Picture 3

In order to talk about interactive processes and to describe what happens and whether the process is successful or not, it is important to have a clear idea of the kind of interaction the artist has in mind. For instance, does the initiating author intend to work with an informed public that chooses to take part in the work? Or does the maker want to avoid anticipated behaviour and instead prefer to direct the work towards an uninformed public that is more likely to engage in spontaneous interactions? And how do those who participate in it experience the work?

From the perspective of the Participants, interactions can be chosen, unchosen, unknown but happening anyway or they can be ignored, which means they happen without the participant ever realising that he was part of the work.

Not every detail of the interaction can be foreseen, yet knowing about different possibilities gives the maker an insight into other worlds of choices. What could happen is that the initiating author considers would-be interactions but does not purposefully set out to design or determine those kinds of interactions. Rather, the artist creates a less structured interactive space, which is largely shaped by the Participants. The interactions in such a work are deliberately left undesigned. Such a work has an open interactive potential. This kind of interactive work usually ends up accommodating large amounts of interactions that have not been envisioned by the maker.

Is interactive work a means to design the participation of the Other? >> When an interactive work is left ‘open’ and the interactions of Others create new meanings, then the roles of the maker and the participant starts to blur, sometimes to the extent that the participant assumes the role of the author.


Some artists prefer to open up the space for interaction in order to allow for contingencies rather than impose their intentions. Sometimes, however, the emphasis is determined to too great an extent by the random interactions of the participant and not by the conditions of the work or the intentions of the maker, steering clear therefore of the responsibility of the maker herself.

>> We have had lengthy discussions about the extent to which the artist should design interactions. During our discussions Klaas Kuitenbrouwer spoke about how a maker should design a form through which interactions can take place. For this form Klaas coined the phrase an interesting form of freedom.

“No one is inspired to be creative in an empty space. For
me the way I frame and design the role of the participant
is the most essential question determining the beauty of
the process. In this context, the economy of means is a
barometer of the quality of an interactive process. I don’t
want to waste the energy of the other. It doesn’t make sense
to involve a hundred people, let them do something and
then for me as an artist to choose two or three nice inputs
and throw away the rest. For me that would be a badly
designed form of freedom. The input of the other should
always be clearly defined and be seen in the final product.
By doing so the inputs add up and become part of a larger
whole. Furthermore it should be clear to the participant
what her expected role is and what will happen with her
input. Transparency is important to me, but this is not to
say that other artists have the same priorities… whereas
I want transparency, other artists might deliberately choose
not to be transparent.”

Yvonne Dröge Wendel, Amsterdam, 5 November 2005.

“Artists are continuously researching their ethical position,
it is not about making judgements, it’s about suspending
judgement and not trying to locate the value, but rather
allowing the intention to be interpreted in ways that are
relevant to the situation.” Erik Hagoort, Amsterdam, 7
November 2005.

“The beautiful thing about interactive work is that the
moment you let go the unthinkable occurs and unknown
situations arise beyond your own pre-conceptions… I
have to suppress my tendency to intervene or impose my
intentions as to how the work is used and experienced.”
Yvonne Dröge Wendel, Amsterdam, December 2004.

“How do you judge the quality of a process? By the
intentions of the maker or by the reflexes of the
participants?” Jason Bowman, London, 2 November 2005.

“I frame a space in which new behaviour could take place.
In contrast to designing the interactions themselves,
designing the framework in which different types of
interaction can occur leaves more possibility for the
interactions to develop in unanticipated ways… If you
create a completely unknown system then you as maker
have to be very clear in your instructions for others in order
to enjoy your project. It also has to do with understanding
one another. In terms of pushing boundaries, interactive
art is a lot more exciting if you respect the Others…
that you create the work with a respect for participants,
onlookers, viewers, audiences, completers as equal
protagonists.” Yvonne Dröge Wendel, Amsterdam, December

“If you discuss interactive work as something that exists
for the people who interact with it then you question the
notion of authorship. However, if you discuss interactivity
through the notion of aesthetics then you affirm the notion
of authorship. But how you allow others to participate
in producing the work is also an aesthetic decision. The
discussion about artistic intentions and choices is very
different from the discussion about the relationship
between artist and participants.” Klaas Kuitenbrouwer,
Amsterdam, December 2004.

“The quality of interactive work lies in the beauty of a
structure that allows other people to be creative… the
essence of this project is to make the artistic elements of
this structure visible to others.” Lino Hellings, Amsterdam,
December 2004.

“Interaction is not the same as interpretation… reading
a book, for instance, essentially involves interpretation
and not interaction. Interactivity only starts to occur when the Other changes the form of the artwork beyond interpretation, that is beyond applying a meaning to
the work. Whereas interpretation is the re-ordering of
meaning, but does not necessarily involve interaction
on the part of the user, interactivity implies the reordering
of the form of the work. This is a difficult area
because the form is actually a [phenomenological] set of
relations rather than an ontological set of criteria.” Klaas
Kuitenbrouwer, London, 1 November 2005.

“My intention was not simply to produce an ice cream
van convention… but to operate in the cracks between
the power structures of the art industry and the ice cream
catering industry… and to raise difficult questions about
sponsorship and the involvement of Nestlé in an art piece
as opposed to the public funders’ politically correct agenda.
I wanted to talk about dirty money. Ice cream vans offer
a metaphor for the big cover up, given that vans often
sell drugs. Another idea was to do a peace convention
with the slurpy confection vans — vans coming together
to negotiate, but I needed to find out what it is they
would negotiate exactly: such as the lack of a network or
unionisation for mobile confection vans. One the one
hand they are small businesses, self-employed with little
protection, but on the other hand they have great freedom.
To look at the combination of commercial and social
activity involved of ice cream vans, I wanted to create an
event and an image. This gathering of vans, which works
both for the ice cream van owners as a social-networking
event and for the general public as a summer attraction, but
with an absurd twist. I hoped the project would function
within three arenas: the art world (as an event, a film), the
ice cream industry (a series of documents, a networking
event), and the leisure industry (national summer
attraction).” Anna Best, London, April 2006.

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