[-empyre-] "interactive"

Kwastek, K. k.kwastek at vu.nl
Sun Jan 12 22:23:06 EST 2014

Dear Nathaniel, dear all,
the same goes for me, I am really looking forward to this discussion, thanks to Patrick for inviting us. 

The publication of my "Aesthetics of Interaction" coincided with my start at the VU Amsterdam (anybody interested in an interdisciplinary, art theoretical MA program should look into our VAMA-Master: http://visualartsmediaarchitecture.wordpress.com). After some months dedicated to getting settled there, this is a great opportunity to get back to 'interactivity'.  And really great to be invited to do this in exchange with Sandy and Nathaniel.  

Let me first state that I share some of the key points Nathaniel made, especially regarding interaction/interactivity as limiting. In my book, I suggest to distinguish between INTERACTIVITY as a characteristic of certain systems (bearing the potential for interaction), and INTERACTION as the actual feedback process itself. What has to be understood as limiting, to my view, is interactivity. However, I argue that it is exactly this characteristic which makes interactivity interesting. Instead of perpetuating 1990s' rhetorics circling around expectations of interactivity as implementation of the post-structuralist ideal of collaborative authorship and its respective bashing as not fulfilling these expectations, we have to acknowledge its foundation on (programmed) control as a distinguishing feature. This is why I approach the aesthetics of interaction (in digital art) -amongst others-by outlining its foundation on different forms of rule systems. On the other hand, and here again I agree with Nathaniel, we need to devote far more research to the question as to how these rule systems are activated and experienced by the audience. In order to contribute, I identified various 'modes of experience' on the basis of different case studies (including, but not limited to works which focus on embodiment).  

So what I consider at the core of an aesthetics of interaction (in digital art) is exactly this feedback between the technological system/software/interactive installation and its activation/realization. Both aspects are subject to various spatial and temporal paradigms, can involve more or less materiality and afford more or less bodily presence and can be distributed to various degrees amongst the actors involved. 

As this week's discussion is scheduled to specifically focus on interactive art as related to embodiment, I expect we are going to delve further into that field of thoughts soon. To start with, I will therefore leave it at that very short outline of some thoughts which inform my perspective on interactivity in general, as they form the basis for how I approach questions of embodiment.  

Very best,

Katja Kwastek
Professor of Modern and Contemporary Art / hoogleraar Kunstgeschiedenis van de Moderne Tijd
Faculty of  Arts, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

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