Nathaniel Stern, Wind, 2006, archival lambda print.
I was travelling for most of yesterday so I didn’t have a chance to mention that my two part interview with new media artist Nathaniel Stern went up on the icommons blog yesterday. You can read the full discussion here and here, but I’ve included teasers from both interviews below since each part deals with different subject matter. In the first post Stern and I talk about his art work, and in the second, we touch upon how the concerns of the Creative Commons effect artists. Stern speaks with great eloquence on the subject, so our conversation is not to be missed!
Inspired by pioneering artists in the field of Interactive art such as David Rokeby and Myron Kruger, Nathaniel Stern builds upon their work by reintroducing traditional art- making techniques to reinterpret digital records of movement. In the first half of my interview with the artist we discuss works leading up to, and informing his current body of prints he titles Compressionism.In these images Stern manipulates visual documentation of movement distorting memories or impressions of the body.
Art Fag City: So I wanted to begin by discussing your work, and so I thought we could start with the prints you make. I wonder if you could talk about your process a little bit because you have the Compressionism series that you've been working on, and, you use a lot of 'techy' things, but the actual process is very traditional. You're also making very traditional art historical references and I wondered if you could talk a little bit about that and what your interest is in pairing those things?
Nathaniel Stern: Absolutely. I guess obviously with any series I'm pulling inspiration from various places, but I think when that series started my interests led me to two things: the first was I was working with interactive installation and performativity, trying to get people to move in ways they normally wouldn't, and that was kind of my mantra for a while; rather than trying to think of immersion as a goal, I thought of immersion as a side effect of playing with affect — the involuntary ability to effect, and be effected – and how such art can sort of put the body in quotes. And what I found was that it was a very special kind of person that would actually engage and interact with those pieces; most people would just kind of watch and talk about the work, and it was everyone from, like, my mother, who didn't understand the technology – and just kind of said how proud she was and sat in the corner – but also the writers and critics who really liked my work would kind of stand back, and nod, and talk about how it's interactive, and it's performative, and playful, but they would never actually use it.
To read more of part one click here.
I think the discussion right now is in the wrong arena — copyright or CC, Fair Use or piracy, this is what big companies should worry about, not artists. Artists should raise questions around if you release the full high-resolution or lower-resolution under CC, or whether you allow people to exhibit the video or do you sell the exhibition rights separately – I think these are the models that are different for each and every one of us, potentially for each and every art work. – Nathaniel Stern
The following is the second half of a two part interview with the iCommons Artist in Residence coordinator, Nathaniel Stern. In this post we speak specifically about the concerns of professional artists vis a vis copyright or CC.
Art Fag City: So we've talked a little bit about the prints. I should note that you also make videos, which are on your site as well, before we move on so readers will know to check that work out. I wondered if you could talk about your connection with Creative Commons.
Nathaniel Stern: Admittedly, it's by default that I've become a bit of an iCommons activist. I was one of the few people who had a blog in South Africa – now there's many, but I was one of the earliest ones there and certainly the first in the art world – and it was under Creative Commons, so I was contacted by the South African CC team early on. Since then, I've become an impromptu spokesperson for them on some level and I've tried to direct that dialog not only toward my personal interests but also the interests of professional artists more generally. I guess I have two main themes with regards to Creative Commons: the first is that I want to ensure that we make work that's free and available in the public domain for remixing and playing and generating discussion, but that's not exploitative of artists. And so with this, ideally, I guess I'd like to see Fair Use expanded exponentially and I see various CC licenses as doing exactly that. With issues of distribution I guess I like to differentiate between 'art' and the art's 'content' – the former is for collectors and the latter is free: I think it should be available to everyone. I believe, for example, that you should be allowed to download and play with my video art; I give away files for my prints, they are available on my site – not at super high res, but high res enough that you could print them out or re-mix. I think it's important that they are out there. That's the art's content, not the art itself. From my perspective, with Walter Benjamin's “Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” he was right in saying that potentials for easily copying work changed the relationship we have to art objects, but he was wrong in saying that the more copies, the less the authentic original has value: it's exactly the opposite – the more people that have posters of the Mona Lisa, the more collectors will want the original; the more people that watch my videos.
To read the full interview (part two) click here.