[ISEA2011] Panel: Merja Pu­usti­nen – Play act­ing

Panel Statement

Panel: Playing for Keeps: Social Empowerment Through Physically Interactive Artworks

This paper is a re­view into ex­pe­ri­ences with cre­at­ing par­tic­i­pa­tory phys­i­cal play areas as in­ter­ac­tive art works within the semi-pub­lic spaces of mu­se­ums and gal­leries. The au­di­ence im­pro­vised play takes place within an art work em­ploy­ing sound en­vi­ron­ments, ro­bots and bouncy cas­tles with in­ter­ac­tive au­dioscapes. Art his­tor­i­cally, the prac­tise in­cor­po­rates strate­gies from po­lit­i­cal ac­tiv­ity to vi­sual, per­for­ma­tive, sound and media arts as well as role play­ing games. It is closely re­lated to var­i­ous forms of time, site and lo­cata­tion based gen­res like hap­pen­ing, per­for­mance, so­cial forms of art, and larp­ing – as much as media arts prac­tises. In this set­ting, art turns into a stage, a plat­form for im­pro­vised so­cial and phys­i­cal in­ter­ac­tion. In this ap­proach, the media tech­nolo­gies are given a sec­ondary, sup­ple­men­tary task in en­hanc­ing the au­di­ence in­ter­ac­tion rather than a pri­mary focus as the rea­son d’étre in chan­nelling the aes­thet­i­cal ex­pe­ri­ence. The au­di­ence role has rad­i­cally changed from the con­ven­tional oculo-cen­tric Carte­sian viewer po­si­tion to a so­cial and multi-sen­sory agent who is both a par­tic­i­pant and a per­former in ac­tion. The act of be­com­ing vis­i­ble, tak­ing a cen­tral stage within the art work and the con­text of in­sti­tu­tion­alised prac­tise of art posits is a rad­i­cal shift in the so­cially nor­ma­tive pub­lic spaces. As a topsy-turvy ac­tive sit­u­a­tion, it chal­lenges and trans­forms the dis­cur­sive power re­la­tions sus­tained and re­newed in daily prac­tise by the in­sti­tu­tional order.

  • Merja Pu­usti­nen works as artist, cu­ra­tor, re­searcher, lec­turer and pro­ducer. She is based in Espoo, Fin­land. She has a back­ground in sculp­ture, video and in­stal­la­tion art. She has stud­ied phi­los­o­phy and so­ci­ol­ogy at Helsinki Uni­ver­sity. Since 1993 she has col­lab­o­rated with in­ter­ac­tive media art per­for­mances, net­work pro­jects and in­stal­la­tions in col­lab­o­ra­tion with her part­ner Andy Best. They were amongst the first on­line web artists, and dur­ing the mid to late 1990’s worked with vir­tual multi­user 3D worlds on the in­ter­net. With their com­pany Meet­fac­tory they de­vel­oped a 3D multi­user com­mu­nity plat­form and vir­tual pet or tam­agotchi for mo­bile phones. They now con­cen­trate their artis­tic ac­tivites on large scale in­stal­la­tions and in­ter­ac­tive works. Merja Pu­usti­nen is com­plet­ing her PhD re­search on in­ter­ac­tive media art at the Acad­emy of Fine Arts, Helsinki. She is par­tic­u­larly in­ter­ested in com­bin­ing art, ar­chi­tec­ture and in­ter­ac­tive com­puter and sen­sor tech­nolo­gies to recre­ate phys­i­cal ex­pe­ri­ences and el­e­ments of play for the end user within the in­sti­tu­tional frame­work of art.