Interview: Richard Jochum


Richard Jochum
from Austria living in USA

  • artist biography
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    Interview: 10 questions

    Question 1
    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 1
    Digital media helped extend the notion of art. It altered our notion of space and time; space became more and more virtual, time shorter and intensified. Art is not necessarily only an object, but became to a large degree immaterial. The unfolding of digital media is accompanied and fostered by the phenomenon of media convergence: the dissolution of limits of different types of media. Participation plays an important role in nowadays art thanks to net based collaborations which exceed regional and national borders.

    Question 2
    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 2
    Internet based art dealt from the beginning primarily with the technical development of a new, nascent media while intensely testing its artistic possibilities. Artists will keep producing new combinations and creating output at any time. But some characteristics of the production context have changed tremendously: Today we experience a much broader audience actively involved in viewing AND producing data (projects and media files of all sorts) – thanks to the accessibility and affordability of technical equipment, social software and production means. A bigger audience and participation of producers will produce even more cross-network participation and interaction. On the level of content I believe there will be an increase in the production of narratives. They seem to serve as a response to the loss of subjectivity and authorship as claimed in the poststructuralism of the 80s and 90s. It seems as if producers from many backgrounds (whether artists or not) are re-inventing themselves as agents in an immensely complex and confusing information-age that suffers from an overflow of everyday-data and a continuous peak of white noise.

    Question 3.
    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 3.
    I am convinced that blogging can be an instigating and fabulous tool of pedagogy. It helps young students to improve their writing and find their own visual language. Blogging increases media literacy, serves as filter, and connects through its interactive features with a select audience.

    Question 4.
    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 art critical point of view.
    Answer 4.
    I am particularly interested in social media, participatory culture and visual studies. New technologies and net based art helped to instigate a debate about what is high and low in the arts. I like that. It makes us re-visit the visual culture we live in irrespective of the prejudices we grew up with: this is an image. This is an object. Here we have a movie. And this is a performance piece. It is much more mixed today. The old dichotomy between the refined high art we look up to versus a popular culture we look down at may still influence us; technically though, it loses enormously on ground.

    Question 5.
    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 5.
    Netart counts doubtlessly as a form of art foremost because of its embracive attitude towards innovation, but also because of its inventiveness, although collectibility and materiality are clearly limited. The contemporary art discourse is used to dealing with solid art work that are commissioned by galleries and selected by the art industry and its representatives. The fact that the definition of art is usually based on a social or socio-institutional convention reveals difficulties for any contemporary art discourse to frame net based art work and to agree on aesthetic criteria. Instead of the classical art discourse, we find media, film, or visual studies to be the appropriate field for validation of digital art; and ultimately the very user with his habits of viewing and disseminating.

    Question 6.“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 6.
    I do believe that art based on the Internet can still be called art even if the pipe is unplugged as long as it is the Internet where the work stems from. In general, I favor definitions that are broad and wide. They might be less distinct. But they are open for creativity and invention. There is always a prize involved that definitions make us pay for. When we define things too early we have to ask one another for permissions to cross borders. And as we know already, permissions foster bureaucracy and administration.

    Question 7.
    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 7.
    Taking away the hurdles that might cause fear in users to understand. Clear navigation menus. Useful descriptions.
    We do not have to worry about the lonesome user. He will sit there anyway. But I, myself, like public encounters at all levels.

    Question 8.
    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 8.
    I recommend the strategy of the rat: Keep up nagging/doing it! Internet based art has gained a lot of its terrain by dedicated, somewhat geeky developers and enthusiasts. But it did not just stay there. The net has gone public, as has its art.

    Question 9.
    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 9.
    The Internet is a maze and fundamentally erratic. It works like a big warehouse where consumption is granted through confusion. A certain confusion is heuristic and therefore desirable even for those who profit from the commercialization of the web. Short: The Internet will never be some kind of a Chelsea, because it is a network, not an address.
    Everybody has an innate ability and necessity to create. But that does not automatically make them an artist. Art has become (and always has been) a profession, performed by continuous practice and a significant level of knowledge or skills. Talent and dedication though are not enough; art is a title that ultimately only the art world can award, since it’s administered and canonized by a discourse and its institutions.

    Question 10.
    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 10.
    What would we do without technological knowledge? We would not even recognize net based art! That applies to both the curator and the user. Although I strongly believe in a solid foundation of knowledge and education, I am still convinced that knowing has many ways; a natural curiosity might be more helpful than an academic degree. And there is always hope through learning by viewing.

    New York, July 31 and Oct 28, 2007