Interactive photography questions the status of the picture itself.
Over and above the image, it is the displaying device, the computer
and screen, which must be placed within its sociocultural and psychological
Pictures call out to us across the ages. Ever since humanity experienced
the irresistible urge to exteriorise herself through artistic expression,
she has adorned the walls with the fruit of her creativity. This was
already so in caves, this is at present so in boardrooms, via burial
chambers, cathedrals, museums, and all our houses. It is a question of
universal desire, present in all periods, all peoples, all styles, with
religious, ritual, social, cultural, economic, political, dynastic motivations,
everything is concerned. It is as if these illustrated walls represent
both the exterior facade of our inner being and the interior facade of
the world surrounding, a mediator which allows our inside to appropriate
and tame our outside.
The means chosen for presenting a pictorial work are never neutral.
Decisions concerning aspects exterior to the content of the work itself,
such as its dimensions, or the form, even the opulence, of the frame
contribute in a fundamental manner to the experience of its viewing.
These aspects, though foreign to it, inevitably intervene within the
meaning vehiculed by the work. A film is not perceived in the same way
in a cinema amongst our fellow beings as on a television in our living
Picture vs Computer
The interactive work challenges the inert nature of traditional
pictorial representation, whether painiting or photography: a picture,
within which the observer engages an interactive dialogue is not scrutinised
in the same manner. An active relationship, a complicity, is established,
which goes beyond contemplation or interpretation, autonomous actions
relative to the work. Thus the act of representation borne by the work
opens itself up to self-metamorphosis thanks to interactivity, in rupture
with traditional pictorial art...
The computer, though essential for the functioning of such pictures,
is nevertheless not the ideal object for so doing. The computer brings
a whole load of connotations and impatiences, in contradiction with the
mono-utilisation denoted by the display of pictures. Such a ubiquitous
tool imprints its strong identity upon everything that passes through
it. As activity centre the computer symbolises the work tool itself,
and the displayed image is generally confined to the role of screen background,
hinted at on the periphery of Microsoft Office document windows.
Digital art suffers from this ambiguous relationship with its support:
its own status is without cease devoured by the invasive nature of the
computer. Certainly digital works, more and more numerous, benefit from
projection within the framework of an installation. But in the case of
my interactive photographs, I wish to recreate the intimate relationship
which exists between the observer and the framed work.
At the same time, we are surrounded by devices which, under other
exteriors, remain computers. The most emblematic example is the digital
personal assistant, the Palm and company, which is perceived of as being
an agenda, address book, notepad, before being a computer. A cellphone
offers more possibilities than computers from fifteen years ago. The
best disguised computer is probably the game console.
This specialisation obeys several imperatives. Optimising a device
for specific utilisations allows one to avoid the trap offered by the
ubiquity of the computer and the accompanying crashes. A dedicated device
is more intuitive to use relative to the complexity of the general-purpose
computer. Finally, the form of the specialised device allows it to be
adapted to its function - both in operational and representational terms
- so that it should be in accordance with its environment and use.
Computer vs Frame
The project consists of the design and the fabrication of a wall-mounted "computer-picture".
The motherboard will be tucked behind a flat screen, the assemblage being
held together within a frame that is both structural and decorative.
It is to be assimilated with a picture in its frame, so as to assert
its affiliation within the very long tradition of mural representation.
In this way, the pictorial digital work will be able to develop upon
a foundation based within its historical and cultural context.
The blurring between "framed picture" and "interactive
work" will in itself be generator of meaning, creating the surprise
and the realm of intimacy where the observer might approach the work
contained within with a supplement of emotion and perceptual sensitivity.
Is it "archaic" to want to shut a computer up in a frame? One
might answer in the negative, precisely because one wishes to establish
the association with customary usage in the field of pictorial art, to
better facilitate the dialogue between work and observer. The contrast
between traditional form and interactive media is in itself striking
and thought provokng.
Indeed, to escape the computer, the picture has to adopt the symbolic
of the picture, through the grammar of pictorial representation which
has developed throughout the historical evolution of art.
The current state of the project
The objective is to design a computer-picture device assembled
from standard PC components, so as to establish an easily reproducible
system. The ensemble should be sufficiently generic and adaptable so
as to be capable of displaying diverse interactive works, thus usable
by any artist who so wishes for the exhibition of their own work.
A technical design process has resulted in plans for the fabrication
of a prototype device for testing and validation. The diagram presented
below is excerpted from these plans. Anyone interested in this project
is invited to contact joetopia.