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Golan Levin and Collaborators

Interviews and Dialogues

Responses to a Survey by the Taiwan Museum of Art

Questions by C.J. Yeh, Taiwan Museum of Art.
Golan Levin, 30 June 2006.

How do you see the system of support/art market/economics of being a new media artist?

I think there is a bright future for new-media art as institutions, collectors and the public become increasingly comfortable with computers. At the present moment, however, new-media art is still something of a "specialty" form of art practice. As a result there are only a few institutions and collectors that understand electronic art well enough to know what's good and how to commission and exhibit it. Most of these organizations are in Europe (such as ZKM, V2, Ars Electronica, C3) and Japan (ICC, IAMAS). The United States is quite behind in this regard, and so American artists such as myself often find that we have to make our livings by doing a lot of international travel.

I cobble together a living by combining many forms of activities in electronic art, such as lecturing, teaching, performance and exhibition fees, and conducting workshops. The best-paying work is probably large architectural commissions, such as permanent interactive installations for building lobbies. Naturally such opportunities are quite competitive, and it is common to spend a great deal of effort making a proposal which is ultimately rejected for someone else's. It is also difficult to work on such projects since they make one's work schedule and finances very lumpy - to take on such projects it is practically essential to have collaborators, assistants and additional sources of income. The people who succeed best at such projects have small or medium-sized companies, like Soda or Art Com, that have the staff to take on several projects at once.

My work is represented by the Bitforms gallery in New York. Among other things, they sell limited editions of my software art to collectors. I think this sort of business will increase dramatically as large flat-screen displays become a common fixture in living-rooms, and people want to look at something other than advertising-based television.

Currently very few museums are collecting interactive art. It seems that most museums still conceive of "new media art" as meaning video projections from DVDs. There is a real division between the "fine arts" curators and the communities which are actively exploring interactive computer-based arts, such as Ars Electronica. I think it will take another decade for the "fine arts" curators to get used to the idea that there is significant work being created on computers, and to be able to distinguish what works are worth keeping, and to learn how to preserve them.

Do you think your work should be "preserved" at all cost even if that means preservation experts will be rewriting codes and/or replacing hardware to create the emulation of experiential condition of your work?

Until recently I thought that this would be a major issue for the longevity of my work. However I now have great confidence that software emulators will make it possible to run any previous piece of software, no matter how old. We see this already with the emulators for 1980s computers like the Commodore 64. I also expect to make the source code for my work available after a certain period, so that it can be re-created if necessary. I don't mind the idea that it would be re-created in this way, and the "risk" that it would be different than I had "intended", because the works are different each time I install them anyway.

I think my work will be preserved if it earns this privilege. Of course, I'll do what I can to make this easy for some future preservationist :).