On the final day of November, I'd like to thank all the very
thoughtful responses to this theme, and to offer some personal
positions to balance my starting role as 'devil's advocate'.
Patrick Henry quite rightly challenged me on my use of the word
'richest', as I don't believe that 'more interactive' means 'better
artwork', and nor do I believe that, 'higher technology' means 'more
interactive'. My interest in this theme actually stems from the
interesting poverty of interaction offered by technology, and how
people manage to work around that, rather than assuming that the
technology is offering any claim to 'democracy'.
I do however believe that some artworks are more interactive than
others. As for a taxonomy of 'levels of interaction 'something I've
found useful as a curator and a consumer of interactive new media
art is a very rough and crude metaphor of 'conversation'. Is this
1. A monologue?
2. A choice of monologues? (navigate through choices)
3. A dialogue with a fruit machine? (push buttons, get responses/ rewards)
4. A dialogue with a voicemail system? (audience can leave own
'message' within a template)
5. A real conversation? (complex, equal, elaborating, responsive,
Number 5 is what an interaction with a programmed artwork and an
audience member cannot offer (due to the failure of AI to arrive).
What a programmed artwork CAN do, however, is act as a skillful host,
providing the context and the stimulating monologues so that
audience members can have the 'real conversations' between
themselves. These may be visual conversations such as Lozano-Hemmer's
<http://www.lozano-hemmer.com> Rotterdam public installation, or
visual/audio such as Toshio Iwai's Resonance of 4. They can happen
in public spaces, in museums, or on the net. The 'quality' of these
artworks depends not only on the artist, but on the quality of the
audience response, and on the quality of the context that a curator
can provide in order for the audience to participate effectively. I'm
interested that Lozano-Hemmer's background is also in performance,
which, compared to the museum, tends to have a different ideology of
whether its audience is singular, collective, passive or active.
Educational museums also have a different ideology to art museums.
So, lots of people have to be brave, in order to face what might go
wrong by handing over this control; the adolescent enthusiasm for
obscenity being one of them, the fact that moronic audiences will
produce moronic input, and, as Josephine Bosma and Mathew Kabatoff
point out, the fact that the physical equipment may also be hijacked.
Artists spend a lot of time watching how people interact with their
artwork, and if artists are brave enough to offer the audience
conversation between themselves, then so should curators. Offering
physical interaction with Patrick's example of a suspended
steamroller is an interesting thought though!
All this doesn't mean that I don't value artworks in Number 1. We
listen to artists' monologues because they have very interesting
things to say. It's just that curators need to be technically and
conceptually prepared for the challenges of 4 and 5.