A wedge between private and public – Conference Reports

Posted: May 4, 2010 at 8:13 pm  |  By: julianabrunello  |  Tags: , , , , , , ,

A wedge between private and public
Symposium in interactivity and public space
22 April 2010

SESSION 1 - AFFECT

SESSION 2 - INTERFACE

SESSION 3 - OBJECT

Johan Hoorn: Mutual blackboxing

Posted: May 4, 2010 at 8:01 pm  |  By: julianabrunello  |  Tags: , , , , ,

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

Report by Juliana Brunello

Johan Hoorn is a computer scientist and technologist whose work consists of affective computing, which means programming human things, or robots as a third body as one might say.

He and his team look deeply into the relation between humans and machines. As he points out, there is a human agency as well as a machine agency, which is called artificial intelligence. For technologists, the user is the black box, not the machine; as it is very hard to define what the user will do with a certain technology.

He agrees to the statement that there is morality embedded in design. Empirical research has shown that this is the main factor that will bring users to actually use a thing. It is not only necessary to look into the skills of a person, but also to look at the skills of a machine in order to understand its character. This overcrossing is put into the robot, so it has also features of its user. This way, the object will respond to the human. They also implement goals of into the robot. The AI will adapt to the user, and the user will adapt to the AI.

Inside the black box of the machine there is code, which is the implementation of what designers have though. The designer does push forward what he wants you to do, but he believes that this is relative.

The machine/robot is tested with humans. The humans are in charge of diagnosing the machine's system. Black boxes are redesigned if necessary, in order to make a machine that is more human-like. In this sense, it is the artist's role to deconstruct and find the meaning of that robot/avatar

Ronald van Tienhoven: Entities, Animism and Interactivity

Posted: May 4, 2010 at 12:34 pm  |  By: julianabrunello  |  Tags: , , , , ,

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.

Yvonne Droge Wendel: Objects and Things

Posted: May 4, 2010 at 12:23 pm  |  By: julianabrunello  |  Tags: , , , , ,

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

Report by Juliana Brunello

The Moderator Klaas Kuitenbrouwer started the third session of the conference by introducing some of the thoughts that Willem van Weelden had for his keynote speech, but could not attend due to illness. His conference would have been about the essentialism hidden in Bruno Latour's actor network theory Kuitenbrouwer picked some phrases that Weelden told him over the phone: in the actor network theory of Latour there is an endless opening of black boxes, which turns out to be an endless process. Weelden refers to it as "a road to hell". In our hyper-capitalist society there is also less and less margin in which ambiguous objects, like interactive art in public space, can exist as well as responded to. His speech will be published on the website later on.

The third session, having 'lost' their theorist, ended up having a more artistical approach. The first speaker was Yvonne Droge Wendel , a visual artist from the Object Research Lab. Her presentation was mostly "improvised", what made it all more interesting.

Wendel introduced her project, which central questions are: What is an object? What is a thing? She points out, that this is quite impossible to answer, so instead, she tried to collect definitions for both terms during some of the meetings she organized on the theme. In order to do that she invited people from different disciplines, like material engineers and philosophers, and discussed these questions with them for a longer period of time. It was interesting for her to see how a kind of translation has taken place among the disciplines throughout the discussion.

(During her speech there was a grey ball rolling around the conference, seemingly aimless - one of the projects of the artist, controlled by remote control.)

The Swiss Army Knife and its morality: One comes with cork screw (for higher officers); another comes with bottle opener (for the lower ranks). Ronald van Tienhoven: Since soldiers drink beer, they only need the bottle opener, and only the Swiss Army Knives have a cork screw, because they are the ones who drank wine. Wendel: Each object has embedded in it a kind of morality. If one has/wants a certain skill, it gets embedded in the process of designing the object. Tienhoven: another example would be to have a second staircase for the servants. Modernism took a long time to become emancipated, as one can see in city planning, architecture and production of Swiss Army Knives.

Starting point of Wendel's research, as Kuitenbrouwer points out, is that a thing is not defined, it is always something in contextualized and in relation to each other. The basis of it is the actor network theory. The interpassivity theory builds upon a fundamental difference of human subjects on the one hand, and technological subjects on the other hand. Humans and technologies together form networks as functioning entities (Latour). The object is never a thing by itself, it always 'does' something. An object is always relational. How these relations work is a question Wendel tries to answer in her project.

It is also about bringing the ideas of what objects are in general. E.g. why city planners would put a beautiful sculpture in a neighborhood and think it would do good, but that a bad sculpture would not do any harm? Is it possible for objects to be bad? Where do we start talking about things or objects? Molecules, something one can touch, an aspirin within the body? What about the temporal aspect?

"The mercedness of a Mercedes car can only come out on a good highway". Wendel emphasizes that you cannot say you have a good bicycle if you don't have a good road to ride it. There is always a relation among objects.

At the lab, Wendel and her team are trying to translate the discussions into materials. They are also trying to come up with new ideas for different objects this way. Every time someone makes things, it is made for a specific purpose. She thought therefore that it would be interesting to make objects with the purpose of thinking about things. They are not made for any other use.

They use the same color for all the objects they create, so that they don't have too many qualities. By reducing them to their inner relational qualities, one can start thinking on how many qualities one object has to have in order for them to be able to discuss 'things'. These objects have also specific aspects, like the Tracer, a curtain that depending on how it is positioned can be a square or a rectangle. Other example is a de-skiller object and a slime mold by Sher Doruff.

She finalizes by pointing out that each discipline has its objects that they use for discussion. There are human things and thingy things. A bicycle lock relates to another object, making it a thingy thing. The social sciences for instance look at human things.

Christa Sommerer: Interfacing Reality

Posted: May 4, 2010 at 12:04 pm  |  By: julianabrunello  |  Tags: , , , , ,

For: A Wedge between private and public
Symposium in interactivity and public space
22 April 2010
SESSION 2 - Interface

Report by Juliana Brunello

Christa Sommerer's main topic is interfaces in art. She starts by citing Lev Manovich: the language of new media. He predicted that "we will see a language of interface develop as we saw a language of the cinema". After that, she quotes Peter Weibel, who read in an exhibition catalogue that artists in the age of Youtube, Flickr, MySpace, etc., lose the monopoly on creativity. This means, everybody can be artistically creative these days.

The question of "what is an interface" is what interests Sommerer the most. She tries to look in her research on how interface and interaction have been used in different domains so far, with a special focus on art and interactive art.

According to Sommerer, Peter Weibel has shown that cartography was one of the earliest forms of interface studies. This means that interface goes back to surface science. There is therefore a connection between surface and interface. Nowadays we see a tendency of the representation of the interface to become the interface itself. Weibel points out to the system Google Earth, which is making the representation of the earth turn into the way we see the earth itself.

Interaction is a term that has been used also in sociology and social psychology. Wechselwirkung is another term similar to interaction, but with more 'layers'. Georg Simmel defines Wechselwirkung as a kind of interaction between interpersonal relationships. This term has also been used by Herbert Blummer in the symbolic interactionism theory. Moreover, the stimulus-response theory deals with the social relationships and the interactions amongst people.

Human-machine interactions (e.g. through the mouse or the keybord) have been changing the way we interact with technology. Nowadays we are talking about the disappearing computer, cloud computing and the miniaturizations of the interfaces. Now every object can become an interface. The challenge is for her how to deal with these transformations from an artistic point of view.

Interaction-design is a consequence of these types of interactions. She believes that designers are becoming the engineers of social meaning, as they are the ones who define the interfaces that need to disappear and the ones that need to be easy to use.

The concept of interaction and participation in art has a very strong aspect of involving the public into the work of art. The enacting of the work of art becomes part of social participation. This is not new to the new media era, but has been around for a long time. Already in the 1930s it has been proclaimed that the audience should get more involved. Humberto Eco also suggests that. Yoko Ono's Cutting Piece is one example of performative/interactive art.

Peter Weibel's project Ation Lecture Number 2, is another example of interactive art. While Weibel is on stage, a film of himself giving the same lecture is projected, during which the audience could interact by changing things in the projector. Sommerer points out that this would be a good example of Galloway's edge as interface.

She recommends the book Art as Feedback where they look at the connection of early cybernetic art to nowadays examples of media art, interactive art as well as how topics have evolved or changed.

Examples of cultural interfaces:

Cultural interfaces is a term from the book of Steven Johnson, where he argues that interfaces were intruding our lives. Sommerer believes it is important for artists to think about the impact of such interfaces as well as how to deal with them.

E.g. 1) Laurent Mignonneau's and Sommerer's work Interactive Plant Growing is about intuitive interactions and interfaces, by using plants as interfaces. There people could touch real plants and grow artificial plants on the screen.

E.g. 2) New music instruments: Reactable (Kaltenbrunner), pipeSound (Wagner, Rettenbacher), Mountain Guitar (Kanebako),

E.g. 3) Headbang Hero: a wig that measures the bits per minute and brain damage of a headbanger.

E.g. 4) Interfaces integrated into homes/intelligent ambiences:

a) The Living Room: a project that one could use the whole body to navigate the internet

b) Interactive Wall: a wall that reacts to your breathing. The wall breathes with you.

E.g. 5) Garden of Eden: an experiment involving polution data taken from the internet and salad growing (Wilks, Moser)

E.g. 6) Mobile feelings: a telephone to exchange useless information, like breathing or heartbeat.

She finalizes by pointing out that it is important to draw a distinction of interfaces in art and for industry. Often these experiments of making new interfaces in art are not driven by the idea of usefulness, but by the pleasure of exploring new ideas.

Going back to the statement of Weibel, it is true that everybody can be artistically creative, but it is important to reflect back on artistic values and individualism in contemporary media art production. Artists should not only be concerned about using technology in a creative way, but also to ask questions like why we use such technologies. They should go beyond the technology.

Recommended books: Interface Cultures. The art of science of interface and interaction design.

Steven van Thije: Museum Interfacing

Posted: May 3, 2010 at 6:22 pm  |  By: julianabrunello  |  Tags: , , , , ,

For: A Wedge between private and public
Symposium in interactivity and public space
22 April 2010
SESSION 2 - Interface

Report by John Haltiwanger

Steven van Thije spoke to address the notion of interface and how it relates to art, especially in the sense of the museum. Invoking Michael Serres' *The Parasite*, Steven discussed how "systems work because they don't work"--if a relation remains it is because the connection has failed. In terms of art, one can either act within the realm of the interface or one can engage the interface directly. This is the idea of playing with the limits versus using already understood rules.

Artwork can be an action upon the interface or it can be a moment of density within a system. How does a museum facilitate this? 19th century museums did not display art on the wall in an organized gallery style. Instead the collection was placed "all at once" on the wall, a kind of direct interface to the art depot. The type of knowledge production in the culture at large is reflected in the interface of museums. In the early twentieth century museums began to transition towards becoming an exhibition space rather than an art depot. The 19th century museum interface pointed towards the universal while the 20th century museum points addresses the individual with its exhibition interface. The exhibition style was designed to disappear the body of the audience.

What is currently happening in the museum space? If art no longer functions as Rockwell's did (self-contained, internal focus) and instead focuses on the edges, how do we display it? Less and less artwork is just objects to collect but rather installations. Therefore artwork cannot just be collected and placed in the art depot. When the artwork is a complex interface it allows for contemplation of how to share and/or display this type of art.

Alexander Galloway: The Medium is an Interface

Posted: May 3, 2010 at 6:10 pm  |  By: julianabrunello  |  Tags: , , , , ,

For: A Wedge between private and public
Symposium in interactivity and public space
22 April 2010
SESSION 2 - Interface

Report by John Haltiwanger

Alexander Galloway presented a deep investigation of interfaces. His first example is the contemporary airport, which is split into four stages. The first is the check-in kiosk, where we see the outsourcing of the check-in procedure to the traveler. Those behind the desk no longer act as representatives of the airport, instead acquiring the role of tech support for passengers befuddled by the self check-in terminals. Next is the security queue, an interface that utilizes both old techniques ("Remove your hat, shoes, and jacket please") but also new techniques such as data-mining and computer vision techniques (facial recognition, gesture monitoring). This stage has a distinctly theatrical quality with certain people taking on roles and asking certain questions and others answering with certain responses ("Has anyone touched your bag?", "No.").

After this theater experience, which is embodied as a straight line, comes the shopping area. If the security interface is a straight line, the shopping area is a curve. All manners of meandering pathways through well-lit rooms. International trade is physically instantiated and made clean for mass consumption, buffered by the presence of the security interface. The last stage is the departure gate, an interface to the destination and the final stage of the airport. Indeed it represents the airport's true function, the kernel of its reason for existence. The outer layers of interface are established in order to enforce procedures deemed necessary for the functioning of the departure gate interface.

The purpose of this example is to highlight that interfaces are back, and perhaps they never left. Plato conceived communication as writing the words on the soul of another person. Interfaces are everywhere and seem to seek invisibility. The more devices erase evidence of their own functioning, the more effective they are. To succeed as an interface is at best self-deception and at worst self-annihilation. In some ways an interface is only an interface when it disappears from view.

Interfaces should not be seen merely as "surfaces with significant meaning" and discussed in terms of 'intuitive' or 'not intuitive.' It is better to conceive them as doorways and discuss them in the language of thresholds. Interfaces become important in the issues of cybernetics in that it is the site of discussion where human meets machine, flesh meets metal. Or in systems theory, where energy flows from one node to another in a system.

Interface and media may be two names for the same thing. From the viewpoint of McLuhan and the concept of re-mediation, media are merely containers that encapsulate other pieces of media. This can be seen as an "onion" model of media. Media themselves are then intrfaces: through the containment concept it becomes the means by which the encapsulated media can be extracted from the layers. Interfaces/media are the point of friction, of agitation between layers.

Interfaces are an 'outside' that possess the 'inside', "a fertile nexus" that has its own autonomy and represents an area of choice. Galloway uses the terms 'text' and 'paratext' to discuss this inside / outside scenario: paratext is the dge, while text is the center. Interfaces can be seen as any artificial differentiation between two media. Any examination of the difference between the edge and the center leads to understanding that it is difficult to discern where an edge ends and a center begins. Avant-garde techniques are very interested in this tension. In film or literature the distinction is termed diagetic vs non-diagetic.

Digital media are actually relatively good at maintaining the distinction between edge and center. For example, an HTML contains both simple ASCII (plain-text) and a dynamic web page. The difference is which program is used to view it, the text editor or the web browser. "The source code of HTML is an interface." We impose a linguistic construct to address the site of differentiation. It is a kind of doorway where one medium is understood as distinct from another medium. It's not a thing (bank machine, self-check-in terminal) but an effect, a process, a mode of translation. A fertile nexus.

How does an interface succeed in effecting a coherence, a centering, a localization? To answer this question Galloway invokes the triple self-portrait of Norman Rockwell. This painting plays with the idea of the interface yet in the end deals with the problem of the interface by repressing it. The process of viewing the painting draws one's eyes in circles, the painting does not break the frame but rather circulates internally through the three portraits. Galloway calls a "diagetic surface, a circuit between the artist, the mirror and the canvas." The image is a process not a conglomeration of artistic details.

In contrast he presents a famous parody of Rockwell's painting from influential magazine MAD in which the magazine's mascot Alfred E. Neuman is painting a self-portrait that is the back of his head. That is, the self-portrait is from our vantage point, not from the perspective of his reflection in the mirror. The mode of address becomes the core concern and the viewer is addressed in an intense way. The circular coherence of Rockwell's painting is broken into orthogonal spikes. These spikes are focused entirely on externalization rather than the enclosed, internalizing circulation of Rockwell's.

This kind of direct address is almost entirely excluded from narrative forms. Rather it appears as a common tool of the avant-garde to engender 'short-circuits' that address the issue of interface (the "fourth wall"). With Rockwell we see a interface that addresses itself to the interface but in the end answers the problem by repressing it. Alfred solves the question of the interface through a schizophrenia. It dwells on the pain of shattered coherency in the face of an interface.

There are two types of interface we have today: those that present their internals to an audience but also those that exist move cross-ways within and between mediums themselves. All interfaces are looking back at us, even when we become engrossed with them ourselves.

Eric Kluitenberg: Affect in the Overburdened Information Environment

Posted: May 3, 2010 at 6:06 pm  |  By: julianabrunello  |  Tags: , , , , ,

For: A Wedge between private and public
Symposium in interactivity and public space
22 April 2010
SESSION 1 - Affect

Report by John Haltiwanger

Eric Kluitenberg's presentation concerned the relevant future paths for affective interactive art. As a first example, Eric showed footage of Radio Ligna's "remote controlled flashmob" I am(not)sterdam to highlight a central element of his thesis: that forced interactivity is integral to developing new affective art.

Our senses are overburdened by the ever-increasing velocity of new images, especially in public spaces. What is to be done about it? Paraphrasing artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, "In relation to the 'violence of the visual' that is taking over the public space: we don't want less images, we want *more* images." The informational environment is hyper-saturated, leading to a tension between that environment and the cognition's capacity to be affected by it.

Digging into the specific problem of affect in relation to digital art, Eric invokes the notion of the 'third body'. To illustrate this idea, imagine the experience of putting a new vinyl album on a record player. The first time listening to a record, a new experience happens. When the record is put away, the experience is not fully present. It's only a memory. But when the record is played again, the experience returns. The experience is not attached to the listeners body, nor the record, but to this 'third body'. The third body is not technologically determined and still exists and receives these experience attachments even if the music is not contained on a record but in a digital file. Digital technologies are technologies of complete and perfect articulation, especially in regards to control sequences. However, the completeness of the digital is accomplished at the loss of a continuous flow (digital representations occur in discrete steps). Something needs to be left out for digitization and what is missing is the precise thing that makes us feel that the digital object is anemic. In other words affect is the thing discarded by digitization.

The means, then, for injecting affect into digital art are two-fold, i.e. "breaking the frame" and "imposing the frame." The former means developing art that points beyond itself in a negative way. This type of art should deny a system's rules, its inherent methodologies. An example in this vein is Bubblespace, a radio frequency generator that, when turned on, effectively jams all wireless communications in the device's area of effect. This is accomplished by injecting white noise into the wireless frequency range which wireless-dependent devices interpret as the absence of a connection, thereby stopping all network functions.

A divergent yet similarly effective approach, especially in regards to interactive art, is to create scenarios in which interactivity is truly and literally forced. The aforementioned "I am(not)sterdam" may be an example of this, but Eric seems to want to push it further by proposing the design of a system through which the audience must go through procedures in order to accomplish anything, for example even leaving the system at all. This space of "undesired activity" is ripe with the potential to affect.

Geert Mul: Technology, Art and Reflections

Posted: May 3, 2010 at 6:01 pm  |  By: julianabrunello  |  Tags: , , , , ,

For: A Wedge between private and public
Symposium in interactivity and public space
22 April 2010
SESSION 1 - Affect

Report by Juliana Brunello

Art, as part of public interaction strategy, is capable to break open the technological paradigm, which is colonialized by technology. When you analyze the role of technology in society or the role of technology in art, there is a tendency to alienate technology from our culture, like it was dropped upon us from engineers or corporations. Geert Mul thinks it is not the case.

The steam engine was already invented by the Greek, however, that did not result in the industrial revolution. Why not? Was there no need for it back then? When this invention was re-invented many centuries later and lead to the Industrial Revolution, it is because we, as consumers, embraced the idea of the Industrial Revolution. With this example we can see how technology becomes an integral part of our culture and language. We are seeing the world through technology and by using this technology to observe the world, our view from the world is being formed.

This way of putting things suggest that there would be a neutral way of seeing things if technology did not exist. However, even if you leave out the technology and go back to just eyes as an instrument, there has already been proved that different cultures tend to see the world in different ways.

Mul keeps a hierarchy in which interactivity takes place. We are living in the world of dynamics that has been stretched in Modernism, becoming more mobile and more dynamic. With the application of IT/Databases and their use, we are now living in a world in which information is very dynamic by nature. We are always relating to the information and its speeded up dynamics. In this universe of information there is a part in which we, as persons, interact. Inside this part there is another one, a micro- way of interactivity, "where you push a button and a door opens". This is also addressed as interactivity. However, when you stick to this definition, you are throwing away the valuable and inspirational part.

In his work, 'The library of Babel' (2004) Geert places the visitors in a world of visual information, in which they are in interaction to what is happening. They feel they are a part of it, but there is no goal. Nevertheless they can discover this new environment and find out the invisible rules of it. The second part of the work is a meta image taken by a camera. The visitors look at the interactors in the work trying to make sense of the work. This meta image is much stronger than what he envisioned.

Another work, Horizons (2008), also works with this ideal of meta images. In this work the horizon stays the same as the landscapes open and close in a flowing movement. Here he deliberately used a meta image of people wondering around the work and people watching those people, so that the people are projected into the landscape, in which they are wondering.

Both meta images are related to the concepts of interpassivity that van Oenen presented earlier. Mul believes that this view from a second position is interesting, because it has a reflective quality, of seeing people trying to make sense of an environment, of which they get only clues.

Gjis van Oenen: Affect, Direct, Reflect from Interactive to Interpassive Art

Posted: May 3, 2010 at 5:57 pm  |  By: julianabrunello  |  Tags: , , , , ,

For: A Wedge between private and public
Symposium in interactivity and public space
22 April 2010
SESSION 1 - Affect

Report by Juliana Brunello

What does interactive art do to, with and/or on behalf of us? Gijs van Oenen thesis to this (these) question(s) is that this represents a function of the processes of the Enlightenment and Modernity. It is a function in the historical sequence of activity, interactivity and interpassivity. They represent ways of dealing with the impacts and challenges of the modern world.

Van Oenen's presentation at the symposium brought up many interesting points, which I will try to summarize the best I can. I divided his speech in four parts:

  1. Enlightenment
  2. Modernity
  3. Interactivity
  4. Interpassivity


1. The Enlightenment (and Modernity) affects mind and body.


"Don't let your mind/body be directed by the world, instead, dare to think for yourself" was a motto of the time. According to the German idealism, the mind constructs the world by means of understanding it through concepts (Begriffe). This way, we make the world our own, it becomes no longer alien to us. Instead of the world directing us, we direct the world.


2. Modernity (beginning of the 19th century) involves a constant making over of the world and of ourselves.


Everything is in motion. The bourgeoisie class, which is central to modernity, has to change all the time as well, in order to stay the same. This means, it has to continuously reinvent itself in order to keep up with the world, which is constantly being made, remade, produced and reproduced. "All that is solid, melts into air".

Change in this period goes together with speed, and both are related to technology. In modernity, technical and social processes are being speeded up. "Nobody ever invented a machine to slow things down".

Technology, speed and change make new regimes of perception necessary in order to understand and appropriate the world. As a consequence of that, positive sciences, like biology and sociology, emerge. This new regime also affects the body . Processes of modernity makes our bodies to be literally projected to the world, like a projectile. The world begins to be impressed to our bodies in a much greater speed and force if compared to how it has been before. Machines of projection and impression are e.g.: trains, automobile and the cinema.

Mind and body have to learn how to deal with this new regime, which leads to new forms of creativity (arts, technology, etc.) on the one hand. On the other hand, there is an overburdening of the senses, which leads to failures to deal with challenges imposed by the world. Walter Benjamin speaks of the loss of experience and concentration; and Georg Simmens of the blasé tendency of modern city life. What they mean is that all expressions that hit us in modernity make us construct a defensive screen. We become unimpressed in order to protect ourselves from this world filled with strong impressions, from a world that presses upon our mind and body and demands more and more from both.

From the 1920s onward, people have been actively conditioned to become fit with the demands of modernity and emancipation. Modernism on the cognitive level manifests itself in the social policy making, which shapes the world to match the new demands. Processes of discussion, feedback and reformulation have emerged from this process.

Space has also been influenced. It is now designed to let us take part in modernity. Parts of the world are projected to be of public experience and high speed; others to be private, healthy and functional. The environment must reflect modernity values in order for us to act like we are supposed to in modernity.


3. In the era of interactivity (1970s), not only the bourgeoisie, but the ordinary people must become involved as well.


Interactivity is the new norm. People are affected by policy plans. Everybody must feel they have a chance to be heard and people become co-producers of policy. Institutions of social life become interactive, including art, which has now its realization through participation. E.g.: Yoko one: cut piece. The public becomes part of the self realization of the art work.

Interactive arrangements transfer part of the activity to the visitor and the visitor becomes part of the self-realization of the art work. Art becomes engaged with the public and society; and simultaneously, the public becomes involved with modern art performances. Visitors are transformed from passive expectators into active collaborators. The public becomes more emancipated than in the old fashion way. Interactive art arrangements create a partnership of equals between artists and expectators, they become co-dependent.

E.g.: of shared responsibility artist-public and the incorporation of technology can be seen in the work of art telematic dreaming by Paul Sermon: This installation is about the physical and emotional reaction of both visitor and actor. The principals of emancipatory and democratic involvements are being here strongly extended.


4. Interpassive arrangements (mid 1990s): While interactive arrangements transfer part of self realization and activity to the visitor; interpassive arrangements take them back.


The work of art is now watching itself. E.g.: screens that look at each other, shutting the visitor out. The visitor is now redundant. The work of art, as well as the political sphere, has learned to pre-anticipate our reactions, by means of monitoring, measuring and surveillance.

The philosopher Baudrillard writes about 'pulling fate', that means being confronted with the anticipatory verification of our behavior. "Our action has been already verified before we actually act". How should we characterize this part of the interaction that has been taken over by the art work? Is consumption being outsourced by the art work?

E.g.: Outsourced enjoyment: the artist that offers to drink your beer and enjoy it for you, or the iPod that watches TV on your behalf. This way we get rid of our passivity by delegating the enjoyment to other people or machines, so we can continue to be busy elsewhere.

Van Oenen cites three ambivalence of interpassive behavior:

  1. Enjoyment and horror by the realization of a desire that is not meant to be realized. It leads to a confrontation with undesirable consequences.
  2. We don't really know if we want to outsource the enjoyment.
  3. Believe is transferred to others. "Others believe in it". Believes are claimed by no one.

G believes that interpassivity implies the outsourcing of actity/interactivity and that Interpassivity arouse due to the success of interactivity. We feel overburdened by our interactive emancipated life, which constitutes what he calls an "interactive mental fatigue". We fail to act and to answer to the demands of modernity, which are of interactive kind. We develop a kind of resistance to what is happening to our society. It is not that we are dissatisfied with principles of emancipation - we want to live up to it. We are, however, not able to. "We want to have a holiday from ourselves".

Function of interpassive arrangements and art:
Interpassive works of art present us with directions that we are unable to give to ourselves. They direct us. They incorporate interactive scripts and steer our behavior. They are like a road block that makes us slow down. This is, by the way, the same direction we want to give to ourselves, but fail to produce due to our overburdened state. Issac Asimov points out that robots do not desire for power, but seek to assist us, pushing us to the right direction.

Our environment is nowadays increasingly interpassive shaped. Unforeseen consequences must now be dealt with. We must now be persuade to norms we have already agreed on, but fail to follow. Interpassive artifacts are here now to correct us, not to teach. Interpassive art works affect us, but so not direct us. They make us reflect on our interpassive condition, bring to light our interpassive condition.

An example of interpassive art work (is it art?) in public space is the flash mob, mobilized in real time through for instance sms. They involve a collection of random people, on a random place, to perform a random activity. This is part of a mobilization strategy. Will it shape our political sphere as well?