Nazli Cemile Karadeniz, Boğaziçi Üniversitesi
An Interview with Evelin Stermitz conducted by Nazli Cemile Karadeniz in April 2012 for the Contemporary Art @ Bosphorus Interview Project, Istanbul, Turkey.
Evelin Stermitz participated with her net art pieces “World of Female Avatars” at the Web Biennial 07 and “Grado Sentiments” at Web Biennial 10, both curated by Genco Gülan, iS.CaM Istanbul Contemporary Art Museum.
“World of Female Avatars” has also been curated by Marcus Graf for the exhibition Regeneration.011, A Selection of Web Biennial, Revealing the Politics and Poetry in Net Art, at Plato Sanat, Istanbul, Turkey, 2011.
More about the work of Evelin Stermitz can be found at her personal website www.evelinstermitz.net
Nazli Cemile Karadeniz: What is new media art and how would you describe a new media artist in your point of view?
Evelin Stermitz: New Media Art defines the sphere of art using digital technology as purpose of creation and topic of reflection, creating interactive installations and conceptual works in the digital realm. New Media Art can include in its implementation the Internet and coding as well as video and digital photography. New media artists are also realizing participative works for the viewer, thus being an active participant in the creation of the art work.
To define the term New Media Artist in its narrowest sense, it can be an artist who uses the computer and digital technology for her/its/his artistic expression and realization of ideas about reflections of our contemporary hyper mediated society and its technologic devices. New Media Artists are geeks, nerds, misfits, scientists, dealing with critical media theory, subverting the system, hacking structures; and at the same time poets, performer, Dadaists, installation artists. It is not possible to define the “a new media artist” like – “Oh, it’s a painter!”.
N. C. K.: How do they fit in the traditional art system which is still honoring painting, or the classic art market in general?
E. S.: Well, also some new media works can re-enter the expanded field of classic painting when projected on a wall or presented on a flat screen. But the traditional art system hesitates to deal with new media art, because these works are unlikely to sale, easy to reproduce and spread around the globe, democratic and non-exclusive. Sometimes new media art installations are difficile to handle in its setup and also digital art is a new delicate task and challenge to archival work.
But well, also photography needed its time to get acknowledged as an art form. I think that new media art, in the line of the traditional art history from media like photography – film – video art – to new media art, is including all at the end and is therefore just a given stream in the history of art within societal technocratic developments and its achievements. And since contemporary artists should deal with the artistic instruments of their generation, it seems somehow given that art is created digital nowadays to expand art, art theory, and art history in a contemporary aesthetics.
E. S.: To define my work as an artist, I can describe areas and theory based on gender and societal issues, including media and new media aspects. To divide my work in three areas, this would be video art, net art, and photography works. Video art includes performative pieces, two and three channel video works, video installations. The net art works include collaborations with other artists as well as own pieces, although I abandoned the field of net art since 2010, because I worked almost for the last 10 years too much online and computer-based. I felt, that it is time for a change and time to experience life and art outside the cyberworld again. After a while, to collaborate online and via e-mail only lost the excitement for me. Although I met most of the people that I collaborated at least once, I think it is more fun to meet people in real space. Well, of course the digital devices facilitate global exchange, but to have a hug and chat together in the sun is incomparable to watching a screen. In this sense, I am not anymore such a digital freak like many other new media artists who partly just live online and in the digital sphere, because I can also face sometimes critical aspects of new media and for me it is also always important to have an outside glance on occupation and not to get lost instead. Also I do not want to turn myself into a machine. The two main online projects I am still working on now are ArtFem.TV, on which I am working since 2008, and World of Female Avatars, on which I am working since 2006, whereby both projects are long term works. Another field of interest is the area of photography, where I can hold imaginary aspects which come to my mind spontaneously to set in a frame later. Sometimes I do not know why to catch an image or to work on a series is important to me at the moment, but when I think about the situation later in a frame, it gives me some explanation. But of course, all three areas of video art, net art, and photography are intertwined and mingling together.
E. S.: Feminist Art originated from in the late 1960s and 1970s as a form of revolt against the position of women in society and art. Personal problems became political problems and art was one form to express these discrepancies of divided male and female systems, whereby the females have been suppressed and excluded from many fields of the society by the male system. Women have been excluded from the male art system, in concrete – having an art education, exhibitions in galleries, selling their works, getting recognition for their art works, being excluded from art history and theory. In New York at these times most group exhibitions excluded women and therefore for instance some women artists organized themselves and run to the exhibition opening with self-sewed big pink penises buckled on their waists. This was just one example to demonstrate clearly that “Penis” has to be equated with “Power”. In this sense, feminist art also can be seen as political art and as a disclosure of power structures.
There were some attempts of women artists to issue gender relations in their works before the 1970s, if you think for example of Claude Cahun or Hannah Höch, who tried to subvert the common woman’s image, but actually women artists mainly exist since the last 50 years, which is not a very long time span in the history of art. Even nowadays the gender ratio in group exhibitions is not equal.
In brief, feminist art deals with gender in societal structures and can show imbalances of power relations, deconstructs the construct of the female social sex (gender), is articulating women’s issues, is relating to the commodification of women and their bodies; but currently also leads to queer theory and other movements, to be expanded from primary female gender aspects.
N. C. K.: What is the aim of “ArtFem.TV” and what kind of art works can be followed there by Internet visitors?
E. S.: ArtFem.TV (www.artfem.tv) has been founded in the year 2008 to provide an online platform for women’s media works and women’s issues. Visitors of the website can view video art, documentaries, reports, sound art pieces and music, short films and movies. ArtFem.TV provides a space to articulate female agendas in the arts and highlights the works of women artists in a global context and in a democratic way. As an artistic project, ArtFem.TV aims to subvert the traditional male formed media Internet and also the traditional visions of television.
E. S.: “World of Female Avatars” (http://world-of-female-avatars.net) is an interactive net art piece based on the perception of a woman’s body. Through a submission form visitors of the website can participate in the project and submit images and texts answering the question “What do you think about your body?”. Through this input the net art piece is formed on the basis of creating digital collages of the incoming material and constructing avatars. A cyberworld of women avatars is created and visitors can again participate when discovering the avatars and their world. The project has many aspects, it is an artistic online survey on the issue of theory on the female body and it deals with the bodilies perception of women in a cyber context, it is seen as a cyberfeminist project and as well again deconstructs traditional visions of gender.
N. C. K.: Do you think that women, in the field of art, have a voice in this "world of men"?
E. S.: Yes, women artists do have a voice in the field of art, but this so called “voice” is influenced by male interests and visions. I think that the art world is still male centered, particularly when female ideas have to be proven by male ideas about perception and criteria of art. The situation of women in the arts also has to do with respect and a pluralist perception, with the subversion and deconstruction of a male formed notion of genius. It also has to do with a humanist world view, since feminism is a principal humanist movement and many men consider themselves as feminists nowadays. The situation of women artists at art academies and in the art system became somehow equal, but many aspects have not been met yet. Also we should not forget cultures with non-western and non-european art norms where gender imbalances can be even more tremendous.