Interview: Jorn Ebner

Agricola de Cologne (AdC) interviews Jorn Ebner (JE)

Jorn Ebner
is an artist based in England.

artist biography


Interview: 10 questions-

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. Tell me something about your educational background and what is influencing your work?
I studied for a Magister in English Literature, Language and Culture, with History and Art History at the Universität Hamburg between 1990-95; after that I briefly enrolled for Illustration at the Fachhochschule Hamburg Armgardstrasse in 1995, before I began to study Fine Art at Central Saint Martins College of Art in London between 1995-98. My department was called Critical Fine Art Practice which meant that we a had a little more theoretical input and were not medium specific as, say, sculpture was. My work is directed by attempts to navigate existence, in the physical and the virtual space. I am also interested in playing with forms, hence my interest in playing with the browser as a graphic element on the screen. During my studies at Central Saint Martins, I began using the computer for initial graphical ideas and smaller drawings (texts printed on top of each other), but never really used digital or computer media. This started afterwards in 1999 and in 2000 I received my first commission which was for artists interested in digital media but without experience: the result was my first internet work “Life Measure Constructions”.

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?
I called my works online works, as some works contain elements such as PDFs that are downloadable. These are integral to my internet works but are in themselves more desktop works – however, they are only available online. The aesthetics for a work develop like any other aesthetics, that is, they are determined by the interplay between average usage of online features and unusual use of them, and by the relationship to other works of art, online or not, and by a certain idea that drives the work. The unusual use is more interesting – I am not interested in design works, but wish there would be more internet artists who had developed a distinctive visual language.

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?
I am interested in transience, in flux, but also in the voice of an artist or a writer. I love books and I love particular artists whose works have contributed to my life, my upbringing and education, to me as a human being. I hope that I can pass this on to other people, that hopefully there is something in my works that is inspiring in one way or other. Technology is one possibility for the work of art yet not necessarily the best – for me it is one that is exciting to play with and where I feel there are still plenty of things to discover.

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).
My theme, or interest in a work of art is, how it can contibute to my understanding of existence; for me things, objects, are visual markers that make large contributions to my way of understanding life, people, everything. Hence, objects have featured largely in my work. I see the browser window as an object, and I treat it as an object in the space of the computer screen. I am also interested in subtlety and in the discreet appearance of things. My online works have an element of interuption, as the main windows disappear, and small pop-ups arrive that compose the overall picture.

“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?
For me, art is internet based when it can only exist through the medium; some works utilize the network more than others; but my internet works only function with this technology: mostly, they are more desktop orientated, but their distribution and their relationship is through and to the web.

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?
For me, there is an element of reading in webworks. The reader enters the works and needs to be interested in following up links, button, etc. I my work, there are no obvious connections, but hints at where they might be. So hopefully, people find interest in finding out what is going on. Bit like reading a book that seems a little difficult at the beginning.

When I showed my internet works in a physical space, I made them part of a larger installation that featured physical objects too. “Lee Marvin Toolbox”, “Leif Codices” and “Leonardo Log” all have A0 sized posters that accompany them; I made plinths for the computers that had a visual relationship to pillars that featured in the space. As my works deal with navigation and spatial instability, elements of tying things to something else featured as well; ropes.

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?
Better works of art.
An ackmowledgement that sitting in front of a screen is not the nicest way of looking at a work of art.

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?
I don’t think that the internet is more democratic. More people can publicize their opinions but that doesn’t mean their voices are being listened to. Artists are people who want to be artists; publishing doesn’t necessarily make you an artist. The latter happens by other means, when a group of people decides that the work that you do qualifies as art in some way or other. The mechanisms are still the same old ones as before. For me, the New Media scene suffers from a lack of acknowledgement that the mechanisms haven’t changed.

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?
There is a need to be able to understand the technological inventiveness of a work of art; but more so, the curators should be curious to find out what other forms of art there are rather than treading the same old well known paths of putting together shows with established names. So I think they should, but that’s not the whole story.

It is planned, to re-launch
JavaMuseum – Forum for Internet Technology in Contemporary Art 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 ?
To have one of my works included.

Thanks for taking your time.