A Dialogue Indeed
Souvik Monday, June 02, 2008This is a belated posting and I sincerely apologise. A few quick comments on my all too brief chat with Stephan Juergens who presented a paper at the Dialogue conference on the 23rd of May. I was the discussant for his paper at the conference and here is a brief summary of what we spoke about (or rather planned to speak about - we ran out of time!) These are just notes from Stephan's emailed comments with my own glosses - more like a research log, i guess.
SM: Interactive art ... i will start a discussion linking your paper to other kinds of interactive art - will ask for a definition of the limits of interactive art (if any)? Are computer games interactive art or Second Life?
SJ: Interesting question... in my perspective computer games can be art if used by an artist as a form of expression. Today artists use any kind of platform, medium or material to work with, why not computer games? It all depends on the artistic vision, I guess.
As far as Second Life is concerned, it is rather a platform, which allows you to interact with all kind of intentions, commercial, artistic and otherwise.
SJ: I was very much into the Cyborg debate at the time of my MA (2001), but the more I investigated, the more the cyborg lost my interest... seems rather important as a cultural construct... but as a choreographer and dancer, I am naturally interested in "embodied" practices, in "intelligence amplification" as opposed to "artificial intelligence"
SM: I am curious about the cyborgian nature of the interactive artist - how much is he/she part of the machinic?
SJ: I see technology rather as emerging from bodily knowledge; I use technology as a partner for performance, including "old technologies", such as light design, sound system etc.
SM: Is the technology a prosthetic element to the dance itself?
SJ: DDR in my view falls into the category of the "sensitive instrument", a reactive form of interaction. Though requiring some of the dancer's skills (coordination, rhythm, learning sequences etc.) it feels more like a limited "personal trainer"... don't know Guitar Hero to well.
SM: Could you comment on the other aspect where the machine and user produce 'art' on different levels? I am thinking of a game using dancemats such as Dance Dance Revolution or music videogames like Guitar Hero.
SJ: My favourite suggestion of yours! I think, this could be quite an interesting exchange, as we have a term in common and could compare! [later, Stephan compared the Deleuzian idea of the action in the 'Zone of Becoming' (from one of my conference papers) to similar ideas of agency in Mark Downie's work on dance ... must follow up on this. I think I introduced the religious debates on 'free will' in the discussion. Stephan, quite interestingly, brought up the idea of agency and action in Buddhism -again another interesting area to read up on.]
SM: machinic agency... Is there a difference between interaction and agency? How does machinic agency work with conceptions like 'free will' that are implicit in some discussions of agency?
SJ: Yes! There are a lot of similarities. We could look more closely at Downie's work.
SM : The software agent: I am reminded of Weizenbaum's Eliza - is Eliza an agent in the sense that 'she' carries out a dialgoue with her interlocutor (sometimes pretty convincingly).
SJ: We could have a look at Downie's "creatures" There is a "tree" amongst them... [regrettably, we didn't have much time for this one]
SM: would you like to say more about the human-computer complex?
SJ: According to Sarah Rubidge interactive technologies are used by choreographer's of all kinds and styles; they are usually interested for different reasons!
SM: what is the reaction to such interactive art in the more conventional areas of performance studies (dance, especially).
Well, there you go ... the ravages of time and a week spent in reworking a chapter does so much to the memory. We continued the conversation in the pub and unfortunately Mr Guinness took some of it away with him!
So this is more than a dialogue , then: it's on one-level a dialogue between me and Stephan and on the other, one between me-at-the-present-moment speaking myself-a-week-ago (and i expect Stephan is somewhere around, interjecting, interrupting and correcting).
'Literature is a combinatorial game that pursues the possibilities implicit in its own material [...] but it is a game that at a certain point is invested with an unexpected meaning' - Italo Calvino