Day 2, Stream 3


Mike Stubbs: FACT, UK


Linda Candy: University of Technology, Australia

Gabriella Arrigoni: Newcastle University, UK

Frances Joseph: Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand

Brian Evans: University of Alabama, US

Mark Cypher: Murdoch University, Australia



Linda Candy, Ernest Edmonds & Sophy Smith The Role of Evaluation in Public Art: The Light Logic Exhibition

The paper reviews approaches to evaluation in relation to art with a particular focus on Light Logic at Site Gallery, Sheffield, UK, an exhibition of drawings, paintings and interactive digital works. The evaluation exercise was conducted partly as a response to a requirement set down by the Arts Council of England, which supported the work. We discuss the meaning of the term ‘evaluation’ in the context of public art. On an individual level, evaluation can be viewed as a structured way of thinking about what has happened during the process of making works and after completion and exhibition. It is a consciously reflective way of working that can help make choices, shape future activities and show what happens as a result of taking certain actions. This category of evaluation is both personal and formative, and involves practitioners exercising judgments during the creative process based on highly individual criteria, such as assessing the coherence of a composition through visual appraisal. In addition, there is a second category that is external to the artist’s creative process, and usually takes place after the completion of the work and during a public exhibition. This form of evaluation can be used to judge the worth of an application for funding, based upon track record and quality of work as perceived by people other than the artist. The paper also discusses frameworks that can be used to scope the elements in creative projects and to establish appropriate criteria for evaluation. We provide examples from the evaluation of Light Logic and, in particular, of interactive art experiences and consider a set of questions such as: How does the audience respond? What makes an interactive engaging, and why? We conclude by discussing some the characteristics of interactive relationships that engage us and how evaluation can inform the creative process.


Gabriella Arrigoni The Pointless Chatroom: Coping with Absence in Web-Based Performances

This paper addresses the role of chat functionality when included in online performances that do not fundamentally require it. The starting point is an overview on theories emphasising the unfinished character of a performance without the audience, taken from performance and theatre studies. An exploration of uses and motivations for inviting spectators to chat is then supported by a series of semi-structured interviews conducted with artists from both theatrical and visual arts backgrounds. The explanation that chat functionality is included as a way to reintegrate a form of co-presence across the network is offered, but immediately challenged, by the author. A position is then adopted that the need for co-presence is not a universal one, but rather a symptom of a performance strongly rooted in theatre practice and its origins as a collective, cathartic experience. Online performers with a background in the visual arts tend to emphasise the dialectic between artwork and audience as based purely on the action of viewing, without the guarantee of feedback. Such performers are conditioned by their backgrounds to be accustomed to a deferred audience reception. This study also examines and elaborates on the use of chat logs as a form of evaluation and documentation, acknowledging a shift in the notion itself of documentation.


Frances Joseph Collaborative Registers of Interactive Art

Research into collaborative modes of technology development is often discussed in terms of communication and co-ordination. The process of collaboration in interactive art projects warrants consideration beyond the management of cross-disciplinary teams. This paper addresses three collaborative registers identified in recent literature on interactive art in relation to a series of case studies of screen based and e-textile based creative projects. These registers include collaboration within interdisciplinary and trans-disciplinary teams; collaboration as material engagement by ‘makers,’ and collaboration through audience participation.

The distinction made between functional forms of interaction design where engagement leads to an outcome or result and aesthetic forms concerned with interactivity as a medium that produces meaning, was based on traditional knowledge frameworks associated with technology development on the one hand, and the creative arts on the other. The development of new forms of interface that have shifted away from the ‘buttons-and-screens’ of the personal computer, and the availability of open source physical computing platforms, have introduced new conceptualisations as well as new development processes. Interactive technologies can be regarded as expressive materials that show themselves in use. Collaboration is typically thought of as being between human beings, but there is also a collaborative aspect to materials, onto which you do not simply impose your vision, but rather discover it there.

Interactivity is emerging as a distinctive medium with an ontological framing that involves temporal dimensions through embodied participation in the performance and meaning of the work of art. The engagement of performer with interactive artifact and audience as performer of the artwork introduces another dimension that challenges traditional spectatorial positions and their associated aesthetic regulations, recognising the significance of embodiment and engagement, in contrast to the distanciation of traditional visual and cinematic art forms.


Brian Evans A Murmuration of Thought

What are the materials of thought? In a search for a physical basis we find neuronal networks, electro-chemical spikes traversing the networks, and a patterned and coherent flow of those spikes in time. From this activity consciousness emerges.

Simple models can illustrate the processes and provide us metaphors for this emergence. Through metaphors we can understand (and explain) the power of these processes. One poetic model, a large flock of starlings also called a murmuration, parallels the structure of a simple neuronal network, and might point to aspects of mental activity and the emergence of something that transcends the simple behaviors of individual agents in a large well-connected group. A flock of birds has been traditionally modeled with each bird (agent) following three simple rules in flight: separation, alignment and cohesion.

Birds as nodes in a network have connections (edges) to local flockmates. Individual birds move through space informed by their neighbors through attraction (alignment and cohesion) and inhibition (separation).

Starlings can also see distant flock members and so are also informed by action at a distance. This suggests a structure of a small-world network. With a small change in flight rules, adding a small amount of distant information, the standard flocking model rapidly coheres into a murmuration and thousands of individual birds transform into one entity seeming to move with single intent though the twilight sky.

This structure and this process are also what one would expect as thousands of neuronal spikes move through the dense, small-world network in our brains. At the very least we can see the beauty of emergence in the model, and wonder if the very act of imagining is itself the ebb and flow of thousands of simple actions in the process of becoming one thing—a human thought.


Mark Cypher “The modal weight of an interactive and electronic artwork; relational materiality, distributed cognition and the actor-network”

Generally, interactive and electronic artworks are conceptualised as essentially immaterial. That is, the digital artwork is a pure abstraction that lacks the physical properties that literally ground an artwork in the empirical world. In contrast, this paper maps the effects of interactivity in an electronic artwork as beholden to a whole range of material actors. This distributed effect is explained in terms of Actor-Network Theory. The combined outcome is that the supposed immateriality of digital artworks is in fact reconstituted with a kind of relational and informational materiality. Composed of, if not dependent on, the heterogeneous nature of a whole host of actors that sustains an artwork from production into exhibition and interaction.
The events observed and experienced in many interactions involving the artwork suggest that materiality is present at every stage. The implication then is that wherever actors, cognition and materiality meet, a mutually catalysing and constituting relationship is likely to develop. Consequently, when an actor interacts with the artwork, there is a shift in relational matter and hence the way it is expressed in information materiality. Thus, meaning is co-enacted in relation with the affordances in place. This cumulative generation of meaning points to a distributed and collective expression of cognition that constantly blurs the distinctions between intention and material affordance in interactive artworks. Therefore, the description that follows demonstrates that meaning, cognition and action arise together with the modal weight of materials in interaction that then shapes the nature of the electronic and interactive artwork.