Simon Hadler on 31 Jul 2000 08:28:15 -0000

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<nettime> good bye, arts@large

last thursday was the last time that Matthew Mirapauls column arts@large
appeared in the new york times on the web, after four years of covering
digital arts-issues.
read reactions in a wired-story at:,1284,37843,00.html

Here you can read my interview (via e-mail) with Mathew Mirapaul, which
will be online at ORF ON Kultur ( in german
language this wednesday or thursday.

-simon hadler
(Links to many more german-language articles about net art and related
topics, all online at ORF ON Kultur:


hadler: Your motto is told to be "a Thelonious Monk Tune a day keeps all
kinds of viruses away". Which song describes your mood concerning the
termination of arts@large?

mirapaul: "Just Friends" ("Just friends, lovers no more. Just friends,
but not like before."). I no longer have a regular outlet for fine-arts
stories, as I did with the column, but I already have several
assignments from the print edition of the Times, and I hope to receive
more. So far, though, they are not for fine-arts stories, but perhaps
that will change over time as interest in the Internet as a creative
medium continues to grow.

hadler: Why was arts@large terminated, anyway? I had the feeling that it
was very succesful.

mirapaul: You should really ask the Times that question. The Wired News
article quoted a Times spokesperson saying the decision was based on
"business reasons."

hadler: How come that a computer industry executive turned to writing
about art? And what was the idea behind starting arts@large?

mirapaul: I've always been passionate about the arts, and was a music
reviewer in the Detroit area early in my career. But I had a job
opportunity in high technology and took it. Ten years later, when I was
ready to do something else, a friend suggested I find a way to combine
my knowledge of computers with my passion for the arts.

Several months later, as the Times was preparing to launch its Web site,
another friend submitted my name as a possible candidate for writing. I
wanted to write about music online, but the editor asked me to cover all
the arts. It was just about the only editorial guidance I ever received,
but as the visual and graphic arts on the Internet have exploded, it
proved to be a good piece of advice.

hadler: January 1996 must have been a thrilling time to start to write
about art on the web. Everything had just began. Where you "hit by the

mirapaul: Not at all. And indeed, it wasn't thrilling so much as a
gradual process of discovery for me. If you look at the early columns,
you can see that I wrote more about arts-related Web sites than works
made specifically for the medium. Eventually, though, I focused the
column on people who did creative things with digits, not people who did
creative things with digits and posted them online. But there was little
hype. Most of the sources I talked to were artists, educators and
scientists who, in the open spirit of the early Net, were excited to
share their work with an interested observer. As the Net has become more
commercial, that's changed and I find I have to spend a lot more time
filtering out the hype.

hadler: In your column, you often wrote about institutions dealing with Whether it was Peter Weibels net_condition, the ars electronica
festival or the whithney biennal. Many artists in the field - or at
least those with the louder voices on nettime & co., firmly oppose to
that developement. Is it that bad that is heading towards the

mirapaul: Museum involvement in digital art is not just good, it's
essential. I understand the purist resistance to institutionalized art,
especially when a medium is new, but the museums that are involved are
validating the form for everyone and will only inspire its growth and
acceptance. Plus, the museums that are commissioning work are helping to
establish an economy for the form.

hadler: Another development the hardliners of oppose is the very
slowly beginning commercialisation of the genre. But is there any money
in it after all?

mirapaul: Yes, there's money in it. There has to be. Artists want to be
paid for their work -- artists *deserve* to be paid for their work --
and I'm confident that a functional economic model will be established
for the form, probably some mix of commissions, pay-per-view exhibitions
and saleable pieces. The mechanics are yet to be determined, but they
will be. Although there are some artists who say, "I want to be a
painter" or "I want to play the vibraphone," in my experience, most
artists say, "I am compelled to be creative" and turn to whatever
expressive tools are at hand. And these days, computers are everywhere.

hadler: Concerning the jury of this year's prix ars electronica,
is deader than dead. Many others think so, too. Can it be, that the
artists of the genre have run out of new, astonishing ideas after only
five or six years of its existance?

mirapaul: Don't judge the state of digital art by the Ars Electronica
jury decisions in recent years, which increasingly seem to be designed
to make a political statement or cause a stir rather than to reward
important work. But there is plenty of strong work out there, and a lot
more on the way. I agree that it's been rather quiet lately, with a
little too much emphasis on conceptual projects that are mostly designed
for the sake of getting attention, but I think what's actually happening
is that the good artists are struggling to determine in which directions
to next push the genre. Certain styles of digital art may be on the way
out, but that signals evolution, not extinction.

hadler: is a very heterogenous field. What you once called
"conceptual pranks", ASCII Art, highly sophisticated "interactive"
flash-movies, hypertext and so on... What do you think are the most
interesting developments?

mirapaul: All of them.

hadler: Are there developments you consider problematic?

mirapaul: See above.

hadler: Do you have something like "my favorite"?

mirapaul: One of the great luxuries of the column was that there was so
much good work out there that I almost entirely was able to discuss
works that I thought were interesting, exciting and important. My
favorites changed every week.

hadler: At the end of each year, you have made predictions about the
upcoming year. Now that your column won't go on after (nearly) five
interesting years, what are your predictions for the next five years?

mirapaul: The future lies ahead.

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