Interview: Raivo Kelomees

Agricola de Cologne (AdC) interviews Raivo Kelomees (RK)

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Born in 1960, Raivo Kelomees lives in Tallinn/Estonia. he studied psychology, art history, and design in Tartu and Tallinn. Since 1980 has been active as an artist in traditional way (painting), organized more than 30 group-performances and actions of Tartu University Art Studio during early 1980s. In 1988 wrote first text on video art in Estonian, curated exhibitions since 1991 and published since 1985 more than 150 articles, in recent years mainly on media and electronic art. He participated in numerous international festivals and is
since 1994 lecturer at Estonian Academy of Arts on media art history, art and cyberculture.
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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:
Tell me something about your educational background and what is influencing your work?
RK:
I studied psychology and art history in 1980ties. Then later studied design until 1994. In two different universities of Estonia. Actually, I would prefer nowadays to research “netart” as to create something there. Which means literature, theoretical games, re-discoveries are more interesting as recombinations of seen structures.

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?
RK:
True netart can’t exist without net and being online. Onlineness is important quality and criteria, then connectedness, that through this project is happening something between different nodes, real or virtual people, avatars etc. and that project is changing through time, it’s like living being.

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?
RK:
Techologies are just tools to express yourself. You can use paint, text, ready-made images. “New” technologies bring some excitement and freshness and it can influence your feelings, inspiration. As techologies become “old” or familiare and not-fresh new technologies, then enthusiasm is weakening. Technology (paint, text, digital code etc) has it’s “flavour” and taste and you can’t avoid it’s influence to artwork.

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).
RK:
Sorry, personally has been lazy as an author. I prefer more personal messages, which became general, meaningful for others.

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?
RK:
Netart should exist online. Otherwise is just like anything put offline, like digital image of painting.

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?
RK:
If netart piece is presented offline, then better to change it to normal multimedia programme, even changing software which is used to design it. In online version is better build portals, where project are collected and selected and maybe commented. Audience for netart already exists, as there are enough people primarly living online.

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?
RK:
I don’t agree that internet based art is not accepted as many festivals and events evaluate online works, give prices and publich books. Internet based art is already part of art history. Question is who selects works for some specific publications and how wide is his/her geographical interest area. It is paradox, but “geography” has not disappeared from internet.

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?
RK:
Of course there are different filters in internet art practice like everywhere. Curators are needed, if they produce some new meanings with their selections. Sure, many things could be art, even non-art could be art. But not anything which is published online is art. Works, which are made to be art, are sometimes simply bad art.

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?
RK:
Better, if they have. It is not necessary to have deep knowledge, basic understanding of technical matters is enough.

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 ?
RK:
Online art could be seen in physical space also, no problem. It would be good to keep in mind some experimental spirit in forms of presentation.

AdC:
Thanks for taking your time.