24 Jan Art as an Interactive Experience, by Eric H. Whang
What is interactive art? I’ve always thought art was something one admires from the perspective of a passive observer. But recently, I’ve learned that there is a category of art called new media art which challenges this traditional framework. “New media art” is a term used to describe nontraditional forms of art that have evolved with technology. One of the most interesting types of new media art that I have read about is “interactive art,” which allows the audience to physically interact with art pieces to create some sort of effect. Interactive art usually involves the use of digital technologies that were not present until the past few decades.
Although there are various contemporary artists involved in interactive art, Scott Snibbe is one of the most influential. Snibbe’s reasoning for his pursuit in creating interactive art is that “by using interactivity, [he] hope[s] to promote an understanding of the world as interdependent; destroying the illusion that each of us, or any phenomenon, exists in isolation from the rest of reality,” as stated on his personal site. A video of one of his works, titled Visceral Cinema: Chien, can be found here:
This piece was shown at Telic Gallery in Los Angeles, California, and Art Interactive in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 2005, as well as the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London in 2006. For this work, Snibbe is able to recreate a traditional film in a way that allows the audience to be more than just passive viewers. What I find to be the most interesting aspect of this type of work is that the traditional paradigm of how people interact with art has evolved. In this case, Snibbe takes a surrealist film named Un Chien Andalou, made by Salvador Dali and Luis Bunuel, and recreates it so that the audience can influence what happens in the film. Instead of just watching a stream of scenes being displayed on a screen, the audience can actually affect what happens within the projected visuals. Particularly, for this piece, Snibbe uses a projector to project silhouettes of a man pulling on a piano with a rope. If the audience stands between the man and the piano, the shadow of the participant is registered by some sensor and causes the piano to move farther away from the projected man, forcing him to strain against the rope to pull the piano with him. Additionally, by “touching” the shadow of the man with the participants’ own shadows, the man will slowly dissolve into tiny fragments, coming back only when participants removed their shadows from touching his.
To me, Visceral Cinema: Chien consistently exhibits Snibbe’s intention of making the audience aware of the relationships within this world. The fact that this piece of art requires physical participation allows the audience to realize that everything in our reality is interdependent. Even our smallest actions can change what happens around us, so we should never see ourselves as lone entities unaffected by the universe. This work challenges the audience to look at the world in new light, providing a new outlook on human life and what it means to exist. Interactive art pieces such as this provide a different approach to appreciating art compared to traditional forms. In my opinion, this type of “new” art is more effective in relating and connecting with the audience, since they have a chance to personally influence their experience of the art—because each person’s interaction with the piece is different, what they experience as a result will be unique to them as well.