I've just been asked some questions by an MA student in Birmingham and I thought I would post the answers here. In general, how would you describe what you do? Designer? Programmer? Would you call what you do "Art"? I would normally call myself a designer and programmer as that is mainly what I do. Originally I wanted to be a musician but it's just too difficult to make money from music and I'm just not that committed to it, so I do the next best thing which is still creative but pays the bills.
The work that I normally do is definitely not art, it's design which is aimed specifically at solving a problem for a client. I would say though that I do think of myself as an artist and I have produced original artistic works. The brush that I had with the art world around the time of making word perhect really showed me that in their opinion, "art" is something done by an "artist" - as an ordinary person, anything I did was not art, just messing around. I think this is a tricky subject for the modern art world because so much of what they do has no craft skills - or requires an artisan to complete it, the only way they can distinguish themselves is by their lifestyle.
How different Word Perhect is from your other works? What is the thing that it has which makes it an "Art" project? Word perhect is art, but one really nice thing about it is that it was picked up by internet humour sites aswell as art sites, probably more so in fact. It's packed full of jokes and is a nice thing to play with. But why should it be art? Is it just humour? Well, that's a good question, it strikes me that Tomoko's work is packed full of humour - she is a very jolly person who likes a giggle - does that mean art can't be funny? By the artworld's definition it is art because Tomoko is an artist.
It's kind of a comment on the world of computers and does raise some interesting points about how computers push us towards doing what they do well rather than what we want to do. It's easier to draw a square box than a wiggly line. Also, WP was funded by art's council money, so it must be art! It's better than most art though because it get's through to 'ordinary' people and raises a smile. Let's face it; you did all the hard work, why should Takahashi take all the credit as the "Artist" who created this work? Great question! I shared a flat once with the son of a mosaic builder who made a lot of mosaics for Picasso, it's a very similar situation, the builder does all the work but the artist gets all the credit. People would even think that Picasso had made the mosaic. So I think it is a long running bone of contention. When we were making WP, technical problems - and solutions - helped to shape the way it went. I had quite a bit of input into the way it works and the nature of the thing as a whole, I think this is inevitable with something as technical as this. Tomoko woudl come up with an idea that was technically unfeasable and I would come up with another idea that was heading in the same direction but which was technically possible.
I think I also came up with original ideas too - coming out of the act of solving the problems - but I couldn't give any specific examples. There were quite a few people who came up with ideas, I guess it's a bit like a film production crew where the director gets all the credit. There are 2 levels that it works on, one is the thrill that somebody has made a fake word processor in flash - no mean feat at the time - and the other level is the social commentary of the drawings themselves. I remember I was very pissed off when radio 4 came to the private view and interviewed Tomoko and the curator of the gallery but weren't interested in me at all! But then, I do get equal billing in the piece, so I can't complain too much. And I got paid too!
How can we describe the relation between the artist and the programmer (or designer) when we talk about internet art? Will artists keep relying on programmers or will the programmers be the artists of the future? I had a project shortly after WP for a company of designers who wanted 'something wacky' on their website. They wanted it to be cutting edge and exciting but also to be in control of it. The whole thing was a disaster though because they didn't have the technical knowledge to come up with ideas which were based on the technology of the web. They wanted quirky web gimmicks but they just didn't have the technical knowledge to think them up. This is the problem with internet art; programmers are not artists and artists do not understand computers. Most of them seem to glory in their ignorance and write with fountain pens. I don't know much about the current state of internet art, it would surprise me if it was in good health.
The art world seems to be firmly centered around private views, parties, huge egos and publicity stunts. Does that sound a bit cynical??? Who would be interested in internet art anyway? Wp appealed to a non art crowd because it's funny. The internet seems like a very democratic place where things stand or fall on their own merit, there is plenty of creativity out there, youtube, myspace, blogs, but I wonder whether there is a lot of room for government subsidised self indulgent artwork that doesn't engage people. WP could have paid for itself if we had been able to put it on some webspace with google adwords (we couldn't do this because of art politics) but how many art pieces could do this? I guess the long tradition of artists employing artisans to do the difficult stuff will continue.
The internet is settling down into some long term stability and that should give artists a bit of a chance to catch up, maybe the next generation will give us artists who have a sufficient grasp of programming to come up with ideas and work with a team to produce something exciting. Would it be art though?