Interview: Ellie Harrison


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Ellie Harrison

artist biography

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Interview: 10 questions

1:
Question
Since a reasonable time, digital media entered the field of art and extended the traditional definition of art through some new, but very essential components. Do you think it is like that and if yes, tell me more about these components and how they changed the perception of art?

Answer
Interactivity is a major component. The internet meant that suddenly all the works being produced in a certain field were interactive. It also enabled more intimate experiences with art. The audience could engage with work in their own surroundings, at their own desk, on their own computer.

2:
Question
A relevant section of digital art represents Internet based art. The Internet was hardly existing, but artists conquered already this new field for their artistic activities. Can the work of these early artists be compared with those who work with advanced technologies nowadays? What changed until these days? What might be the perspectives for future developments?

Answer
The first artists to use the internet were pioneers; there is no doubt about that. This can be compared to artists currently pioneering new technologies.

3:
Question
The education in the field of New Media art, including Internet based art, started late compared with the general speed of technological development and acceptance. So, generations of artists who used the Internet as their artistic working field were not educated in this new discipline(s) and technologies, but had rather an interdisciplinary approach. What Do you think, would be the best way to teach young people how to deal with the Internet as an environment of art?

Answer
You cannot force any technology onto young artists. Art is after all about ideas, not technology. Students should be given a wide understanding of the tools that are available to them (including web-applications and more traditional technology) and then should be able to make a decision about which media is most suitable to visualising their ideas.

4:
Question
What kind of meaning have the new technologies and the Internet to you in concern of art, are they just tools for expressing 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? 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, personally and from an artcritical point of view.

Answer
The primary function of the internet is in the sharing of information. For me the main intention of artists using the internet is in the sharing of ideas, of giving a little piece of themselves to the world. It is about making the private – public.

5:
Question
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 “netart” is art, at all, if yes, what are the criteria? Are there any aesthetic criteria for an Internet based artwork?

Answer
The term ‘netart’ seems very dated. It makes me think about art that is about computers and exists only on computers. Now that the world is getting used to using computers as a day-to-day tool and the way we interact with them has been completely normalised, this sort of work is no longer relevant. ‘Internet based art’ or ‘web based art’ are much more open terms that describe works which exist on the internet, but that can be about myriad subjects.

6:
Question
“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?

Answer
This depends on the art, I think the exciting thing about a lot of internet based art is its ‘liveness’ and the potential of interactivity. This is removed when it is offline, however this is just a debate about terminology.

7:
Question
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 think would be good ways to 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?

Answer
I prefer the idea of the art being engaged with in normal desk-type surroundings. I like the idea of the art being transported to the audience and not the other way round. When you go to a gallery, you want to be transported from your normal life and the idea of sitting in front of a computer can seem a little dull. Therefore I think projections often work well as they allow you to see the work on a different scale.

8:
Question
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?

Answer
I think only time can attempt to change these preconceptions. Internet Art will always be different, because of its potential to be anywhere at any one time. This is a dramatic shift, similar to the point in history when mechanical reproduction was first introduced and there was all the debate about the ‘aura’ of an original artwork. For the majority of the world, it took a lot of getting used to.

9:
Question
The Internet is sometimes called a kind of “democratic” environment, 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?

Answer
There is a lot of blurring of boundaries here. Blogging and photo-blogging have made this near reality. There are people uploading stuff all over the world, who may not consider themselves as artists, but may be perceived as such. It’s also possible to easily keep you identity hidden. Even if you are an artist and consider what you have produced to be art, it is not necessary for you to shout it from the rooftops. You can keep the fact hidden and just let people stumble across it and engage with it as they would any other material on the internet.

10:
Question
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? And what about the users of Internet based art?

Answer
Yes I think it’s always handy, as I believe curators should be prepared to get their hands dirty. They need knowledge of technology in order to understand where the work has come from and pull their weight during production / installation.