Beyond the Screen

Event and Meaning: Reading Interactive Installations in the Light of Art History

10.00-10.50: Roberto Simanowski (Providence, USA)

Abstract: As has been stated, AI-controlled environments take the “body language” to a new level by controlling and reacting to its movement, mimics and gestures. Theoreticians of interactive art have conceptualized “behaviourist” or “relational” art as a shift from content to event (Roy Ascott), from “private symbolic space” to the “realm of human interactions” (Nicolas Bourriaud). It is important, however, not to ignore the content of the event and the symbolic of the interactions. My presentation explores the meaning of two interactive installations, which require very difficult bodily actions. While Still Standing by Bruno Nadeau and Jason Lewis requires the participant’s body to be immobilized as a condition for the reading and contemplation of its linguistic content, Mondrian by Zachary Booth Simpson and his collaborators allows the audience to generate Mondrian-like images by drawing lines on a screen with one’s hand and coloring sections with one’s finger. Theses pieces do not only offer two different concepts of the interactors’ action and hence body experience but also engage in a very difficult way with the issues of inter- and transmediality as well as avant-garde. While Still Standing uses new technology in order to enhance the cultural practice of reading endangered since the arrival of electronic and digital media, Mondrian promotes craftsmanship and parodies the aesthetics Mondrian represents. Both interactive installations, I will argue, do not simply create „a period of time to be lived through“ (Bourriaud) but have to be understood in the context of art history and as a specific contribution to it.

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