My final part of the essay.

This is my final part of the essay. The group has kept most of my essay but decided to cut out the paragraph on the painting of ‘The ambassadors’ because they thought I had written enough about the other paintings and this extra paragraph was increasing the word count.

In your opinion, at which point does a piece of art become an interactive experience?

Art is a form of communication and appeals to your aesthetic sense evoking an emotional, physical or creative response. The audience visually interprets and perceives art in different ways. Art becomes interactive after a reaction occurs within the spectator appreciating the artwork. Nathaniel Stern, an acclaimed artist in multi-disciplinary and professor of the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee states that art becomes interactive when it is an embodiment of moving, thinking and feeling (Stern, 2013, p.4). We are going to discuss various art forms in this essay, which show in our opinion, when as a spectator you feel these expressions and art becomes interactive. One thing that successful art has in common is that it communicates and even interacts with the audience in a variety of ways whether it is a physical or a mental experience. Using various examples and research to analyse this, we ask ourselves, can we point out the specific turning point that a piece of art becomes an interactive experience?

Paintings are visually interactive and a rollercoaster ride of emotions. Many paintings can be interpreted to have different realities but almost at first glance they draw you in and leave the spectator to decipher how they perceive the artwork. For example, Picasso’s The Girl in the Mirror (1932) (fig.1) can be interpreted in different ways and therefore visually you begin interacting instantly. Do you see the young woman or the old one? Are they two different women or an aged reflection of the younger one? The rearrangement in the reflection makes the image look like a ghostly and fearsome figure of a human being (Gottleib, 1966, p.509). You question your own image and how humans are self conscious of aging. Emotionally you start seeing the flaws in yourself. Physically the audience may repel when they see their reflection and their aging process. Picasso believed understanding art arose from a visual engagement with the piece (D’Alleva, 2010, p.61). Jan Van Eyck’s, The Arnolfini Portrait (1434) (fig.2), is another example of a painting that emotionally involves you. Questions come spiraling towards you because there seem to be so many contradictions in the painting. For example, the lady seems to be pregnant but her stance and clothes were the way rich women were portrayed. It seems to be a wedding ceremony but yet again many believe this is not the case. This portrait has many questions for the viewer but not many answers. The painting physically involves us by inviting us to see our own reflection in the mirror. Academics such as Lisa Jardine suggests ‘It invites the viewers eye to dwell on the painting. Our eye is irresistibly drawn to the image’ (Jardine, 1998, p.13). Carola Hicks, states ‘Each item in the room slowly comes to life and contributes to the story. Its content seem to glow’ (Hicks, 2012, p.2). Hans Holbein’s The Ambassadors (1533) (fig.3) instantly entices you because the artist’s visual language invites the viewer to interpret the historical representation of the painting. The objects create a puzzle that entices the audience to decipher the artist’s vision. The distorted shape at the bottom of the painting, created using anamorphism has to be viewed from the correct angle to interpret that it is a skull. Questions arise creating a discussion point between the audience. It excites and therefore physically and emotionally provides interaction. Gillian Rose believes portraits can be described as having expressive content and therefore create an immersive experience (Rose, 2012, p.74)

The anamorphic technique from the 16th century has been revised to create modern breathtaking optical illusional 3D art. 3D street art creates an illusion of height and broadness on a 2D horizontal plane. It can be viewed from different angles and therefore physically requires you to interact with the artwork. The individual’s perception enhances their physical interaction and they can simultaneously interact with the artist. The audience feels as if they are part of the creation. Kurt Wenner’s Dies Irae (2011) (fig.4) emotionally involves you with the anguish you can see but physically you feel as if you are falling into the hole or it can be perceived as the spectator wanting to grab hold of the humans and rescue them. 3D sculptures that create a 2D illusion confuse the senses. They make the mind boggle and the spectator interacts instantly. Neil Dawson’s Horizons (1994) (fig.5) has to be viewed from the correct angle and position to interpret the artist’s sculpture. According to the neurobiologist Professor Semir Zeki, ‘because all art obeys the laws of the visual brain, it is not uncommon for art to reveal these laws to us, often surprising us with the visually unexpected.’ (Academia, 2015)

Computer generated images are interactive on every level. Combining the various art mediums, therefore games, film and art, using CGI hit the audience’s senses on every level. 3D films viewed through special glasses immerse you in an environment, which makes the audience feel they are in the film. James Cameron, Hollywood movie director feels that a film does not require 3D effects when it already costs millions to make a spectacular film eg Man of Steel. Popularity of 3D films are on the decline as movie goers do not want to spend the extra money for the ticket when these effects do not enhance the story (Rollingstone, 2013). 3D playable environments in video games immerse the player and it is difficult to draw the line between the real and the fake. Real and fake objects (fig.6) further twist the viewer’s perception and emotionally and physically these images interact with you evoking a physiological response. These objects cannot be created in the real world and live in a paradoxical world.’If the dream is a translation of waking life, waking life is also a translation of the dream’ quotes Rene Magritte, a surrealist artist whose work had an air of mystery. His art confused and frustrated the viewer trying to interpret the meaning behind his work (fig.7). The scientist, Dr. Paolo Di Lazzaro suggests that the only reality we experience is brain reality. (Academia, 2015)

Jeffrey Shaw’s The Legible City (1989) (fig.9) required the spectator to ride a stationary bike to navigate around a city of simulated 3D letters forming text. You became part of the creative process, as you would have to interact with the installation to understand the artist’s work. These works of art are interacted with depending on the perception of each individual and the reality they perceive. Today much digital art is created specifically for interaction. Christiane Paul states that today the artist is not the sole creator for a work of art but a facilitator for the audience’s interaction with and contribution to the artwork (Paul, 2008, p.21). Often the audience has to interact immediately with the artwork to create the final piece.

In our opinion art becomes interactive almost immediately. As shown this interactivity can be emotional, physical or have a creative process. Creativity is turning imaginative ideas into reality and perceiving these in new ways. All art forms are a creative medium and require all your senses, emotions and physical attributes to view and consequently interact with them bringing the art alive as it was in their creator’s minds. Viewers speak for the works. Art is not a body of works but is, rather, an activity of perceivers making sense of images. This position is called reception theory (Barnet, 2015, p.24). The work of art is above all a process of creation, it is never experienced as a mere product (Paul Klee) (Honor and Fleming, 2009, p.863).

Fiske, a media scholar, believes a process called audiencing is extremely vital in a viewer’s participation with art. He believes a visual image can be renegotiated by a particular audience. For example a lot depends on where the work is viewed, therefore a film on the TV is a completely different experience from watching the same film at the cinema and a portrait feels completely inadequate on the web compared to seeing it in reality. (Sagepub 2001) Art is a form of communication and therefore provides a social function for the audience and interactivity at every level.


Barnet, S. (2015) A short guide to writing about art. 11th edn. New Jersey: Pearson

Colson, R (1995) Being Digital. USA: Vintage Books

D’Alleva, A. (2010) How to write art history. 2nd edn. London: Laurence King Publishing Ltd

Fleming, J and Honour, H. (2009) The visual arts: a history. 7th edn. London: Laurence King Publishing Ltd

Gottlieb,C. (1966) The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism. Vol. 24, No.4. America: Wiley

Hicks, C. (2012) Girl in a Green Gown. London: Vintage Books

Jardine, L. (1998) Wordly Goods, A new history of the renaissance. London: Norton

Paul, C (2008) Digital Art. Revised and expanded edition. United Kingdom: Thames and Hudson

Rose, G (2012) Visual Methodologies. 3rd edn. London: Sage Publications

Stern, N. (2013) Interactive art and embodiment: the implicit body as performance. Canterbury: Gylphi Limited. (Accessed: 29 September 2015) (Accessed: 29 September 2015)

(Accessed: 2 October 2015) (Accessed: 1 October 2015) (Accessed: 1 October 2015) (Accessed: 30 September 2015) (Accessed: 8 October 2015)   (Accessed: 10 October 2015)

(Accessed: 30 October 2015)

(Accessed: 8 November 2015)

(Accessed: 8 November 2015


Figure 1  

Pablo Picasso

The girl in the mirror, 1932



Figure 2

Jan Van Eyck

The Arnolfini Portrait, 1434




Figure 3

Hans Holbein

The Ambassadors, 1533



Figure 4

Kurt Wenner

Dies Irae, 2011




Figure 5

Neil Dawson

Horizons, 1994


Screen Shot 2015-11-08 at 13.57.45

Figure 6

Impossible Object





Screen Shot 2015-11-08 at 14.05.30

Figure 7

Rene Magritte

Transfer 1966




Figure 9

Jeffrey Shaw

The Legible City, 1989



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