JIP - JavaMuseum Interview Project

Interview: Alan Bigelow

Alan Bigelow
is a US based media artist

He is participating in JavaMuseum – Netart Features I-V

view his detailed bio


Interview: 10 Questions


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?

The introduction of new digital components (for me, it would be Flash)
has transformed our view of art and what it can be. For example, in
literature, Flash (and other applications) have given us the ability
to create stories as multimedia events rather than as simply static
text on the page.

Equally as important is the internet as a platform for these new art
forms. The internet has extended their reach, and the reach of more
traditional art forms. The result is a virtually limitless resource on
the web for disseminating, and providing opportunities to create, net

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?

In terms of Flash, it certainly appears that recent developments
within this application (in its design features, compression options,
incorporation of sound and video, Actionscript coding, and so on) has
expanded its capabilities and made it a much more robust and flexible
program. Along with this has come a natural evolution of Flash-based
art created by artists, natural in the sense that whatever
developments we have seen in recent Flash art will undoubtedly be
superseded by new developments in the near future. Art, in this sense,
has increasingly become technology-driven, as can be seen by the
recent explosion in art designed for cell phones and other mobile

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?

This questions requires two answers: one regarding young people as
viewers of internet art, and the second regarding young people as
creators of internet art.

As viewers, young people have a lifetime of experience on the net,
something older people do not have (I am 53 years old, with 14 years
of experience—by the time these young people are my age, they will
have had at least 3-4 times my experience, relatively speaking). This
extends their repertoire, but does not necessarily train them to
understand or critically think about what they are seeing. This
includes internet art, which offers complex challenges to the average
viewer, and suggests we need to offer fresh strategies for
understanding, examining, and appreciating new art forms, as we
currently do in the traditional arts. Overlooking this challenge now
will mean less-prepared viewers/users in the future.

Secondly, regarding young people as creators of internet art, the same
philosophy applies: just as we do in the more traditional arts like
painting, film, and text-based writing, we need to provide educational
opportunities for them to experiment with creating art for the web.
This training must go beyond simply posting a video on YouTube, and it
should prepare them for a constantly evolving technological landscape
which may radically transform the process of creation, and also any of
the internet’s delivery systems, in the future.

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 “net artists”, 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.

For me, Flash is just a tool. I bring my own philosophy to it.

I try not to favor one “theme” over another, but I do perceive certain
trends in my own work. The first is political. Works like “What They
Said” (http://www.webyarns.com/WhatTheySaid.html), “When I Was
President” (http://www.WhenIWasPresident.com), and I-Pledge.org
(http://www.I-Pledge.org), address political paradigms and, in the
case of I-Pledge.org, offer an opportunity for viewers to comment on
those paradigms (in this particular case, they can revise the United
States’ Pledge of Allegiance and save it onto the site).

Other works like MyNovel.org (http://www.MyNovel.org), “Love Is”
(http://www.webyarns.com/loveis/LoveIs.html), and “Lord’s Prayer, The”
(http://www.LordsPrayerThe.com) provide commentaries on, respectively,
literature, love, and religion.

Critically, I do not favor one subject area over another—the art
simply has to have its own integrity as an aesthetic work.

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?

I can not presume to answer these questions. Whatever vocabulary I use
now will probably be outdated, or at least radically modified, in five
years or less.

“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
Do you think, that “art based on the Internet”, can be called still
like that, even if it is just used offline?

I am not sure that this distinction is useful for us. With so many
multimedia installations that rely on off and online resources, the
borders between media are blurring. We are currently building a
vocabulary to describe this event.

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?

For question “How do you think would be good ways to stimulate the
user to dive into this new world of art?” please see answer to
question #3 above.

The only appropriate environment in which to present net-based art is
an environment that allows the art to work. There is no other viable
option for a successful artist.

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?

We must continue to publish, examine, share, create, compare, qualify,
critique, and deconstruct internet-based art, as we are doing now.

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)
Do you think, that speaking in the terms of Joseph Beuys, anybody who
publishes anything on the net would be also an artist?

It depends on how you define “artist.” Generalizations about art,
internet-based or otherwise, is a risky business.

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?

I do not believe in prerequisites for enjoying art.