Post 2: On Screens, Moving Image, and Interactivity
One of the subjects the course discusses is moving images. One of the most significant topics of the course is interactivity in art. It is interesting to consider how interactivity is employed in the presentation of moving images. Lev Manovich’s writing, The Language of New Media explains the role of interactivity in cinema. In movie screening, the user must focus only on what appears on the screen. They have to fall susceptible to the image’s content, ignoring reality outside of the screen. They have to immerse themselves fully with the world projected on the screen (Manovich, 2002). This creates a spectacle of illusion. Film directors use techniques like mis-en-scene, as discussed in class, to prompt this. Alfred Hitchcock is regarded as an expert on suspense, one of his trademarks being moving the camera to imitate human gaze. This causes viewers to merge their perspective with the scene on the screen, inducing empathetic responses like fear and anxiety. The director must consider the relationship between the observer and observed. This can be seen in one of Hitchcock’s infamous films, Psycho.
Video performance art also does this. It is a performance in the fine art context with components: space, time, and the relationship between the performer and viewers. While video performance art is recognized by many as a contrary to conventional theatre and cinema, I argue that it is rather an extension. This kind of performance extends on the need for performances to be direct and personal, with increased interaction. Rather than being a depiction from the past, it is “live” art, as it coincides with humanity’s growing relationship with technology. They have gotten more personal and interactive, from mental involvement to physical involvement. It seems that the key to a good performance relies on the intrigue it causes the viewer to experience, associated to the level of interaction they experience.
I attended an arts/technology symposium at my home university. A project presented was Performance Portrait: Live By A Canary Torsi. The interactive technology creates an interface resulting in a certain intimacy between the spectator and actor on the screen (A Canary Torsi, 2015). The life-size recordings are done prior for a four hour duration, and the motion detects the viewer’s movements, determining which portion of the video to play back for the viewer in response. The spectator gets involved with the video monitor through subtle gestures rather than overt control. For example, the interaction could begin by an intimate interaction like the meeting of a gaze. Other detections are unconscious, like shifts in weight. It is more of a natural interaction because they humans don’t interact by pressing buttons. These performances can be commodified, yet remain personal. The artists explained that they will first put this in a gallery to enhance the gallery experience, but they see it being public places in the future, like a mall.
Another piece related is Funky Forest, by Theodore Watson, an ecosystem that allows children to interact with, making trees appear on a large screen projection and maintaining their wellbeing through certain gestures. Another is Whirl by Christa Erickson, where the viewer’s breath is used to control the video and record player. These pieces coincide with the theme of physically interacting with screens.
Erickson, C. (2007). Whirl. [mixed medias] Stony Brook: Staller Center of the Arts.
Watson, T., & Gobeille, E. (2007). Funky Forest. [mixed medias] Westergasfabriek: Cinekid Festival.
A Canary Torsi. (2015). Performance Portrait: Live. New London: Cummings Art Center.
Manovich, L. (2002). The Language of New Media. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Psycho. (1960). [DVD]. USA: Shamley Productions.