many complex interactive installations are experienced fully installed,
in their complete version, even in specialised venues for electronic
art? Not many, it seems: they are technically too demanding, and
too expensive for the "white cube" galleries.
How to produce and exhibit such a work? More and more artists are
turning from fine arts funds to scientific research centres that
can provide facilities for developing art projects. MIT, Cambridge
University, and Australia's CSIRO among others present such opportunities
for artists. Is it another trap? Scientific institutions do not
exhibit their "products" in public, nor do they have or
need exhibiting spaces. But the work itself needs equipment for
being exhibited that is often not found in galleries or museums...If
an artist finally manages to produce a piece of art called an interactive
installation, where and how to present the work to the audience?
To make the problem bigger, almost absurd, the work cannot exist
without the audience; its essence is to become an artwork through
interaction with audience. Without the audience, it simply can not
In their performative aspects, interactive installations are closer
to the theatre than to fine arts. It is a complex artform, composed
of separate art disciplines, conjoined with engineering, team work,
and is similar to film or the theatre. It seems that this work is
slowly nesting in spaces that were projected or re _ decorated for
experimental theatre years ago. Those spaces with no fixed stage
or audience areas, unlike the traditional European theatre, i.e.
plain "dark cubes" with construction for audio/visual
equipment on the ceiling, appear ideal. But this is still at the
Interactive installations are a category of electronic art, and
in symposia or festivals are difficult to exhibit due to their complexity.
So we come to the question of how to introduce them to a wider audience?
Most exist through varieties of representations _ presentations
on the internet, on CD-ROM, in writings and lectures. So, if we
can't actually construct them, how to explain or present them to
a live audience, while being clear, but not too long, or too boring,
or too hermetic, etc?
Following commercial logic it is difficult to present and elaborate
the essence of an artistic work: its mystery, sensations and magic.
How to create a summarised description of the complex cerebral/audio/visual
experience? If you make a full explanation of the philosophical
and aesthetic aspects of the work, with technical descriptions,
explanations of software design and construction, with the analysis
of audio and visual elements, and above all of the interactivity
that underlies the project (which is the only way to give some idea
of what is it all about) the audience will most likely lose track
after the first quarter of the presentation or lecture. If you exclude
some elements, then, it is again impossible to present the work
If we try to make a parallel with other art disciplines that require
a model or maquete, like architecture or sculpture or theatre, we
will see again that we can not make simple comparisons. An interactive
installation is not just an object. It has interaction as its final
goal, and is concerned with abstraction and process. It is close
to the theatre in a number of respects, and one is never in a position
to make a presentation of the theatrical experience as such. An
interactive installation emerges through its relation with "participants"
instead of an "audience". This changed role of the observer
is another difference that characterises the artform.
How can an audience visualise a project before it is constructed?
Or an author describe a personal vision of the artwork before it
exists? Does it need a different logic? What could be the best way
to make a representation of an artwork? It might be to create a
new artwork instead of trying to explain something that is ultimately
non-verbal. It seems that a new category of electronic art has emerged.
Instead of trying to describe something that exists in the spheres
of emotion and non- verbal communication, we should make use of
the same mechanisms that are engaged in experiencing an artwork;
ie not to try to compose a representation of a complex emotional
experience, but to create a new one. In other words to create a
new work that will be a carrier of the same basic idea and concept
as the installation, having as a result an entirely new form that
will present the essence of the work.
In the particular case of the installation "Infonoise",
presentations have been given to different audiences, from postgraduate
students to international symposia, with a result that never completely
satisfied the authors. For this reason we decided to produce a new
piece that does not literally illustrate the different aspects of
the installation, but rather focuses on an expression of its essence:
on "Infonoise" performance presentation:
As basic material for the presentation, which takes the form of
a performance, we have used texts, audio/visual explanations and
samples that were produced for various applications to festivals,
sponsors and producers, and have concentrated on creating a clear
expression instead of a literal explanation. In structuring the
work, we have followed the principle of the musical canon as an
analogy between the different layers and themes that are developed
simultaneously in the installation work. Sound used in the actual
installation, combined with textual explanations of the project
in three different languages (English, French and Serbian) become
polyphonic elements. The intention was not to read an explanation,
but to use the vocal elements as sound. The result of this process
is a performance for the audience, addressing the same questions
as the installation with the same symbolic elements, but in the
new, compressed form of a performance/lecture.
From the visual material that was produced during the working process,
we have composed an abstract video without any of the schematic
elements that describe the form and function of the installation,
but rather an audiovisual expression of the substance of the basic
idea. This approach became a kind of game, or an ionising of the
academic, petrified ways of presenting an artwork. But it instantly
evolved again into its original form: an installation. Now we have
new material for an installation that is not too difficult to be
exhibited. Unfortunately, it is not interactive any more. So how
far does an idea need to mutate until it is simple enough to be
presented? The so-called "project history" becomes important
as an additional text for this purpose; it becomes an exciting story
about the struggle for an idea, and how to express and shape an
original vision to share with the audience.