New Haven Advocate Interview
Tuesday, October 7, 1998

Date: Tue, 06 Oct 1998 15:21:30 -0400
From: Christopher Arnott 
Organization: New Haven Advocate
Subject: New Haven Advocate Interview

1. In your experience, what draws artists to the Internet as a performance medium? Do most of them come from other media, or are they finding their initial creative voice on the Internet?
The Internet is an information system consisting of millions of nodes all over the world that agree to use Internet Protocols to transmit data and only really exists when these protocols are performed. Otherwise, it's just handware and fiber optic cables. Artists are drawn to what they think the Internet is or want it to be and many are disappointed when it doesn't live up to their expectations. It may be unreasonable to consider it a medium like film or theater. So I would say those who find their initial creative voice, or a renewed voice, with it are the most successful.

2. Do you find that the Internet becomes a primary medium for artists or do they feel a need to continue with other media, particularly live club, theater and/or gallery performances? Are there plusses or minuses to the distinct type of live interaction (i.e. no heckling, no immediate applause, yet the possiblity for more articulate praise or criticism) available through this medium?
A few artists seem to exist only on the Internet, the most obvious example being the team of Yet even they lecture and give interviews in person and publish work in traditional books and magazines. In Europe there is a very strong concept of the Internet as a tool for networking, personal interaction and multimedia. In the U.S. we often put artists into categories that restrict movement and may be the result of the emphasis on marketing now even in cultural institutions. I read an interview recently with Laurie Anderson about her difficulties with her record label and her inability to work with their marketing needs, which is why she doesn't record much anymore.

3. Is there a developing terminology for live Internet performance? Is there a preferred term for such performances? What are some common terms which come into play when building a performance?
The term "interactive" gets used a lot but I don't think it means much anymore. Some people seem to think there is something inheritantly wrong with an artist controlling the situation but I don't know where that thinking comes from. If you consider all the different forms of communication on the Internet I think terms like "moderating", "direction", "scripting" -- all methods of control -- are important to consider.

4. Do all the traditional theater concerns of design, structure, length, clarity, cohesion of design elements, etc. etc. stil apply?
Using these terms can be convenient but you have to be careful about applying them to the Internet without modification. Graphic designers who work with print technology often assume the Web should be approached the same way.

5. Generally, in this medium, is the directorial presence or the performing presence the more important aspect? Is it more an auteur sensibility, as in Hitchcock films, or a star sensibility, as in Jackie Chan films?
Traditionally, information was either stored (script, film) or transmitted (performance, projection). Computers add a third component of computation or manipulation where the director and the performer might be interchangeable or maybe even unnecessary. A programmer could write a script that would essentially direct and perform at the same time.

6. How did you yourself end up in this field? What do you feel you've accomplished, and what changes still need to be made? What technical breakthroughs would further the artform?
The Internet sparked my interest in the possibilities of performance and computers and gave me a reason to think seriously about them. I co-organized "PORT" with Remo Campopiano at the MIT List Visual Arts Center last year, which was time-based performance work using the Internet. Today I'm thinking in terms of information systems and concepts of the virtual museum which may or may not be applicable to more traditional ideas of theater or performance. I'm not as concerned with technological breakthroughs that would solve what some think of as problems (bandwidth, resolution etc) as I am with exploring what we already have.

7. Who are the most prominent performance-oriented artists on the Internet? Who were the pioneers of the form? Who are the important up-and-coming stars? How much do these artists interact with each other, through your network or otherwise?
I would say anyone who uses the Internet effectively is performance-oriented. I've aleady mentioned who also work with others in Europe in a form they call "". The gangs at and in London. The FloodNet project. Ebon Fisher has interesting ideas about the future of gaming that he's exploring now at the University of Iowa. Martha Wilson has moved Franklin Furnace on-line with the help of Pseudo and is both a venue and a laboratory. I don't know what FAKESHOP or FPU are doing right now but they are important. Shu Lea Cheang has her big BRANDON project with the Guggenheim but I'm still uncertain about what I think of it.

There are lots of artists who use digital technology but don't necessarily use the Internet and there has been a great deal of discussion lately about whether there is or should be a connection.

8. What are the greatest misunderstandings about this artform?
That the Internet is a medium like video or television.

9. What could ruin this artform?
Art curators who think the Internet is a medium like video or television. Corporations who will only give money to artists to do research and development for new products.

(Robbin Murphy is an artist and co-founder of artnetweb)