Keeping Interactive Art Interactive

By Jennifer Eiserman and Gerald Hushlak.

Published by The International Journal of the Inclusive Museum

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

This paper draws on research in exhibition design and visitor studies to demonstrate that interactive exhibitions provide significantly improved visitor experiences. Interactivity allows visitors to engage with works at a basic, kinesthetic level, to “play,” “discover” and extend notions of art. They allow intergenerational groups, second language visitors and those with special abilities to engage more deeply with the works. Children respond enthusiastically to interactive installations. By physically interacting with a work, the visitor has a more immediate, intuitive relationship with it. However, this can only happen when it works. The recent Lucas Samaras installation at the Venice Biennale made its own statement when one entered the space and ALL the monitors were not working. Profs. Hushlak (artist), Boyd (remote sensing), and Jacobs (swarm theory) collaborate on interactive museum installations. Presently they are developing an interactive installation wherein performers in Montreal and Beijing communicate through dance in real time. The telematics components will be facilitated from Calgary. The difference between interactive exhibitions that work and those that do not is the way in which these exhibitions are designed, monitored, and maintained. Early in the process of computer art installation it was almost a given that exhibits involving digital technologies were vulnerable to breakdown. Museum personnel, without the specialized training necessary to maintain the installations, are usually at a loss to repair digital systems; often, local technicians are incapable of mending broken installations because they are custom designed. Hushlak, et al. recognize this issue and provide remote monitoring and adjustments of their interactive systems. Most malfunctions are repaired from a distance, ensuring that the artwork remains functioning. A series of interactive museum exhibitions will be cited that provide different models for remote exhibit monitoring and adjustment. When appropriate, remote monitoring of the audience facilitates sampling of audience engagement.

Keywords: Collections, Exhibitions, Technology, Arts

The International Journal of the Inclusive Museum, Volume 6, Issue 2, pp.183-196. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.634MB).

Dr. Jennifer Eiserman

Associate Professor, Department of Art, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

I am an associate professor in the Department of Art at the University of Calgary. I have been exploring the nature of learning in young children for over 10 years. My work is inspired by the pedagogy of the early childhood educators in Reggio Emilia. This practice understands young children to be competent learners, with problem solving and inquiry skills appropriate to their stage of human development. Learning what this means and how best to support their growth has been the work of my students and myself in the university classroom and within early childhood and elementary settings in Calgary, Alberta. I have learned from the children and now use this constructivist, learner centred, negotiated, generative approach with post-secondary and post-graduate students. My interest in the relationship between art and technology emerged in graduate study and has evolved as a result of what I perceive to be the necessity for those involved in the training of artists to provide a foundation in contemporary media to their students. Prior to entering academe, I worked in museums across Canada at a time when museum practice was just beginning to embrace the then emerging internet as a form of dissemination.

Prof. Gerald Hushlak

Professor, Department of Art, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada


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