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Chapter Two “His hands are free and he is not anchored” (Vannevar Bush)

( continued)

Before continuing it seems pertinent to first discuss what is intended by the term interaction. A dictionary definition of the word proposes that,

“Interactivity is similar to the degree of responsiveness, and examined as a communication process in which each message is related to the previous messages exchanged, and to the relation of those messages to the messages preceding them.” (Wikipedia, 2005 online)

With regards to this definition, arguably all art works are interactive, as the work of art cannot fully be realised until its being is reacted upon by a viewer. Contrary to this definition, within this dissertation the term will be specifically used in reference to works which utilise an electronic system to counter the responses of the performer and through this dialogue change its “material form” (Rubidge, 2001, online). As Rubidge explains,

“All interactive digital artworks, even those which require the simplest forms of interactivity, are driven by a complex computer system which has been programmed to react in response to certain behaviours from the interacting user. The range of productive behaviour available to the viewer/performer varies — from the simple click of a mouse, touch of a screen, or pressure pad underfoot, to the movement of the nervous system or flow of heat from the body, to full-body engagement in a three-dimensional environment.” (Rubidge, 2001, online)

So what are the advantages and new artistic possibilities available to those who choose to create a digitally mediated artwork? The implications of utilising virtual environments are issues which colour not only the creation of the work, but the way it is experienced by the viewer. Firstly there are questions as to the disembodiment of the performer in such an environment, where disparity exists between the body’s proprioception and the weightless physicality that virtual reality employs. Once within a virtual environment who exhibits control over the virtual reality and the body within it? If the performer interacts with the work to a level where their creative responses are integral to the growth and shift of the work, does this make the performer co-creator? Troika Ranch and Palindrome are two companies that make technology an integral part of their artistic process and even create new technology themselves for the development of this hybrid artform. Their concern for audience response and interaction is key to the work they create, even at the most subtle of levels. Robert Wechsler artistic director for Palindrome, discusses issues relating to audience involvement in his essay Computers and Art: a dancer's perspective (1997), explaining how currently in most cases the use of interactivity is somewhat simplistic and that further development is required, “The ideal that I seek, that of a creative venture, initiated and guided by an artist, but which also receives real artistic input from the public, remains elusive”. (Wechsler, 1997, online) Despite this indefinability Wechsler still strives to push the boundaries of his art, finding new solutions to the problems faced when disciplines combine and boundaries blur as in digital dance work. For Wechsler and many others, the lure of democratising art for the masses is too strong and the artistic journey too inviting.


intro : what : works : writing