Interview: Päivi Hintsanen

Agricola de Cologne (AdC) interviews Päivi Hintsanen (PH)—>

Päivi Hintsanen (Finland)

  • artist biography
  • —>

    Interview: 10 questions—–>

    AdC:
    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.

    1.
    AdC:
    1. Tell me something about your educational background and what is influencing your work?
    PH:
    I’ve studied Multimedia in Media production (Bachelor level) degree programme in Tampere Polytechnic 1997-2002. I went to study multimedia because I had already started my work as a webmaster for small art/design/craft businesses and individual artits, and I wanted to get some more education in the field. I actually was planning to get myself an art degree as media artist but then decided to get to multimedia studies and to take as much art courses as possibly. Thus, I don’t have any ‘official’ art education.
    I started making net art as my hobby beside my work. I find that making something more free and expressing my own thoughts and ideas through my web art, it gives me something extra for my work too.
    My influences come from many different places; mostly from everyday life and small observations I make.

    2.
    AdC:
    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?
    PH:
    I’m not very precise with what is net art and what is not. It makes me happy to hear that someone thinks my works are net art because it sort of gives extra value to my works: when someone sees them as art it shows me that that someone respects my works. But I’m not very put down if someone says that my works are nowhere near art. When I make my works I’m not thinking of making art when the process is on. I just make something else, that it’s not my work and has a piece of my mind and heart in it.
    I tend to think that all net art is art. It’s art when someone gets something out of it. Maybe this is why I prefer more using net art term than Internet based art – the first is more lighter and not so serious, the latter is much more formal, although also more specific.
    I’ve noticed that many people consider net art to have a lot of interactivity, it should use most modern technologies and explore them etc. I’m not sure if I think of myself as a ‘true’ net artist because in many ways I make my pieces in very conventional ways. I tend to create picture novel type of works (even though they are multilinear or nonlinear) and also ‘closed’ works – there are only couple of my works where there is some interactivity (if you don’t count clicking and choosing paths as interactivity). Also, the interactivity in my works is not straight interactivity, where the viewer could see the change immediately; it is more person to person and grows from discussions: normally the viewers contribute something which ends into my art work – not straight but – after I’ve processed their contribution. I’m also not very technology oriented – not exploring the technologies. For me it’s always beginning with a story or with a note I want to make and then I find some easy and simple way to build the project. More about content that shells.
    I myself think that net art divides roughly in two different scenes: something that we can think of as sort of figurative art: novel/stories/image based art which have a story to tell and which are seemingly easy to conceive (my works being in this group); and then non-figurative, more abstract works of art which are maybe based on more technical or ideal approach or have their idea in larger field.
    I don’t think there is any aesthetic criteria for an internet based art work in generally. Of course there can be aesthetic criteria when we are thinking individual works, f.ex. bad image handling, bad code etc. can affect on how you can receive the work. But the question of if something is beautiful or not, that’s not important.

    3.
    AdC:
    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?
    PH:
    For me internet and new technologies are more tools for expressing my artistic intentions than anything else. But I see internet also as a true net, connector between people. Many of my works are functioning even without net connection, in offline computer, but still, it’s the possibility that someone in another corner of the world will react to my thought and ideas – that gives me something. Also in my collective contribution projects internet has been a necessary tool in fnding the people – and people finding me.
    In some level internet has also this ideological base for me even though it seldom can seen in my works – maybe only between the lines. For me the internationality and freedom is everything. The idea of that my work could only be seen in one room somewhere or even inside the borders of one country, is very heavy. I haven’t gained any money by showing my work and I propably won’t – and I don’t even want. There’s a special meaning in that the works are freely seen all around the world.

    4.
    AdC:
    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).
    PH:
    As I mentioned in question 1: My influences come from many different places; mostly from everyday life and small observations I make. I don’t have any particular theme I’m concentrating in but I build my works from many ideas that are born while reading newspapers, watching news or just talking to someone.
    I don’t like to make preaching works where the horrors of war and famine are thrown to a viewers face in the most shocking way; but I want to tell my stories of the same matter in different way, by small stories or some small observations and I want to leave room for a viewer to ‘get the idea’. I don’t want to shout my feelings and my thoughts but I do want people to have something to think about.
    I tend to get to my subject by personal level. F.ex. my work Oblivion (http://www.coloria.net/dig.art/oblivion/) is a very small story about how the world is looking through someone’s eyes who has lost his/her memory. Behind this work is the news of how the situation of old people and expecially demented old people could be much better than it is right now. I had the news in my head for a while and Oblivion came out. The starting situation is quite hazy: there are only pieces of images of every day life objects and only advice is to drag and draw them into right places. Many viewers have told me that first they thought that it’s only puzzle and by moving the pieces in their right places they could see the photo under the pieces. But as they have started moving the images they have slowly started to understand that pieces are missing – and then looking at one image, also the faces of the people are missing. Many viewers have told me that this has given them a personal view to very remote thing – that they haven’t thought really much.
    I don’t have any artistic messages. For me it has always been more a possibility to bring my thoughts out than making statements and creating a brave new world – even though many of my works have been born through the idea of some social subject.

    5.
    AdC:
    “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?
    PH:
    Many of my works can be used offline and internet is more a way to distribute my art than a ideological base to my art. So I think, if we’d like to be precise, even most of my art would be more art distributed by internet than art based on the internet – even though they are situated in the net. I think that if the work was originally published in internet and for internet, that will do. It’s net art.

    6.
    AdC:
    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?
    PH:
    As said before, my art works are very simple and the reactions happens more often in the user/viewer of the work than in the technical solutions.
    An appropriate environment of the net based art depends on the work itself. Storyteller works (like mine) are most effective when the user is alone and can be concentrated on the work. There are several visual works that are built in real time by the interactivity and contributions by the users – these are the works that get more when they are exposed widely.
    The most preferable place for showing net art would be the place where these different kinds of works could have their own places.

    7.
    AdC:
    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?
    PH:
    I think it takes time with every art genre and I don’t really think there’s nothing else to do but to continue creating and exhibiting the works. People can’t be forced to receive something they aren’t ready to. But still I think the art teachers, museum educators etc. have a strong influence in this. Concrete exhibition places (in this real world :) ) will make it more viewable and more accessible to larger audiences.
    I was planning a very small Nordic internet art exhibition Live Herring (http://www.liveherring.org) last November (and we’ll organize it again in November). We had a small room with 15 computers and about ten invited art works. We had some exhibition guides to help people with viewing the art pieces. This was a first net art experience for many of our guests and many of them thought that the exhibition guides helped a lot and that this real world possibility to get to know the art works gave them some ‘power’ to go home and try for themselves. So, there still is some invisible barriors for some people.

    8.
    AdC:
    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?
    PH:
    Not everything is art but in larger scale, I think that everything that brings out feelings in someone or makes people think, is art. I think that many (if not all) web sites can be viewed as art in certain contexts. F.ex.: internet is a web full of connections; these lines of connections make up a big global collage of websites and sometimes some websites can be viewed as a part of this large collage. I don’t think anyone is artist though (even if their website could be considered art), because I think being artist demands conscious actions.

    9.
    AdC:
    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?
    PH:
    Not necessary – depends on how and where they are curating. Curators for f.ex. museum collections should have a sense of history and also technological knowledge. I think it would be most important that the art museums could make collections based in knowledge more that ‘I feel’ thoughts.
    But if there are smaller exhibitions I don’t see why the curator couldn’t be ‘just someone’. But I also think that it’s always important for audience to know who has been curated and what kind of person is in question – this applies not only to net art but also to all art exhibitions.

    10.
    AdC:
    It is planned, to re-launch
    JavaMuseum – Forum for Internet Technology in Contemporary Art
    www.javamuseum.org 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 ?
    PH:
    …Right now, none.
    As I mentioned in question 7, in our case the exhibition guides helped a lot in bringing the art to common people with no previous experience of net art. Maybe this kind of activity could be good for your place too!
    And I’d be happy to get one of my works shown there though.

    AdC:
    Thanks for taking the time.