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technology in the '90s  

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

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Using computers to control works is not simply a more advanced form of what has come before. The early experiments in interactive video were essentially movies with a choice of different endings, and one could say that these were possibly even less intere sting than well edited cinematic works.

Don't forget that when we talk about computers controlling anything, they do so only as a result of the hardware and software that a particular author has put together for the work. They express, in one way or another, their authors intentions, and may ta ke a position within a spectrum of possibilities as diverse as the imagination. It is, after all, limits of the imagination which are the horizon, not the technology. From the chicken in Chinatown that plays tic-tac-toe we can see that even a chicken can learn to defeat a human opponent if an electronic circuit is coaching them, especially if it gets them fed. Certainly, we can imagine what are now impossible technologies - for example, everyone has thought about recording their dreams, or even, their c omplete subjective sensation - movies have been made about it, etc. - and yet, there is not even a remote glimpse of how this could be done with our current technologies. People often speak of the need for true "artificial intelligence" before works can b e "truly" interactive. Perhaps this is true if what we want is to make an artwork that is like a person, to give someone interacting with the work the sense that they are interacting with another person, another intelligence. But this is too obvious, to o much a simple continuation of the long-standing role of technology as a way of just reflecting ourselves.

So these programs and hardware made by an artist are ways in which their ideas and aesthetics cohere and can be carried out within a computer-driven work. They should not be measured against scientific achievements or information systems, communication n etworks or educational methodologies. Without put it on a higher level, or valorizing it as in any way more "advanced" than these other forms, it is still important to understand that art has a role in the culture which is different from those things tha t seek to accomplish some concrete aim. It is speculative and, if any traces of an avant-garde remain relevant at this point in history, it is in its ability to experiment, to do things for no reason at all, propelled by an interest in what is unknown, n ot already understood.

interior ["Interior" slide]

This is an image of a work-in-progress, a new piece which will be shown later this year at the NTT Project InterCommunication Center in Tokyo.

Complexity in my work is a key factor. What I find so extraordinarily compelling about using computers to control interactive works is that it is possible for me to write software which has the ultimate result of creating works which behave complexly. It is more than randomness or other chance-operations - and yet, ultimately, less than open-ended. But it is because of this unpredictability and that the fact that the works must have real limits that I find myself able to remain interested in my own work after it is completed, and I assume that, for a critical viewer-participant, extended or repeated encounters with the work will also result in some further varieties of experience, and that new meanings will continue to emerge from the work as a result. Not because they are endless, but the opposite - because they are finite, because they are written.

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