Art Project in Response to Campbell’s Article: Delusions of Dialogue

Our midterm project for the class: Communication with Hybrid Environments is an art piece responding to Jim Campbell’s article, “Delusions of Dialogue: Control and Choice in Interactive Art” (pdf found below). Campbell elaborates on some issues that new media artists face when making digital art. He focuses on the limitations of the medium, that life has to be measured in discrete units for the computer to understand.

“an artist is forced to transform a concept, an emotion or an intuition into a logical representation. This is a difficult thing without trivializing the original concept.” (134)

How the program interacts with the viewer provides clues into the program and that it also hints at intelligence. Because programs are invisible, viewers will superimpose behavior, motivations, and a goal. All are human characteristics. Campbell emphasizes that for the viewer to understand the concept the artist must predict all the ways in which the viewer can interact with the piece. It is easier to think of all the measurements the program can take and have the viewer choose which measurement they would like. In that sense, as digital artists we must make all measurements of a type available. The example he uses is if the program prompts a typed response, all possible responses have to be included, not just some of them. Lastly, Campbell talks about computer memory. In this section he brings attention to a computer function that is neglected. Computers are more than calculators or databases with strict “data regurgitation”. They also interpret sensory input, save the interpretation, and disregard the original data. This ability is a component that allows for change.

“The possibility exist for works that perceivable never repeat themselves. Works that respond to their environment not just in a short-term way, but in a long-term way, unpredictable and meaningfully.” (135)

A computer can operate beyond its human-coded instructions. As digital artists we need to understand all the functions and advantages of working with this medium. The potentials for expression are greater than ever. The reason being that the medium was made with human desires in mind. We live in a mutualistic relationship with this machine. Our art can change over time, it can react to us in real time, we can give it the ability to choose. The range for human expression using the computer has increased exponentially. As digital artists we should know the subtle but immense power is has.

The response project is going to include my two favorite themes: neuro-anatomy and nostalgia. Using a range of sensors (close-capacitance and touch) and data types(images, audio, static shock) the art piece will connect different parts of the brain with different types of generic memories. We will make it so that the responses overlap and also have some random behavior. This aspect mimics the brain’s ability to think of two things at once and its ability to recall seemingly random material. Inspiration for this project comes from scientific discoveries in psychology and neurobiology which are making us understand how little we currently know about the mind. It is ironic that despite living in our bodies for our entire life, we are repeatedly amazed with its inner workings. Our life is but a process of self-discovery.