Interactive Art

“An interactive system is a machine system which reacts in the moment, by virtue of automated reasoning based on data from its sensory apparatus. An Interactive Artwork is such a system which addresses artistic issues. A painting is an instance of representation. A film is a sequence of representations. Interactive artworks are not instances of representation, they are virtual machines which themselves produces instances of representation based on real time inputs.”

— Simon Penny, 1996


The notion of ‘interactive art’ has baffled smart thinkers over the years, primarily because of the ambiguous nature surrounding the ‘interactive’ bit. However, while it is true that interactive artworks convey innovative messages, I do believe that these creative works can count as forms of representation, as they are clearly showcasing a subject of significant value. Take “Arboria” by Alan Parkinson, for example. While the audience can interact with the artwork by walking through and touching it, the work is representing a theme at the same time – in this case, trees.

Not all forms of ‘interactive art’ have to revolve around complex machinery and intricate systems. “Cloud” by Caitlind r.c. Brown and Wayne Garrett is one such artwork which does not utilize this: instead, the work is composed of basic objects such as pulley strings and light bulbs. In spite of its simplicity, there is a complex message hidden behind all the utilitarian materials and electronics. On the other hand, “Fireflies on the Water” by Yayoi Kusama embodies the complexities which categorize ‘interactive art’. Behind all the dazzling bright lights, there is the concealed notion of how we as humans see the whole universe.

It is interesting to note that the way in which ‘interactive art’ is depicted here would be comparable to a scientific experiment; so much so, in fact, that one would have to assume the notion that ‘interactive art’, by nature, would negate the overall purpose of art as a whole.

In summary, an interactive artwork by definition would have to “influence the form and/or content of the mediated presentation or experience” (Lombard and Ditton, 1997). The experiential artwork would subsequently shape itself in such a way that the artist no longer becomes “an object of study” but rather “the final target of their work” (Höök, Sengers and Andersson, 2003). In a way, then, ‘interactive art’ would count as a form of representation, as they would have to illustrate depictions based on audience input.




Penny, S. (1997). Embodied cultural agents: at the intersection of robotics, cognitive science, and interactive art. In AAAI Socially Intelligent Agents Symposium.

Höök, K., Sengers, P. and Andersson, G. (2003). Sense and sensibility: evaluation and interactive art. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI conference on Human factors in computing systems (pp. 241-248). ACM. (2016). Arboria. [online] Available at: [Accessed 23 Oct. 2016].

Lombard, M. and Ditton, T. (1997). At the Heart of It All: The Concept of Presence. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 3(2).

Caitlind r.c. Brown & Wayne Garrett. (2012). CLOUD. [online] Available at: [Accessed 23 Oct. 2016]. (2016). Yayoi Kusama: An infinite consciousness directed at the cosmos. [online] Available at: [Accessed 23 Oct. 2016].


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