Interview: Jeremy Blank

Jeremy Blank is an
artist, lecturer and curator of BEAP ’04 & ’07 – Biennale of Electronic Art Perth(Australia)

see biography

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Interview: 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?
JB:
Classically Art School trained. Originally accepted to study lasers, holography and Video in 1978 then having to return to Painting, as my lecturer broke his spine. Foundation in ART WITH DRAWING, PAINTING AND PRINT then moving into Photography, Video, Performance & New Media over a period of ten years until my practice became predominantly Electronic. Influences are essentially classic Fine Art based where the intention is realised in the appropriate medium. I believe that art has not died with the advent of new technologies, much like when cameras or video appeared, it is just that there are faster developments, which make it harder to effectively focus on any one particular aspect, as often new media, electronic arts rely on the use and integration of several software applications and even a variety of discrete ‘skills’ to achieve interesting or resolved results. I am interested in areas where new technology takes up and develops aspects of previous media and where it can communicate at intimate and mass levels of communication.

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,
JB:
NETART is an artform which effectively uses the internet as its primary distribution format where the work functions within the context of a networked, mediated context. NETART utilises web based software appropriately to communicate AESTHETIC, SOCIAL, POPULAR,CLASSICAL, POLITICAL, DOCUMENTARIST or SCIENTIFIC concerns from an aesthetically trained perspective.

There are definite examples where young artists are posting work with little regard or awareness of the history of art production, maybe these are contemporary ‘folk artists’ or ‘electronic taggers’ who simply use what is to hand to produce and announce their virtual presence in the world.
AdC:
do you think your work belongs to this specific genre
JB:
NO
AdC:
do you think “netart” is art, at all, if yes, what are the criteria?
JB:
GOOD NET ART is ART. BAD NET ART is not art.
AdC:
Are there any aesthetic criteria for an Internet based artwork?
JB:
YES. However the criteria regarding any AESTHETIC descriptor are as any other artform and are ‘fluid’, in that they are able to alter from generation to generation. From TECHNO sophistry to Grunge ‘fly on a wall’. Any aesthetic criteria should be convincing and clearly match the ‘intent’ of the work, as any other artform.

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?
JB:
NETART is an evolving medium as is any other artform. The expansion of ‘blogs’ and ‘MYSPACE’ has facilitated access for unprecedented numbers of the web community to ‘post’ their opinions, desires, fears, narratives, films, photographs or rantings publically.

There seems to be a plethora of young women using SEX as a basis for their ‘respective’ interpretations of ART, where they are oblivious to the work of artists such as Barbara Kruger, Jenny Holzer, Carolee Schleemann, Yoko Ono, and simply ‘work’ in the “conceptual” v(a)ein of Tracey Emin, Georgina Starr, or with little or no critical content evident where the ‘work’ (if it may even be called thus) is more closely related to pornography or voyeurism than art. The same however could be said of young male artists who rely on horror based games or sexual or moral exploitation (with no critical awareness of evidence of awareness).

Works by artists such as Mark Amerika or Simon Biggs have attempted to use the internet as a platform in its own right. This shows sophistication and an awareness of the domain where the work naturally resides rather than it simply being a dark glass of voyeuristic isolation.

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).
JB:
I am interested in any work that engages my attention, informs me, challenges my beliefs or values or understanding in a convincing way. The web; sites such as wurzeltod.ch or DEVIANTART or NEWGROUNDS offer portals for emergent work that does not readily sit within ‘traditional’modes of presentation. Each ‘artist’s’ work is readily able to be critiqued by what they ‘deem’ to include. The ‘intention’ of the ‘artist’is therefore easily assessed in terms of their ‘focus’ or ‘conceptual’ model.

Many artists simply use www. As a marketplace while many of the most successful artists simply present a minimal web presence with little or no ‘real’ materials available for consumption. Sites such as SCANNER are invaluable as they are truly effective vehicles for the artist to represent their projects and materials publically.

I have delayed ‘posting’ a web presence deliberately as I have been aware of the problems relating to such exposure and the respective ‘selection’ of what to expose.

The rise of broadband access has facilitated accessible ‘work’ which is effectively ‘immature’ as many ‘artists’ have little or no regard for issues of downloadability, content, editing or technical awareness, like many other more ‘traditional’ mediums.

I struggle with my own understandings of web based art and am NOT interested in visual motifs based on the net but rather text based work. The work of Mark AMERIKA and Simon Biggs are ‘defining’ works regarding web based media ( and are historical works in the same context as any other artform). Many young artists or students are content to simply stain the web with their postings as evidence of their currency.

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?
JB:
NO. If the work is ‘web based’ it should be designed to ‘function’ on the web, not offline.

If a work is ‘based’ on the internet it is incongruous for it to exist ‘anywhere else’.

There are some works which ‘reside’ on the web and are downloadable, the game ‘CLOUD’ for example has a strong aesthetic and is downloadable where an individual can then play it at home. This particular work has spread around the world. Whether a game is an artwork is a contemporary issue which many young artists who have been exposed to games and gaming through their formative years are actively exploring at present.

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.?
JB:
There is a contradiction within the very basis of the work. It is both global and isolatory. In its immediate presentation it is intimate (one to one). The public presentation of web based work was introduced to me by you ( RRF). The concept of public presentations of the web based work is sound especially when it is presented within the context of ‘curated’ aspects of www. Work.
AdC:
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?
JB:
A large dark space with multiple projectors linked to high speed internet connections with voice activated navigation via headsets or SMS through mobile telephone technologies. A lounge area for spectators and participants.

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?
JB:
There is yet to be a Cannaletto, Titian, Turner, Goethe, Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Seurat, Warhol or Van Gogh of the Internet. It could be that there is a disparity between the ‘creators’ of the software which ‘artists’ use and the ‘code’ itself. What is to be assessed or valued? The role of the artist is MASTERY of the medium they seek to express themselves through. Many people may be able to write or drive a car but few create art, race cars (or even understand them) successfully.

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?
JB:
That is the crux of this questionnaire. With increased exposure to computer based education it is inevitable that there will be computer literate artists who are able and capable of generating work that is both aesthetically and intellectually challenging. Those who are able to use FRONTPAGE to create a website are simply ‘good mice’ who conform to the strictures of any given software application. Joseph Beuys’ may have ‘reputedly’ stated that everyone has the capacity to become an artist, yet his practice was solely of the lone wolf artist whereby ‘he’ solely presents images or concepts for ‘others’ to consume. The statement failed to grasp the original idea offered by the UK conceptualist John Latham who stated that the artist IS an ‘Incidental Person’ who ‘observes’ activity from a particular and ‘indifferent’ perspective.

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?
JB:
YES. Like a car mechanic needs to know how to repair a car an Electronic Art Curator needs to know about the context, zeitgeist, mannerists, shamans, fools, fakirs, used car salesmen and visionaries who inhabit the online community. They further need an informed agenda borne out of specialist knowledge of their respective areas whether that be political, social, cultural or aesthetic.

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 ?
JB:
I wish it well and believe a physical presence is required regarding the archiving and presentation of such contemporary practice. It is clear that Cologne has many active artists who are technologically aware and are practicing at international levels across a range of areas.

It is important in the same way that Beaubourg in Paris houses contemporary music and technology. It does not matter from where each aspect of cultural sophistication emanates from it is important that credible and conscientious documentarists, curators and directors are supported in their vision of structuring and critiquing contemporary art practice; whether or not it has been readily accepted by their respective host states.

AdC:
Thanks for taking your time.