Interview: Alexander Mouton

Alexander Mouton
is a US based media artist

He is participating in JavaMuseum – Netart Features I-V

view his detailed bio

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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:
To my mind, the movement from analog to digital cannot be over estimated for the way it has radically changed traditional conceptions of art. By creating a common ground of 0’s & 1’s, all media can be seamlessly interwoven in ways never before imagined. For me as an image-maker, this new milieu compelled me to begin working sound in with my imagery, and in so doing, I began basing my work in a temporal environment. Though seemingly akin to what video was doing with sound & image already in the sixties, in fact this new digital process is very different in that materials are approached as pieces which through the media at hand can be mixed together in completely new ways. The possibilities of hyperlinking, interactivity, networking, immersiveness etc. dramatically open the way for new approaches to both the practice of art-making and art-beholding.

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:
I would say there was something about what the pioneers of net art were doing that is totally different from what is happening now –they were experimenting with whether the internet could be used for art and how it would be understood, we are now working with all the myriad ways we can use the internet for art. Simultaneously though, a spirit of experimentation is still present and working itself into what the technology we are facing today can do, just as it was working itself into what the technology back then could do –not so different. As to perspectives for future developments –I think perhaps of most concern is whether we will be able to maintain the level of freedom we currently have in creating our work….

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 a very interesting question and one which alludes to a problematic I find challenging for a number of reasons. First, the technology that net artists use is continually changing so there is little stable ground upon which to develop a standard model for teaching in the traditional academic sense. Furthermore, as an artistic practice, net art falls outside the traditional gallery parameters and is at once too esoteric and too common place a thing to garner much institutional respect. Also, many people who create net art have a foundation in another area upon which a practice involving the internet can be developed, which precludes net art from being incorporated into the standard six 2D & 3D media (paint.draw.sculpt.ceramic.photo.print) as it doesn’t fit the intro to /intermediate /advanced model. I am speaking in part from my perspective as a professor at a small liberal arts university, but nonetheless I perceive this as the general climate. What then is the best way to teach young people how to deal with the internet as an environment of art? My current approach is to make connections from all of the other areas I teach (photo.Video.BookArts) by presenting examples of net artists in the field in the hopes of blowing some peoples minds sufficiently for them to want to pursue the field further. That net art is practiced equally by eLit folks, artists, and computer programmers also shakes up the ground upon which traditional academic programs are based. Ideally then, net art could best be taught in an interdisciplinary environment with a certain amount of commitment by those involved to thinking outside the box.

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:
While electronic media most certainly does exhibit an ideological character, as a practicing artist I personally am more focused on the possibilities for telling stories in compelling new ways than I am in questioning the media through the media itself. I would definitely say that the content of my net art runs against the grain of this ideological character in that it illuminates what is mysterious about life rather then attempting to demystify things, yet this approach of mine would not necessarily be readily identified as being overt or the focus of the work.

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 believe in the broadest scope of things that anything that is deemed to be internet art is internet art. A more specific criteria might exclude internet documents/projects which have a primary/singular purpose of: A. commerce, B. games, C. porn, D. pure information (although all of these areas could be evoked for subversive purposes and be art). That leaves us with a definition something like: Internet art is a form which uses the specific characteristics of the internet for the sole/primary purpose/function of evoking an emotional/intellectual response in a user.

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:
For my definition, both approaches are equally valid as net art, regardless of whether the internet is only the vehicle for presentation/dissemination or it is a vital part of the materials for the project itself.

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:
The beauty of internet art is that it can exist in so many different contexts. I definitely think the single viewer in front of his/her computer is an important viewing space for net art, just as reading a book alone can be a profound and intimate experience. However, some projects may be better experienced if they were large projections in museums/galleries or in public spaces. I look forward to commonplace alternatives to the mouse that will be developed through technology so that the possibilities for interactivity in public spaces will take on new dimensions (tracking devices, smart boards etc.).

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 that time is a key ingredient in net art becoming more widely accepted, however it also depends on whether creative work that is worthy of regard continues to be made by serious artists that are dedicated to the form, and on whether forums, festivals, art critics/historians will do their part in bringing netart into the light, as it were….

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:
I respect that net art stands outside of the physical world which is organized through capitalist structures and I certainly appreciate the underground nature of net art in that anything can be published by anyone, and that some work will be discovered simply because of it’s artistic qualities as net art. On the other hand, there is also a curatorial force at work which has the potential of steering net art into a system of hierarchies, for better or for worse (respectively: inspiring artists & clarifying/publicizing net art for users –or– shutting out certain kinds of work and creating an artificial canon).

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:
This question essentially points to whether there should be a criteria established for the users of net art. Clearly this is an awkward situation. It definitely would help any curator to have a rich understanding of the form, and the more versed any user is with interacting with net art the better. Simultaneously though, I believe it is the job of the artist to gauge the technical complexity of the work they are creating in part based on who they want as an audience. I suppose in this way, it is no different from understanding literature, music, or any of the visual arts….