Essays, Analyses and Meditations

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Digital Interactive Art

  • The Web has created the social equivalent of Brownian motion, in which countless people get in touch with countless people. Because of physical limits to what a person can possibly do in the social sphere, this Brownian motion (technically speaking, a nonlinear system) is permeated with randomness: which action will be more inflential on a person's future depends on which pieces of information that person extracts from the flux, which is largely a random factor.
  • Serendipity has always been important, but now it has become so pervasive that one should try and maximize the outcome of serendipity. Businesses are developing "pull" models that basically aim at harnessing resources outside the organization. Digital artists are letting the "users" of their installation define what the "art" is. Digital artists are becoming mere providers of interactive platforms who let the art emerge from the actions of the users of that platform. The platform is merely an "instrument" that the user can play. Just like any instrument the platform provides both the tool and the constraint: the tool enables some actions, but at the same time does not allow other actions.
  • Indirectly, this is a way to democratize the interaction of people with the tools of art. Continuing the parallel with musical instruments, the user who plays with an artist's interactive installation becomes a composer. This process de facto removes virtuoso talent from the equation: the talent that one needs is simply imagination.
  • The experience is also expanded to the whole body because technology allows for sensing any body movement. It's not just the fingers who play the piano, but the whole body that is sensed by the interactive installation and that therefore "plays" the interactive installation.
  • Inevitably, this process of art-making by the user becomes a process of discovery. First of all, the user has to discover the interactive platform, just like it would discover the environment. Secondly, the user can use the interactive platform as tool to discover her own power of imagination, with all the psychological consequences that go with it.
  • Increasingly, the spectator is the user of a high-tech device. This confers even more power to the spectator in this process of discovery, but, more importantly, it moves the action of art-making to the same level of web-surfing and social networking.
  • The user is the same person who has spent hours selecting webpages, friends, tweets, photos, videos. Every Facebook and Twitter user is de facto a curator of her own "exhibition" in the vast museum of all possible contents. Curating one's online experience is a way of dealing with serendipity: the tweets that one will see are still largely random (because it is physically impossible to check all of them), but the user/curator can at least increase the chances of seeing some. The curator is also an advisor to other curators, because the equivalent of "word of mouth" exists on the Web (e.g., Facebook's "Like" button) and often determines what one curator decides to see.
  • Therefore, the user of a digital interactive installation is a curator (by definition of 21st century individual) who also becomes a participant in the creation of art.
  • So far the artists have mostly focused on providing the kind of interactive experience that more closely resembles childplay. In fact, an installation is often judged by how much "fun" it generates in the users, rather than, say, by how much it makes them think about serious issues. This is probably a consequence of having empowered the user to become a curator: an artist wants to amuse the user the same way it would court an influential museum curator in the world of brick and mortar.
  • Hopefully this will result in the death of the museum. It is appalling that museums are trying to incorporate even digital art.
  • A museum is a horrible place, a graveyard of human civilization. The head of a Greek statue in a faraway museum has no artistic or historical value, other than being a tribute to large-scale theft by imperial powers. The artifacts moved to a museum lose the meaning that they had in their original environment. Museums are just very boring places for most people because it is very boring to browse the loot stored in some huge warehouses.
  • It is appalling that, in the age in which the entire web is a living museum, the traditional museums are already thinking how to "preserve" digital art, i.e. how to steal it from its original context and place it into a boring room of a huge building that you can access only when the bureaucracy keeps it open and only upon paying a ticket.