JIP - JavaMuseum Interview Project

Interview: Ethan Ham

Ethan Ham
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
Do you think it is like that and if yes, tell me more about these components
and how they changed the perception of art?

I don’t think digital media has significantly changed the definition of art.
Certainly there are things that can be done better digitally than in other
media, but the meaning of art hasn’t been changed.

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?

Certainly early Internet-based artwork can be compared with what is being
done today. The works that will stand the test of time will be those that
don’t depend on the novelty of the technology or medium in order to be

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?

First and foremost artists need to have something to say beyond gee-whiz
demonstrations of what technology can do. I think it is important for New
Media artists to understand the underlying technologies and
programming/scripting languages–but if they end up simply exploring the
potential and peculiarities of technology then their artworks will be anemic
and shallow.

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
³netartists², or what else do they mean to you?
Many ³Internet based artists² work on ³engaged² 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.

Perhaps this greater sense of engagement is that the Internet is
fundamentally about networking–both with computers and with fellow human
beings. So Internet-based artworks that explore their own medium are
naturally going to be exploring issues of community and communication. These
issues (along with issues of privacy & identity) are certainly part of my

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 ³netart² or if you like the description “Internet based
art” better?
Do you think ³netart² is art, at all, if yes, what are the criteria?
Are there any aesthetic criteria for an Internet based artwork?

I prefer “Internet-based art,” netart sounds a bit contrived to me. I don’t
think there is an aesthetic criteria, just the intention of art and .

“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?

If the artwork isn’t networked (or if it doesn’t being networked isn’t
fundamental to the artwork) then it is better described as “computer-based
art” rather than “Internet-based art.”

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?

Most interesting contemporary art is demanding of the viewer even if it
doesn’t require physical engagement. The appropriate context really depends
on the specific work.

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?

I’m not sure that it’s as much a case of not being considered serious art as
not being quite sure what to do with it. Showing internet-based art in
museums and galleries feels awkward. Internet-based art often makes no use
of physical space and so the presentation in a white-box artspace feels
haphazard. The main solution–if there is one to be had–is to focus on
finding compelling ways to interface with the work in gallery settings.n

The Internet is sometimes called a kind of ³democratic² 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?

“Democratic” always seems a bit misused in this context… “Egalitarian”
might be more apt. Essential the Internet makes everyone a gallery owner &
curator, so it definitely opens up the ability to present & promote artwork.
But just because you’re a gallerist doesn’t mean people will visit the

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?

Not really… It’s important to be aware of the history and trends, but it
shouldn’t be necessary to have a developer’s understanding of the