Agricola de Cologne (AdC) interviews Myron Turner (MT)
Myron Turner is a multi-media artist whose work has combined photography, lightboxes, printmaking and computers. He has exhibited in public galleries and artist run centers throughout Canada, as well as in the United States and South America. He has been working with the Internet since 1994 and is coordinator of Manitoba Visual Arts Network. He is, in addition, an award-winning printmaker. He has also published three books of poetry, and his poems have appeared in many journals in Canada and The U.S. #
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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?
I have been a practicing artist since 1978 but had only a very minimal “official” art education. I made art throughout my teen years and studies art in high school but then went on to become a writer and a Professor of English. My literary and scholarly interests have affected my work in many ways. First, my wife and I ran a small poetry press and I learned how to make relief prints, which I still make today. Although I began to paint, I soon moved into photo-based work, which had a strong archival basis as well as a textual element. I began using computers in 1990. I already was a strong progammer, and I was drawn to programming languages; this I also attribute to my interest in languages and their structures. Both the photo-based elements and the textual elements in my work carried over into the work I began doing with computers. It wasn’t long before the World Wide Web came along and I found I was able to combine all of my interests in work I could do for the net.
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?
I don’t think we can apply any conventional ideas of the “aesthetic” to all instances of net art. Take database related pieces. Some of them make an effort to map data to visual pattern and images that have traditional aesthetic characteristics. Others, however, may just report back their data; in these cases any conventional aesthetic qualities, if any, will be in the graphic design of the project’s pages, which is a decorative element and not integral to the work.
There are many works for the net which have strong ties to film, video and photography, and can be judged by the aesthetic criteria which apply to these genres. For many of these kinds of works there is the added dimension of interactivity, and that would have to be brought into any discussion of its aesthetic qualities.
In my own case—and I speak only for work I am currently interested in creating—I like to plan works that deal with the ways in which the individual relates imaginatively to the Internet or sees himself or herself situated as the center of this vast network which can only be grasped in fragments. Works like this tend to be conceptual and to make use of databases of information grabbed off the Internet. And through these databases users can gain some insight into the interconnections which occur on the Internet. Some of my works in this area are BigQuestions.com at http://www.room535.org/bigQuestions.com/ and Bstat Zero at http://bstatzero.org/
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?
My work is not specifically political.
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).
I have a vision of the Internet as an imaginative space, like a vast architectural space, which we can’t see all at once, and when we are inside it we are compelled to imagine its shape and extent, which keeps changing as we move through it.
“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 think just by definition networked art requires the network—which doesn’t mean there aren’t other kinds of art designed for the computer.
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?
I think there is still a generational problem and that as the art audience becomes increasingly computer literate, computer-based art forms will be increasingly accepted. This doesn’t mean that there will necessarily be a wide audience for it. But the audience that takes an interest in it will have no problems with its formats.
I am not fixed on any one manner or place of presentation. There is for instance an interesting branch of networked art called “locative”—work which is dependent on Internet connections among multiple users in multiple locations, in which “location” is inherent in the form of the work. On the other hand, it is possible to bring Intrent art into the gallery space, with works which involved mechanical or projection elements that are responsive to data brought in over the Internet.
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?
I think I answered this at least in part in question 6—the generation gap. But I do think there is the additional problem that net art is still in its beginnings and that artists working in net art forms still must find ways to deal with issues that engage viewers outside it current limited circle. I think of the comment that was often made about “modern” poetry in the mid 20th century—that its difficulties made the audience for poetry other poets and professors of poetry.
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?
I think curators as “filters” is a good thing, if they can manage to explain net art to audiences.
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?