What is interactive art? Well we can start by examining the word “interactive.” I discussed this in class with my Professor because I was having trouble with distinguishing “interaction” from “participation.” We talked about how both involve connecting with some person, object or situation, but interaction occurs when you initiate a change. Thus, interactive art is art with the potential for human connection and manipulation.
I watched a video about Myron Krueger’s Videoplace, a technical, responsive environment in which video cameras capture a person’s movements and project them on a screen. The
participants can do a variety of things such as interact with a miniature version of their body, draw pictures, or play with a virtual “critter.” My first reaction was one of shock, for I was completely unaware that this sort of invention was taking place as early as the 1970s. I quickly watched a few more videos about Videoplace, and specifically, the interaction of the participant and the “critter.”This connection occurs when the green bug-like image detects a body part and “lands” there, and when the person moves their body the critter stirs and “flies away.” It all seems a bit silly, but this artistic creation is certainly interactive, as the participant is causing the critter to move and change its place in space. At the end of the video, Krueger explained how his hope for this feature is for autistic individuals to use this technology to help them learn how to connect with others, something that autistic patients struggle with.
I immediately Google-searched, “virtual reality to treat autism.” I ended up finding a website called autismspeaks.org and reading an article about a study conducted by Dr. Daniel Yang, who has worked to improve a program called Virtual Reality Social Cognition Training. Basically, patients are immersed in a virtual scenario with a computer screen as the interface. The patients’ facial expressions are filmed and projected onto a virtual avatar who interacts with other avatars, as the patient is guided through various exercises that require the use of social skills. The result? Patients come away with a better sense of how to act in society and connect with others. I find this rather fascinating, that a technology that looks like a computer game can actually be used to treat an illness. I cannot help but wonder if Dr. Yang was inspired by Krueger’s critter..
So what does all of this mean here? Well I think what I have learned is that not only the medium of art is changing, but also the viewing experience. Before, most art was viewed from a distance, with a passive, non-invasive eye. When you walk into an art gallery full of paintings, there is not much you can do besides admire them. But the increase in digital, interactive art lets the viewer change the course of the experience. Most likely, the viewer will have access to a button or some other interface that allows them to change and manipulate something, creating a personal experience that is unique. It is this individualized encounter with art that allows technology to achieve things like offering treatment for various illnesses, and that is something to be recognized and applauded.
- (top) from inventinginteractive.com
- (bottom) from autismspeaks.org