Becoming Art by Shloka Kini

When I first entered this class, I had a very clear definition of art, and interactivity wasn’t part of it. Anything that involved interaction was automatically a game. Engaging the user was an automatic distinction for me between what was art and a display.

I really began to understand new media art differently when analyzing interactive works. In many ways, interactive works become more forcibly engaging than static artworks are. For example, when passing by a classical painting or a photograph in an art gallery, a viewer can simply pass by with only a short glance to the work. Whereas, with interactive art, the person becomes the life for the work: a sound is heard, letters move, an image changes, a form is displayed on a screen. All becomes very apparent to the user that he/she is important to this work’s well-being. And so he/she stays.

Embodiment of an artwork was also foreign to me. To use one’s body to express something metaphorical or real was not clear until I became the designer. For my final project, I essentially had to become one with the Kinect. I had to search for libraries, understand its functionalities and data, and found the process to be much like a jungle; I was searching for the particular artistic medium to use for my project. I enjoyed the technicality, but I was amazed at how much information could be gathered about the body, and more importantly, used in different artworks.

In our project, which uses shadows and motion detection data, the body becomes a vehicle for figures on the screen. This type of engagement seems to be more telling of the human condition because of its ephemeral nature. Each installation of this work would never be the same; each would include new people, new location, and new understanding of surroundings. In this way, each viewer would implicitly understand that this work has to be experienced, and cannot be viewed online as a photograph or understood through a video clip; to get the full effect, one has to be there and actively engage.

My experience with new media has definitely changed my way of looking at and identifying art. It seems to be a much more encompassing term than I had previously imagined. I originally found myself attracted to the technical static artworks, which manipulated computer data and devices to produce high-quality photographs or digitally edited images. But now, I am attracted to the magic. This “magic” is the subtle engineering techniques and loopholes used in devices to create the illusions that the impossible can occur. They allow the user to understand the world from a new perspective, with the user being part of the learning process. Through trial and error, the user uses parts of his or her body to either trigger the work into performance or imbibe all the sensory input it expels.

Interactivity is a wonderful new medium to consider in creating artwork. And its uniqueness makes it incomparable to other mediums. It introduces the chaos of life, the volatility of people’s personalities, and can greatly add to a work’s appeal in this generation of connected, multitasking individuals.