[ISEA98] Panel: Simon Penny – Devirtualisation: Toward a Critical, Embodied Interactivity

Panel Statement

Panel: Bio-Architectures, Virtual Cities: The Revolutionary Human-Machine Community

Interactive art is heralded as a great convergence of Art and Technics. the Millenial Gesamptkunstwerk. Artistic practice in general and interactive art practice in particular, partakes of a rhetoric of liberation and individual self-realisation. But the methods of interactive art are premised on the ideology of computer science which is inherently disembodying and is characterised by a paranoid panopticality and Pavlovian control. The many antagonisms between the disciplines are swept under the carpet. How radical or progressive can an interactive art practice be when it has such foundations? It is critical that artists examine the intellectual history of their adopted tool, the computer.
This paper will outline the philosophical background of computer science with reference to issues of embodiment, situated cognition, emergence and self-organisation, spatial representation and symbolic representation. I will examine several interactive artworks (works of my own and by other artists), identifying their complicity or criticality with dehumanising technical ideologies. I will propose an Art of Devirtualisation , a paradigm of interactivity that refutes the crypto-christian desire for transcendance and re-emphasises embodiment as the locus of being and intelligence; which de-emphasises continuity of data representations in Cartesian spatial terms, and affirms computational techniques which accomodate people, not the inverse.

  • Simon Penny (Australia/USA),┬áCarnegie Mellon University, Pittsburg, USA