Interview: Fildes & McPherson

Agricola de Cologne (AdC) interviews Simon Fildes & Katrina McPherson (FM)

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Katrina McPherson
Simon Fildes

artist biographies

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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?
FM:
Katrina and I come from very different training, I did a degree in Biology became a musician and then got into making experimental video before meeting Katrina who has a degree in dance from the Laban centre. We both studied our postgraduate diplomas in electronic imaging (time based arts) at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art in Dundee Scotland where we are ow research fellows.

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,
FM:
I can’t define it too clearly as it appears to a broad church but any thing that has been created with an Artists intention that is specifically made for the networked medium that is the internet is as good a definition as I can come up with.
AdC:
do you think your work belongs to this specific genre,
FM:
some of our work belongs to this genre, but as most of it’s been built in flash as stand alone applications it is hard to tie to netart definitively, though the intention was always to deliver the works on the web and not elsewhere, our recent work move-me.com has to be on the net.. We also make installation based work and single screen video work.
AdC:
do you think “netart” is art, at all, if yes, what are the criteria?
Are there any aesthetic criteria for an Internet based artwork?
FM:
As I said before the intention is what counts for us, also the depth of emotional intent (any emotion) and how it works structurally, laterally and metaphorically. Our personal response to a work is important.
If we put a great digitally manipulated image on the web, does that make it netart? If we put a wonderful video on the web does that make it net art? Maybe but a distribution mechanism should not necessarily define the content. It is the inherent structure of the web and the flexibility of programmes and coding that can help us find away here when talking about aesthetics and definitions. It is an individuals response to it that defines whether it is Art or not.

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?
FM:
The web is a means to an end and the programmes we use like flash are just a tool for expressing our ideas. We always start with ideas and the first points of departure are usually with the words ‘wouldnt it be great if we could do X Y or Z’ and then we find out if its possible.We could make more installational with our ideas but the nature of our physical location (Scottish Highlands) and the hard work required to get good sites and galleries to take work means we are more than happy to use the web as our vehicle for reaching an audience and expressing ideas.

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).
FM:
We are primarily interested in the human physical space, human physical expression and in the movement of bodies in space choreographed or otherwise. We are interested in the traces left by human activity or the human activity itself.

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?
FM:
Some of my favourite internet art can only exist on the net (unlike our work though that is where it exists). Craighead and Thomson in particular exemplify this approach and even though there is often a physical installation to manifest the work eg ‘unprepared piano’ it is still a netart work in my view as it wouldn’t exist without the peculiarities of the web and the detritus sitting around in it..

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?
FM:
We like projected interactive work in a gallery context especially if there is a good sound element. Our work is made for a one to one intimate absorbing intimate experience like gaming but it equally works in a physical space. We like openly accessible work. Interesting Art in public spaces is good which is one of the reasons why we use the web. Galleries can put people off if they seem too intimidating.

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?

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?
FM:
I am a believer in the Joseph Beuys school but just because you say you are an artist doesn’t mean anyone is going to be engaged by, appreciate, or view your work.

There is always a role for the curator as they help to contextualise and explain and offer an opinion but I like the way the web allows the possibility for self curation and would be curators to develop a platform. Rhizome is an interesting case in point.

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?
FM:
this entirely depends on the work. with our work the fact that we have built in flash is irrelevant but the context of our work within a hybrid dance / new media world is useful knowledge to comment on it. If you just enjoy the work but have nothing to say about it then thats ok too.

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 ?
FM:
It seems like such a personal track that you are on we wish that you keep that vision in your head. it seems to keep you interested and energised.

AdC:
Thanks for taking your time.