Question: Is interactive art about a different kind or type of experiences compared to more traditional art forms?
Brian Massumi: “I personally don’t see how the question can be approached without returning to the question of form. And that requires reconnecting with aesthetics. That’s not a popular position in new media art. There is a widespread attitude that aesthetic categories belong to the past. Many people would say they just don’t apply, for the reasons you listed: interaction is two-way, it’s participatory, and it evokes a behavior rather than displaying a form. I’ve heard it said in no uncertain terms that form is dead. That we just can’t think or speak in those terms any more. It’s almost an injunction.
I don’t mean to say it’s not a serious question. It’s identifying a real problem. How do you speak of form when there is the kind of openness of outcome that you see in a lot of new media art, where participant response determines what exactly happens? When the artwork doesn’t exist, because each time that it operates the interaction produces a variation, and the variations are in principle infinite? When the artwork proliferates?
Or when it disseminates, as it does when the work is networked, so that the interaction is distributed in time and space and never ties back together in one particular form?
To begin with, you have to get past the idea that form is ever fixed, that there is any such thing as a stable form — even in traditional aesthetic practices like figurative painting, or even in something as mundane asdecorative motif. The idea that there is such a thing as fixed form is actually as much an assumption about perception as it is an assumption about art. It assumes that vision is not dynamic — that it is a passive, transparent registering of something that is just there, simply and inertly. If vision is stable, then to make art dynamic you have to add movement. But if vision is already dynamic, the question changes. It’s not an issue of movement or no movement. The movement is always there, in any case. So you have to make distinctions between kinds of movement, kinds of experiential dynamics, and then ask what difference they make.”
Brian Massumi in Semblance and Event pp. 39-40