Interview: Dagmar Kase

Agricola de Cologne (AdC) interviews Dagmar Kase (DK)—>

DAGMAR KASE
Estonian media artist, researcher and lecturer. Works mainly with video (music and live), texts, photography, (interactive) installation and net-performance.

More info see 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?
DK:
I have BA in Scenography, MA in Interactive Multimedia and at the moment I am a PhD candidate in Theory of Culture. Obviously all of these disciplines interest and influence me.
The central questions of my work are time, space/place, memory and identity, and all that is connected to these keywords – philosophy, semiotics, gender studies, culture theory, theoretical physics etc – influence my work.

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?
DK:
Already the word “net” says that an art piece needs Internet in order to live and exist. If there is no Internet, we can not talk about net art.
Net art can be art the same way theatre, photography etc. can. The fact that it is not hanging on the wall and the authors are not only artists but usually scientists as well, does not make it less art.

The same way we could ask what are the criterias for art in general.
I think we would get interesting outcomes if we would ask people to write down the keywords they connect with (the aesthetic criteria of) net art, then the papers would be exchanged and the next task would be eliminate all the words they do not connect with net art, so they would have only few words everyone would be OK with in the end. This could be one way to find the definition of ‘net art’.

I work mainly with video, photography, text, (interactive) installation and net-performance, meaning the Internet is not my only tool. For me the tool itself is not the most important thing but the message is. I do have some Internet based projects but I do not see myself as a net artist but a media artist.

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?
DK:
Technology is developing and culture, its distribution and the forms are continually in progress, and this uncovers our virtuality mirroring multiply the time we are in. We are surrounded by technology and its means, and the use of it changes what and how we know.
Technology changes also the way our mind is understood. Already Derrida meditated on how the analysis of Freud would have been different if he would had known computers and e-mail.

We do not have to be limited by the exchange of the text messages or the e-mails and the acceptance of being merely an audience forced on us – an artist has the power and the ability to expand her/his activity in order to become artist-scientist who shapes, directs and/or uses machinery in so-called untraditional way, through which we can support the creation and existence of alternative network. Technology is a part of the net of elements that has created new technological possibilities for collaboration, online or offline.

As previously said, the tool itself is not the most important but the message is. Technology has created a new vision of the world and for me it is important to do have a critical approach in order to do a constant research about how the (digital) technological world functions. Internet is not the only tool or output for me. The reason is simple – my work is talking about our contemporary society which is global playful organ that functions as a whole of components of the era, Internet is only one component among many.

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).
DK:
I do not have only one theme or subject and not all I do has a strong feminist perspective (but always a female one, obviously) but for me it is important to meditate on the world that surrounds us and to grow deeper to see the importance of simple things/events, combining theory and practise in order to create interdisciplinary work. Also, one of the central issues is the main idea of Walter Benjamin in “Theses on the Philosophy of History” according to what not a single act or an event is vain, therefore nothing should go missing for the history.

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?
DK:
In this case it is “offline 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?
DK:
When I had my first interactive installation in a gallery space in 2003, I was confronted with a fact that did not surprise me at all – the grown-ups were afraid to use the keyboards and the children loved it. Very interesting situation was born – the grown-up saw only the form, the shape and (s)he created no bond with the happening and the child got to know the content, above all, understanding it childlike, characteristically to her/him.

In order to invite more people in, I have only one recipe – as our physical and mental future depends a great deal on our own doings, it is important to “grow” the audience (and the future artists), starting from the children. Also – it is not always enough to have a minimal push, sometimes so-called violent acts are needed in order to renew the culture. These violent acts can be organizing more exhibitions, publishing more papers that deals with digital art or similar.

I personally like to go to a gallery/some kind of an art space, already because it is always interesting to see how the artist has used the space given to her/him, therefore I would present net based art the same way, with one difference – I would add Internet to the space so the works would not be offline.

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?
DK:
The first generation born with the computers and Internet is not so old yet, so I would wait till they are “here” and then see what we have and what should we do etc – might be there are no need for “the violent acts” anymore?

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?
DK:
There is no difference whether you paint, write poetry or create net art. You can be noticed the same way, or not. It does not depend every time on a curator but more on an order by our society.

I do not agree that everybody can be an artist, the same way I do not think that everybody can be a taxi-driver or a prime minister.

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?
DK:
It is unlikely that a curator who has no technological knowledge is interested in an art form that uses technological means but I think it is not essential for a curator to know how exactly the piece has been made. It helps but it is not essential.

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?
DK:
I hope that the mapped aims will be fulfilled and there won’t be any technical problems.

AdC:
Thanks for taking your time.