[-empyre-] "interactive"

Nathaniel Stern nathaniel.stern at gmail.com
Mon Jan 13 13:19:55 EST 2014

Hi everyone,

Thanks for this Katja. I've just gotten my hands on your book, and have begun reading, admittedly out of order. I too concentrated on case studies, so I started there, and I'm really enjoying the descriptive and poetic nature of yours. Here, I'd love to hear more about your "modes of experience," and how they relate between the situation of art, and the practice of the everyday. Can you list a few modes, and maybe give one example in more depth?

This really interested me as well:
> 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. 

I've become more and more interested in what I've been calling the "implicit body." Whereas what Rebecca Schneider calls the explicit body in feminist performance art intervenes in and "unfolds" (the Latin root of explicit) the sedimented layers of signification that make up, for example, "woman" or "phallus," I like the to think that interactive art enfolds (Latin again) what Brian Massumi calls "sensible concepts" - the "physical experience of ideas." More on this in a bit.

First, Johannes suggested we should perhaps start with what we mean by embodiment, and perhaps affect. I'll do my best to concisely say what I mean by them, in relation to such work. From p 2 of my book:

When we move and think and feel, we are, of course, a body. This body is constantly changing, in and through its ongoing relationships. This body is a dynamic form, full of potential. It is not ‘a body,’ as thing, but embodiment as incipient activity. Embodiment is a continuously emergent and active relation. It is our materialization and articulation, both as they occur, and about to occur. Embodiment is moving–thinking–feeling, it is the body’s potential to vary, it is the body’s relations to the outside. And embodiment, I contend, is what is staged in the best interactive art.

I tend to use Brian Massumi's definition of affect, it is is an autonomous, preconscious, embodied sense of the body. Here the body ‘moves as it feels, and it feels itself moving’ (Massumi, Parables, 2002: 1). Proprioception folds the external senses of tactility into the body – what we sense from our skin, for example, and how that feels. Affect and proprioception, together, make up sensation. Sensation (and affect) should not be confused with either perception, or "feelings," for that matter. Both of these are qualified: perception is an understanding of what we sense. Sensation happens before we’ve given word or thought to what is sensed, before we "make sense" of it. Sensation, like embodiment, is nascent; it is moving and thinking and feeling; it is potential and virtual and folding; it is occurring, and about to occur.

And now back to interactive art (p. 3):

Interactive art frames moving–thinking–feeling as embodiment; here ‘the body’ is addressed as it is formed, and in relation. Interactive installations amplify how the body’s inscriptions, meanings, and matters unfold out, while the world’s sensations, concepts, and matters enfold in. The work creates situations that enhance, disrupt, and alter experience and action in ways that call attention to our varied relationships with and as both structure and matter. I suggest that new media has the ability to intervene in, and challenge, not only the construction of bodies and identities, but also the ongoing and emergent processes of embodiment, as they happen. My main focus throughout this text is a framework for the critical experience, practice, and analysis of contemporary art. I ask, ‘How might the body – as process and event – and its potential disruption or resistance, be attendant, provoked, and contextualized in interactive art?’

I go on in my case studies to propose "implicit body thematics" - relations that are "conceptually sensed" experienced and practiced with/in the frame of interactive art (for example: flesh-space with Nora Zuniga Shaw, body-language with Camille Utterback, social-anatomies with Mathieu Briand). 

I should say that I too am a big fan of Kentridge's work, have worked with him in the past (when I lived in South Africa), and write about both his 9 Drawings for Projection (the famous trace and erase charcoals ) and Seeing Double (amazing stereoscopic light sculptures) in my book - wonderful work, which I believe also folds in time and space, matter and perception. Interestingly, in some upcoming art, Kentridge will be using skeleton tracking with Kinects, to animate dancing chairs with some of his lesser known mechatronic strategies. I wish we were able to talk about it here and now, but it's a ways off.

Instead, here is another provocation. I can say without any doubt that the participants shown - who are having their view- and sound-points swapped with each other in real time - are actually closer to "groping at shadows" than in any other interactive artwork I know; and, in my opinion, it is an utterly brilliant intervention into communal sensation, perception, and being. http://www.mathieubriand.com/2001/sys05-ree03-se1-moe2-4/#5



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