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Tina LaPorta


Tina La Porta


1. What was your first experience with digital art/new media? How did
that experience shape your view of the world? Did it inspire you to
change you art/practice?

I would preface this question by saying that my first experience with computers was when I was eleven years old. My Father broke into the Computer Industry in 1978 and that was the era of keypunch cards and mainframe systems. I can even recall hanging out with my Father while he would transfer data from one form of media to digital reels; it seemed like the transfer process took forever! And it did because I wanted to go out and play, get some ice cream or something along those lines. So, my impressions of the Language of Computing was formed during this period which led me to experience an extreme sense of alienation. I would listen to hours of 'shop talk' around various programming languages that made absolute no sense to me whatsoever; therefore my ability to engage in those conversations was not possible-- I felt like a voyeur with no comprehension of what it all meant.

Many years later I was an Undergraduate studying Photography. One afternoon my Father came over to discuss my work. He proceeded to tell me right then and there that Photography as I knew it and the way that I was practicing it, is dead. It is all going to be digital, he said. There will be no film and the darkroom will be a thing of the past. This conversation stopped me in my tracks right then and there-- I could not accept what I was hearing; it all seemed unbelievable to me. However good advice is good advice and while I was contemplating Graduate School I was determined to find a program that was on the cutting edge of Digital Media. That decision took me to The School of Visual Arts in 1992. There was a real tension there between the analog faculty and the digitally minded ones that must have imbued in my work at that time. Nan Goldin referred to herself as a 'Dinosaur' and proclaimed that a computer could not produce art even though a camera does. It was all very retrospect since the collision of the History of Art and the History of Photography was playing itself out again but this time it was Artphotography against Digital Media. At the time, I thought how ironic is all of this? Nevertheless Lisa Spellman saw validity in working with immaterial media and encouraged me to produce work that was encased in tape or disk or whichever media I could ultimately utilize to display my work. It was and still remains a challenge to match the output presentation to the original format and concept. We were real pioneers then and neither the Schools or the Galleries were prepared with equipment like monitors/projectors, playback decks, audio equipment, etc. to support the work in its final presentation stage.

To sum up your question, it was that experience of alienation and tension that fed into my making art works about the impact of technology on subjectivity; or agency if you will.

2. What books are you reading now? Are they related to digital art and
new media? Are any of those critical books written about new media,
digital art, art theory? If so tell us what you like about these books
and what you have gained from reading them.

Of course I like Frank Poppers' book From Technological to Virtual Art not only because I am in it but also for the way in which he begins with an in depth overview of Historical Antecedents such as Light Art or Communication Art to Materialized Digital-Based work to conclude with Internet Art. It's well thought out with an International perspective.

Another is Recipes for Disaster: An Anarchist Cookbook. It's Do-It-Yourself spirit and nod toward the controversial 1970 publication The Anarchist Cookbook keeps the soul stirring during this current socio-economic climate we are experiencing today.

Finally I would add Julia Kristeva's Black Sun which explores the psyche and the melancholic affects of alienation brought on by both internal and external forces that I previously expressed.

3. Describe your personal practice. How does you art/practice relate
to other works/ other people working in your field?

My methods of conceptualizing and producing new work are constantly shifting. I do not have a signature style or a linear path in which to reference. I am always interested in how materials and concepts reinforce each other. And while I have a personal history of working with 'New Media' I am equally driven by my exploration of feminism and autonomy. An Existentialist approach that tests the borders of freedom and containment. I can look at my entire oeuvre to date and see how I move through and utilize media and processes that change or mutate into new forms of art-making and still the conceptual foci remains the linking thread rather than the use of a particular media; even when I'm commenting on that media. Conceptual Art has really exploded since it's inception and we see this phenomenon of idea-based art today in nearly every Gallery exhibition on view in Chelsea and elsewhere around the globe. This is not to deny the physical or material process as a fundamental component of my practice, because at this moment I am interested in that gap or space between Crash and Reboot. What happens, what do I do now that my system is temporarily down? Do I wait and do nothing? Or, do I shift my focus away from to the screen? And what do I produce during this shift outside the digital realm? If I begin to consider my art as manifestations of The Nervous System then it becomes more easily understood how one's physiological responses during a Crash can open up into new ways of responding to a variety of materials with which to make art.

So, the type of Art and Artist's I respond to are the kind that work with multiplicities. Artists who are cross-media practitioners. Someone like Bruce Nauman is a good example of an artist that is constantly challenging or even working against himself with nearly every new body of work. The event of coming into sight is always a challenge when building up a new idea into it's material reality. Even when the material is immaterial, so to speak.

4. What do you believe are the most interesting ideas being
investigated in your field. Tell us how your personal practice
integrates, relates or extends those ideas.

I think ideas around sustainability are interesting. Also, displacement. I love the now widely circulating quote: "Every morning I wake up on the wrong side of Capitalism." This is a time where there is a lot of collective anxiety in the air in regards to the vast numbers of artists who are hanging on by a single thread with no safety net in place-- fearing the fall into oblivion. While artists are being physically pushed further and further outside the center of distribution the work itself becomes an Assemblage of remnants left behind or discarded objects left over for a small surviving group. Freecycle and Freeganism have begun to make it's way into art making practice not as a means of day to day survival or even as a protest against living in a consumerist society but rather as a means with which to function and still remain an avant-garde practitioner.

My practice is a form of detournement, reusing elements well-known to architecture combined with objects of personal use to create new work with a different message. The impact of displacement on the psyche not to mention the violation toward the body itself can easily be read into this new work.

5. What are the most negative aspects of new media? If you could
create great change in the field what would you do? How would you like
to see new media develop in the near future.?

While on the one hand, 'New Media' has become much more democratic. It has absorbed itself into the social fabric by way of MySpace, YouTube and the countless other Web sites that offer exposure and distribution of art to a mass audience base. But at the same time, we are experiencing extreme exclusivity in the Art World itself. The production value has increased so high that it raises the bar for all artists who work with 'New Media.' There are limited opportunities to gain entry into those portals of Funding, access Facilities and other mechanisms close to the Market place.

6. In the general discourse of contemporary art as it exists today,
what interests you the most? What interests you the least?

I am really fascinated by the so-called Feminist revival that has been taking place as of late with all of the exhibitions and numerous institutions including satellite shows occurring in commercial galleries. I wonder if this is a fleeting moment or a real commitment to balance the mechanisms of power and acquisition within the Art Institutions themselves. Or, have the current feminist art practices that are being exhibited simply become a cliche? While the Globalization of Feminism is the good news support for local practice has declined here in the United States.

What interests me the least? I feel that the emphasis on Art Fairs and the state of the Art Market has created a kind of cynicism amongst artists. I see this played out at almost every opening where obsessive diatribes about placement, positioning, and image capture tend to dominate the conversation.

7. If you could alter the course of ideas and practices in
contemporary art what would you do. For example would you create
virtual archives? Would you set up a lottery system to fund artists?
Would you start working with sociologists to expand your practice etc...

Sustainability is a triumph in and of itself! Not to mention growth and expansion of my own practice that would include the preservation of my personal archive.

Do you know one of the things I love about Paris? No matter where I walk I eventually happen upon a sign that's placed on the facade of a residential building which makes note of an artist that once lived and worked at that particular location. Could you imagine this in New York City?

I'd also like to see Housing and Urban Development build more Westbeth's right here in Manhattan!

8. Do you have a question you'd like to ask yourself? Do you have a
question you'd like to ask other people for a future e-terview?

Do I spend too much time on the computer?