John Cage calls attention to “new” ways of relating to and subjugating the audience as active participants in a performance, but in a way that someone might adopt a used pair of glasses with which to see the world. These spectacles are new to the user, and they create a different perspective, but the world hasn’t necessarily changed around the wearer. His prose is theatrical and (albeit limited) interactive; he uses language that questions the reader and forces the reader to re-read sentences for clarity. Reading is almost a cyclic experience; there’s almost no avoiding a second or third viewing of the show he puts on. This is how Cage talks about audience; the audience is everywhere, both in a performance hall and in a book.
Ascott is invested in thinking about art and artifacts within a progressive narrative; whereas art was once characterized by clearly defined messages and passive, receptive audiences, art is now a vehicle for meaning contextualized by behavior. Consumption is now an active process; the artist, the artifact, and the audience intersect to form a context where meaning is negotiated. For Ascott, the feedback loop makes for a unique, open-ended experience. Ascott describes the artists paradigmatic shift; he uses language reminiscent of the frontier myth. “From the social point of view the artist’s behaviour is a Ritual in which he acts out the role of the Free Man controlling his world by taking endless risks as he plunges into the unknown territories of Form and Idea” (99). He finds his own way of talking about cybernetics and computer technologies within this mythic frame; is this an irony? There is no way of describing a something new without old language; like hand-me-down clothes that don’t quite fit right. Ascott’s discussion of “the spirit of Cybernetics” takes a similar tone; as with classic art forms there was a defined message, here with modern art there is a defined sense of identity. The embodied message is phenomenological. Maybe nothing material has changed between art ages, but this changed framework for thinking about art and artist empowers/burdens the artist with different dimensions of control that audiences both acknowledge and demand.
Krueger played with dominant understandings of input and interface with his various projects. His experimentation provided him with a vocabulary for distinguishing between “kinetic sculptures” (i.e., interaction predicated on determined and fixed scripts) and “responsive environment” (i.e., interactions that are controlled, generative, linked scripts that create the illusion of intelligence, aka “decisions that matter”). For Krueger his conclusions lead to a framework for thinking about “response” as a medium. For Krueger, the environment and the viewer negotiate the experience; the artist assumes a more passive role than before. It is play in the unknown, rather than the discovery of an artist’s message, that both distinguishes and validates the “responsive aesthetic” (116). Much like Ascott, it is way of relating to feedback and the displaced domain of meaning that characterizes the “new” in new media technologies.
In class we discussed relating these frameworks to praxis; how does our awareness of feedback, of our audience, affect our relationship to the products of our creativity? In this way we talked about the death of the authorship and the progressive quality of Pixar’s collaborative production process. When we, as authors, are unable to create distance between ourselves and the aspects or elements of our work that we adore, we become vulnerable to our audience. Critical distance allows for an open and pre-emptive acknowledgement of those vulnerabilities, if we’re able to establish it with the fruits of our labor.