Tom Klinkowstein Interview 2003

"OUTER SPACE: The Past, Present and Future of Telematic Art - 05"
BY JEREMY TURNER (Conducted by e-mail, December, 2003). 
JT: I was wondering if you could recollect details of your collaborations with Robert Adrian in Vienna, Bill Bartlett in Victoria and Norman White in Toronto? If a new project were to come up similar in spirit to Interplay and ARTEX, would you be interested in working with these people again? And if yes, in what capacity?
TK: What I really wanted to do since being a small boy, was to live in the 24th C. with my TV friends from Star Trek. These early telematic projects seemed like the next best thing.
They had that, "shock of the new" quality I love. Certainly if something like this came up today, I'd participate - although It would have to at least have the same (or greater) potential wow-factor. These events made actual what we mostly had only seen or heard of in fiction to that point.
JT: Over the years have you noticed any visible evidence of a shift away from New York as a cultural center as a result of telematic projects such as ARTEX when exhibitions became more collaborative and global in scope?
TK: The "danger"of great failure and success is what makes New York unique (at least in terms of scale). Its not so much the art community that makes New York what it is, it's all of the professional communities together and in conflict with each other: financial services, media, art/culture, education, etc. When I used to live in Europe (for 10 years: Amsterdam and Paris), I'd say, "Paris is a Painting, New York is Performance". New York is like some futuristic World Wide Web, were everything has materialized.
JT: What was the general reaction in New York at the time to your ARTEX collaboration? Did ARTEX directly inspire any NYC-based artists that you can think of?
TK: The impact was greater on those visiting New York who happen to see my performances.  The buzz of New York and the buzz of the projects melded into one. I remember one artist who wrote me 5 years after seeing a project that it inspired her to create a series of public art projects around the theme of love using phone-in  dating lines and classified adverts.
JT: In my interview with Robert Adrian he mentions how the WorldPool Collaboration in 1977 was at a time when experiencing the fax medium back then was equivalent to experiencing "magic". I think it was Arthur C. Clarke who felt that any good science was "indistinguishable from magic". Do you feel that there is still "Magic" left in some of the newer technological experiences out there? Or in other words, do you see Telecommunications Media as having metaphysical properties?
TK: They are not necessarily meta-physical, but they are certainly multipliers of options in the physical world. Telecommunications media are at the center of networking and cosmopolitainism, which, by now is the base operating modality for those of us fortunate enough to be in places where these systems are ubiquitous and almost free.
They are magical now in the way weather is, we take it for granted but it can still cause awe - I still get a lot of interest from passers-by at cafes who see me using my Powerbook with a cell phone as a modem; not exactly magical but it does generate a little twinkle in the eye of some five and 50-year olds.

JT: Can you tell me more about projects such as ARTEX? How did one acquire such proprietary software at the time? How has email based art changed (if at all) since you were first experimenting with it alongside the ARTEX crew?
TK: I got the Artex email account through a division on Reuters and used a "portable" computer terminal (not a computer, just a terminal) - which cost $3000 in late 70's money (a lot for an artist of that era). I believe Roy Ascott was the one who introduced me to the back-channel needed to access this world in the first place. We were aliens who landed from another dimension during those early experiments. 
The (web / email) work now is on such a mega scale, like Friendster that it is "moving the aircraft carrier" of traditional society a degree or two one way or the other. In the early days, we said we were doing that, but with just dozens participating and a few hundred observers, they were anomalies.
JT: What is your opinion on the current state of telematic art and/or emailed art?
TK: What we called art has become the Friendsters of the world. There are a few artists like Natalie Jeremijenko who are doing critically important things, but the big impact is that these activities have become part of the fabric of things - now the real fun begins.
JT: What kind of future do you envision for telematic art and/or emailed art?
TK: I expect when hi-definition, multimedia channels become more broadly available (in five years or 50 years - no one really knows), there will be viable telematic art "professions". By then, it may be nearly indistinguishable from the contemporary art of that time in and probably won't be separated by such vocabulary.
JT: Are you actively interested in the increasing trajectory towards video-game environments (avatars and bots) and software emulation as an art-form?
TK: Yes, interested in the phenomena as far it helps me work with teams of people of mixed generations (i.e., my students).
I'd say email is a bigger impact than games and bots, because of its ubiquity, also more importantly, because it has real consequences (fall in love, get a job etc.). Its not a game.
JT: Do you have any advice for online artists of today's generation?
TK: Read on and offline publications and get to know people who are doers OUTSIDE the art world to get a handle where things are moving. Philosophy, business, politics, science, writers of fiction and non-fiction, etc..  When I was first starting, I got my ideas for projects from talking with other artists like Laurie Anderson and also by reading the Wall Street Journal.
Thomas Klinkowstein is one of the pioneers of Slow-Scan performance. He is president of Media A, LLC, an internationally recognized design and consulting group with clients such as Novartis, Reuters, CondéNast, Morgan Stanley, Nissan, Ernst & Young, IBM and Japan Airlines. He has spoken to over 100 business, political and academic groups, including the Magazine Publisher's Association, the Smithsonian Institute's Cooper Hewett Museum of Art and Design, the McLuhan Program in Culture and Technology at the University of Toronto and the Dutch Design Institute's, Doors of Perception conference.
Klinkowstein previously was a professor and for part of his tenure, headed the graphic design department at the West Brabant Art and Design College in the Netherlands. Since 1989, he has been an adjunct Professor of Digital Design in the Graduate Communications Design program at Pratt Institute in New York City and since 2000, a full time professor of New Media at Hofstra University on Long Island. His work has been shown in art centers, museums and galleries throughout the world, including the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the Venice Biennale in Venice, Italy and the Wave Gallery in Tokyo.
His work also can be found in the collections of the International Cultural Center in Antwerp, Belgium and the International Media and Communications museum in Tokyo, Japan.
Jeremy Turner is the current Digital Archivist working on contract at Open Space. He is also an interdiscplinary artist, writer , composer and curator. He is a Co-Founder of the 536 Media Collective in Vancouver. In addition, he is a Co-Producer of the very first Machinima Documentary, "AVATARA". To date, he has conducted interviews and written articles about innovations in New Media for: C-Theory, Shift, Intelligent Agent, Extropy, Rhizome, Offbeat and Front Magazine. He is on the Board of Editors for the Digital Salvage Online Journal hosted by Trace Reddel at the University of Denver, Colorado.