Interactivity, by Kayla Gilbert

We are still discovering the possibilities that “new media” art can contribute to our art culture. With new media, which is distinguished from other art by its dependence on, or integration with technology, one attribute that has completely consumed me is the interactivity of some new media art.  In my “New Media Theory and Practice” course at Dartmouth College, we observed different works where interactivity was the main component of the piece.  For example, one artist projects video footage into people’s shadows who are walking around in a town square.  Camille Utterback and Romy Achituv ‘s 1999 work  text rain incorporates participation: people stand in front of a screen with falling letters that, once caught on part of one’s shadow, begin to form words.

The interactive component of both installations, to me, is what makes them so interesting! Inspired by the installations’ dependence on human interaction, I decided to venture onto Google in hopes of finding more new media work that relied on interactivity.  I stumbled across a body of work by Daniel Rozin that blew my mind!  He has a series of works called “Mechanical Mirrors” in which each piece is a mirror made of a different media such as the shiny balls mirror and the peg mirror.  I didn’t actually believe the mirrors worked until I viewed the peg mirror video footage and was shocked at what I was seeing.

Click to see the wooden mirror in action

The mechanical mirrors have video cameras, motors, and computers that all work to capture the image in front of the mirror and produce a replication on the piece, just like a mirror.  The scale of each mirror is actually quite large, bigger than any mirror you would display in your own house.  The mirrors also produce soothing noises as the viewer interacts with the piece.  The beauty of this piece truly lies in the interaction it produces between the mirror and the viewer.  When we discuss the meaning of art and what it can invoke, so much of it is about self-exploration, for both the artist and the viewer.  The interactivity of Rozin’s body of work really allows each viewer to connect with artwork on a completely different and deeper level because through the mechanical mirrors, the viewer actually becomes the artwork.  Rozin even eliminates an interface so the mechanical mirrors become more separated from their technological qualities.  This also allows for the viewer to respond to the piece on a deeper, more personal level. For me, the ability to view oneself in a piece of art creates a connectivity that evokes an emotional bond to the artwork.  This type of relationship to the artwork is a very different association than one has with other pieces of art, such as a painting by Monet or Picasso because it’s automatically personal by its own nature.  One of the aspects I find to be most intriguing about the piece is how it uses technology to create such beautiful artwork.  These pieces obviously took time, thought, and special attention to detail to create and I love looking at piece and thinking that I could not reproduce it with ease.  I also love the fact that these works really combine an artistic mentality with that of a logical/technological mentality, which are often acknowledged as two distinct domains.