Interview: Reiner Strasser

Agricola de Cologne (AdC) interviews Reiner Strasser (RS)
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Reiner Strasser
living and working in Wiesbaden/Germany

  • artist biography
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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?
    RS:
    I studied art, art education and art history in the 70s. Beside painting, drawing, …., I collected some experience in film, too, especially short film. My personal favourites in film in these times has been the filmic avantgarde of the 30s. While working in a traditional artistic way (beside teaching art) in the 80s, I became interested in the digital medium. The first computer I owned, was a Mac Plus in 1987. A real breaking point (compared to the technological possibilities of the medium, PC and networks in the 80s) was the spreading of the Internet, on which I am working since 1996. Beside visual art I am also writing since my early art days. While somehow I often felt like sitting between two chairs, the digital medium has some kind of liberation effect for myself, in the way that these different interests can be combined in multimedia pieces. The new medium opened ways to create such works without financial or institutional support in an independent way. I always liked the idea to be an autonomous, independent artist.
    What is influencing my work? First of all naturally my experience and reflections of life. On the Net beside the technology itself, the contact to other artists worldwide, especially in collaborations, collaborative works.

    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?
    RS:
    In the last time I prefer to talk about digital art , to use a wider expression than Net art.
    To pick up some thoughts from common discussions, Net art (Internet art) will be the art based on the Net, the art upload on a server and accessible thru the Internet. Secondly art, which can stay only on the Net, which is not distributable i.e. on CD-ROM.
    Because I do not like to limit my creative liberty (when) I am thinking about digital art.
    In my sight aesthetic criteria can be found in the way visual, audible, interactive elements are combined over time, in the way expression, meaning, content is submitted.

    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?
    RS:
    For myself new technology and the Internet are tools of expression, have an ideological character as a global medium and have a communicative effect in/on the arts, for the artists, which didn’t exist before (on a global level). I think I have worked in all of these directions in the last ten years, i.e. “expressions” in pieces on c.re.ations, “socially” in projects like “weakblood” and “project hope”, “collaboratively” in many, many projects.

    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).
    RS:
    I am a switcher between the worlds.
    It would be boring for me to know what to do, to have done next.
    (Do I need to do things I know?)
    May be I will do nothing or something else (in my limited time).

    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?
    RS:
    [see above – question 2]+
    When Art on the Net will be no longer on the Net, Art will still be Art.
    Let’s turn it around.
    At the moment the Internet is an ideal medium for (this kind of) digital art – in the vein of distribution, in the transmitted character of intimacy, in the kind interactivity is used and accepted (by the viewer, reader).

    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?
    RS:
    In a physical space (big projection) this type of art will change its character (not loose it).
    The aspect of intimacy, the readiness of falling in (like reading a book) will become different.

    I would choose a concept of spaces with different size, kind of intimacy – from public to private….

    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?
    RS:
    Time will change.
    Experience (of the art) will change.

    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?
    RS:
    Look at your Nedstat. Is it the question whether it is art of interest, when no one is looking at?
    Is the artist made by the public, audience?
    Officially (ask your tax office) an artist is an artist, when he is selling art. An artist is an artist when he is called (published in media) to be an artist. …..
    When you think you are an artist, you are an artist. Am I an artist? Sometimes.

    You might look at the Net as a global art work (and write an amazing article about it), but this idea may be misleading. I do not have exact counts, percentages about the amount of private publications or art, art projects on the Net (server place and hits per day), but think it is a small part of the Net as a whole. When it will be a global art piece it should be interwoven, forming a web. (There exist some projects building interfaces to associate this idea.)
    Does this idea change anything? Change anything in the perception of art, of the Net? Does it change anything in the commercially dominated Net (and society)? In commercially dominated thinking?
    Like in real world, Art is a world in the world, even when it (maybe) has a bigger influence on the whole of/on the Net aesthetically and potentially in reaching people. Art on the Net might be interwoven with the commercial part, irritating visitors, veiling and/or unveiling itself – it still will be part of the art world (in real, nowadays).
    Ideally art is more democratic on the Net. It gives a feeling of liberty to be inspired by this idea. Believe in the power of ideas. Do not underestimate the power of communication. And the Net has an enormous potential in this.

    [Maybe better to call it a “creative communicative space” than a global art work.]

    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?
    RS:
    Some – yes. (generally)
    Some – no. (there are always exceptions)
    Would be interesting to see two shows side by side from both kinds of curators.

    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 ?
    RS:
    A beautiful real (physical) space (question 6) and some works from me presented there. :)

    AdC:
    Thanks for taking your time.