A letter responding to Daniel Gerwin’s Have You Ever Been Experienced? The Paradox of Interactive Art
By Kim Brickley, co-founder Create In Situ
I agree with a lot of what was written in Daniel Gerwin’s April 10th article, Have You Ever Been Experienced? The Paradox of Interactive Art, but I feel that there is more to be said about interactive technology’s 1) newness, 2) accessibility, 3) gadgetry, and 4) relationship to place.
Technologically interactive art is on the newer side of media, so of course it is going to get a lot of criticism thrown its way, while canvas and sculpture keep churning and turning out a relatively high level of production and appreciation, most often offered up to the discernment of people who already have an intimate and sophisticated understanding of it. If interactive art is marginalized too early, we could lose opportunities to open up the art world to people who might not be interested otherwise.
Do paintings and sculptures get more of a break simply because they are the accepted form dictated by thousands of years of history? I think so. For example, my creative partner and I recently applied with video work (not even interactive) to two shows at contemporary art galleries, one on each coast, and both said we would have to supply our own video equipment. How can a gallery consider itself to be contemporary and not have readily available video equipment, not even a TV with a DVD player? I consider it medium discrimination. It’s like a gallery saying it will accept no paintings unless the artist provides the appropriate lighting.
Many people have access to digital technology and computer programs. It doesn’t necessarily make them good artists, but it allows them to make what often passes as art. How do artists make their work more culturally cohesive and interesting using an interactive or digitally enhanced medium? Critics and artists alike should take this into consideration and carefully watch this technology as it develops, because although it offers a multitude of creative avenues, it could easily be dismissed by critics or used carelessly by artists, becoming just a trend rather than anything more significant or game changing.
Part of the problem with interactive art, which I think is complementary to its accessibility (as Gerwin implied in his article), lies in the interest in technological gadgetry overtaking any original creative commentary. Or, on the other hand, new technology is often used to merely reconstruct old ways of making art, but with gadgets, which doesn’t really offer any new ideas. The art sometimes gets lost in the fun of the new toy, resulting in a sort of culturally amped Please Touch Museum for adults.
The Idea of Place
Perhaps part of the solution is to get out of the gallery. Interactive technologies may thrive in more public places, where they can be more or less site-specific and conceptually layered. One good example of this is an upcoming project at the Inter-Symposeum for Electronic Arts in New Mexico: http://www.agneschavez.com/xtreeproject. The Tree Project, by Agnes Chavez, Jared Tarbell, and Allesandro Saccoia, creates a virtual “light forest” of trees using data visualization from twitter feeds associated with nature, and it can be installed anywhere and everywhere. It can be programmed to switch words so that the data visualization changes. The piece recreates digital feeds to mimic nature in an almost holographic, ghostly way, reminiscent of the empty space remaining after a forest is cut down. The fact that you can add to the information being processed and watch it change underscores how humans affect their natural surroundings.
A lot of technology is about place, or the lack thereof, or the combining of places, which is an idea I find interesting. We are now living in a digital placelessness, similar to Edward Relph’s idea of placelessness. A white cube is good for static objects, or even square screens, but it is contained. What happens in the gallery with forms that are holographic, based on wind data, or lacking shape, or that take their shape from random coding on the internet, or motion, or heat? The gallery is not always the wrong place for this type of work – I have seen interesting interactive work inside of a gallery space, but I am simply raising a question about the relationship of form to content.
Create In Situ was founded in 2009 by interdisciplinary artists Sarah Zimmer and Kim Brickley. Together they continue to explore the dynamic layers of perceptual experience, place, and time. www.createinsitu.com