Thus, what we have in interactive media art are apparatus-like artworks whose epistemic potential must be sought in the process of interaction. However, this process may also turn into an experience guided exclusively by production aesthetics. Then the interaction system becomes a device that is used to create manifestations that, in turn, proffer themselves for contemplative reception.
Kwastek, Katja. Aesthetics of Interaction in Digital Art. Trans. Warde, Niamh. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2013.
The aesthetic experience of interactive art thus depends on (among other things) the originality of the system, or at least the system’s novelty for the user. The functionality of a musical instrument, by contrast, is known and standardized, like the workings of the cinema projector or the photographic camera.
Kwastek, Katja. Aesthetics of Interaction in Digital Art. Trans. Warde, Niamh. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2013.
In [Golan] Levin’s view, when recipients have little to lose, they also have little to gain, apart from their pleasure in the artist’s compositions: “[C]anned ingredients, all too inevitably, yield canned results.”
Kwastek, Katja. Aesthetics of Interaction in Digital Art. Trans. Warde, Niamh. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2013.
In contrast to a musical interpreter who knows and has mastered his instrument, the apparatus operated by a recipient of interactive media art is entirely unfamiliar to him.
Kwastek, Katja. Aesthetics of Interaction in Digital Art. Trans. Warde, Niamh. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2013.
The score permits a temporal separation between composition and performance, allowing for a practice period in between the two. Composition and performance coincide only in improvisation, where the mediating score is absent and the musician’s virtuosity becomes apparent in his combination of spontaneous creativity and technical mastery of the instrument. Consequently, Evens considers musical scores to be a constraint for musicians: “How much more difficult it is to discover the music’s ownmost possibility when the correct note has been specified in advance. How can the musician become one with his instrument when a score stands between him and the music, mediating his experience of it?” However, Evens concedes that the risk of failure is greater in improvisation. He argues that this is why musicians draw on methods that introduce unpredictable or chance elements, such as altering their instrument or incorporating random factors. In this way, Evens asserts, musicians deliberately increase the resistance of the instrument in order to maintain a quality of experimentation when improvising.
Kwastek, Katja. Aesthetics of Interaction in Digital Art. Trans. Warde, Niamh. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2013.
(…) one difference between an interactive artwork and a musical instrument is that the user of the interaction system is initially ignorant of its workings, and another difference is that the relationship between input and output is not based on physical processes.
Kwastek, Katja. Aesthetics of Interaction in Digital Art. Trans. Warde, Niamh. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2013.
The thesis of the present study is that the aesthetics of interactive art manifests itself primarily as an aesthetics of interaction. The focus of interactive art is on the staging, the realization, and the critical analysis of interaction processes, not on the gestalt that may be created or conveyed by means of these processes. The epistemic potential of interactive art is based, as we have seen, on an oscillation between flow and distancing and between action and reflection that originates in the processes of interaction.
Kwastek, Katja. Aesthetics of Interaction in Digital Art. Trans. Warde, Niamh. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2013.
Thus, the apparatus defines the modus operandi of interactive artworks quite accurately. Nonetheless, it would be going too far to claim the reverse—that every apparatus is an interactive artwork.
Kwastek, Katja. Aesthetics of Interaction in Digital Art. Trans. Warde, Niamh. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2013.
Vilém Flusser joined the apparatus debate in the 1980s, focusing on technological or media-based factors. His study is concerned with the photographic camera, which he considers exemplary. He defines the apparatus as a cultural product that “lies in wait or in readiness for something” in order to “inform” it (i.e., give it form). Like Krämer, Flusser emphasizes that the apparatus neither carries out work nor creates products, and that its purpose is not to change the world but to change the meaning of the world. Flusser’s apparatus is first and foremost a producer of symbols. Flusser calls the processes that take place within apparatuses “programs” in order to distinguish them from their material repositories. He thus concludes that “the question of ownership of the apparatus is irrelevant; the real issue here is who develops its program.” Even if the operator of the apparatus—as a “functionary”—is closely entwined with his equipment, the apparatus is still a “black box” to him: “The functionary controls the apparatus thanks to the control of its exterior (the input and output) and is controlled by it thanks to the impenetrability of its interior.”
Kwastek, Katja. Aesthetics of Interaction in Digital Art. Trans. Warde, Niamh. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2013.
As Krämer explains, the apparatus “permits experiences and enables processes that in the absence of apparatuses would not only exist otherwise in a weaker form, but would not exist at all.”
Kwastek, Katja. Aesthetics of Interaction in Digital Art. Trans. Warde, Niamh. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2013.
(…) there is also another kind of device that can be taken into consideration as a possible reference model for interactive art: the apparatus. The term “apparatus” is used to denote a sophisticated device that usually combines several different functions or processes (such as, in the photographic camera, chemical processes of exposure, optical processes of focusing, and mechanical processes of shutter control) and is based on complex processes of transformation that are often controlled electronically or digitally. The purpose of the apparatus is likewise not to simplify work, but to generate artificial worlds.
Kwastek, Katja. Aesthetics of Interaction in Digital Art. Trans. Warde, Niamh. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2013.
Thus, if the concept of medium cannot adequately describe the ontological status of the interactive artwork, the concept of instrument is also stretched to its limits, because it does justice neither to the complex processes of mediation nor to the potentially discursive functions of interactive art.
Kwastek, Katja. Aesthetics of Interaction in Digital Art. Trans. Warde, Niamh. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2013.
Dieter Mersch distinguishes between aisthetic and discursive media as means of presenting or means of declaring. Media that present, such as images or sounds, prioritize the creation of perceptions, whereas media that declare, especially words and numbers, are based on logical and syntactic structures. A medium can convey both discursive and aisthetic information; an instrument, as a “worldmaker,” has primarily aisthetic functions.
Kwastek, Katja. Aesthetics of Interaction in Digital Art. Trans. Warde, Niamh. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2013.
Whereas a medium is a mediator of something, a device is a mediator for something: for a process that creates or at least substantially transforms a product.
Kwastek, Katja. Aesthetics of Interaction in Digital Art. Trans. Warde, Niamh. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2013.