Arenas

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If your work involves 1) the form and substance of the work together with 2) the contexts of the work’s different moments of publication and 3) Others who are likely to contribute meaning to it, then we consider you to be a maker of interactive work. These three facets constitute the critical triad that is essential to our definition of interactive work. This could mean that a work that was not originally conceived of as interactive could later be considered interactive by re-contextualising the work through this framework of form, context of publication and the perceptions and contribution of meaning by Oth – ers . This reframing could be done at a later stage by either the maker, or through the facilitation of a curator or the interpretations of audiences who view and experience the work. As multiple readings of art emerge and develop, many art works are being reconsidered and situated as interactive works.

Many artists who use interactive working methods prefer to operate in social contexts beyond the art world so that their works take on a broader significance. >>

In order to implement an arena’s agenda, the arena has its own particular rule structure. These rule structures and the general acceptance of and adherence to them creates the conditions and values of that type of arena. The individuals who function within those arenas act within and according to these rule structures and thus share and maintain the distinct values of an arena.

When a maker creates an interactive work for a particular arena, the art work appears or even becomes embedded within this arena. The people who are usual players in this particular arena are encouraged to engage with the interactive work as participants. Their different perspectives and inputs can greatly influence the shape of the interactive work. Two of the main types of arenas (besides the art arena) where interactive art practices are most often implemented are educational arenas and political arenas.

Generally speaking, when an interactive art practice is executed in an educational arena, the conceptualisation and realisation of the work are often intended as didactic, goal-oriented opportunities for learning, which can be evaluated afterwards. While in political arenas, art works are sometimes intended to complement or even solve political issues, or to negotiate understanding between different stakeholders, or to compensate for the lack of a coherent political standpoint on a certain issue.

However, it is important to be aware that many politically motivated art works are not necessarily intended to function in any other arena other than the art arena. >>

Interactive art works operate in more than one arena and for that reason need to negotiate a variety of rule structures simultaneously. Serving, or playing between, two or more different rule structures can be highly problematic if these rules lead to conflicting priorities in the execution and evaluation of the work. One analogy is playing a board game with a single set of pieces but using two different rulebooks concurrently. What then is the value of a specific move? One move could mean two very different things according to two distinct sets of rules.

Yet rather than comply completely with the rule structures of a particular arena, it seems essential — and arguably the role of art — that artists create and implement their own rule structures as a necessary alternative or refreshing deviation from the standard rule structures of specific arenas .However, if artists enter a certain arena, they will, to some extent, need to adjust their own artistic rules to the rule structure of that particular arena — for if they do not adapt to the arena’s rule structure they will not have fully entered the arena . It is also possible that the usual players within an arena remain unaware of the artist’s intervention and, as such, all players continue to act according to their familiar rules rather than perceive and consider the new ‘game rules’ presented by the interactive conditions of the art work.

However, there are two main reasons why the artist’s intervention may not have any effect in the arena: 1) because the artist complies to too great an extent with the rule structure of an arena or 2) because the interactive work ends up being absorbed and unnoticed in the arena because the rule structure is too all-pervasive and controlling. When identifying different arenas , it is clear that an artist should enter a certain arena only when he is aware of the context of rules and agendas within that arena. The artist should be capable of drawing attention to the contrast between his own alternative rules and the rule structure of the arena he enters.

If he does not take into account the rule structure of the arena he runs the risk of either becoming assimilated or of not being able to enter the arena he wishes to work in at all. For many people who act within a given arena , the arena’s rules remain unquestioned. It is only when the arena’s ruling paradigm is challenged that the rules become explicit. The potential of an interactive work therefore is to make visible and challenge implicit agendas and rule structures. The Arenas model illustrates some of the difficulties faced in trying to work in different arenas simultaneously.

Interactive art that involves participatory practice may also get caught up in serving the social agenda of city councils, such as community building in urban peripheries or between socially under-privileged minority groups. In the UK, artists initiating participatory art have become bracketed as ‘socially-engaged’ or ‘community-based’, which has a distinct and often less-esteemed agenda than that of so-called ‘fine art’.

When the artist becomes too embroiled in the interests of a particular agenda and /or the rule structure of a specific arena, the artist may fall into the trap of providing a service like that of a civil servant (a social worker, a teacher) or becoming complicit in developing the brand image of the commissioner such as a city council. To avoid becoming caught up in this way (unless it is your intention to serve the interests of a particular community) it is essential to be critically aware of the agendas within different arenas . If you do not question the context and relations in which you operate, you may become complicit in perpetuating the agenda and the rule structure of that particular arena.

For example, when working for a commission in a particular arena, your intentions may come into conflict with the intentions of the commissioner or with others operating in that arena.

MAKERS-tek-nikolausSketch by Nikolaus Gansterer

>> During our discussions we termed the different realms of society (including the art world) as arenas . In addition, we raised the importance of understanding a specific agenda. The agenda is the interests and the modus operandi of an arena. The agenda can greatly steer or impact upon the work’s conceptualisation and realisation. As such, the agenda that governs an arena is an important part of the critical triad of the art work.

>> What we are considering here are works that are made for a political arena as well as the art arena. For instance, the interactive game Face your World made by artist Jeanne van Heeswijk aims to encourage children to participate in the process of designing their own urban environment and to therefore produce a political effect.

main types of arenas
 * art arena
 * educational
 arena
 * political
 arena

“With interactive works, one creates a temporary
community, which shares a freedom that resists being
reduced to a fixed identifiable character… art’s advantage
is its playfulness, its ability to act between the formal
borders of society’s organisations without being obliged
to abide by particular artistic, economic, political and social
rules nor to fulfil their criteria. Art’s radical potential is
its deviation from existing rules or the creation of new
freedoms between old rules.” Wietske Maas, Amsterdam,
6 November 2005.


Lino: “An informed art audience has its own sets of rules
that prevents it from being open to other possibilities.”
Mine: “Part of your work as an artist is to find ways of
communicating your interventions.”
Yvonne: “it’s a problem because you need to tell them that it
is not a work that can be interpreted according to the art
canon. It’s a new set of rules.”
Mine: “But art questions those territories. I create a
conceptual map for myself that defines other territories,
which steps outside the boundaries of the standard set of
rules.” Mine Kaylan, Yvonne Dröge Wendel, Lino Hellings,
Amsterdam, December 2004.

“I look for a process of dismantling rules, of derailing the
codes and protocols so those who come into contact with
the work become aware of their own rules and structures.”
Lino Hellings, November 2004, Amsterdam.


Over the past fifteen years, Lino Hellings has worked
in arenas ranging from a home for the elderly, primary
schools, railway stations, suburbs and the internet. She
sometimes works on her own artistic projects, sometimes
on commissions for a specific context, and occasionally as
an urban planning researcher giving an artistic form to her
research. She composes a rule structure (or in her words a
script of rules) for each arena, which is adapted according to
the different agendas of each arena that accommodates the
work. (Eds.)


“I have often been considered as a socially engaged artist.
I want to be able to talk about my work and not to be
categorised by it, to tease out a certain kind of freedom
from categorical restraints. It’s a shame that different
artists cannot talk about their processes, because of this
discipline lumping. The beauty of collaborative projects is
still an ideal rather than an actuality. A loss of exchange.
We have to come up with the terms and time for reflexive
use of language that overcomes the tendency always
to affirm one’s own discipline.” Yvonne Dröge Wendel,
Amsterdam, November 2004.

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