JIP - JavaMuseum Interview Project

Interview: Robert Sloon

Robert Sloon
Cape Town, South Africa

artist biography


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?

Art has always had a love affair with technology and science. One of the significant changes, though, with the advent of digital media is that technology has become more user-friendly. This has extended the potential for working with technology for the artist, and therefore the scope of art-making in general.

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?

As technologies develop there is always going to be new ground to break in. Therefore, I think it is entirely reasonable, and probably informative, to compare earlier Internet-based artists to current practitioners. I think in the future we can expect a lot more artists to be using the Internet as a medium, and for the boundaries of Internet art to be pushed far beyond our current conceptions. I imagine works will be developed more and more by huge communities of people.

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?

I think the best way to teach people to use the Internet as a an environment of art would be to teach it with as much breadth and depth as possible, giving students both the perspective of what’s old but also of what’s currently possible.

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.

I feel that it is hard to separate artistic intentions from ideological character, especially when it comes to dealing with the Internet. Because of its wide potential audience the Internet can imbue, or at least colour, work with a political or cultural concern.

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 definititely prefer the term Internet-based art. Netart implies an elitist, programmer sort of art, beyond the reach of the average person. Internet art is any work that uses the Internet as a significant component, to the extent that it wouldn’t function offline. I think that both the question of whether it is art, or if there is an aesthetic criteria are outdated concepts, that I wouldn’t apply to any art production.

“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?

I think the lines get blurred, just the same as the lines have blurred as to what can be painting or sculpture. Nevertheless, I do think that if it can function the same without the use of the Internet, it is using the Internet as a tool for marketing, not as an integral part of the work.

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?

Like any art, the key to attracting an audience is a combination of marketing and sustained production. Similarly, the best context for the presentation of net based art would depend on the context and needs of the work. I think a physical space would be a particular challenge, especially as many Internet based works function on an interactive level, which would die if taken offline. The best solution would have to be an on-line space, accessible from terminals in a physical space.

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 this is a true statement. I think there might be schism between Internet artists and the traditional art world, but I’m not convinced acceptance by the art world (a small world at best), is necessary, or even desirable, for the production of art. Artists who wished to be accepted in this world would need to present and market their work to that world like any other artist… I doubt there wouldn’t be acceptance.

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?

I believe that the Internet is partially democratic, at least in terms of the people who have Internet access. I also do believe that anyone who publishes anything on the Internet can be considered an artist. The problem is whether it is good art or bad art. In some regards then, the filtering could be a good thing. However, the bonus of the Internet is its immediacy… if I don’t like the art, its one click to escape.

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 don’t think it is necessary to have prior or technical knowledge to appreciate the work. It will, sometimes, give a deeper understanding, which could be vital to an exhibition. It often depends on the person concerned, and how perceptive they are. In terms of users, or audience, I think (hope) they are too varied too prescribe a technical knowledge to appreciate it. I think bad art is that which is directed to an audience that doesn’t understand.