The Body as Interface

[BeginPage: Symposium about interactivity]


Interactive works have been around for some time, and lately they are getting more and more popular. The term interactivity first surfaced around 1960 in the United States in reference to the computer or to be precise to the fact that scientists had managed to interrupt the computer's operations. They called the interruption an interactivity and decided to focus on the partnership of man and machine in further development of the computer. Since then interactivity got directly associated with computer systems. But lately this term is changing. Instead of interactive installation, many people are referring to these works as emotional architecture, ambient experience design or responsive environments. Not surprising as many of the works make use of invisible technology and interfaces, in many instances using the human body as an interface that triggers the work. This relates to the way we are dealing with technology in our daily lives, where our relationship with our environment is increasingly transforming towards the intangible: from mobile devices as telephone, game controllers and gps to electronic tags for travel and products. These changes are effecting our experience of location, space and geographical positioning on a personal and global level in both a digital and physical way. Interactive installations have always forced us to think about the complex experience of interactivity and immersion. Now, without obvious interfaces these experiences are becoming even more complex, which makes the necessity to critically examine the processes more vital than ever.

Looking at interactive art practices artists and critics will shed light on one of the key concerns for many creative practitioners - engaging the emotions of the audience/user. They will focus on the meaning and wish for 'emotional engagement' and interactivity. Artists seem compelled to expand the sensory capabilities of our bodies, but what do we gain through this process? How do we conceptualise interactivity and incorporate emotional values? Does interactivity offer, due to its participatory nature, a more profound experience than traditional forms of art? What does it add and how is that measured? How does one engage and sustain the interest of the public in an interactive experience? How does one define the line between spectacle and works that create a chain of associations and provide a space for engagement, interpretation and participation? These questions are crucial to interactive art where the user's response is sensitive to context and can influence not only the form and content of the work but also, in some cases, the future direction of technological development.

[beginPage: Programe]
Moderator: Ole Bouman

13.30 – 14.00 h.
Presentation: Renee van de Vall (University Maastricht, MA Media Culture)
In her talk Van de Vall will explore what interactivity means. Does an experience of interactive art differ from other more passive forms of art like paintings or movies, and if so, in what way? She questions whether things presented to us as interactive actually are so, before moving on to consider why we might want our designed objects and spaces to be 'interactive'. Rather than provide at the outset a fixed definition for 'interaction', Van de Vall discusses interaction from a few different angles, hoping that the sketched-in boundaries enable one to converge on a useful conception of the word.

Lecture Renee van de Vall online

14.30 – 16.00 h.
Discussion with:

Kristina Andersen (Media Design, Piet Zwart Institute, Rotterdam and Steim, Amsterdam)
Christa Sommerer (media artist and professor at University of Art and Design in Linz Austria) -
Paul Verschure (ICREA research professor at the Technology Department of University Pompeu Fabra and director of the research program in perceptive and interactive systems at the foundation Barcelona Media) -

Opening 17.00 hours of Dune 4.0 from Daan Roosegaarde with live performance by Ellen Pieterse i.s.m. Melange. Dune 4.0 is an interactive landscape that was developed specially for the Artist in Residence program in order to investigate the functioning and presentation of interactivity. Dune 4.0 is a work-in-progress. No entrance fee.

Location: Netherlands Media Art Institute
Time: 13.30 – 19.00 hours
Entrance: 10,- (students 8,-)
Reservations: 020 6237101

[beginPage: Information about the speakers]
Renée van de Vall is philosopher, specialized in aesthetics. She works at the University Maastricht, where she directs the MA Media Culture. Her next book, At the Edges of Vision. A Phenomenological Aesthetics of Contemporary Spectatorship will appear in 2007 (Ashgate).

Kristina Andersen works with interactions and concepts to create unusual objects and experiences. Her projects include he FARAWAY project with Margot Jacobs and Laura Polazzi, ‘ensemble’, sensor-based wearable musical controllers for children. She is an artist in residence at STEIM (Studio for Electro-Instrumental Music) in Amsterdam working on a set of performances provisionally titled ‘stop. don’t stop’ with Nora Heilmann and a new series of explorative interactive objects called the black box project. She has been a mentor at DasArts, a thematic project leader at the Piet Zwart Institute/Media Design and she is honorary visiting design fellow at the University of York.

Christa Sommerer is an internationally renowned media artists working in the field of interactive computer installation. Sommerer originally studied biology (botany) at the University of Vienna and modern sculpture and art education at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna (masters degree). Now she is professor at the University of Art and Design in Linz Austria where she heads together with Laurent Mignonneau the Department for Interface Culture at the Institute for Media. Together they are developing natural and intuitive interfaces and for often applying scientific principles such as artificial life, complexity and generative systems to their innovative interface designs. Sommerer and Mignonneau created pioneering interactive computer installations such as a.o. 'Interactive Plant Growing' (1992), 'A-Volve' (1994), 'Trans Plant' (1995), 'Life Spacies' (1997) and “Mobile Feelings' (2003).

Paul Verschure is an ICREA research professor at the Technology Department of University Pompeu Fabra and director of the research program in perceptive and interactive systems at the foundation Barcelona Media. His scientific aim is to find a unified theory of mind, brain and body through the use of synthetic methods and to apply such a theory to the development of novel cognitive technologies. Paul works on biologically constrained models of perception, learning, behavior and problem solving that are applied to wheeled and flying robots, interactive spaces and avatars. In addition to his basic research, he applies concepts and methods from the study of natural perception, cognition and behavior to the development of interactive creative installations and intelligent immersive spaces. Since 1998, he has, together with his collaborators, generated a series 17 public exhibits of which the most ambitious was the exhibit 'Ada: Intelligent space' for the Swiss national exhibition Expo.02.

Ole Bouman
is a cultural and architectural historian. He works as a curator and consultant in the fields of architecture, visual culture and politics. Since 1988, he has covered these subjects in a column in the newspaper De Groene Amsterdammer (The Green Amsterdammer), and he is editor-in-chief of the magazine Archis. He also teaches architectural history at the Amsterdam Academy of Art. In addition, Bouman writes widely for various Dutch and international publications. He has published, together with Roemer van Toorn, the encyclopedic manifesto, 'The Invisible in Architecture', an interdisciplinary study of the social circumstances of contemporary architecture. He has also published 'And Justice for All', a collection of essays on politics and visual culture.