[ISEA2011] Panel: Eric For­man — Too Quick: The Chal­lenges of In­ter­ac­tive Art

Panel Statement

Panel: Slowness: Responding to Acceleration through Electronic Arts

In­ter­ac­tiv­ity per­me­ates the de­sign and con­tem­po­rary art worlds more and more every day.  The phrase “in­ter­ac­tive art” is still un­fixed, its form still novel, and yet cer­tain tropes have al­ready fallen into place.  One prob­lem seems to recur over and over: view­ers very rarely en­gage in slow, thought­ful ex­plo­ration of in­ter­ac­tive work.  Tech­no­log­i­cal sys­tems in­vite fas­ci­na­tion with their ma­te­ri­al­ity and un­canny abil­i­ties, and pro­duce a dom­i­nant urge to re­veal or de­code the in­ter­ac­tion it­self, rather than the mean­ing of its en­clos­ing work.  We could call this the “hand-wav­ing ef­fect”: a viewer’s first im­pulse is to “fig­ure it out,” su­per­fi­cially en­gage with it in order to pro­duce the re­ac­tion, and then all too often sim­ply move on.  In other words, it’s over too fast.  Is this the view­ers’ fault, the art­works’, or some­thing deeper and more in­trin­sic? This pre­sen­ta­tion will ex­am­ine this issue in two parts.  First, I will frame a the­o­ret­i­cal de­bate about what is and is not un­avoid­ably in­her­ent to tech­no­log­i­cally-en­abled work.  A com­mon and jus­ti­fied crit­i­cism of such work is that it is over-con­cerned with the new; is it the role of the artist to grap­ple with this?  Sec­ond, I will show ex­am­ples of my own work that at­tempt to work with and against the chal­lenges of in­ter­ac­tiv­ity.  Sev­eral sculp­tures and works of in­stal­la­tion art will be shown that use tech­nol­ogy to­gether with tra­di­tional ma­te­ri­als to en­cour­age slow­ness in the viewer while re­tain­ing the dy­namic in­volve­ment of in­ter­ac­tiv­ity.  The pre­sen­ta­tion will con­clude with a syn­the­sis of sorts: an open dis­cus­sion of how the the­o­ret­i­cal over­laps with real-world human be­hav­ior.

  • Eric For­man is a New York, USA, based artist work­ing with in­ter­ac­tive sculp­ture, ro­bot­ics, and re­spon­sive in­stal­la­tions. His work crosses bound­aries be­tween fine art and de­sign, com­bin­ing the sub­ver­sive and the func­tional.  Eric is cur­rently an Ad­junct Pro­fes­sor in the grad­u­ate Dig­i­tal+Media de­part­ment at RISD, and soon at SVA’s new In­ter­ac­tion De­sign MFA pro­gram.  He also teaches at Pratt, MICA, and the School of Ar­chi­tec­ture at Co­lum­bia Uni­ver­sity.  He re­ceived his Mas­ters in 2002 from ITP at Tisch School of the Arts (NYU), and his B.A. from Vas­sar Col­lege in 1995 where he de­vel­oped his own in­ter­dis­ci­pli­nary pro­gram called The Philo­soph­i­cal Ram­i­fi­ca­tions of Com­puter Tech­nol­ogy. Eric also runs Klank Stu­dios, a tech­nol­ogy con­sul­tancy pro­vid­ing over 20 years of ex­pe­ri­ence with new media, and is the co-founder of BioArt New York, a col­lec­tive pair­ing artists and sci­en­tists for un­usual col­lab­o­ra­tions.  And he likes to ride a bike.