Interview: Enrico Tomaselli

Agricola de Cologne (AdC) interviews Enrico Tomaselli (ET)
Enrico Tomaselli is living and working as both, webdesigner and Internet based working artist, who participated in numerous national and international exhibitions, also in JavaMuseum.

More info see artist biography

Interview: 10 questions—->

You belong to an art scene using new technologies, you are an active representative of a genre dealing with Internet based art, called “netart”.
When those artists started who are active since a longer time, the education in New Media was not yet such advanced like nowadays, often they came form different disciplines and had an interdisciplinary approach, those young artists who start now have partially this more advanced education, but rather not much experience in other disciplines.

Tell me something about your educational background and what is influencing your work?
Probably, my formative background is more singular than others, because I was born in a family of artists. My great grandfather was one of the must famous Sicilian’ painters of ‘800, two of his sons was painters and sculptors, my father, one of my uncles, some other relatives was and/or are artists. So, my first background come from this, was in the breathed air when I was a child… After this, my educational background come from the study at Artistic High School in Palermo, and at European Institute of Design in Rome. Basically, all my studies has been oriented to graphic design, and was completed before the ‘digital times’. So, all about digital tools come to me by professional experience in the last fifteen years. Consequently, my approach to digital art get behind, also because for many years I refuse to do ‘art’ – maybe as reaction to family milieu.

The term “netart” is widely used for anything posted on the net, there are dozens of definitions which mostly are even contradictory.
How do you define “netart” or if you like the description “Internet based art” better, do you think your work belongs to this specific genre, do you think “netart” is art, at all, if yes, what are the criteria? Are there any aesthetic criteria for an Internet based artwork?
In my opinion, ‘netart’ is not just art-on-the-net, but art produced making use of net features. Therefore, ‘netart’ can’t be usable without and outside the net.
My work isn’t ‘netart’, because don’t require strictly any ‘net features’.
But about criteria to determine if ‘netart’ is art… this is, at end, a one-million-dollars-question… which are criteria to determine if anything is art, in fact?

What kind of meaning have the new technologies and the Internet to you, are they just tools for expressing your artistic intentions, or have they rather an ideological character, as it can be found with many “netartists”, or what else do they mean to you?
Under the artistic profile, there isn’t no relevant impact of Internet on my works; or better, maybe this is filtered by a more wide impact on culture and life. Different is for the new digital technologies: this tools open an horizon of new shape of art expressions… Surely, my work has been deeply changed by new techs.

Many “Internet based artists” work on “engaged” themes and subjects, for instance, in social, political, cultural etc concern.
Which contents are you particularly interested in, what are the subjects you are working on and what is your artistic message(s), if you have any, and what are your personal artistic visions for future artworking (if you have any).
Albeit I’m ‘engaged’ like person, in my artistic work the ‘engaged themes’ are more unusual. My personal relate with artistic expression is more bound to personal emotions.
My art is, fundamentally, a way to convey my own inner life.

“Art on the net” has the advantage and the disadvantage to be located on the virtual space in Internet which defines also its right to exist.
Do you think, that “art based on the Internet”, can be called still like that, even if it is just used offline?
I have answered before, about netart; so, I think that the borderline is determined by specific features of single artwork. If it just use some net features, that can be usable offline too, yes, the artwork is still ‘art’ (or ‘netart’); if, instead, an active net connection is necessary part of the work, it simply can’t be usable offline. So, the problem isn’t more netart or not netart, because we can’t see the work as it has been conceived by artist, it is ‘motionless’…

Dealing with this new, and interactive type of art demands an active viewer or user.
and needs the audience much more and in different ways than any other art discipline before. How do you stimulate the user to dive into this new world of art? What do you think, represents an appropriate environment to present net based art to an audience, is it the context of the lonesome user sitting in front of his personal computer, is it any public context, or is it rather the context of art in general or media art in particular, or anything else.? If you would be in the position to create an environment for presenting this type of art in physical space, how would you do it?
Basically, I think that all art must bring emotions. This is the primary feature of art, and its main goal. Therefore, any environment that can achieve this is good. However, I think that lone experience can be less… powerful, public context is better.
I I can create an environment for presenting netart, I should like a very wide screen (perhaps with a projector) in the middle of a large hall…

As Internet based art, as well as other art forms using new technologies are (globally seen) still not widely accepted, yet, as serious art forms, what do you think could be an appropriate solution to change this situation?
Good question! In my opinion, the problem has two aspects: the ‘netart’ (in wide sense of new tech art) is often more hermetic, even the digital tools and technologies offer higher expressive feasibilities, the artists love a visual language less expressive, less communicative;
on the other side, ‘netart’ (always in wide sense) lock horns with classical channel of art diffusion: museums and art merchants. Public institutions and great art museum prefer to present famous artists, more attractive for large public, like art merchants prefer to trade the same (sure profit). Moreover, ‘netart’ has the trouble of reproducibility of artwork. The loss of uniqueness of artwork is a great, cultural impasse.
However, something is changing… videoart, i.e., begin to be appreciate.
The solution should be in a bigger engagement of public institution to spread ‘netart’, and maybe in finding new way to bring ‘netart’ in people’s home…

The Internet is called a kind of “democratic” environment, but the conventional art practice is anything else than that, but selective by using filters of different kind.
The audience is mostly only able to make up its mind on second hand. Art on the net might potentially be different. Do you think the current practice of dealing with Internet based art is such different or rather the described conventional way through (also curatorial) filtering?
Do you think, that speaking in the terms of Joseph Beuys, anybody who publishes anything on the net would be also an artist?
Absolutely not. The net give to many people, more than ever, the possibility to express oneself, to convey their work to a large audience. In this sense, is ‘democratic’.
But if several expressions are art or not, this is an other thing…

Do you think, the curators dealing with net based art should have any technological knowledge in order to understand such an art work from its roots?
Yes, I think so. To be an art curator isn’t just a p.r. question…
To present something is impossible without some knowledge of it.

It is planned, to re-launch JavaMuseum – Forum for Internet Technology in Contemporary Art in 2007 in a new context, very likely even in physical space.
What would be your personal wishes and expectations connected to this re-launch ?
I hope that this event, and more others like this, can widen the people’s mind, offering new opportunities to know (and to get to know one another…), because art is one of the most ancient human languages, and know how to talk at our soul. Digital or not, is always the same thing.

Thanks for taking your time.