Following my feedback from Term 2, I found that I needed to move towards mechanising and/or digitising the patterns and images I had created. Before the end of the previous term, I established that I wanted to increase the size and scale of my pieces whilst allowing for some sort of audience participation. As a result, my aim turned from simply creating an environment, to creating a machine that worked and that animated the painting in front of the viewer, but that could be programmed by the viewer. I considered a variety of different robots and machines that I could use, from Lego's 'Mindstorm' to Xbox's 'Kinect'. One problem I encountered with these machines was that they were either too expensive (£150-£300) or required some knowledge of computer programming. One such example was the Arduino board. The Arduino board enables users to create moving, animated machines. It is best suited for those with basic programming skills. With only 5 weeks in the term, I found that I would not have enough time to learn and apply these techniques, so decided to move away from this. Instead, I turned towards the 'Valiant Roamer', a machine built in the late 1980s to teach computer programming and angles to children. The machine has the ability to be programmed with ease, whilst having a powerful enough memory to remember a whole list of instructions.
Roy Ascott, in his essay 'Behaviourist Art and the Cybernetic Vision (1966-1967)', establishes that, previously in the past the "artist played to win, and so set the conditions that he always dominated the play." He asserts, however, that nowadays "we are moving towards a situation in which the game is never won but remains perpetually in a state of play. While the general context of the art-experience is set by the artist, its evaluating in any specific sense is unpredictable and dependent on the total involvement of the spectator." This idea of total involvement of the spectator drove the notions central to this term's work. I had discovered that contemporary art was not focussed so much with the artist creating the painting as it was with the spectator creating and being a part of the production of the painting, as is seen in the work of Burnie Loubelle, in which audience members operate giant machines created by the artist to create drawings on paper. This, likewise, can be seen in the work of Camille Utterback, specifically in her piece 'Text Rain' in which letters fall down and sit on audience members. The ways in which these artists directed the viewer and enabled their participation became central to my study this term. I wanted to create a space as opposed to an art piece. It followed that this shift from object to events included a change from providing a specific message to providing a specific space for interaction. This space became the installation room in the studio, in which I laid two 1.5mx2m pieces of paper side by side and invited all first year artists to participate.
Although my attempt to get audiences to participate with my work as though it were in a gallery space had been successful, I found that the instructions I had given may not have been clear enough as some participants send the Roamer marching of the paper. I did discover, however, that the shapes that each participant planned to create varied from the shapes of the previous participant, or indeed the shapes I would have considered. Many people were interested not so much in creating lines as they were with creating shapes. Many attempted to draw their own and, amongst the skew of lines that can be found in the final versions, one finds a multitude of different recognisable and unrecognisable shapes.
This whole notion of participation can be seen to be my own personal response to the participatory, DIY culture that we live in today. The emergence of websites such as Facebook, YouTube, Wikipedia, Twitter etc have led to a surge in the creation of user-based content. This surge, regarded as 'Web 2.0', has shown that the mindsets and skill-sets of participatory practices have been increasingly taken up. People are increasingly likely to exploit new tools and technology in 2.0 ways, This can be seen in my work. Whilst the Valiant Roamer is not necessarily a new tool, it is one that I have utilised in a way that differs from what it was designed for. I have used it to create an art that involves a dialogue, a dialogue between the audience and the robot, as well as a dialogue between audience members. This grammar of interaction, which can be seen in the work of Sauter & Lüsebrink, Snibbe and Lozano-Hemmer, establishes a feedback loop so that the evolution of the artwork/experience is governed by the intimate involvement of the spectator. As the process is open-ended, the spectator now engages in decision-making play. I have attempted to entice the viewer out of their passive roles and bridge the comfortable aesthetic distance that allows uninvolved viewers to judge an artwork impartially from a secure, external perspective. In doing so, the viewer is involved in the artistic practice from the outset, each piece of criticism he utters is self-criticism.
Through experimenting with the roamer, I found that when it repeats an instruction, it tends to be slightly off it's original starting point. This lead me to programme the machine to draw and repeat basic shapes (squares, hexagons, nonagons). In doing this, the robot created staggering yet beautiful shapes that appear to have been drawn by a machine similar to that used by Desmond Paul Henry.
Although I felt that my work had strong ideas surrounding it, I feel as though I could have spent more time experimenting with the roamer to create more exciting pieces. Despite this, however, it is important to note that the focus of this term's work has been with the audience's role as the artist, as opposed to my role as the artist. As Jean-Luc Godard remarked "It takes two to make an image." This is essentially the crux of my work. The work can be considered art because it involves the audience's participation - an idea asserted by Nicolas Bourriaud in his book 'Relational Aesthetics'. As Bourriaud himself states, "it's art that makes art, not artists." He understood that the spectator's participation was a constant feature of artistic practice, and used Fluxus as a key example. My work for term 3 centres around the idea of participation and the viewer's involvement and dialogue with the work. It is art because "Art is a state of encounter." (Bourriaud)