[ISEA97] Paper: Martin Rieser- Interactivity, Public Art, and Architecture


“There seems to be a parallel between the emergence of the archeological art and some changes taking place in the cultural and intellectual ambience. The general framework seems to be the gradual displacement of the 1980’s  “postmodern discourse” in favour of an approach which once again seeks foothold in ‘real’ space and time”                                                        _Errki Huhtamo

I was struck by how many of the ISEA presentations, not simply those in this session, mention the words ”architecture” or ”city”. As Errki Huhmato points out, this seems to be an expression of a general desire for an art that is in part tangible, physical and social in nature and intent. When he talks of archeological art he appears to mean an art referencing and recyding earlier technological histories. An art that attempts to gain critical purchase through a tension between its electronic space and its physical and mechanical one.

Thus while I intend to concentrate on examples of haptic or physically responsive interactive art in public spaces and installed architectural contexts – that is ‘real’ space and time, I recognise here a fascinating problem of definitions. For ‘public’ space in the late twentieth century also means the infinitely expanding region of cyberspace. While agreeing with Paul Virilio’s term for this bifurcation of our realities through the ‘accident’ or advent of virtual technologies, I do not agree that they have an equal validity. Our historical definition of those that did was “Saints and Madmen”.

The question of virtual worlds and architectures of the net will be later addressed, since the same syntax and grammar of experience applies to both aspects as these of digital art in the public domain. What Virilio also makes clear is that the new technologies are progressively diminishing and even finally eliminating a fundamental condition of human perception – spatial distance, the distance between subject and the object. In this reading ‘distance’ is a positive quality of vital importance to the development of meaning ful art.

  • Martin Rieser, UK, is Senior Lecturer in Electronic Arts and Multimedia at the University of the West of England, Bristol. Digital media artist since 1981. Has worked intensively with multi-media and digital installations for the past five years. Currently enrolled on a Ph.D. in Interactive Environments for Architectural Installation at Middlesex University. Artist-in­Residence, Watershed media centre, Bristol, for Screening the Virus, intelligent self-curating website for World Aids Day 1996. Director of Orbit project involving 12 major inter­active public artworks. Director, Media Myth & Mania, UWE research project for Silver to Silicon, CD ROM publication, exhibited Watershed Gallery Bristol, Focal Point Gallery, Southend, and ICA, London, Milia, Cannes, and at confer­ences at the Universities of Middlesex and Westminster. Curator of The Electronic Print, Arnolfini 1989, and The Electronic Eye, Watershed 1986. Exhibitions include Electronic Rainforest, interactive computer environment 1990-91. Presented papers at ISEA 1993, 1995,1996, and Oberhausen Short film festival 1997.     martinrieser.com

Full text p51-55