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Golan Levin and Collaborators

Interviews and Dialogues

Interview by Simona Lodi for Teknemedia

Golan Levin, November 2006.

I watched your performance at the MediaTeca di Santa Teresa in Milan as part of the series of meetings organised by Maria Grazia Mattei called "Meet the media guru"... and I'd like to ask you if you feel like a guru? What does it mean to be a media guru? What do you think led to you being defined a media guru?

I definitely do not feel like a guru. I think the title is silly, for starters; I am just another mid-career artist. I have been practicing electronic media arts for barely a decade and I hardly think this is qualifications to be a "guru". I also know people who are much more significant and long-lived in the electronic arts, like Toshio Iwai, who deserve the title more than I do.

Do you feel more like a technical experimenter or an artist? when did you realise you were one and/or the other?

I am an artist. I use computer technologies, which means that I have to make experiments in order to find the best means of expressing my ideas. Often my work involves research that requires the invention or creation of entirely new technologies. That is certainly a sort of scientific or engineering research, but it is in the service of an artistic concept. Call that what you want.

What are you working on at the moment? Can you tell us about your future plans?

At the moment I am working on an artwork which can understand and respond to the facial expressions and eye movements of the people who are observing it.

Does art have the role of driving social development in the knowledge era?

Computing is certainly defining culture in many ways at the moment. My work is intended to show alternative modes of computing, towards less utilitarian and more inspirational ends. I do not think art has a very substantial role in driving social development right now, but that is not a reason to give up trying.

What do creativity and innovation in art mean for you?

I have not yet come to any conclusions about whether it is truly possible for there to be anything "new under the sun"; it is certainly possible to say that every artwork has some sort of influence or precursor. Even so, there is an envelope of ideas which we are able to continue expanding by recombining old ideas and applying the capabilities of new technologies. Artists owe it to themselves to know their history well; when they do, they stand a better chance to know where the edges of the envelope are. I love to see advancements in the field made this way.