the interactive installation and its representation

gordana novakovic

How many interactive installations are experienced fully installed, in their complete form, even in specialised venues for electronic art? Not many, it seems: they are often technically too demanding, and too expensive for the "white cube" galleries.

How to produce and exhibit such a work?

More and more artists are turning from fine arts funds to scientific research centers that can provide facilities for developing art projects. MIT, Cambridge University, and the CSIRO among others present such opportunities for artists.

Is it another trap?

While scientific institutions do not have or need exhibiting spaces to exhibit their "products" in public, they can offer equipment that is often not found in galleries or museums... Even if an artist finally manages to produce a piece of art called an interactive installation, where and how to present it to an audience?

In their performative aspects, interactive installations are closer to the theatre than to the fine arts. This is a complex artform composed of separate art disciplines, conjoined with engineering and team work, and is similar to film or theatre. It seems that this work is slowly nesting in spaces that were projected or redecorated for experimental theatre years ago. Spaces with no fixed stage or audience areas (unlike the traditional European theatre) - plain "dark cubes" with construction for audio/visual equipment on the ceiling, appear ideal for this kind of work.

Interactive installations are a category of electronic art, and in symposia or festivals are difficult to exhibit due to their complexity. Most exist through different types of representations - on the internet, on CD-ROM, in writings and lectures. So, if we can't actually construct them, how to explain or present them to a live audience, while being clear, but not too boring, or too hermetic, etc?

An interactive installation is not just an object. It has interaction as its goal, and is concerned with abstraction and process. It is close to the theatre in a number of respects.

An interactive installation emerges through its relation with "participants" instead of an "audience". This changed role of the observer is another difference that characterises the artform.

It seems that a new category of electronic art has emerged. Instead of trying to compose a representation of a complex emotional experience, we should create a new one! In other words, create a new work that will be a carrier of the same basic idea and concept as the installation, having as a result an entirely new form that will present the essence of the work.

To this end we have used texts, audio/visual explanations and samples that were produced for other purposes, and have concentrated on creating a clear expression instead of a literal explanation.

So how far does an idea need to mutate until it can be presented?

The so-called "project history" now becomes important as an additional text for this purpose; it becomes an exciting story about the struggle for an idea, and how to express and shape an original vision to share with the audience.


© 2002 Gordana Novakovic