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Subject:

Interactive Screen - BNMI July 2001- Narrative and Interaction

From:

Mathew Kabatoff <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Curating digital art - www.newmedia.sunderland.ac.uk/crumb/

Date:

Wed, 1 Aug 2001 18:15:33 +0100

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (132 lines)

Interactive Screen –marginal report-

This is a marginal report of the current annual conference at the Banff New
Media Institute called “Interactive Screen” that has attempted to address a
wide range of topics such a production, distribution and reception of
both ‘heavy’ and ‘light’ interactive media (interactive film, SMS
messaging, educational software). This report is marginal because I have
not been able to attend all of the sessions in the conference but will do
my best to connect the dots in terms of what I have seen and hear thus far.

The content of this conference took me a bit by surprise as it was
indicated right from the introductions that the majority of the presenters
were working in film or video, doing things such as pursuing interactive
narrative and shooting documentaries that blended fiction with real life.
This was intriguing because the discourse seemed to be located in 1995, pre-
net or net-condition, and had leapfrogged the past five years of an
internet art discourse that effectively produced and supported works that
were conceptually rich and took up limited band-width. The discourse of
interactivity, with narrative as its priori, seemed to have taken back seat
to the possibilities of the internet, and was only partially carried
through the adolescent street cred of video games was in some ways back,
and of course changed. The tools of narrative production had been made more
available to independent producers and high quality film and animated
images were made increasingly more malleable. This “return of the
repressed” in terms of narrative interaction seemed to maintain key
concerns that, (at least with the projects I saw) go hand in glove with the
construction of literary, cinematic or gaming narrative: that being the
concern with emotional engagement (albeit tragedy, humour, or estrangement)
and the production of an interface that the user is able to navigate
through and keep interest in.

Although each presentation was short (restricted to 15-20min) I would like
to cover three projects that I feel take substantial swipes to compel
conceptually and emotionally. The first being the projects and theory
presented by Matt Locke that use SMS technology that have been facilitated
through test.org.uk and The Media Centre, in the UK. Matt presented several
text-messaging projects each with similar conceptual frameworks that either
received or delivered content from users. A project that sent out content,
gathered phone numbers from participants who were aware that they were part
of an art project and were to receive messages that they were to perform.
The performances were based on prompts, dares and instructions that ranged
from the specific to the abstract which users were to act out as soon as
they received the message. Matt contextualized this practice by playing off
of a term by Hakim Bey, called TIZ (temporary intimate zones) that
disrupted the notion of position and location, in favor of place as content
receivers could essentially be in any place upon reception. The situation
creates a context that lends itself to relative models of interaction,
feedback, and interaction as architectural and behavioral characteristics
of when and where a user will receive interaction is considered.

The second project was a prototype for an immersive video called “Lamb
Hotel” by British artist Cath Le Couteur who wrote a black comedy that
placed four characters within four hotel rooms where a fire was to break
out, and one was to die. Once participating with the video, users would
only be able to see a total of 10minutes worth of film (out of a total of
40min) that would be based on their navigational patterns in the hotel.
Users would be given cues as to where and when to move that would be both
visual (graphic cues such as buttons text, areas of interest in the film)
and sonic, through the figuring of the cuts and movement of the user in
response to the sound effects and track. Although the prototype was
presented both in single cell and dual cell, the resulting production will
most likely appear in a single cell, single channel format. The narratives
(I only remember three of the four) were comprised of: a young house keeper
who speaks on a Mobile and dumps toxics on the floor; a young theatre
director and his x-childstar mother who argue as they are about to leave to
the opening of the directors new play; and a couple who accuse each other
of infidelity in order to improve their sex life.

The third presentation was by David Miller, a media producer from LA, who
had a set of production tools which he allowed a group of “kids” to use for
the quick and dirty production of videos…and essentially their lives. The
kids would work in teams and would film daily activities such as
skateboarding, bmx biking, slamming ones face into the concrete, that would
be sent to a server in real time and edited almost as fast, then glued
together with their favorite song of that moment. What was amazing about
this production, was not necessarily its content or the sensation of seeing
young teens mame themselves on metal bars and concrete curbs (I used to do
all this stuff when I was a kid!!) but the amount that they produced in the
time they had. Essentially they would make a 24min episode in one day that
was of relatively high quality in terms of editing and impact. The project
sponsored by Miller then provides an interesting context of production of
ones reality that is based ever so slightly on a heightened sense of that
reality, only the highlights with a sound track. And provides a place where
these kids can further interact with each other and develop their own
visual language.

What I think each of these projects lend to the consideration of
interactive media, interactive screens and interactive narrative is that
each engage with, to use an old term, tragedy or the movement towards
tragedy. This concept becomes important through the exchange that occurs
into and out of fiction into a landscape that is either documentary located
within an unknown urban place, or back into fiction where the viewer makes
decisions that are based on their own intuitions arising from their daily
practice and life. With the projects Matt presented a possibility for
interruption and possibly rupture occurs as messages are read on signs or
intervene in the form of a text message with the daily routine of the
content consumer. The interactive quality of “Lamb Hotel” drives the user
towards an undefined yet tragic result that is written cleverly enough that
it connects emotionally with the user outside of the frame. And finally the
fictive cycle of the kids videos that moves into the documentary realm
through the sheer volume of production whereby these real life events which
are based on a particular activity that has its own media and production
system is disrupted by speed and spectacle. Maybe the each seem to me to
have some sort of connection, that in the end seems light, sort of
portable, that these experiences are somehow cause a break for me, whereby
something isn’t exactly connected to my eyes.

Some interesting points that come out of this short examination and the
context it is written that I have found are,

- the theoretical continuation of ideas found within theatre, film, and
drama, that have been in the video art world, the independent film world,
and the interactive new media world, but have not quite converged onto the
new and developing hybrid discourse that comprises that tenuous and supple
place of new media and art histories.
- the place of spectacle, belief, and/or the suspension of disbelief in
terms of viewership and/or
participation with a semi-fictive projects with the question of how then is
reality, fiction narrative and representation  reshaped.
- what are the ethics behind active intervention into daily lives that
either promote produce or cause media spectacle yet are still bound within
the condition of mediation implicit to technology and technologies of the
self.
- What role or consequences does this have on curation in terms negotiating
and supporting another area of hybrid production that does not rest still
like documentary photography, does not exist as the index of conceptual art
and does not provide passive viewership such as that found within film and
video installation.


mk

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