the interactive gambit (do not run! we are your friends!)

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The title of my presentation this evening evidences two of the main threads. One, "The Interactive Art Gambit", reveals that I see this approach as a kind of strategy, a move to be made in a game, the game of art. The other "Do not run! We are your frie nds!" is taken from the recent Tim Burton film "Mars Attacks!". Those who have seen this film will remember this gag well - a Martian, having captured the earthlings' voice translating machine, roams through the streets speaking in Martian and the machin e faithfully translates and speaks this phrase aloud, while he kills everyone in sight. It is in the collision of game-play, art strategy, technology, paradox, and the play of disguise and disclosure that I find a place to approach the larger subject pre sented by this symposium, "artists' applications of new interactive technologies", and will present some questions I have posed in working through some of these issues in my own artwork.

Emerging from a peculiar concatenation of sculpture, experimental cinema, automata, arcade machines, shrines, and computer technology, the interactive work of art holds an equally peculiar status in a nether-world between art, what has come to be called m edia art, and electronic entertainment.

I'll first discuss a few precedents in art which have interested me, and trace a part of the past of the "interactive" art gambit. I will look briefly at some works by Duchamp and Johns, a turn-of-the-century scientific apparatus, and some Asian shrines, before discussing some of my own work.

Video games, training hypermedia, and military simulators are often invoked as the ancestors of interactive art, and are the reference points for many people's first experiences of these works. These military and commercial forms are very important in und erstanding the culture in which these artworks have come into existence, as they are clearly an expression of its imaginary, too; and the availability of these technologies to artists, in time, is highly significant. But they are, for me, a reference onl y in deciphering the larger language of the culture drift. Within a practice of making art, which is what these works intend to be, the commercial and military forms should not be mistaken as the only, or the primary, contextual landmarks.

But it is not simply a matter of taking a neo-Modernist stance by saying "art is about art", or as Ad Reinhardt said, "Art is art and everything else is everything else". Our media culture has become too complex for that, economics can only see the roman tic as the x-ray of his skeleton. In a rush to derive relevance from connecting to more widespread cultural forms of the imaginary, like entertainment, there is nothing to be gained by reflexively taking an equally stale and ahistorical anti-art position and declaring the means by which other artists have approached similar questions to be irrelevant. The accelerating fragmentation of everyday life, with media itself as the propellant, makes focus difficult. So, once in a while, I think it is interesti ng to draw a line connecting some of these dots, and regard the picture that emerges, rather than discussing the endless number of possible ways the dots might be connected, or which dots are to be connected, or if there ever were any dots... So the pictu re I will trace out is not a linear historical timeline, not a cause-and-effect chain, but a moving spotlight which illuminates some of my own points of reference.

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