Our society has become so dependent on
technology that we ourselves have even wondered that perhaps the
very thing has taken our society to such great
heights cound in fact be our demise.
From the Y2K scares across the world to the rise of the machines in
Hollywood films such as
The Terminator; our society knows the extent of our dependency on
technology and what could
happen if it were to backfire. However, with all the warning signs
and premonitions that exist,
we still choose the path of technology. Even artists are expanding
their horizons into the realm
of technology, and more specifically in this case, interactivity.
In the article, "The Poetics of Interactivity," author Margaret Morse
addresses the definition of interactivity. The explanation that caught
my attention was the statement she quoted, "interactivity now means too
many things." Different people have different views on what counts as
interactive works and what does not, and no two people are required to have the same
outlook on what is considered interactive art and what is not, just like the
unresolvable question, "what is art?" When I hear the phrase "interactive
art" a lot of things come to mind. I think of any piece of artwork that the
viewer can become involved with in a step above simply viewing or listening.
In art exhibits, when pieces are labeled "interactive" I have just come to
automatically assume that the viewer is able to "participate" in the
instillation in some way. With this in mind, I have often considered websites
as interactive art. Not all websites are not outside my definition of interactive art
in that many of them were designed to give aesthetic impression to the audience and
also requires the audience to participate by navigating throughout the site and
interacting in a variety of ways. On the same note, I also consider video games
a form on interactive art. Although some may not agree, the viewer is still receieving an
aesthetic experience as well as interacting with the game. "Playing" is still interacting
although it could be considered a different form or degree. Morse explains three
different degrees of interacting. The first being minimal interaction which would be
like a calculator. The
second being interaction that allows the user a choice among a set of preestablished
narrative outcomes like a website that you can navigate through and choose where
within the website you would like to go. An artist's website, such as my own, in
which the viewer can browse through and view the various pages would fall under
this second category. The third form of interaction allows the user to alter the
final form of the artwork. For example, an exhibit I once saw that allowed the user
to apply paint effects to an image of themselves to see what they would look like
30 years later. Lynn Hershmann has a website that has a good example of this
kind of interaction. Her interactive instillation, "Paranoid Mirror" is a sensor-driven
enviroment that transforms the user into the interface. It is a very interesting
artistic piece and successful in my eyes. I believe that art is made to draw viewers in
and in this piece, it literally does; which is what sets interactive art appart from
traditional medium. It provides and edge, like an additional dimension. The viewer is
able to interact with the piece and see an image of themselves a feat that is not
attainable in other mediums. One important factor that
Morse proposed that was
very interesting to me was the concept of "immersion"; "imersion as
sinking into a fantasy
world." From Morse's examples, and Hershmann's instillation, it seemed to me that the goal of
many interactive instillations
is to draw the viewer into the so called fantasy world (like the Char
Davie's example where the
viewer to use their breath to navigate up or down in virtual space)
to the fullest extent possible.
Being wary of our dependency on technology myself, it scares me to think
of our capabilities in interactivity that we have today.
Morse also explains the difference between the prefix "inter"
and "intra": "Inter" joining what is
other or different together, and "intra" meaning connections or links
within the same entity. With
this in mind I hope that interactivity remains interactivity and does
not somehow transform into
"intra-activity" where humans are able to become so involved with
technology and computers
that their cognitive processes become one. What a risk this dependency
In Chapter 3: Themes in Internet Art from the text "Internet Art,"
Rachel Greene explores several different net art projects from
games to sights that simply attempt to communicate ideas.
One such sight that was particularly interesting is New Zealander-born
artist Josh On's "They Rule" (2001). "They Rule" is comprised of a
database type set up which is a searchable program that allows users to
interact with different categories concerning information about
members of 2004. The first interactive face is a sort of flowchart or
which allows the user to choose a corporate company which is
an icon of a conference table. The conference table then prompts
actions the user can choose from: one displays the directors of the
company, another allows the user to search the company on the web, and
last connects the user to the company's website. If the user chooses
click on the directors, icons of business men and women surround the
table in a web like fashion. Clicking on these directors will give
companies that are also run by that director, leading into more
tables and a giant entaglement of coporate companies and directors.
site is very interesting and can definately draw the user into the
maze. The icons and web like design are very appropriate to the
matter being portrayed. The webs appear very corporate, accenting the
the site. The site also provides links to search engines and the
corporate websites; elements that adds to its technically database
type set up
and easibility for the user to find information.
On perhaps the opposite side of the spectrum from a giant corporate
mix up is
Melinda Klayman's "Sushi Fight." This site is actually a game the
play. In the game, a sushi girl must combat sea creatures. The user
click on the sushi girl's flower at the right time to attack. If the
creature wins, it will grow large, however if the user wins, the sushi
will grow large. As the site declares, it is "cute and bizarre." The
is well done and the figures have almost a cut and paste feel that I
is appropriate for the media. This goes to show what a range net art
It seems as though user interaction is the only element that
both "They Rule"
and "Sushi Fight" have in common. This one element, however, can mean
list of possiblities; from combating giant sea creatures to maping
Web artist Andy Deck has also created an interesting net art site
"Glyphiti." In this site, the user can click on any area of a large
Deck explains, "As author, I have established certain characteristics.
include the size and available colors, which are black and white. But
of every pixel can be changed by the visiting artist." Once you click
area, a new image is generated which alters the original. Each mark a
Although this site involves user interaction, it does not so to the
same extent as the previous examples. In this case the user simply
the image and waits for the results. With "They Rule," the user can
multiple actions from researching on the internet to maping corporate
Same goes with "Sushi Fight"; the user is engaging in an actual game
ultimate goal and purpose. To whatever extent, however, net art
viewer to not only view the work of art, but enter into it either by
maping, playing, clicking, creating, ect.! A dimensionality that is
common in most other forms of art.
It's hard for one to read Jeffrey Veen's article "State-of-the-art Interactivity?"
and not feel his sense of frustration from today's standards of interactivity in
respects to his recent experience as a judge of an interactive design contest.
From the designers disloyalty to keeping interactivity interactive by
incorporating manipulations such as opening new windows, turning off controls,
and breaking the back button to annoying sounds and annoying marketing strategies.
I agree that in entering an interactive design contest, a designer should expect
to be held accountable to the traditional definition of interactivity. However
"traditional" standards should not be confused with "mainstream" ideas. It
seems as though designers are not stepping outside of the box and are instead
resorting to mainstream advertisement techniques, overuse of flash and cued
sounds. Easier said than done; how does one step outside the box? Web designer
Joshua Davis presents a solution in his article, "Creating complexity from
simplicity." He writes, "To be successful designers and technologists, we
need the courage to let go of the old world, to relinquish most of what we
have cherished and to abandon our interpretations about what does and doesn't
work." Davis' theory comes down to experimentation. He claims that most of
his successful is a result of a "happy accident" from an experiment. I
believe in the importance of letting go and experimenting with artwork.
Like Davis says, "we have spent the better part of our lives trying to
organize, classify, file, associate, identify, label and dissect everything
we see." It is obvious through Davis' flash work that he engages in nature
and chaos vs. organization and order; especially in his "Synthetic Sinewy"
with his hypnotic geometry that keeps the user watching. Similarly, his
"Poems to the Sea" which starts as a faint black "cloud" that builds on
itself with sketchy lines. It's not easy for aspiring artists to create
an innovation that will set a mark in the realm of interactive design,
however experimentation and aim to step outside the box is an artist's best hope.