Week 0: Initial Research

Part 1: What do I like to do? 
Over winter break I reflected on my work to date and sought out resources and references to guide my thinking about a thesis project. I researched artists and exhibitions and read critical writings on interactive art and design for audience engagement.

I found frameworks for understanding interactivity and through which I analyzed my own work at ITP.  In particular, Brigid Costello’s Play Framework, offered thirteen different characteristics (listed in no particular order here): camaraderie, competition, captivation, exploration, subversion, simulation, sympathy, sensation, discovery, difficulty, creation, fantasy, and danger. Considering my own projects within this model, these themes emerged: exploration, discovery, creation, camaraderie, competition, captivation, subversion, and fantasy.

My readings (see below) referenced many artworks, and I dutifully followed up on as many interesting leads as possible. Here are some artists and projects that resonated strongly with me:

Jeppe Hein’s work often appears in traditional gallery spaces or in public spaces and almost always respond to the presence or absence of viewers. Hein often takes something familiar and modifies it in many unexpected ways and regularly incorporates mirrors and reflections in his work.

Trends in the work of Rafael Lozano-Hemmer over the past couple of decades include the representations and amplification of presence through projection and the interception, translation, and transmission of communications. Like Hein, his installations sometimes respond to the presence (following or running away) or the absence of viewers in a space, often endearing them with anthropomorphic qualities. Several pieces encourage participants to directly interact with one another.

Ernest Edmonds creates generative works that evolve over time from interaction with participants. Edmonds is interested in how viewers can establish long-term relationships with artwork.

In Philip Worthington’s Shadow Monsters, shadows of participants turn into fantastical monsters (with accompanying animal sounds) that morph in response to playful movements and gestures.

Tine Papendick’s Digital Puppetry similarly incorporates visitor’s bodies, but this time in full color and allows them to playfully mix and collage representations of themselves with others.

Seiko Mikami’s Desire of Codes and rAndom international & Chris O'Shea’s Audience, are both works in which sensory devices respond, often in unison, in anthropomorphic ways to the presence of visitors.

From this research and reflection, I realized that I really enjoy making work with collective play and shared experiences, often using conversation or engagement with compelling content as opportunities for making connections with others. And if it wasn’t obvious to me before, it is now: work is meaningful to people if it incorporates aspects of themselves, such as their gazes, their expressions, their reflections, their presence, their postures, their movements, their speech, their words, their heart beats, their brain waves, their touch, and their choices.

Part 2: What would I like to do?
The work I did over break helped me determine that I want to create a participatory, collective, and playful experience that uses meaningful material and is accessible for all ages and by our entire community at ITP. 

A footnote of Act/React: Interactive Installation Art led me to the Encyclopedia of Animal Behavior, and I unexpectedly found myself in the chapters concerning animal calls and communication networks. I started wondering what it might be like for humans to talk in the voices and sounds of other species.

There’s something fun and unexpected about imbuing familiar material with meaning from elsewhere, and so as a starting point for my project, I am curious about creating a communication platform that translates our words into audible animal calls for conversational play. 

Part 3: What are some next steps?
With this starting point in mind, I need to move into the next phase of conceptual development. Here are some paths to follow, although I’m sure to uncover more questions as I go:

Research and brainstorm ways that words can be analyzed and represented. What is sentiment analysis and do I want to use any of those techniques? 

Find and collect repositories of animal recordings. Which animals? What are they saying, how do we know, and does that matter?

Is there any work like this? What sound-related, participatory and preferably public installations can I find?

Do I want to create one large installation piece or several smaller ones? Will it live online, in physical space(s), or both?

Starting prototyping and learning from small experiments!

Bianchini, Samuel, et al., editors. Practicable: From Participation to Interaction in Contemporary Art. The MIT Press, 2016.

Breed, Robert Stanley, and Janice Moore. Encyclopedia of Animal Behavior. Elsevier Academic Press, 2010.

Brown, Kathryn. Interactive Contemporary Art - Participation in Practice. I. B. Tauris, 2016.

Candy, Linda, and Ernest A. Edmonds. Interacting: Art, Research and the Creative Practitioner. Libri Publishing, 2011.

Candy, Linda, and Sam Ferguson, editors. Interactive Experience in the Digital Age: Evaluating New Art Practice. Springer International Publishing, 2014.

Cornell, Lauren, and Ed Halter, editors. Mass Effect: Art and the Internet in the Twenty-First Century. The MIT Press, 2015.

Costello, Brigid M. Rhythm, Play and Interaction Design. Springer International Publishing, 2018.

Fifield, George, et al., editors. Act/React: Interactive Installation Art. Milwaukee Art Museum, 2008.

Karahalios, Karrie, and Judith Donath. “Telemurals: Linking Remote Spaces with Social Catalysts.” Proceedings of the 2004 Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems  - CHI ’04, ACM Press, 2004, pp. 615–22.

Kwastek, Katja. Aesthetics of Interaction in Digital Art. The MIT Press, 2013

Pop, Susa, et al., editors. What Urban Media Art Can Do: Why When Where & How. Avedition, 2016.

Seevinck, Jennifer. Emergence in Interactive Art. Springer International Publishing, 2018.

The Walrus. "The Art of Play | Mark Kingwell | Walrus Talks." YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H4wfLyOgM8E. Accessed 12 Jan. 2019.

Zimna, Katarzyna. Time to Play: Action and Interaction in Contemporary Art. I. B. Tauris, 2014.