Monday May 7th, 11am-2pm — ACE Teleseminar Room (ACE Complex - UCI building 522)
This symposium addresses fundamental questions regarding the creation of, and theorisation of, interactive artworks, specifically around issues of embodied engagement. These practices are radically interdisciplinary, in that they attempt a negotiation between two world views whose opposition has structured western culture for 200 years: the values inherent in computational technology, structured around and valorising notions of disembodied information and abstract symbolic representation, and the traditions of the arts, whose commitments are towards embodied practices, performative values, and generation of immediate, affective and persuasive multi-sensorial experience. The full force of some of these disjunctions is felt most clearly by the practitioner in the complex process of realisation of cultural artifacts employing these technologies. Contemporary digital arts practice is shaped, in large part, by the ramifications of the disjunctions discovered in a process where technological components formulated for instrumental ends are applied to goals which exceed these instrumental conceptions.
Katja Kwastek is an art historian, currently directing the research project “Interactive Art” at the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute Media.Art.Research in Linz. Her research area is media art history, focusing on the aesthetics of interaction in digital media art.
She studied history of art, archaeology and history in Muenster, Cologne and Florence. From 2001 to 2006 she was assistant professor at the art history department of the University of Munich. She has curated exhibition projects, lectured profusely and published many books, including Ohne Schnur. Art and wireless communication, Frankfurt 2004.
Interactive Art as aesthetic experience
Interactive Art does not only require an action of the visitor for the work to become realized, often this action is a central aspect of the work and therefore the focal point of its aesthetic strategy. This paper asks, how this new form of aesthetic experience can be described and analysed. Art history needs new methods to approach the aesthetics of interaction to enable a better understanding of the artistic strategies and reception processes that determine these works.
The paper discusses examples from different fields of interactive art, focussing on strategies of embodied experience.
Keith Armstrong is an Australian/English interdisciplinary media artist, Australia Council New Media Arts Fellow, Queensland University of Technology Faculty of Creative Industries Research Fellow and currently a CalPoly Visiting Professor for the Spring Quarter, working in collaboration with their Liberal Arts and Architecture Faculties. He is in the US to show, tour and teach around his internationally awarded work ‘Intimate Transactions’. (http://www.intimatetransactions.com).
Ecology, Performance and Collaboration - Embodying Intimate Transactions.
Intimate Transactions is a dual site, telematic installation currently been shown here in the US. It allows two people located in separate spaces to interact simultaneously using only their bodies (predominantly their backs and feet), using two identical interfaces called ‘Bodyshelves’. During a 30-minute, one-on-one session their physical actions allow them to individually and collaboratively explore immersive environments. Each participant’s own way of interacting results in quite different, but interrelated animated and generative imagery, real time generated audio (seven channels), and three channels of haptic feedback (felt in the stomach and back). This experience allows each participant to begin to sense their place in a complex web of relations that connect them and everything else within the work.
Intimate Transactions is an investigation in creating embodied experiences that are both performative and improvisational by harnessing individual, performative languages of ‘untrained’ bodies as a means to engender understandings of ‘ecological’ relationship. It arose from a deep collaboration between media artists, performance practitioners, sound artists, hardware and software engineers, a furniture maker and a scientific ecologist. Our entire process was informed by a praxis-led approach to art making that stressed embodied connectivity and inseparability. This allowed us to understand how participants might move within the constraints of a particular interface, allowing us to shape and form the overall phrasing and sensibilities of their experiences, whilst maintaining the unique nature of their collaborative experiences.
Perry Hoberman is an acclaimed media and installation artist whose work often focuses on the boundaries and battles between art and technology. Working with a variety of technologies, ranging from the utterly obsolete to the seasonably state-of-the-art, he has exhibited widely throughout the United States and Europe. In 2002 he was both a Guggenheim Foundation Fellow and a Rockefeller Media Arts Fellow. His installation “Timetable” was awarded the Grand Prix at the ICC Biennale ‘99 in Tokyo, and “Systems Maintenance” won a 1999 Prix Ars Electronica Award of Distinction. “Unexpected Obstacles”, a retrospective survey of his work, was exhibited in 1998 at the ZKM Mediamuseum in Karlsruhe, Germany, and before that at Gallery Otso in Espoo, Finland. Hoberman is represented by Postmasters Gallery in New York, where he has had numerous one-person exhibitions. Since 2003, Hoberman has lived in Los Angeles, where he is an Associate Research Professor in the Interactive Media Division at the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts.
Interactivity: an abstraction chats up a metaphor
The radical behaviorism of B.F. Skinner—the idea that human activity can only be understood externally, without recourse to internal psychological states and processes—has long been out of favor. Yet it could be argued that as interaction designers, we are essentially forced to act as behaviorists; we have no access to our users’ states of mind, only their physical actions. Further, it has to be admitted that—given the current state of sensing technologies—we can’t even keep track of most of these actions, even when we start to move beyond the one eye/one finger paradigm of mouse, monitor and keyboard. Nonetheless, we often attempt to extrapolate some state of mind from our limited apprehension of a user’s actions. It follows that any idea we might form of their “state of mind” is at best an abstraction, at worst a fraud. In addition, since we are generally concerned with interaction between human and machine, it’s a given that at least one of the party’s “state of mind” is metaphoric at best. So if interaction is a conversation (as it is often defined), what are we left with? An abstraction conversing with a metaphor. Might it not be better (like the behaviorists) to give up any pretense at dealing with states of mind altogether?
Simon Penny is founder of the Arts Computation Engineering (ACE) program at UCI. He has been making interactive installations, writing about interactive art and teaching related issues for over twenty years. He edited an early volume on digital arts : Critical Issues on Electronic Media (SUNY 1995), curated Machine Culture, an international survey exhibition of Interactive Installation in 1993, has had residencies at ZKM, GMD and elsewhere, won the 1998 Cyberstar award and honorable mention in Prix Arts Electronica 1999, etc.
Pin the Tail on the Trojan Horse
The computer may be viewed as the reification of a rationalist world view in that the hardware/software binarism, and all that it entails, is little but an implementation of the Cartesian dual. Inasmuch as these technologies reify that world view, these values permeate their very fabric. Social and cultural practices, modes of production and consumption, inasmuch as they are situated and embodied, proclaim validities of specificity, situation and embodiment contrary to this order. Due to the economic and rhetorical force of the computer, the academic and popular discourses are persuasive. Thus, where computational technologies are engaged by social and cultural practices, there exists an implicit but fundamental theoretical crisis. An artist, engaging such technologies in the realization of a work, invites the very real possibility that the technology, as Trojan Horse, introduces values inimical to the basic qualities for which the artist strives. The very process of engaging the technology quite possibly undermines the qualities the work strives for. This situation demands the development of a ‘critical technical practice’ (Agre). This paper explores some of these issues.