Ronald van Tienhoven: Entities, Animism and Interactivity

For: A wedge between private and public
Symposium in interactivity and public space
22 April 2010
SESSION 3 – Object

Report by Juliana Brunello

Ronald Tienhoven first assures us that he is not a true theorist, but an artist. His theoretical thinking is however very well developed, as we could witness during his speech.

He starts by saying that networks, things, interfaces, etc., are entities, they are (like) living things that can be cuddled or hated. In other words, they are just as ubiquitous as we are ourselves. In the old days, people thought of stones as being entities. Nowadays there is a new kind of animism. Thus one could say that there is a continuity in the interaction between things and people.

Tienhoven suggests we should not think of technology vs. human beings, but as a kind of interaction between both, as words and as phenomenon.

He shows us then an example of actor network theory in form of a video. It is a commercial about a couple who won the lottery and bought a yellow mercedes. For the car to go over a speed bump, the ‘wife’ needs to get out of the car with her purchases. He explains: Winning the Lotto makes the network of money to ‘touch’ them. They are in a new kind of fate that comes together with new problems.

Ferdydurke by Witold Gombrowicz

This book is also about animism. Objects have a kind of inherited quality and each one takes its own context with them into new situations. It implies a certain kind of interaction. They are energies that interact with each other. In one part, the protagonist pulls the wings off of a fly and puts into this girl’s shoes, as a form to get rid of his love for her. The erotic qualities of the shoes disappear by means of that fly. The meaning of the shoe changes due to the new interaction between shoe and fly.

Cronicas de bustos domecq, 1967, written by Adolfo Bioy Casares, Jorge Luis Borges:

In this book there is a story about a man who decides to stop writting, he just tells stories in the bars in Buenos Aires.This way, he does not make the object ‘book’, but inflicts other people with his stories, which he consciously doesn’t tell in a good stylistic way, so that society will be the one polishing it in order for it to become a ‘beautiful flower’. Tienhoven explains: An artist can make/write a scenario to the point where nobody else is able to participate. Interaction becomes only a wishful thinking of the artist.

Statue of Carlos Gardel:

People interact with this sculpture by putting a cigarette between the statue’s fingers. “He is a chain smoker for the whole day”. On the one hand, this could have been anticipated, but this was not the case. This interaction was not pre-conceived by the artist who made the sculpture. Tienhoven sees a latent space that is filled with possibilities.

Diepenheim 52,13N. 6,33E

This is a project he did together with Arno van der Mark. Here Mark tries to re-invent and re-define the notion of city planning. Everything that goes underground of a city, like sewer systems, are built first, and this way they limit the creativity and possibilities of city planning. If one tries to add some notes onto the landscapes, where things are available, then interesting things might happen in respect to the freedom people get, like building their hauses in clusters or appart from each other. This is, in his opinion, a very important notion concerning interactivity, that there is a space that can be filled up, without being preconceived by the artist.