CHArt Seventeenth Annual Conference

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a subject in transition; opportunities and problems

Michael Hammel, University of Aarhus, Denmark
Towards a Yet Newer Laocoon - or, how computer games can help us understand interactive art

Interactive art works pose special problems. An interactive art work can only be interpreted through interaction, either as first-person or as bystander. It is obvious that the experience differs between the two positions, whereas one acts and the other watches the acting. The question is whether it is possible to extract the art work from the interaction with it, let alone the (im-)possibility of extracting the interaction among the beholders (first-person and bystanders) of the art work from the interaction with it. This leads to further questions, as to how the interactive art work is to be interpreted when the spectator has left it, or has changed it? Is it possible to interpret interactive art works without interacting with these? Is it possible at all to interpret art works through interaction, and thereby accept the interpretation from a distracted interpreter? Try for example to be give an detailed account of one level of Doom. Either you never make it to the end, or you are too busy winning to watch the details. The answers to the questions, I argue, lie in the addition of an 'interactivity-theory' to traditional aesthetics. Based on experiences from computer games and web-design, an aesthetic understanding of the concept of interactivity that counter the Kantian aesthetics in many ways. This may equip the art historian with tools to take up the challenge that has risen from the interactive art works, as well as contribute to a different view on computer games and electronic visual culture.

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