Towards an oral history of new media art
“[T]he work of art is often identified with the building, book, painting, or statue in its existence apart from human experience. Since the actual work of art is what the product does with and in experience, the result is not favorable to understanding.” (John Dewey, Art as Experience, 1959)
“I’m an interactive artist: I construct experiences” (David Rokeby, The Construction of Experience: Interface as Content, 1998)
In the opening paragraph of John Dewey’s Art as Experience, first published in 1934, Dewey argues that research in art mistakes its own object by focusing on objects rather than experience. He describes the dual existence of art as growing from the experience of the artist and manifested in the audience’s experience of the work. Dewey’s words foreshadow a powerful movement within contemporary culture away from a focus on objects and towards an emphasis on experience.
in the words of Dewey, “in experience.” Such an emphasis would necessarily widen our understanding of the relationship of new media art to its social and cultural context.
My own research has been influenced by phenomenologist Maurice Merleau-Ponty and pragmatist John Dewey. As such, my notion of experience emphasises its embodied and situated nature and the entwining of its pre-reflective and reflective aspects. I select and develop methods that capture the immediate impressions of visitors and record in as much detail as possible the way in which each particular experience of an artwork unfolds in place and time.6