is an interactive website created in 1996 by a pseudonymous character, an Amsterdam-based artist who calls herself "Mouchette". With her innocent salutation and claims to be "nearly thirteen" greeting the visitor from the introduction page, what initially appears as a personal website of a pre-pubescent female artist evolves into darker themes in the subsequent pages.
Mouchette is loosely based on a 1937 book by Georges Bernanos and the 1967 Robert Bresson movie, Mouchette. The storyline is about a French teenager who commits suicide after she is raped. An online quiz comparing the "Neo-Mouchette" to the movie angered Bresson's widow, so she threatened a lawsuit against the artist behind the project. The quiz was taken down after that incident.
The creator of the website has been a closely guarded secret, though the piece has somewhat recently been claimed by artist Martine Neddam. While the use of taboo subject matters are what initially "provokes heated reactions", the manipulation of cyber identity and the ability of the creator to maintain anonymity for so long are the significant reasons this website has garnered its "international reputation" in the Internet art community.
Summary and themes
|“||My name is Mouchette
I live in Amsterdam
I am nearly 13 years old
I am an artist...
This simple and "deceptively innocent" introduction, which appears next to a portrait of a "sad eyed" adolescent girl on the main page with a floral background, is in stark contrast to the complexity of the rest of the site. Consisting "of various secret links, electronic interactive texts, and poems that reveal the multiple faces of the artist, along with her fears and obsessions", participants of the website are often left wondering whether "a website this sophisticated [could] really be the work of a 13 year old girl".
Suicide, death, and violence
Just like the film Mouchette, one of the many themes running throughout Mouchette.org is the idea of death. The recurring image of a fly is present on many of the pages. The word "mouchette" translates into English as "little fly". The comparable lives between the Mouchettes – the fly and the girl – are intersected when it revolves around the death of the fly. On one page, Mouchette refers to herself as the fly and blames the web visitor for killing her when he/she pressed a button on the previous webpage. On another page, somber music plays as the phrase "Lullaby for a dead fly" is shown on the screen. As stated in Internet Art, "in early iterations of the site, the virtual persona Mouchette was obsessed with suicide". One page asks the viewer on what they think the best way to kill yourself when you’re under 13. On a page entitled m.org.ue, an image of feet is shown, with one foot wearing a toe tag, while ghostly music plays. When a link called "meet my parent" is clicked, it directs to a page that has scanned images of meat, with the words "Papa" and "Maman" carved in it. On another page, an image of a cat violently shakes on the screen while sounds of screaming are playing; the viewer is asked to kill this cat.
"Sexually suggestive" themes are present throughout the site. One the opening page of the section named "***digital flesh&blood***" the background image is of a close up of a young girl’s face, sticking out her tongue. The text accompanying this image reads: "Want to know what my tongue tastes like? Try it on your screen and tell me." Another page, titled "touché", has a completely black background, with tiny white words scattered in different sections of the page. As the pointer scrolls over specific points on the page, sounds of a woman gasping are activated. Many pages of this website have interactive web forms that include multiple-choice questions asking your email address. Days or weeks later the viewer might get unexpected flirtatious email messages from Mouchette.
Participants are given the opportunity to "become Mouchette", when they become a member of the "Mouchette Network". Members can "create true Mouchette webpages" and are given "a unique opportunity to become a great artist."
The interactive questionnaires often will ask you to post your name and email address if you answer one of the questions. But the anonymity of the creator and the unsettling topics makes a participant wonder how seriously he/she should answer the questions, including question about their name and identity.
Days/weeks later, participants will get a random email from Mouchette. This will often be unsettling because it's random and unexpected, leaving the participant to question their identity/decision to input personal information of the website.
Criticism and controversy
This article's Criticism or Controversy section may compromise the article's neutral point of view of the subject. (November 2010)
With its taboo subject matter, Mouchette.org has "provoked heated reaction" in the art community. An interactive forum allows participants to state why they hate Mouchette.
In an early version of Mouchette.org, there was a quiz comparing web persona Mouchette and the lead character in the Bresson film Mouchette. Images taken from the film were used in this quiz. In 2002, the Robert Bresson estate "threatened legal action against the artist" responsible for Mouchette.org. According to Toni Sant, "This case brought the online piece to the attention of many who might have overlooked it in the plethora of Net Art that has emerged over the past few years". In a letter from the SACD (Société des Auteurs et Compositeurs Dramatiques) (the French Society of Dramatic Authors and Composers) addressed to the creator of Mouchette.org, it states that Bresson's widow "demands that all reference to the film Mouchette...be eliminated from your website." According to Sant, "this copyright issue raises the question of ownership over fictional identities...and raises issues of originality and ownership."
After the forced removal of the quiz from Mouchette.org, "as a protest, a growing network of websites are hosting copies of this work which is no longer allowed to be shown on http://mouchette.org" The distributor of the quiz blames the "narrow-mindedness of the heir of the copyright" for censoring "a work which is an homage celebrating the source of its inspiration."
- Jane Harris (May 2001). "Immaterial Girl – website based on Mouchette film character – Brief Article". ArtForum. Retrieved 2008-05-01.[dead link]
- Green, Rachel (2004). Internet Art. London: Thames & Hudson Ltd. p. 115. ISBN 0-500-20376-8.
- Tribe, Mark; Jana, Reena (2007). "Mouchette". New Media Art. Germany: Taschen. pp. 66–67. ISBN 978-3-8228-3041-3.
- "SACD letter". Mouchette.org. Retrieved 2008-04-29.
- Sant, Toni; Santorineos, Manthos (2005). "Rape, Murder and Suicide Are Easier When You Use a Keyboard Shortcut: Mouchette, an On-Line Virtual Character". Leonardo. 38 (3): 203–207. doi:10.1162/0024094054028921. Archived from the original on 2008-05-09. Retrieved 2008-04-25.
- "Mouchette: "Interactivity and Accountability"". Retrieved 2008-05-01.
- "Mouchette.org: "dead fly"". Retrieved 2008-04-29.
- "Mouchette.org: "Lullaby for a dead fly"". Retrieved 2008-04-29.
- "Mouchette.org: "Suicide Kit"". Retrieved 2008-04-29.
- "Mouchette.org: "m.org.ue"". Retrieved 2008-04-29.
- "Mouchette.org: "my father"". Retrieved 2008-04-29.
- "Mouchette.org: "Kll that cat"". Retrieved 2008-04-29.
- "Mouchette.org:"***digital flesh&blood***"". Retrieved 2008-04-29.
- "Mouchette.org: "touché"". Retrieved 2008-04-29.
- "Mouchette.org: Become Mouchette". Retrieved 2008-04-29.
- "Mouchette.org: "Censored"". Retrieved 2008-04-28.
- Centre International D'Art Contemporain de Montreal: Web Projects no.13
- Mediamatic: Swap, Use & Abuse your identity
- News: A Tale of Two Mouchettes[dead link]
- Turbulence.org: New Media, New Narrative
- Mouchette: with Manthos Santorineos[permanent dead link] Introduction by Toni Sant
Recent art exhibits
- November 2011, "Medium_Massage 2.0 :: an infinite inventory", Year Zero One + CONTACT Gallery, Toronto, Canada.
- September 2007, "To be or not to be Mouchette", Museum of Contemporary Art, Siegen, Germany.
- March 2006, DORKBOT-TORONTO, InterAccess Electronic Media Arts Centre, Toronto, Ontario.
- May 2005, Flash Festival "intime*10", Centre Pompidou, Paris, France.
- March 2004, SYZYGY (The Human Remix), Art in Motion Festival, University of Southern California, California, USA