Traces

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How should interactive art works be documented? Is implementing a process of documentation part of your intentions ? Should you as the artist be the person who documents the process or is it better to ask a professional or a participant to do so? How important are the physical traces of the work for the consequences of your work? Are the subjective experiences of those who come into contact with the work the most critical trace for you? Should these subjective experiences be documented at all? If so, how should they be documented?

Using the basic model (see: Models) allows you to isolate the most essential moments of publication in the entire timespan of your work. This model also highlights which kinds of Others are most important for your work: Participants, Onlookers or Witnesses of Traces. >>

Any documentation is a representation of the actual emergences encountered during the process. This raises the issue of how — if at all — the traces of interactive artworks should be documented and presented to other publics.

The kinds of traces a work leaves relate to the kinds of processes that take place during the work. During our research, we drew a distinction between material and immaterial traces. A material trace or material evidence has a concrete form and is often a remnant, i.e. documentation or images that remain after the work has taken place (photographs, video footage, the leftovers from a dinner, newspaper articles).

These traces , when seen in a museum or in a publication, are often taken to be the sum of the work itself. However, there are also immaterial, experiential traces or immaterial evidence such as memories, insights, engagement, feelings, thoughts and emotions that are never materialised and are therefore infinitely harder to grasp and define. Therefore an interactive process documented as a mediated image in a book, video or on the internet, for example, often fails to convey the range of actual and intangible conditions of the live, interactive moments of the art work.

Should interactivity be documented during the process of the work or after all the experiences have been accumulated? How do you translate the different temporal moments of subjective experiences of Others who appear and disappear at different points in the manifestation of your work? The documentation of interactive works tends to leave out the experience of Others such as the diverse audiences, participants and contributors, yet the traces and spontaneous affects and interactions caused by different types of Others can be a critical aspect of the interactive process itself.

How do you capture the presence and critically document the different durations that can show the typical roles of the makers, various kinds of Participants and Witnesses of Traces who feature in these different timeframes before, during and after the
publication of the work? One strategy for considering how to document aspects of the interactive process is to think of the work as a score of participants, or as a timeline that documents the participant’s experience and identifies all the significant moments of choice and intensities of engagement. (see: Models) You could also consider the process of documentation as an intrinsic part of the art work to be carried out by Participants or Onlookers who are present during the execution of the work so that the remaining traces are made during the interactions, as an important ingredient in the interactive process rather than as a re-presentation of the interactive process.

Traces can also be false. A project that is very well represented in a series of images might actually be an unresolved work with no felt, tangible existence in reality. A so-called ‘resolved’ representation could in fact delude the Witnesses of Traces into believing that the work is a completed and well-executed piece. To what extent can the artist be responsible for documenting the most accurate interpretation of the interactive process? Many visual artists take it upon themselves to arrange the planning, commissioning and executing of the work to the point that they have no time to reflect upon how the work will appear as material evidence. The documentation therefore is often left until a later stage, or even until well after the appearance of the work. Thinking about how to document the project and which traces will remain can disturb a project.

Some artists feel that once documentation is factored into the process it runs the risk of materialising the work, which conflicts with the work’s intended immateriality. The question in this case might then be: what is the impact of the work once
the performance is over? Is it enough that a work lives on in the shared collective memory but without palpable proof?

On the other hand, a work can also leave behind many unpredictable traces . Do you want to document the traces that appear after the work? What are some of the possibilities for critical documentation that retain some of the original live experiences? A curator, for example, might seek relevant aesthetic dimensions beyond the material quality of the physical object. Or the artist might devise a system of communicating with the participants, which itself — if recorded — is a form of documentation.

How to document memories? A hallmark of interactive art is the ephemeral nature of the work. It bears a moment or moments of appearance — the moment of publication — and then subsequently a sudden or gradual disappearance over time. The traces of an interactive work are regularly experienced as memories that reverberate far beyond the moment of appearance. Even if people do not see the work, the work emanates a sphere of influence beyond the publication of the work. While the document such as a photograph or diary is more like a monument of a singular moment. Although interactive work may be largely or totally process oriented, this does not mean that there is no eventual product. For some artists the desire to make an object, a product with which others interact, can be the reason for the interactive process itself. Since interactive work is often experienced by a wider audience through its documentation, it is likely that the documented traces have a far broader public than the actual moments of publication. Whereas artists using theatre are more likely to have standard formats for documentation, such as press nights set up for journalists, reporters and critics, in the visual arts especially, documentation of processes remains difficult and can be a huge headache for artists with a pure focus on the live and transient
interactive experience.

Indeed, the kinds of immaterial or material traces you prefer to collect and convey may be influenced by your own artistic discipline: artists who work interactively in theatre or performance are probably more inclined to accept and endorse the temporaneousness of a performance than an artist who wishes to produce an object with a longer-term existence. Additionally, your cultural background may also inform those kinds of traces you consider important (see also: sen sitivities).

>> We think that choosing to document a project and how and for whom you do so should be a conscious decision. Especially given that there can be a surplus of documentary traces which could override the moments that are the most meaningful in the original work.

*For Lino Hellings, the work’s communication with others is essential to uncovering something that was not previously apparent in the environment in which the work takes place. “My work”, she says, “is to research and visualise the underlying script of a context and make it accessible for others to also become involved in the process of making the work.” The interactive process and collective input towards an aesthetic practice provide new insights for all who were involved in the process and also for
the audiences that witness and come into contact with the work. Here, the process of making something emerges from the relationships between the artist, the context in which she is operating and the interactions with others who shape the material manifestation of the work.

Material evidence
* sculpture
* print
* video
* sound
recording
* photograph
book
* catalogue
* poster
* website
* blog
(to be added to)
Immaterial evidence
* Stories
* memories
* changes of
opinion,
* intuitions
* collective or
individual
subjectivities,
* anecdotes
* desires
* new
perceptions…
(to be added to)

“Friendships, motivations, fascinations, memories are nonmaterial
evidence. If you look at the Fluxus movement…
something remains, their immaterial actions became
manifest as a revolutionary expression, an alternative to
existing social structures.” Yvonne Dröge Wendel, Amsterdam,
November 2004.


“I already think of how the work will manifest itself, and
proceed with prefiguring the implementation of the steps
that will take me there, which I can communicate to the
commissioner. Problematically though, my emphasis is
not on the live moment. From the outset, I already have
documentation in my mind… I annoy myself with already
thinking how it is going to look in a gallery. I should not
spoil my work by imposing how it will look.” Yvonne Dröge
Wendel, Amsterdam, December 2004.

“Interactivity is a mode of publishing, of opening the
work to the public. I make publications, not art works.
With interactive work a lot of people participate in the
work becoming (a) public(ation)… the act of publishing is
the act of opening to the public, the process of becoming
public.” Jouke Kleerebezem, Amsterdam, 5 November 2005.
“In the West there is a continual obsession with material
evidence, what are the strategies I can use to I find an
alternative to this focus?” Mine Kaylan, Amsterdam,
December 2004.


People who see the traces of Dröge Wendel’s Ball — a
gigantic black felt ball with leaves and urban crumbs
clinging to its fabric — might regard the ball on a merely
physical level: as an autonomous sculpture resembling a
supersized full stop. Yet those who have participated in
rolling the ball have experienced the work as a changing
form of collective accumulation of immaterial encounters
that goes beyond the work’s physical manifestation. The
work is a juxtaposition of a material object and a transient
moment in time — it exists as a complex of intersections
between space and time. (Eds.)

“My work is to research and visualise the underlying
script of a context and make it accessible for others to also
become involved in the process of making the work.”
Lino Hellings


Hellings produced a photo album of narratives together
with the residents of the Tabitha home for elderly women.
A life-sized photograph of the women dressed as a football
team — FC Tabitha — has been installed in the sliding
doors at the entrance to the home. The image was the
result of a long-term engagement with the women and
Hellings’ observation that the residents formed small
cliques, each excluding the others. The team photograph
emerged from a story about football told by one of the
residents. If this work were identified solely as the image
on the sliding doors, it would hardly warrant the label
“interactive”. The point is that the work involves a broader
participatory process, and it is this process that Hellings
had set out to design. The team photograph is only one of
many components that make up the entire work, but it is
the element that leaves the most tangible visual trace.

By contrast, Yvonne Dröge Wendel begins with the design
of an object. She makes objects with a material form that
prompt interaction, which trigger experiences and affect
behaviour. All these immaterial interactions take place
beyond the work’s physical parameters in an intangible
dimension of nuanced processes relating to its interaction
with Others . Dröge Wendel’s object is a prop that not
only invites interactivity but which also accumulates the
transient and personal encounters all those people who
interact with it. (Eds.)

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