JIP - JavaMuseum Interview Project

Interview: Natalie Perrin

Natalie Perrin
French artist

together with
Liliane Schneiter (CH),
Sebastien Louis Freuler UK),
Adla Isanovic (Bosnia-Hercegovian)


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?

This is a question of reterritorialization; trans-location, trans-disciplinarily and distributive methods in many art practices, cultural and social fields. The infinite duplication and circulation of data through decentralized and shared networks have strengthened the possibilities of sharing knowledge and practices through multiple cooperation’s. Copyrighted patents and proprietary rights are questioned, the individual is re-activated inside the community – node (community of knowledge, community of friendship, community of sharing). Community is gathering through common and shared interests.
This reterritorialization questions hierarchies in the field of art, and the authority of the ‘expert’; participative web platforms have stimulated plural voices in the artistic, social and politic debates. ( Wikipedia, the «Hackers Fests», the communities of free software …). Netartists often cooperate with activists, hackers and more larger platforms of projects, like Hackitectura, contre-conférence, GoTo10 in France, GNU/Linux Dynebolic (by Jaromil) …
The discourse in art has changed. It has become plural, fluid and circulating due to new protocols; file sharing and shared networks
The field of art has become less impervious, art projects can be shown outside their conventional locations (‘white cube’, organised and legal public’s, art festivals …) and they can be displayed – and seen — out of the control of the art market: (galleries, museum, sales …). The role of the audience is redefined and new cooperation’s can be created inside the field of art.
It makes not only a shift in the production, delivery and reception of cultural content, but enables us to think of art as of relations instead of objects.

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?

Through the emergence of these early artists – we think about the playful area of ASCII code to nowadays, the cutting age of the art has changed because of technological advancement but also in its function. Art practices through networks have introduced new kinds of enhanced narratives, new aesthetics for a whole new range of audiences; the audience becomes an active user through a new interactivity : active audience, multiple online locations, short-lived and playful pieces that involve cooperation, interaction and meetings, that deceive geographic and physical distances
Today web based art practices have to face new challenges and search for new positions; while censorship, filtering, commodification and spectacularization block the Internet development: art based on network practices should resist, become more tactical and more political. One of the prospects might be a new ecology of the Web; critical, watchful and diffusing information.

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?

From mid-sixties a part of the alternative art scene in the US became aware of the early development of networks and their promises. From now, Internet has become a worldwide cultural, political, and economic referent: most young people use the network protocols to share, meet, create and remix. Most of them refuse to think as in the ‘old’ days of the « disciplinary » society (Foucault), despite the political and legal pressures in the current society of control. Meanwhile, they don’t know very well what it means to ‘be networked’: peers connected to peers, exchanging and replicating files, sharing knowledge and ideas, chatting, playing and meeting whichever location they are . How are these networks organized (centralized, decentralized , shared )? Most of them use the social platforms of the Web2.0, without being aware of their rights, their role as consumers, and the issue of their stored personal data. Too many young students in art schools use proprietary software’s even if these software’s cannot be freely shared because of their closed and patented source code.
An artist needs to be aware of these questions to deal with the networks ; it means that she / he should have had access to a critical knowledge about networks and Internet history.
Art schools today should be able to teach their students a historical and theoretical point of view of networks linked to the cultural scene from its early beginning; first computers development, software theory, cybernetics and theory of systems, then the cultural alternative scenes, networks architecture and protocols, code as language and aesthetic.
What about copyrighted licences and patents that control access to contents? Artists have to face these situations all the time, and they are not prepared enough. Too often they ignore what is going on, within the hacker’s scene and within the free software movement. How can they act freely if they stay hostages of the devices and interfaces they use, formatted products of the corporate software business, which they are not supposed to nor are allowed to share with others?
However, besides network studies of the studies of flow, art students should also have an access to knowledge in other fields, since internet and its discourse is not separable from other developments in our society. As well as it does not mean a divorce from past, Internet does not mean alienation from a geographic place or community in a radical way. Internet development is depending on and affecting all other economic, social, political and cultural aspects of our lives.

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 art critical point of view.

The Internet based art practices reveal a kind of ‘participative’ attitude; working with others, sharing and distributing knowledge, promoting open processes and the culture of the commons. They are a key-factor for social change. They question the balance of power inside corporate structures. As Michel Bauwens notice: the urge for more ethics, more peace and more ecology for humanity meets the potentiality of the decentralized and shared networks ( peer to peer networks and file sharing); it leads to a revolutionary potential. It has more to do with an active engaged position than being ideological.
open communities ( Linux communities, Open source projects ), web watchers , hybrid platforms, multi-shaped cooperation’s in multi-disciplinary and horizontal approaches, gift economy and downshifting practices, code as a new aesthetic, blog and wiki culture are strong references in our projects.
Actually,it is less about technology or its ‘newness’. It is more about us, our commons, (re) designing new proposals, strategies or systems.

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?

We believe that Internet based art uses networks, languages structures and protocols both as content and as media to create projects as well as subjects of research.
It creates new forms of aesthetics and new visual criteria that transgresses and exceeds conventional artistic criteria whatever they might be:
• The aesthetic of interactivity : interacting with the user in real -time
• A new aesthetic of the interface and Semiotics: a new aesthetic of the screen: – new features, new perceptions, a new colorfull and playfull sensuality. For instance «Compiz Fuzion» the 3D Desktop project for the graphical environments in the GNU/Linux OS is not only playful; it also create a new desktop feature and new perceptions of the graphical environment.
The interface as the mediator. Thinking of the project in terms of its visibility and operability (navigation) design, architecture; convenience of the interface. GUI, icons and graphics participate to a new semiology of the sign. backgrounds and wallpapers become elements of a new popular culture. (Like dozens of web sites, meetopia has developed a cooperative project of wallpapers: http://www.meetopia.net/desgraphs/ )
• The aesthetic of the code: the code becomes relevant as a language, as a visual canvas and as a tool for emancipation ; appropriation or diversion in the hackers practices, (The Yes Men, jodi…)
• The aesthetic of the data: trees, database, circulation, access permissions.
• The aesthetic of protocols: networks accessibility, connectivity, functionality, architecture.
• The aesthetic of the complexity and reciprocity include the aesthetic of the user (the member of the audience, become the user, active, connected and interacting with the work, from his own terminal ( anywhere and anytime)

“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?

Being located in an online virtual space can appear at first as a big advantage: we are immediately provided with a ‘public’ space, in an almost complete independence, at little costs. But today, having ones work within the virtual space can also have severe consequences; the massive tendency to control Internet may produce the collapse of Internet based art: Filtering and censorship lead to a scarcity of resources; (the economy of scarcity is opposed to the economy of abundance brought in by the digital technologies – abundance of the code’s replication vs. the scarcity of the proprietary object) the economy of scarcity is the battleground of copyrighted patents and their restrictive laws. It could lead to the ban of remix, collage and replication, and consequently limit Internet creative, social potential and inclusive potential; the massive redirection of Internet users and, requests towards the more centralized and commercial mainstream so called social platforms could lead to the slow transformation of the Internet into a giant place for leisure and consumption on „one media tube“. One consequence is an almost complete anonymity outside this ‘one media Tube’,a lack of visibility that lead to the shortage of subsidies. Within the commercial development of the Internet, its users become more and more formatted reproducing the social division of classes. Netart based projects express a different kind of attitude involving heterogeneous actors; hackers, gamers, programmers, activists … it also tend to be a counter-scene working outside as well as inside the mainstream virtual locations.
Offline / Online, on <->off is a dialectical position; Being displayed, these projects should address both in a dialectical point of view; how an online project can affect the ‘restrictive’ physical place of the body, of the offline audience? This leads to the next question. Being used offline only is a limitation because these projects are addressing networks and interact with their users.

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?

The dialectical on – off position strengthens the creative potential of the distributive and shared practices. It can be seen in the Hackers Space Fests, or netart festival like goto10 and many others, where what is displayed and shown drag the audience in an interactive prospect; playing projects, testing, downloading, participating in public and collaborative platforms. Most of the time, these festivals are multi shaped; beside the main events, they develop an ‘edutainment’ feature; organizing workshops or Vjing events where the audience is invited to participate.
As we said before, netart audience is inclusive and besides „expected audience“ include also Internet users and fans, geeks, hackers, activists, gamers, etc; That audience, or to be more precise „users“ of that art are trully heterogeneous, coming from different social backgrounds, sometimes having a tactical experience with interactivity, or being involved in participative practices and data manipulation. They contribute to the creation of a new cultural paradigm.
Besides that, Netart projects can and are often tactical in their nature, they need to offer some kind of useful services to the user to become attractive; they often provide platforms where it is possible to participate and share information (blog, forum, mailing list) virtual objects; in a form of a ‘DIY attitude’.

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?

As Internet based art addresses a different audience, it is necessary to highlight the collaborative process of the networked based practices, the diversity of the concepts, the multiple ‘plateaux’ and the creation of a new semiology. Public events have to promote these new aesthetics and new cultural referents to make these projects attractive.
But a difficulty remains, which makes the situation worrying; a little number of the institutions in the art field are able to welcome netart projects. Since its beginning, we notice a general mistrust towards these new kind of practices from the conventional artistic institutions may they be galleries or museum or art schools.
They don’t really seem to understand the specifities and sensitivities of the Internet based art’s environments and the needs of its audience, as they hardly have any clear idea about networks, the way they operate, what they provide not only technically but also culturally.
Internet artists are mostly left alone organizing and promoting their work, having to find visibility and locations on their own. They are networked keeping informed through channels and mailing lists; Upgrade, net behaviour, Rhizome, nettime are some of the most frequently used.

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?

As we have described before, conventional institutions of art seem to mistrust Internet based art. At the same time, Internet based artists often stay outside of these areas, sharing their practices and researches with an heterogeneous scene of actors; programmers, hackers, scientists, activists. They often like to believe that they have little to do with the conventional art scene and its roles. This maybe because of the specific nature of these works, their hybridity, their inventive and creative real-time processes, their immateriality, their unpredictability, their continuous evolution, their mediating and their participative processes. They cannot be institutionalized neither enclosed inside a ‘white cube’.
The conventional classifications of art fields are porous. Maybe they have always been. But the new networked practices reveal this phenomenon. In the Internet based art projects users are involved, practices are diversified, it becomes harder to notify who is the author and who’s not!
Maybe it is no more a question of the ‘Individual’ or the ‘Author’, but a question of the situation, of the process, of the node in the network; how is it situated ?, whom is it connected to (i.e. to what other nodes is it connected to) ?, what is it involving in, how is it creative in terms of networked practices? The character of the ‘Artist’ in the modern contemporary era is questioned.
Furthermore, digital technology has enhanced the infinite replication of the digital object (code), its immateriality – which does not mean at all its unreality ! It has definitely closed the question of the unique and the master piece which had had such a strong link throughout the history of art –and is still a strong value for the art market economy. Consequently it questions the character of the art object and its position in everyday life.

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?

In Internet based art the differentiation of curators, artists and users is not as definate. Netartists often curate their work and the audience – the users – play them and interact with them, transforming, updating or developing the work. Artists and curators act as mediators. They often deal with programmers, hackers and other actors in the field of arts and media. They share the curating functions. The former conventional framework of art is transformed; the frontiers between the audience, curators and artists could be broken. Internet based art users are often just as involved as the mediators. They are interacting and participating in an active point of view.
Curators do not necessarily have to have technological knowledge, but should be media literate as an every single citizen – that is their basic right.

Nathalie Perrin with
Liliane Schneiter (geneva),
Sebastien Louis Freuler (london),
Adla Isanovic (sarajevo).