Interview: Randy Adams aka runran

Randy Adams aka runran
from Canada

  • artist biography
  • —>

    Interview: 10 questions

    answers by 2 remix members (babel & runran)

    1. Tell me something about your educational background and what is influencing
    your work?

    Babel:
    My education was in Economics and Social and Political Sciences at Cambridge
    University. I was never ‘officially’ trained in digital design or art, but this
    side of my education began at age 11 when I received my first computer, a ZX
    Spectrum 48k.

    runran:
    I am a self-taught writer and media artist. I worked with traditional media
    (texts, photography and mixed media) for several years before turning to
    digtial media. I have always been influenced by regional and world events,
    historical and contemporary, that point to commonalities in the human
    experience.

    AdC:
    2. 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?

    Babel:‘Netart’ can be used to mean simply art that resides on the internet, but for me
    the term is more useful when it means art that requires the internet to
    function. Most of my work matches the first definition, but only some of it
    matches the second.

    Yes, I certainly believe Netart is an ‘art’, and so its aesthetic criteria are
    largely the same as for any other art. It might have additional criteria, such
    as how the art can exist in a ‘live’ form in multiple spaces simultaneously.
    But perhaps there shouldn’t be any criteria, just a simple definition as a way
    to frame our discussions… maybe we should ask who these aesthetic criteria
    serve – artists, audiences, academics, curators, critics, institutions?

    runran:
    My art practice is as free of labels as I can manage. I publish digital media on
    the net, but am also developing a cemetery from found bojects in my backyard,
    occassionaly do work as a live VJ, and work with spoken word. I entirely agree
    with babel – net.art’s “aesthetic criteria are largely the same as for any
    other art”.

    AdC:
    3. 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?

    Babel:
    For me, the Internet offers new ways to create and distribute artistic work. But
    it also acts in many other ways across a wide range of activities, so its
    meaning is very dependent on the specific ‘piece’ of the Internet we are
    talking about. I don’t think any technology has a single or predominant
    ideological character – they are much more schizophrenic than that.

    runran:
    I don’t feel that the new technologies are all that new anymore, but broadband
    has allowed artists to deliver richer media than was possible in the early days
    of (specifically) the web. I don’t find any meaning in tools, unless a tool is
    created overtly or conceptually to carry meaning. I leave such concerns for
    media theorists to dissect.

    AdC:
    4. 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).

    Babel:
    Haha, well – I don’t intend to send any kind of general artistic ‘message’
    through my work, but each piece could be said to have its own ‘message’, and
    these vary widely – for example Electrosensitivity (Inanimate Alice –
    http://www.inanimatealice.com ), racial/sexual identity (U, I, X, Y –
    http://www.babel.ca/uixy ) or anti-capitalism (Protesters, Police, Politicians
    – http://www.babel.ca/quebec ). But I suspect people will take their own
    messages from these and any other works. The area that I have most consistently
    worked within is early modernist aesthetics and practice, particularly of the
    Dada movement, through collaboration with other artists at 391.org.

    runran:
    My digital work, like my work with traditional media, is more about the
    pentrating gaze than it is about carrying message or meaning. Any message or
    meaning must come through during the process of working on a piece. I have no
    personal artistic vision, but a desire to respond creatively to art, news
    media, my neighbours and environment (offline and on).

    AdC:
    5. “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?

    Babel:
    It can be useful to distinguish between art that can exist offline, and art that
    cannot. The term ‘Art on the net’ includes both these types, so may not always
    be a helpful phrase to use.

    runran:
    To my mind, net.art is creative work that operates online, uses the net in some
    way not possible offline.

    AdC:
    6. 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?

    Babel:
    I think the main challenge with online ‘interactive’ artworks is that the common
    forms of interaction are still very limited – keyboard and mouse, clicks and
    drags… It will be exciting to see more work done with other forms of
    interaction – for example visual (eye-sensors, goggles etc.), sound
    (microphones etc.) and touch (‘data gloves’, touch-screens)

    Everyone has different experiences of computers in their daily life, and
    different abilities and interests, so we need a wide variety of ways to
    encourage an audience! I don’t believe there is a single ‘best’ way to present
    net based art to an audience – some art benefits from being seen by an
    individual at home, in a dark room, and some is better experienced on a big
    screen at a festival or gallery with a live audience. The best physical space
    for presenting various types of internet works would be one that allowed both
    of these types of environment to be recreated, as best it can.

    I think that people who have never experienced internet art before are not
    encouraged by work that requires a high level of reading/interacting ‘skill’
    (for example to realise that there are hidden links, or that clicking and
    dragging is required). The problem is not necessarily the work, or the
    audience, but that the two are not well matched. This might sometimes be helped
    by better explanations by the artists or the insitutions that present their
    work, but over time, as people experience more interactive work, these kinds of
    issues should become less of a problem.

    runran:
    I’m not so certain that net.art “needs the audience much more and in different
    ways than any other art discipline before”. The difficulty here is with the
    very definition of art. For example, the practice of interactive theatre is
    very old. Songsters have since ancient times involved audiences. What was once
    viewed as craftsmanship is now discussed as art. In many ways, the creative
    spirit has been commodified. Our technologies advance, but our concerns as
    human beings remain the same. Net.art can be viewed by a lonesome soul in a
    small, candle-lit room; or it can be presented through a data-projector onto
    the side of a building, or onto a large screen in a conference venue. The
    physical environment matters only if a piece of net.art is created to suit a
    space. Interactivity is one of those terms I leave to theorists better suited
    to discuss it.

    AdC:
    7. 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?

    Babel:
    Sadly the way that art is ‘measured’ globally seems to be by audience and/or by
    money. So to be accepted as a ‘serious’ art form (by the world that measures
    these things) Internet art would need to attract large audiences, or make a lot
    of money. The latter seems very unlikely, given one of the abilities of the
    internet is to distribute information (and in this case art) freely, and many
    artists feel this is a very good thing. But the number of festivals and
    exhibitions of internet art is growing, and this will help; Prizes are another
    good way of attracting publicity and audiences.

    runran:
    I write and make digital artworks for what poet Octavio Paz called the “immense
    minority”, or maybe Stendhal’s “happy few”. I like to think that my work is
    accessible to my neighbours – people with little or no exposure to the creative
    arts. I admit to being an end-user who hammers on a computer. I am thrilled to
    think that people from all over the world view my creative online work (site
    stats bear witness to this), but I have no desire to promote net.art as being
    serious art. I was a photographer for a long time, a practice only now getting
    its due as a form of art. Digital media has freed traditional photography to be
    an artform. Something will likely come along one day to free digital art in the
    same way.

    AdC:
    8. 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?

    Babel:
    Yes, I do believe that anybody who publishes their art, online or offline, is an
    ‘artist’. Actually I don’t believe they don’t even need to publish to be called
    an artist. But this says nothing about the subjective or objective qualities of
    the art they create. And practically speaking, there is not enough time for
    anyone to view all the art that is available in the world. So curators,
    critics, and other types of ‘filter’ can perform these and other useful
    functions.

    runran:
    I have a friend who creates splendid pieces of visual poetry and mailart, but he
    is not “published”, online or off. Curatorial filtering is for curators and
    artists who wish to be included in one project or another. Unless the artist is
    dead, it is up to the artist whether to be involved. Net.art has created an
    interesting situation where the critical language used to describe it is
    lagging behind the practice. This, to my mind, is a wonderful turn of events.
    As for art itself, I do not hold to the belief that anyone can be an artist. It
    is a matter of dedication, energy and sacrifice.

    AdC:
    9. 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?

    Babel:
    I don’t think it is essential to understand an art work from any particular
    perspective, but it is useful for curators of net based art to have a practical
    understanding of how these works function so that they can understand how best
    to present these pieces, individually and collectively.

    runran:
    Like babel, I believe it is “useful for curators of net based art to have a
    practical understanding” of the work they present. Like a curator of
    traditional artforms who knows about brush strokes, contast in a photograph.
    But it is most important for a curator of net.art or digital media to have an
    understanding of the history of the medium.

    AdC:
    10. 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?

    Babel:
    My hopes would be that such a space will encourage more people to experience –
    and create – net art. Good luck!

    runran:
    I am interested to see how being included in the JavaMuseum will affect the
    remix’s site stats: where will the online viewers come from? how long will they
    stay? which pieces will they engage with? will it bring new members to the
    remix?