Interview: Jens Sundheim

Agricola de Cologne (AdC) interviews Jens Sundheim (JS)

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Jens Sundheim
Dortmund/Germany

  • artist 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?
    JS:
    I studied photographic design at the University of Applied Sciences in Dortmund, Germany, and the University of Plymouth in Exter, England.
    Beside my netart project I work as a photographer in the fields of documentary photography. I never spent too much time thinking about who influenced my work. I always tried to create my own.

    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?
    JS:
    “Netart” or “Internet based art” (a term I prefer) is, simply speaking, artwork that involves the use of the internet.

    Often the internet is (only) used as a platform to present the work.

    We (Bernhard and me) use the internet itself. So to speak about my work, for our group project »The Traveller« (www.the-traveller.org) we use the internet as a device to gain images. We photograph by using webcams, the internet is the medium to transport our images. We use the whole internet as a photographic camera, if you like. The result are photographies, presented on- and offline.
    That makes our work both a netart and photography project. It is in between, it is both.

    If artistic exercise leads to artwork, then of course we have a form of art. Criteria are that it involves creativity and originality. General aesthetic criteria for Internet based artwork do not exist.

    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?
    JS:
    Internet is the tool that makes our project work. We did not “choose” to use the internet, our project is based on the possibilities the internet offers.Without internet there could not be a Traveller project.

    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).
    JS:
    Our Traveller project deals with the phenomenon of webcams. These days webcams can be found nearly everywhere in the world. They transmit images that can be seen by anyone else via internet.
    There are many levels to be found in our work.
    You can be despise the increasing coverage of public and non-public space by camera systems. That of course brings in a political dimension.The Traveller was not meant to be a “surveillance”- project in the first place. But, of course, it is.
    Also it tells about technological progress in our society.You might find scientific or philosophical interest in the fact that our living environment is filled with all kinds of non-visible data (the “augmented space” as described by american media artist Lev Manovich). You might be amazed the variety, you might smile at the absurdity of what people show by using webcams.
    Last but not least technical necessities to minimize the amount of data – low resulution and compression – lead to a special aesthetics these images have.We found amazing beauty in that.
    So what we like about the project is, there are many different levels to read it. The viewer has the freedom of choice.

    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?
    JS:
    Of course. If there is “art based on the internet”, and it is presented offline, it is still “art based on the internet”. Our project is an example.

    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?
    JS:
    The presentation of our project is “traditional” – sometimes projections, but mostly large photographic images on walls.

    But because the images are created by webcams, they have certain characteristics – low resolution, the are “fuzzy”, they have compression artefacts.With all the striving of the photographic world for more file size and better digital quality, we invite the viewer to discover the special beauty these transmitted images have.

    I think the appropriate environment to present net based art depends on the works.
    Generally speaking, it surely is an advantage that works can be looked at at home, sitting in front of the computer, with no need of having to go to a special place to see them. Like film on TV compared to cinema – easier to consume.

    But, speaking of myself, I am a photographer. I enjoy going to exhibitions to see artwork. For net art I would also prefer to go to an exhibition, to a special physical space where the artwork is presented collectivly.
    The experience is different, the atmosphere is different – even if there would “only” be computers to look at. All artwork would benefit from that. A movie seen in a cinama is more powerful.

    So if I would be in the position to create an environment for presenting this type of art, it would be close to a “regular” or “traditional” exhibition venue, a hall, computers, images, screenings etc.

    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?
    JS:
    Maybe it just needs time. And artists who consistantly create new work.

    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?
    JS:
    Curatorial filtering is fine with me. Of course, anyone who creates something is an artist. No matter is he or she publishes it on the internet, no matter if it is published at all.

    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?
    JS:
    No. Important is the outcome of an artistic work. A curator who specialises in paiting does not need to have knowledge about the physical or chemical consistence of paint.

    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 ?
    JS:
    I very much appreciate a physical exhibition space as it attracts a wider range of people and gives them the chance to encounter net based art.
    My personal wish would be to take part.

    AdC:
    Thanks for taking your time.