Interview: Seth Keen


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Seth Keen
from Australia

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
In Australia, where I am familiar with the progression of the Digital Media scene, initially there was a strong response towards Digital Media being and extension of the broader field of art. A response that caused a specific New Media body to be set up as part of the Arts Council funding system. But, more recently as in 2006 the New Media funding sections was dissolved, with digital media being integrated back into Visual Arts. There was a lot of protest against this occurring from the New Media/Digital Media community. Overall, digital media has been handles as an extension of the field of art but in way where it was developed separately. I see this as being part of determining what digital media may constitute and where it fits with more traditional art practices. Long term as digital media art forms become more prevalent I envision them as becoming more integrated and accepted into general arts practice.

2.
Question
A relevant section of digital art represents Internet based art. The Internet hardly existed, 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
Internet Art early on became like a genre within the broader engagement with digital media, whereby both art and technology meet. I would argue that any type of practice that engages with both art and technology whether online or offline is part of the same field or practice and equally important. They both have relevance in terms of their contribution towards cultural texts production. Amateur or dirty media is as important as is the development of professional high-end technology art works. An argument that is being demonstrated it the growing participatory culture being developed around social software on the Internet. The constant development of this varying social software will have a significant influence on future perspectives in Internet Art. Artists will respond as a mode of critique to social media populist forms. Social software will be used to re-mix and mash-up new hybrid forms.

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
This is an interesting question. Over my time in teaching I have taught multimedia in an Informatics School, then what was called digital arts in a Centre for New Media Arts and now Integrated Media in a Media department. Initially, the education response focused on being very software specific with the emphasis on learning technical skills. Then there was shift to being medium specific, i.e. video, audio, multimedia. Both of these approaches recognised theory and practice as being separate. Now where I currently teach the emphasis is on integration between theory and practice where they are seen as being equal in importance and ultimately connected. Also, there has been as shift from focusing on technical software skills to teaching a more generic approach towards technology where students can be adaptable to changes, upgrades etc. A style of pedagogy that utilises a process-based approach, making process as important as outcomes or finished artifacts.

Rather than focusing on software or mediums students learn and develop the types of literacies that are needed to engage with creative production both offline and online.

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 approach we are taking could be seen as having two distinct parts that influence each other. Firstly, the intention is to experiment with an existing populist online form as in video blogging as a way to critique that form. This is a form of cultural critique that examines the social and political issues that are motivating the development of video blogs as an online media form. The second part and a significant aspect of this critique focuses on form. A major objective is to question the existing form of video blogs as a response to working with video as medium within the infrastructure of a weblog content management system. I would argue that ‘Internet Art’ in most cases through an engagement with online technologies has to consider both a cultural critique and the formal properties of the Internet.

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
I see both netart and Internet based art as being relevant. In the end these are just names which represent a form of artistic practice. Often, the mistake that is made is trying to define what constitutes a netart practice. A bit like trying to define New Media as a term.

These practices and fields are in a constant state of flux. I do not have any specific aesthetic criteria for Internet based artwork. As per my comments above both amateur and professional approaches are relevant, with whatever aesthetic that emerges from varied types of engagement.

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
Internet Art should be viewed, used and exhibited within the environment that it was created. Other forms of offline documentation and repurposing may be necessary in order to preserve the work and present Internet Art in other forms of publication. Therefore, the work can exist both online and offline but does need to be used and exhibited within the environment of the Internet.

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 see the exhibition of Internet Art as an open slate that is determined by the type of curatorial practice that is being imposed on the form. In other words the presentation should take into account the intention of why the work was created, including careful consideration of the work being published on the Internet. But, in parallel the thematic intentions of the curator form part of the exhibition design. This is the curator’s motivation that has brought together a certain body of work. The thematic intent of the curator along with ideas from the artists involved will determine the exhibition design. Another factor to consider within these varying exhibition approaches is the way that Internet Art as a form is a type of public art.

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
An appropriate solution to this problem is education. More needs to be discussed and written about these issues as a way of changing these perspectives. A part of this includes forming better contextual understanding around Internet based art. The historical development of Internet Art for example, is an important part of Digital Media education.

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
Internet Art as a form of pubic art with it being published on the Internet does bring this genre of art into a different sphere compared to more high art traditional art practice that is only accessible through designated gallery spaces. The exhibition of Internet art online changes dramatically audience accessibility. The Internet as a public space can be accessed globally, which alters the concept of location and time. The location is not fixed in the virtual domain. A curated selection of Internet Art works can be viewed anytime over an undefined period if the work is left online as a record of the exhibition. In response to the Joseph Beuys concept, I still think there are specific criteria that will determine what constitutes Internet Art. The aesthetics, content and form are open but like other forms of art the intention of the artist need to be clear in the work.

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, curators should be aware of the technologies being used in combination with an understanding of the thematic concepts being explored. Also, users in some case need to be made aware of how the technology used is relevant to using and understanding the work. In both cases it is the responsibility of the artist to inform both the curator and users about the relevance of the technologies as part of presenting the work. This contextual information may need to be provided in addition to the work itself.