Audio and video installations requiring audience movement and participation pose a unique set of problems. These works are realized through physical action within a responsive environment. Participants may become part of the work itself, as others outside of the sensing area view the spectacle of their interaction while seeing the results. Those inside the sensing area (if more than one person is allowed) share in a collaborative ‘performance’, their social interactions contributing significantly to their experience of the work. What is the psychology of this participation? How can installation artists engage, prompt, and empower amateur ‘performers’ who have no prior knowledge or particular expertise? How does the computer program and content facilitate action and encourage response? This paper examines factors contributing to the audience experience, with special attention to non-digital concerns. Strategies to engage audience participation will be shown in several of the author’s interactive audio and video installations.
Movement-sensing installations offer audience members an opportunity to become actively involved in the creative process by influencing image and sound output from a computer. These works typically use various types of sensors to analyze human activity, location, and gesture, so that natural movement can be used as primary input to a responsive computer system. Interactive installations are often presented as environments open for exploration, with each “realization” determined by individual action, curiosity, and play. What separates interactive installations from other types of art installations or interactive performances is that the work is only realized through a participant’s actions, interpreted through computer software or electronics, and those actions do not require special training or talent to perform.
All of this suggests a new social and artistic dynamic that is unique to interactive installations, requiring the audience to physically participate in creating their own artistic experience. Rather than create finished works, interactive artists create the potential for many works to be realized through anonymous collaboration. With the audience’s acceptance of this new responsibility may come a greater acceptance and ownership of the results: participants seem to enjoy, accept and pay great attention to the results of their own responsive actions.
The term “audience” may ambiguously refer to anyone viewing or participating in an installation. To clarify those roles, person(s) activating an installation will be referred to here as the “player(s),” as in a musician playing music or someone playing a game. Audience members simply viewing the players will be called “spectators,” implying a group’s role in a live event.
- Todd Winkler, USA, MacColl Studio for Electronic Music, Brown University, USA