Sensitivities

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This chapter is about the underlying artistic sensitivities that bring an inexhaustible range and mix of views to the discussion on interactive art practices.

An artist’s sensitivities are informed by their discipline and their cultural and social contexts. As mentioned in the introduction, interactivity is a meta-discipline. This means it is a discipline that informs all other artistic disciplines but does not dominate the form of that discipline. Most artists using interactive working methods have distinct artistic sensitivities informed by historical discourses and concerns. These may be characteristic of particular artistic disciplines, the issues shared by a single generation, the values and influences of a particular educational institution or their cultural frameworks. As such, every artist is influenced by a different collection of sensitivities that emphasises different kinds of relations between significant Others , timeframes and traces of the work.

Consider the different languages artists use: performance artists have their own distinct way of talking about representations and processes, which concentrates on the absolute here and now and a located physical presence, while new media people tend to use language that refers to a time-based mediated presence that is a relative here and now.

A visual artist may tend to be sensitive to the art work as object. They may be convinced that the main signifying aspect of an art work is material in nature, or strongly believe the opposite. This polarisation of sensitivities is not easily understood from the perspective of theatre and performance.

Another important element of interactive practice that is informed by your sensitivities is the element of time. Which concept of time do you use? Do you consider a work to be interactive only if there is a live exchange in real-time, so that the moment of interaction has to take place at a given moment? Or can the interaction happen from a distance, between say the user and the desktop at a time convenient for the user? Do you as the maker determine the time-span of the interaction or do the Others who participate in your work have a say in determining the duration of the work?

Theatre makers tend to be sensitive to aspects that have to do with liveness and the immediacy of physical co-presence. Their interactive work occurs in a space that is simultaneously shared by performers and participants or an audience. When new media people talk about liveness and co-presence they might mean mediated liveness and virtual copresence — a liveness of a very different nature, at least very different to the notion of time according to the sensitivity of theatre.

Different sensitivities stem from the discipline in which you trained and your upbringing. Your approach to time might differ significantly from that of an artist from another culture who uses a particular cultural means of expression. But the differences may be even greater between your approach to time and that of someone trained in another discipline.

The point here is that in order to be able discuss the quality of an interactive work it is important to understand the artistic disciplines and cultural backgrounds of an initiating author independently of the interactivity as a meta-discipline. Here we wish
to avoid any criticisms or value judgements made according to a specific discipline or cultural context.

We consider disciplines to be more like sub-arenas to the art arena. The maker enters a discipline by adopting the rule structures of that discipline. Every discipline has its own often-implicit sets of rules.

“It’s about multiple translations [between sensitivities]
rather than the transmission of one singular discourse.”
Jellichje Reinders, Amsterdam 5 November 2005.


“I want the ability to continuously reposition myself… My
concern is no longer about the disciplines — I’m more for
an undisciplined art. I freed myself to feel alienated in a
way that can be positive. The advantage of not belonging,
of being an outsider in relation to a particular culture or a
discipline, is that you are more aware of the set of rules…
Now to my own astonishment, the field I’m in is becoming
a discipline… so I suddenly belong again! If interactive art
is a discipline, then I want to be concerned with working
within this newly defined discipline and to participate
in making this discipline alive… to create a clearing for
people to work in, in a collaborative and perhaps disturbing
way. There are a lot of contradictions I’d like to research
such as usefulness and the quality of being useless… Live
art should critically investigate the clichés that are inherent
to our sense of belonging in society. The interdisciplinary
field is itself an emerging field. My next step would be to
research the intercultural field in a similar fashion. I think
that interactive and interdisciplinary art is a means to
working interculturally. My aim is to research the notion
of interactivity and its potential to generate cross cultural,
cross-disciplinary dialogue for both professionals and
users.” Lino Hellings, Amsterdam June 2005.


Mine: “There seems to be an obstacle to acknowledging the
poetic experience of live experience… Documentation
often becomes the representation of what happened,
which is actually not what it was or is.”
Yvonne: “However, in Eastern cultures the live experience
is given more value but it also is a poetic experience that
has a social function, a ritual… We lose a lot of detail
through categorisation… People look for ways to attach
what they experience to specific disciplines. Maybe as artists we can attach our poetics, to other social functions
such as insurance policies or burial rituals… To attach a
new set of rules to an existing set of rules.” Lino Hellings,
Mine Kaylan, Yvonne Dröge Wendel, Amsterdam December
2004.


Lino: “On the one hand there are sensitivities that are very
positive possibilities; on the other the sensitivities are
more confrontational. I researched undisciplined art in
the Netherlands — undisciplined means that you do not
consolidate in one area. Take the sensitivities that don’t belong to your area.”
Jouke: “So undisciplined means you can slip in and out of disciplines.”
Lino: “Yes. Dada, for instance, was a movement that
consistently chose to stay out of disciplines. It requires a
great effort to be undisciplined. Lino Hellings and Jouke
Kleerebezem, Amsterdam, 5 November 2005.


“With this project, my interests lie in live arts and
education and with that the politics and acknowledgement
of experience exchange and how cultural values are
attached to it. I’m interested in the kind of relational
systems… and how one might be able to appropriate
them for other forms, such as education. I am currently
interested in setting up different models for interaction for
live experience. My burning question for an Architecture
of Interaction is why, in Western cultures, does live
interaction seems to be valued less than in (what I perceive
to be) non-Western cultures? In a way we (Western
cultures) do value the live experience, but not culturally
and socially, that is in our everyday lives. For me the issue is
how might you generate different models that come close
to being a critical and sustained interpretation of the live
experience.” Mine Kaylan, Amsterdam December 2004.

sculpture-physical-body

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