video workshop week.02

thoughts on this weeks reading from Film Art Phenomena, by Nicky Hamlyn

II Interactivity

“Seeing is the decisive act, and ultimately it places the maker and the viewer on the same level.”

Sure seeing is decisive, as in it produces a definite result in one’s mind, but as far as placing the maker and the veiwer on the same level, i’m not sure that is any more true than saying, “reading is a decisive act, it places the reader and the writer on the same level,” or, “hearing is a decisive act, it places the hearer and the speaker on the same level.” They say that seeing is beleiving, but this is perhaps no more true than hearing, reading, or dreaming.

On “interactive cultural products:” I suppose this is what makes for good interaction, that the user is able to be a creative as possible, while still being engaged. After all, total creativity, or authorial control in an interaction can be much less engaging than assisted creativity. Especially if the user is not especially creatively inclined or talented. The goal is to make the user look good.

As in the severed heads emample, there may exist a prerequisite of context whereby the user’s engagement is enganced because they know they are meant to be engaged, i.e. they have come to the gallery to see this space. Whether or not this interaction and the things that can be gained from it are more or less than those things that can be gained from a discreet interaction whereby the ‘spectator’ may or may not realize they are meant to be engaged.

Hamlyn writes, “…this interactivity is is acheived at the cost of the insight and understanding achieved through contemplation.” Perhaps, but much insight can occur with “static art” after the ‘spectator’ leaves the gallery. Much ‘static’ art also works on a very visceral level.

Hamlyn continues, “If anything, the activity of interaction renders contemplative consideration of what one has done impossible.” Impossible? I’m not so sure about this. I tend to relise more profound things about systems when I am involved within them, when I experience them, as well as taking an objective stance. I do however agree with the possibility that “being able to rearrange elements within a work in any way that one wants, one is effectively talks to one self,” but that does not necessitate that meaning “drain away.” Comparing as Hamlyn does interactivity to traditional “non-interactive” painting he states, “…the rectangular form of a painting can seem limiting and arbitrary…until we realise that most good paintings use those rectilinear boundaries as compositional boundaries to energise and focus the picture.” I am interested in how this notion then translated to the letterbox of film and video. Veiwing a film in a theatre is certainly a different experience than viewing that same film at home on your television or even on your iPod while riding the train. And film is certainly a different medium than television. I will argue however that the rectilinear form of film and television is be limiting and arbitrary, simply because it must conform to the absolute homogeny of the television and film aspect ratio. With a few exception such as IMAX, and some projection techniques, the compositional nature of television’s 4:3 aspect ration is a direct result of how we have always made TV’s. This is beginning to change with the gradual increase in the 16:9 aspect ratio, but I would argue that in terms of compositional innovation and experimentation on a widespread basis, television is era’s behind painting. Television’s constraints, in this way, do not become “(inter)active elements in the compostition” in the same way as Hamlyn thinks of them as doing so for painting.

“The spectator is not wholly absorbed, to the point of self-forgetting…but becomes a tentative self-conscious intervener…” This is why interactive art is very hard. And yes, not all interactive art needs to be narrative, in fact none of it does, but as we are thinking about interactive art within the context of video, narration seems hard for me to avoid in some way, even if it is expressionistic. Empathy causes self-forgetting. There is no empathy without connection. Narration is the easiest form of connection. Everyone loves a good story.

In “Two Sides to Every Story,” Hamlyn goes on to describe Michael Snow’s film of the same name in which the same story is essentially told in two different ways and projected back to back so that a viewer is unable to view both simultaneously. This inevitably took place in a gallery. The infrastructure of movie theatre obviously dictate exclusion for this kind of content, and so it refrains from the mainstream and becomes “art” in a gallery. What if this weren’t the case? I can almost picture Snow knowing his film would never be screened in a conventional theatre to large audiences and so that affects the working content. But what if a mainstream film could work in this way. You have to see the movie twice. Once on one side, once on the other. Less interactive? More engaging? Hamlyn goes on to state, “…we could never, in principal, experience all of it. The most we cojld ever experience would be less than half of a version of a whole thing.” I would add to that, “at one time,” and also say that while this may be true, it seems that the piece is giving us double the experience to begin with.

Release of tension.
This may be the single most important element in entertainment, and one might argue engagement. A satisfying experience, tension release.

The piece is fucking called “ARBITRARY LOGIC.” The idea that it “challenges this drive” of mastery and completion of a system in any active way is in the mind of the Hamlyn, as I see it.

Thoughts about Jensen’s ‘Interactive Room 12′:
If no one know’s you’re doing conceptual art, the art can’t mean anything. Art does not exist without an audience. In speaking about ‘Interactive Room 12′ Jensen states, “only very few members of the audience even knew they were interacting.” Yes, in an interactive work of art, change is somehow initiated by the viewer. But for it to be meaningful art, *someone* has to know about it. If it’s the viewers of the viewers, that’s still valid. In this piece, because the feedback from the interaction is so gradual and subtle it fails to work. It falls below the case-specific threshold of knowledge of self-awareness of a viewer within a work of art. To negate this is to claim also that *all* art is interactive. My presence, by body heat, breath and vibration of movement all affect the object of art in some miniscule way. Is this interactivity? In the simplest example, If I push a button labled “shut off in 3,000 years” and in 3,000 years, a light above an “interactive painting” shuts off, is this interactivity, or does interactivity require the user to know and experience tangible evidence in some way of the change they have affected on a thing?
If art happens in a forrest sort of thing…

It seems that Hamlyn was with us the whole time when he states of both video games *and* much interactive art, “what has the participant really gained?” This, he argues is due to the fact that the viewer, and the subject, essentially remain unchanged.

This feels like this is all to say something, to come to some sort of conclusion or argument on interactive art, but I will refrain from doing so, as I don’t see it in any way valid.