interview, revisited

Two years ago on May 11, 2005 I wrote:

Melanie McBride of chandrasutra felt that Big Media has been misrepresenting bloggers and decided that it was time we spoke for ourselves and let them (and everybody else know) who we actually are, who we link to and why we blog. She decided to do an interview series by bloggers about bloggers to publish on chandrasutra. She sent out questions to a selection of bloggers she read, from well known to lesser known bloggers, men and women from different walks of life. Now I’m excited that Melanie has posted her interview of me. I feel very thrilled and honoured to be included with such a distinguished group of bloggers! Many thanks, Mel!

Melanie took an extended blog vacation last year though chandrasutra remained online. On 23rd November, 2006 (it was still up in my RSS reader), she wrote this hopeful note: “Boy do I miss blogging. Every day there’s stuff to write about. But it’s a matter of having the time, even a few minutes, to say something moderately worthwhile or insightful. I hope to resume posting now that I am done with the project that has taken all my time over the past month.” Later I was saddened to find that her site had gone offline. (I miss you Mel, where are you?)

Thankfully I had made a screenshot of Mel’s page of the interview of me and saved it as a PDF. I like seeing it in the original context with the images and comments included. Below is a transcript of the interview, with some minor editing of small errors, likely my own, and making some of the links active. I found it interesting to read it again and see what has changed (not much). So this is all for the sake of updating and preserving the archives (and my vanity), but I hope newer readers will enjoy this.

The blogger’s blogger: an interview with Marja-Leena Rathje

Finnish-Canadian artist Marja-Leena Rathje is a blogger’s blogger who uses her blog as an online showcase for her exquisite prints, a past/present blend of the organic and archeological, with personal reflections about culture and artistic process. Rathje also shares a variety of research subjects that inform her work including anthropology,
archaelogy and Finnish history. In her own words:

“I was born in Finland, and emigrated to Canada as a child. I’ve been an artist all my life, with a passion for printmaking for over 20 years. I started using the computer in 1998 as one tool in my artmaking. My Finnish roots became of greater interest in recent years with so much new material appearing on the internet – history, ethnology, archaeology, ancient rock art, far north cultures around the globe.”

MM: Why do you blog?
ML: When my friends and I were preparing for our exhibition in Finland in 2002, another friend made a website, Traces, to accompany it. Afterwards I asked if he could develop a full artist’s site for me. Busy with his growing career, he eventually suggested I do a blog, which would bring a great deal more traffic to my site than a regular website. My reaction was “what’s a blog?” and “what am I going to write about?” He then set me up with one, teaching me the basics and left me to practice it for a while. I searched for and studied other blogs that interested me – chandrasutra was one of them. After three months I felt ready, and February 2004 it was launched, a bit timidly at first but quickly becoming a passion. The blog is a place to put up my work, to write about printmaking, other artists and exhibitions, and about the many things that interest and influence me and make me the person, and therefore, the artist that I am. It is a place to keep all the fascinating information that I have gathered over the years and still keep finding. Writing has helped me focus my thoughts, though finding the right words, being more articulate, continues to be challenge. It is another creative project, a form of self-publishing, with a unique world-wide audience, often silent, but with a few voices responding and making it all so very worthwhile and satisfying.

MM: Where do you find your inspiration?
ML: From life past and present, my work, from other bloggers, from my research. Sometimes I seem to go off on a tangent, off the topic of art, when inspired by some lighthearted stuff, like Christmas or May Day, but I realize that it’s really another part of this life that interests me, that I want to know more about and makes me the person and artist that I am. Recording it and sharing it all on a blog is an exciting process for me, far more in-depth than a few scribbles in my sketchbook.

MM: What blogs do you read and why do you like those blogs?
ML: I read a variety of blogs and the most read ones are on my blogroll. Some have become dear friends that one likes to visit every day, and I’ll mention just a few here. Among artist’s blogs, Anna Conti’s Working Artist’s Journal is my favourite. I also really enjoy the linguistic challenge (my Finnish is a little rusty) of reading the well-known Finnish printmaker Kirsi Neuvonen’s excellent blog Kuparipelto (Copperfield) that just started in February this year. (She has a separate website for her work that is also in English.) I continue to be surprised there are not more artist’s blogs though more are slowly appearing.

Naturally there are numerous wonderful writer’s blogs, two favourites are Beth’s The Cassandra Pages for her articulate and wise writing about many human issues, multiculturalism, daily life and because she is a lover of art and Anna Scott’s
Self-Winding for her wit and humour about English country life and her love of art and literature. Both have been very appreciative of my art work and have become friends.

Of course there are many more, like yours, and Ronni Bennett’s Time Goes By, and the photography & politics blog of Gordon Coale.

MM: Many Big Media journalists have attempted to discredit bloggers by saying we’re “diarists” and questioning our “credibility” etc. What do you say to that?
ML: I think some of the Big Media journalists, constrained by their owners’ right wing agendas, may feel threatened by the free speech of bloggers, especially in the area of politics and world affairs. These bloggers are very important in keeping news open and available, whether it’s the girl in Iraq or independent journalists who write blogs (many are quoted in Gordon Coale’s blog). There’s a growing loss of readership from hard copy to online. A sign of change are The Guardian and Tyee here on the Canadian westcoast that have embraced blogging with news.

MM: Beyond blogging vs. journalism. Bloggers need to get rid of Big Media frames
and frame blogs in our own terms. To that end, what are the frames we can use to define blogging/participatory media according to our own terms?

ML: As a non-techie, I don’t understand this question, even after a lot of thought. Basically, I think bloggers can do and are doing as they wish, the heck with what Big Media says. Blogs are only one of many new media emerging and changing our world.

MM: What are your “desert island” 3 favourite/most important posts of all time?
ML: Blogs are daily changing, transitory, and of such variety – how can I just pick a page here or there to take with me? However I can see a personal use in taking my portfolio of printworks. It has become a great resource for me when I want to look up some of my work for information or to refresh my memory or show someone quickly. I sometimes reuse older images in new works, in new ways, so I’m always looking out for some new connections. Going online is sure a lot faster than getting out the slide projector or pulling prints out of storage, and you can’t take them with you to a desert island. But does that desert island have wireless internet? Oh, and I don’t have a portable!

UPDATE JULY 2, 2007. I found Chandrasutra again, it seems I missed one letter in the URL! This interview minus photos is up again, as well as the others in the series.

UPDATE January 15, 2010. I’m sorry to see that Chandrasutra’s site is now private, requiring a password.

May 14, 2007 in Being an Artist, Blogging by Marja-Leena