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What Makes a Successful and Relevant Interactive Public Artwork?


Eleanor Hurt Art Context 2

Contents

Introduction……………………………………………. Page 1

Test Site - Carsten Holler……………………………. Page 3

Yard - Alan Kaprow…………………………………... Page 7

Yayoi Kusama - Infinity Mirrors……………………… Page 9

Conclusion…………………………………………….. Page 14




List of Illustrations

● Figure 1: Carsten Holler, ‘Test Site’ via tate.org; ‘The Unilever Series: Carsten Holler: Test Site’ © Tate Photography https://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/exhibition/unilever-series/unilever-series-carsten-holler-test-site

● Figure 2: Alan Kaprow, ‘Yard’ via ‘The Happening and its Influence on Contemporary Art, by Widewalls via studyblue.com https://www.widewalls.ch/magazine/happening-happenings-performance-art

● Figure 3: Yayoi Kusama, ‘Infinity Mirrored Room - Filled with the Brilliance of Life’ via Tate.org ‘Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirror Rooms’ https://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/exhibition/yayoi-kusama-infinity-mirror-rooms

● Figure 4:Yayoi Kusama ‘Obliteration Room’ via Mark Sherwood/Rex Features/Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo via The Guardian ‘Spot on: The Obliteration Room by Yayoi Kusama- in Pictures’ https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/gallery/2012/feb/01/obliteration-room-yayoi-kusama-in-pictures

● Figure 5:Yayoi Kusama ‘Obliteration Room’ via Natasha Harth/Rex Features/Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo via The Guardian ‘Spot on: The Obliteration Room by Yayoi Kusama- in Pictures’ https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/gallery/2012/feb/01/obliteration-room-yayoi-kusama-in-pictures

Introduction

Definition of Terms


Public art is freely accessible to anyone, so is situated in spaces such as free to enter galleries, parks, public buildings, or city centres. It is explained by Tate on their website as ‘art that is in the public realm, regardless of whether it is situated on public or private property or whether it has been purchased with public or private money[1]’.

Art that is in private homes or buildings, or that you have to pay to see, is classed as private art. The Balance Careers website describes ‘a private museum is often the personal art collection of an individual who determines how the collection is exhibited and how the museum is run[2].

Interactive art is work that viewers or audiences can participate in, having an impact on the outcome of the work. It is not considered interactive if the only participation the audience has is in viewing or listening, they need to be able to have a significant impact on the work. Interactive work is often considered incomplete if an audience has yet to have access to it. Ryszard W. Kluszczynski in his essay ‘Strategies of interactive art’ describes interactive art as follows:


“An artist does not make a final, completed piece of art, instead produces an area of activity for the receivers, whose interactive actions bring to life an artwork-event. Regardless of what shape the final product of an artist's activity takes on, an interactive artwork finds its final formation only as a result of participative behavior of the viewers. The latter ones in that way become participants, performers, executors, or (co)creators of an artwork-event.[3]


As for relevant and successful art, these two terms are much more debatable. However I will explain what I have concluded art needs to be and do to hit this criteria.


For art to be relevant it needs to capture people's interests today. It also needs to be contemporary enough for it to be understandable and interpretable by modern day standards; if a work is so old it no longer makes sense, it surely can not be considered relevant.

Ann-Sofi Noring, Co-Director of Moderna Museet put it succinctly when she said ‘to stay relevant is a matter of being a part of society.[4] ’ Relevant art should also align with or challenge the set morals and sensibilities of the modern era. For example, arguing whether or not Feudalism is an effective economic system isn’t a topic relevant to modern society.


When it comes to a successful art work, in broad terms it needs to have achieved what the artist intended it to, (at least the artists most recent intention, because most artists change their feelings and goals often innumerable times throughout the creation of the work.) It should have been received by an audience, a significant portion of whom should have been affected in some way by the work. Within this topic, it of course also needs to be within the public realm and interactive.


To explore this topic, I will give examples of work that aims to achieve what is mentioned in the title question. Explaining what makes them successful or unsuccessful, and what they would need to change if they had failed. I will include the opinions of the artists themselves as well as others within the creative realm.


Test Site - Carston Holler

Figure 1: Image taken from tate.org; ‘The Unilever Series: Carsten Holler: Test Site’




Test Site by Carston Holler, created for the Tate Turbine Hall from 2006 to 2007, consisted of slides transporting visitors to the gallery from floor to floor. These were created to explore both the experience of sliding ( the loss of control, the euphoria, and the fear) as well as the spectacle of watching others slide.

He also created this, as hinted in the title of the project, as a test to see how slides could be used outside of a gallery setting and imposed into the everyday world.

In Hollers words; ‘[5]I see one function of the museum as being a space for experimentation and for testing ideas and concepts that could eventually be realised on a larger scale outside the museum.’


This work was free to access, and the work's location sets it comfortably in the public realm.Furthermore, the turbine hall is a famous gallery space with an ever growing positive reputation; ‘The Turbine Hall has hosted some of the world’s most memorable and acclaimed works of contemporary art. The way artists have interpreted this vast industrial space has revolutionised public perceptions of contemporary art in the twenty-first century.[6]

Public art that is displayed in the Turbine Hall therefore aligns itself with ‘some of the worlds most memorable’ works, meaning it is seen as an important contemporary piece.


With regards to its interactivity, Mark Windsor in Art of Interaction: A Theoretical Examination of Carsten Höller’s Test Site’ explainsAs soon as the slide is entered (...) the recipient becomes physically and psychically integrated with the work on a performative level.[7]

The work relies on interaction to achieve its function. This does not mean a slide isn't a slide if someone isn't using it, but that Holler wants to investigate the effect of sliding on the individual, something which of course requires people. So we can conclude that this work is definitively interactive and public.


’In our increasingly corporate public realm and risk-averse culture, the idea of slides as public transportation allows examination of many pertinent issues. Is there space for vision within our current planning and regeneration context? Where does pleasure find a place for expression in public life?[8]


This extract from the essay ‘Slides in the Public Realm’ by General Public Agency, written in direct response to Hollers work, effectively shows the clear relevance of Test Site. The work not only critiques the modern world, it offers a solution to its ‘lack of expression.’


As for its success, Holler not only did test the concept of slides in the public realm, further essays and explorations of the concept were created because of it, for example the previously mentioned essay ‘Slides in the Public Realm.’

Arguably, the work wasn’t successful as there is yet to be a wide reaching acceptance of sliding as transportation, people seem to be sticking to stairs, lifts, and escalators. But it must be remembered that the intention was solely to test how sliding would affect the public realm. It is for this reason Holler did achieve his intentions. It is hard not to be affected when sliding at such heights. Here is a review by G. Fernández;


‘The sculptural value of the installation is evident, and I would dare say positive. As it is said in the Tate's press, the five silver serpents immediately transmit a futuristic and attractive sensation. In addition, it's undeniable presence does not eliminate the huge architectonic sensation of the Turbine Hall, as many past installations have caused.’[9]


This extract may show the piece has a strong impact on its visitors. However, it does not comment upon whether it achieved Hollers’ intentions. As previously explained, Holler wanted to test the use of slides in everyday public spaces.


It is worth noting that since the creation of the exhibition slides haven’t become used in this way. However, the installation did inspire a case study by Foreign Office Architects to design Hypothetical Slide Housein which slides were the main mode of transportation between stories, as well as a Feasibility Study on ‘Slides in the Public Realm.

This work also inspired a conversation on alternate transportation in the wider external and internal world. Holler wanted to test whether slides could be used in the public realm, and test he did, on top of inspiring further exploration from outside sources.

Accordingly, this work is a good example of a successful and relevant public interactive art.

Yard- Alan Kaprow




Figure 2: Image Credit: ‘The Happening and its Influence on Contemporary Art, by Widewalls

https://www.widewalls.ch/magazine/happening-happenings-performance-art


Alan Kaprow created Yard in 1961 in the sculpture garden behind the Martha Jackson gallery in New York. It has been restaged over various locations ever since.


It originally consisted of car tyres that the audience were encouraged to traverse, rearrange, and explore. Kaprow once said that ‘Doing life consciously was a compelling notion to me.[10]’ This begins to reveal the reasoning for his passion for interactive art, which lends itself to conscious involvement with art.


The Hepworth Wakefield website claims in their article Alan Kaprow: Yard 1961/2014 that the work was ‘designed to disrupt the relationship between artist, artwork and audience, and cast everyday life as the primary subject matter.[11]

The Martha Jackson Gallery specialized in modern American and European art, including work from Barbara Hepworth and Karel Appel, one of the founders of the avant-garde movement.

Being in such a prominent gallery (at the time) could classify it as a significant piece of public art, particularly in the realm of interactive art. Allan Kaprow's work, to achieve its goal, had to be public; ‘it was also a rallying cry for art to create a new physical sensorium, a longing for bodies that moved, touched, and smelled, a desire for bodies that got dirty—bodies that played.[12]


This work continues to be relevant. It is still restaged today and is given as one of the very first examples of interactive art (specifically by [13]Kirsten Nicholas in her blog for widewalls.)

This work achieved Kaprow's intentions and is well renowned in the art world. It also stays relevant through its constant revisiting and restaging. It is therefore an example of successful and relevant public interactive art.



Yard, 1961 “Environments, Situations, Spaces” Sculpture Garden at Martha Jackson Gallery, New York Photo: Ken Heyman




Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirror Rooms


Figure 3: Image credit: Tate Modern, tate.org




Kusama uses mirrors to reflect objects in a room to create the illusion of an infinite space. Viewers are invited to stand in the room in allocated time slots. She is inspired by childhood hallucinations experienced around the family farm. These hallucinations led to an obsession with polka dots.


‘With just one polka dot, nothing can be achieved. In the universe, there is the sun, the moon, the earth, and hundreds of millions of stars. All of us live in the unfathomable mystery and infinitude of the universe. Pursuing philosophy of the universe through art under such circumstances has led me to what I call stereotypical repetition.[14]

One can interpret this quote as Kusama's work intending to create a space for contemplation for our interconnectedness with each other and the universe.


The success of the infinity rooms in the wider art world has been immense; ‘in the past five years, more than 5 million museum visitors have queued – and queued some more – for a brief glimpse of the work of Yayoi Kusama.[15]


To say that the public has responded well to the work, as well as having lasting memory of the work and its emotional effect on them is an understatement (if the high volume of visitors as well as the immense amount of instagram posts containing the work has anything to say about it.) Its relevance is also spoken for in this evidence.


The infinity rooms have been displayed around the world, arguably, most notably in the Tate Modern, an aforementioned renowned gallery, bringing in visits in the millions; ‘the Tate Modern attracted around 5.74 million visitors in the period running from April 2019 to March 2020[16]’ Not only showing that this work is public art, but very successfully public.


However, and most importantly, I wouldn’t quite consider it interactive art, whilst the level of interaction is higher than that of a single 2D piece, the audience has no more impact on the work than on a painting. As I stated in my description of interactive art, ‘It is not considered interactive if the only participation the audience has is in viewing or listening…[17]’ so by the stated criteria, this doesn’t quite cut it, regardless of how successful or objectively beautiful the work is.


Hollers work requires participation to be complete, the reaction of those sliding and viewing sliding is paramount to the work. Equally, Kaprow's work relies on an audience traversing and rearranging materials for its completion. Kusamas’ work, on the other hand, is not affected by the participation of an audience. Her work is immersive, but not interactive.

Ryszard W. Kluszczyński, author of ‘Strategies of Interactive Art’ would, no doubt, agree with me. In his essay he outlines different modes of interactive art called ‘strategies.’

Kaprow's work falls into Strategy of Instrument, which gives the audience conditions to take independent actions to create ‘their own individual ‘artwork event.[18]’ Hollers, however, work falls under Strategy of Game, in which participants find themselves asked to take actions that have specific results, in this case sliding; basically there is a set task to undertake, unlike Strategy of Instrument which gives you freedom over what actions to take with certain tools. Kusama's work, however, does not fit into any of Kluszczynskis’ Strategies.


Essentially, it can be pretty difficult to know where to draw the line between regular art and interactive art. There are seemingly step ups from a 2D peice or an enclosed sculpture that do not necessarily make the art interactive, even if they require more than taking in a static picture.

One instance where it could be argued that Kusamas’ work is interactive is that it requires an ‘entering’ of the art work, as in, to be able to experience it you have to be inside it, you can not be a bystander in her work. However once ‘inside’ the work, you aren’t doing anything more than looking.

In contrast, Kusamas’ ‘obliteration room’ has added elements. The obliteration room is a purely white room in which, like her infinity rooms, you have to ‘be inside’ to experience. However, what brings them into the realm of interactive art is the audiences opportunity to stick dots all wherever they please in the room, meaning that ‘visitors can (...) eliminate the traces of the original white room through the act of communal ‘“obliteration.[19]”’


Through this, the work ‘ [20]finds its final formation only as a result of participative behavior of the viewers.’ The audience leaves a lasting impact on the work, they are vital to the completion of the piece, unlike the infinity rooms, which are left unchanged regardless of how many visitors traverse its content.




Figure 4:photo credit:https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/gallery/2012/feb/01/obliteration-room-yayoi-kusama-in-pictures



Figure 5:photo credit:https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/gallery/2012/feb/01/obliteration-room-yayoi-kusama-in-pictures



Conclusion

Essentially, a work can be relevant through either being created in the recent past, (i.e contemporary art) or, like Kaprow's work, it could have been created much longer ago, but stayed relevant through restaging and reimagining to fit into the modern art sphere. Whilst its success can rely either on the achieving of a goal, such as Hollers work which set out to test slides in the public sphere, or through public popularity and engagement.


As seen with Kusama's infinity rooms, there seems to be a middle option, an interactive purgatory, where it isn’t completely shut off from being entered by the public, but the public can not really do anything to it or with it. So, the clearest way to define whether an art is interactive, and how interactive it is, lies in how much impact the audience has on the work. This can be seen through the audience having a visual impact, like Kusama's obliteration room. It can also be seen as the audience being a means to an end, helping the artist achieve the goal of the piece, as with Carsten Hollers’ Test Site. Or finally, through play and exploration, just as in Alan Kaprow's yard.





Word Count: 2547

Bibliography

● Tim Adams ‘Yayoi Kusama; the World’s Favourite Artist’ in The Guardian 23 september 2018

https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2018/sep/23/yayoi-kusama-infinity-film-victoria-miro-exhibition



● G. Fernandez ‘Carsten Holler: Test Site’ in theartwolf.com

http://www.theartwolf.com/holler_test_site.htm


● Dan Fox ‘Allan Kaprow Yard’ in Frieze 01 November 2009

https://www.frieze.com/article/allan-kaprow-yard


● Vincent Honore ‘Interview by Vincent Honoré Assistant Curator’ in Tate Modern

https://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/exhibition/unilever-series/unilever-series-carsten-holler-test-site/carsten


● Allan Kaprow, Jeff Kelley “Essays on the Blurring of Art and Life”, p.195, Univ of California Press 2003


● Susan Kendzulak ‘The Difference Between Private and Public Museums’ in thebalancecareers.com December 6 2019

https://www.thebalancecareers.com/what-is-the-difference-between-private-and-public-museums-1295696


● Ryszard W. Kluszczyński ‘Strategies of Interactive Art’ 2010

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.3402/jac.v2i0.5525


● Yayoi Kusama, Lise Arlot ‘Art Love Story: Yayoi Kusama and Polka Dots’ in Medium.com

https://medium.com/feral-horses/art-love-story-yayoi-kusama-polka-dots-936226e18685



● Tate Modern ‘Turbine Hall’ for Tate.org https://www.tate.org.uk/visit/tate-modern/turbine-hall


● Tate Modern ‘Public art - Art Term’ in tate.org

https://www.tate.org.uk/art/art-terms/p/public-art


● Helen Molesworth ‘Allan Kaprow Yard’ for Hauser and Wirth 2009 https://www.hauserwirth.com/hauser-wirth-exhibitions/3277-allan-kaprow-yard


● Cleveland Museum of Art ‘To Infinity and Beyond: Inside The Obliteration Room at the Cleveland Museum of Art’ in thethinker.com 2018

https://medium.com/cma-thinker/to-infinity-and-beyond-inside-the-obliteration-room-at-the-cleveland-museum-of-art-fc03e10b5d8c


● General Public Agency in ‘Slides in the Public Realm’ for ‘Carsten Holler Test Site’ 2003 page 3 line 1, Jessica Morgan, General Public Agency


● Kirsten Nicholas ‘Famous Interactive Art Installations’ in Widewalls 2017

https://blog.indiewalls.com/2017/05/famous-interactive-art-installations#:~:text=Yard%20by%20Alan%20Kaprow%20(1961,an%20expanded%20meaning%20of%20art.



● Ann Sofi Noring ‘To stay relevant is a matter of being a part of society’ in cimam.org, 2020

https://cimam.org/news-archive/stay-relevant-matter-being-part-society/


● Statistica ‘Number of Visitors to the Tate Modern Gallery in London, England from 2006/07 to 2019/20 (in 1000’s)’ in Statistica 2020 https://www.statista.com/statistics/508216/tate-modern-annual-visits-england-uk/

● Mongolia Pictures and Magnet Releasing ‘Kusama-Infinity-Official Trailer’ August 16th 2018

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x8mdIB1WxHI&t=1s


● Hepworth Wakefield ‘Allan Kaprow: Yard 1961/2014’ in TheHepworthWakefield.com

https://hepworthwakefield.org/whats-on/allan-kaprow-yard-19612014/


● Mark Windsor ‘Art of Interaction: A Theoretical Examination of Carsten Höller’s Test Site’, in Tate Papers, no.15, Spring 2011

[1] Tate Modern ‘Public Art- Art Term’ in tate.org https://www.tate.org.uk/art/art-terms/p/public-art [2] Susan Kendzulak ‘The Difference Between Private and Public Museums’ in thebalancecareers.com December 6 2019 https://www.thebalancecareers.com/what-is-the-difference-between-private-and-public-museums-1295696 [3]Ryszard W. Kluszczynski Strategies of Interactive Art 2010 page 1 https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.3402/jac.v2i0.5525 [4] Ann-Sofi Noring ‘To stay relevant is a matter of being a part of society’ in cimam.org, 2020 https://cimam.org/news-archive/stay-relevant-matter-being-part-society/ [5] Tate Modern ‘Interview by Vincent Honoré Assistant Curator’ in Tate Modern https://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/exhibition/unilever-series/unilever-series-carsten-holler-test-site/carsten [6] ‘Turbine Hall’ in Tate Modern https://www.tate.org.uk/visit/tate-modern/turbine-hall [7] Mark Windsor ‘Art of Interaction: A Theoretical Examination of Carsten Höller’s Test Site’, in Tate Papers, no.15, Spring 2011 https://www.tate.org.uk/research/publications/tate-papers/15/art-of-interaction-a-theoretical-examination-of-carsten-holler-test-site, accessed 3 February 2021. [8] ‘Slides in the Public Realm’ by General Public Agency in 2006 for the book ‘Carsten Holler Test Site’ page 3 line 1 [9] ‘Carsten Holler: Test Site’ by G. Fernandez in theartwolf.com http://www.theartwolf.com/holler_test_site.htm [10] Allan Kaprow, Jeff Kelley (2003). “Essays on the Blurring of Art and Life”, p.195, Univ of California Press [11] Allan Kaprow: Yard 1961/2014’ in The Hepworth Wakefield https://hepworthwakefield.org/whats-on/allan-kaprow-yard-19612014/ [12] Helen Molesworth ‘Allan Kaprow Yard’ in Hauser and Wirth 2009 https://www.hauserwirth.com/hauser-wirth-exhibitions/3277-allan-kaprow-yard [13] Kirsten Nicholas ‘Famous Interactive Art Installations’ in Widewalls 2017 https://blog.indiewalls.com/2017/05/famous-interactive-art-installations#:~:text=Yard%20by%20Alan%20Kaprow%20(1961,an%20expanded%20meaning%20of%20art. [14] Yayoi Kusama ‘Art Love Story: Yayoi Kusama and Polka Dots’ by Lise Arlot in Medium.com https://medium.com/feral-horses/art-love-story-yayoi-kusama-polka-dots-936226e18685 [15] Tim Adams ‘Yayoi Kusama; the World’s Favourite Artist’ in The Guardian 2018 https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2018/sep/23/yayoi-kusama-infinity-film-victoria-miro-exhibition [16] Statistica.com ‘Number of Visitors to the Tate Modern Gallery in London, England from 2006/07 to 2019/20 (in 1000’s)’ in Statistica 2020 https://www.statista.com/statistics/508216/tate-modern-annual-visits-england-uk/ [17] me, in the introduction of this essay [18] Ryszard W. Kluszczynski ‘Strategies of Interactive Art’ 2010 https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.3402/jac.v2i0.5525 [19] Cleveland Museum of Art ‘To Infinity and Beyond: Inside The Obliteration Room at the Cleveland Museum of Art’ 2018 https://medium.com/cma-thinker/to-infinity-and-beyond-inside-the-obliteration-room-at-the-cleveland-museum-of-art-fc03e10b5d8c [20] Ryszard W. Kluszczynski ‘Strategies of Interactive Art’ 2010 https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.3402/jac.v2i0.5525

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