[ISEA96] Paper: Barbara London & Grahame Weinbren – Looking for the Interactive


Long Paper

“Composing ‘s one thing, performing ‘s another, listening ‘s a third. What can they have to do with one another?”                                                                                                                                                      _John Cage, Experimental Music: Doctrine, Silence, p. 15

In this paper we hope, among other things, to describe various works that are interactive avant Ia lettre, or exhibit interactive qualities without actually being interactive. Time. Is it necessary? How does time get into, and how does it stay out of, art works that use recent technologies?
Meaning. How do artists put meaning Into art made under the influence of computers? How do viewers of this art get meaning out? Where is meaning located in these works? Does meaning mean anything? Or should we rather be thinking about power relations, desire, and textuality?
Intention. In interactive works does what the artist Intended count more, less, the same as it always did? Do we have to consult the artist to know how what to make of the work? This paper looks at some aspects of these questions, referring to the work by or about Slavoj Zizek,
Richard Wollheim and Roy Shafer.


Almost a year ago, after the end of the trial of O.J. the New York Post ran a front page that consisted of an image of O.J. Simpson with a zipper for a mouth. It was a composite. of course, and without question a journalistic joke. Actually I think there are at least two jokes intended. Most obviously. the Image is an instant commentary on OJ’s abrupt withdrawal from a planned TV interview in which he was scheduled to ‘reveal all’ . His mouth is zipped shut. But I think the Post is also making a broader joke about the very idea of the newspaper photo. The Image foregrounds the idea that photography is now as reliable guide to recent facts as Illustration. Of course everyone knows this. We are, after all, in the Digltal Age. But this widespread knowledge hasn’t resulted in a change in our attitude towards supposedly ‘documentary’ photography, even when the manipulability of the photo is thrust in our face. Tomorrow’s picture of a Mafia boss, or Princess Diana, Hurricane Herbert, the Kurds, or Saddam himself, will be still taken as reliable evidence of something that occurred. In other words, no matter how blatantly it is undercut, the photograph retains Its old place in our epistemological framework. The New York Post, or any other newspaper, even in its World Wide Web version, relies on an acceptance of photography – photographs are one the ways that the news is delivered, and the news consists of facts about the world. Mere knowledge of the easy transformabillty of any photograph is not enough to shake its ideological baggage.

  • Barbara London, USA, Curator, Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York
  • Grahame Weinbren, USA, Interactive film pioneer

Full text p.40-46