Interactivity in Contemporary Art

(last update 2 years ago)

By making the audience a collaborator they forget they are an audience at all, it is at this point that immersion is possible.

The space is bathed in colour, time seems slower, the twinkling of stars somehow rendered audible. A site-specific installation, PRECESSION (screensaver) is Josefina Nelimarkka’s second solo exhibition. It is a technically ambitious work combining film, sound and an interactive constellation. Stereoscape are delighted to have been involved in both the conception and installation process, with our engineers devising the interactivity solution. Iona Roisin stopped by to see how it was all put together.

Inviting the Audience Inside

The focal point of the exhibition space is a large angled screen, over which washes a continually shifting plane of colour and abstracted shapes. Revealed to be fragments of pigments, they have been magnified so as to make them visible on a molecular level – almost becoming astral surfaces themselves.

Here the audience is invited to enter into the work, to navigate their way around a constellation of sensors, indicated in the space by soft spotlights, determining through their presence the sequence and length of the images on screen. Even if one chooses to avoid triggering the sensors, the drifting and hypnotic ‘screensaver’ will still play, allowing the audience to adopt both a passive and active position whilst still being immersed in the piece. There is movement, but the overall feeling is one of stillness, coaxing the participants into a process of collaboration, selection and reflection.

 Our Role

There has long been an overlap between contemporary art and technology, in PRECESSION we see interactivity utilised in an innovative way that entices the audience and forges a memorable experience – and Stereoscape are proud to have been involved. Our engineers devised the best solution for Nelimarkka’s design, allowing the content to dictate the technical set-up. With site-specific works many of the details are finalised during the installation, particularly with interactive works the responsiveness of the sensors need to be tested in the space. Fine-tuning the sensitivity allows us to establish how close audience members need to get to be registered. A delay on the sensor picks up small movements so people of all heights can influence it. The participants can choose whether to stay still or move around, the footage will play for as long as the sensor is engaged and then continue if uninterrupted after the person leaves. This allows the participant to move around the constellation, to engage a different sensor or move closer to inspect the detail of the film – creating a physical montage.

Stereoscape’s engineers programed the software to accommodate this looping and layering so that engaging with the work is possible alone or in a group. At the opening I was intrigued to watch people interact. Some are impatient, some move into the spotlight and wait for the work to sense their proximity and shift scenes. Mostly multiple people stand under the sensors, waiting to see what they have triggered. This aspect of exploration creates a feeling of discovery throughout the process.

 Why Interactivity?

Much art hopes to influence participation and engage with its audience, and utilising an interactive solution is one way to achieve this. By inviting the audience inside, the thematic aspects of the work are accessible in a different way. There are parallels between what art and advertising hope to inspire in their audience, which make interactive solutions relevant to both promotion and contemporary art. Interactivity creates a space for close engagement between audience and situation. In inviting them to make decisions and engaging their spatial memory a more meaningful and memorable experience is generated. It can be employed on multiple levels, from physical to virtual – the key element is participation. By making the audience a collaborator they forget they are an audience at all, it is at this point that immersion is possible.

PRECESSION (screensaver) is on at Sinne in Helsinki until 28.2.16


– Iona Roisin

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