Increasing numbers of art works are concerned with constructed systems which in some way simulate, emulate, imitate, replicate, encapsulate, or approximate behavior, most often within an ‘interactive’ venue. Critical responses to the behavioral level of such works tend to call attention to specific aspects of the perceivable actions. That is, features of the action
enjoying a verisimilitude in relation to commonly recognizable behavior patterns are automatically privileged. Rather than explore the internal structures, processes, and strategies
necessary to achieve results perceived to be ‘behavioral’, the perspective to be unfolded here confines itself to the other line of approach, evaluating externally observable behavior. This approach has the advantage of more explicitly factoring-in the position and agenda of the evaluator, and requires that behavioral features have a basis in recordable observations. As a result, considerable stress is placed on video documentation. The two main points made are the following: 1) There are many disciplines to be found among the sciences and humanities which can contribute analytical tools useful for understanding sequences of behavior. Often such methodologies are based on close observation and quantification of what would otherwise appear to be unbroken continua. Paradoxically, a basis for specific subjective responses to the work can often be found in such measurable details as the timing and grouping of component events and gestures. The paper provides a number of examples of these sorts of analysis applied to specific work. 2) The very technologies used by artists in constructing works which exhibit interactive behavior are far more commonly used industrially to first supplement and then replace a wide variety of human capabilities. The paper will explore the cluster of positions artists are occupying in relation to this axis of concern, and will attempt to map the principal relations between these positions.
- John Manning, Chair of the Department of Art and Technology, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, USA.