Interactive Art and Embodiment: The Implicit Body as Performance

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What is interactive art? Is this a genre? A medium? An art movement? Must a work be physically active to be classified as such, or do we interact when we sense and make sense? Is a switch-throw or link-click enough – I do this, and that happens – or must subjects and objects be confused over time? Is interaction multiple in its engagements (relational), or a one-to-one reaction (programmed)? Are interactive designs somehow more democratic and individualized than others, or is that merely a commercial strategy to sell products and ideas?

This book argues that interactive art frames moving-thinking-feeling as embodiment; the body is addressed as it is formed, and in relation. Interactive installations amplify how the body’s inscriptions, meanings, and matters unfold out, while the world’s sensations, concepts, and matters enfold in. Interactive artwork creates situations that enhance, disrupt, and alter experience and action in ways that call attention to our varied relationships with and as both structure and matter.

Nathaniel Stern’s inspirational book, Interactive Art and Embodiment, outlines how new media has the ability to intervene in, and challenge, not only the construction of bodies and identities, but also the ongoing and emergent processes of embodiment, as they happen. It includes immersive descriptions of a significant number of interactive artworks and over 40 colour images.

The theorists, artists, practitioners and curators discussed in this text include Brian Massumi, Christiane Paul, Sarah Cook, Beryl Graham, Kelli Fuery, Theodore Watson, William Kentridge, Char Davies, Stelarc, Janet Cardiff, Carlo Zanni, Tero Saarinen, Karen Barad, Daniel Rozin, Richard Schechner, Nicole Ridgway, Rebecca Schneider, Annie Sprinkle, Karen Finley, VALIE EXPORT, The Guerrilla Girls, Tegan Bristow, Brian Knep, Anna Munster, Zach Lieberman, Golan Levin, Simon Penny, Camille Utterback, Jean-Luc Nancy, The Millefiore Effect, Nick Crossley, Mathieu Briand, Scott Snibbe, David Rokeby, José Gil, Erin Manning, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Norah Zuniga Shaw, and many others.

Stern’s book is published as a peer-reviewed printed book, and eBook, and is accompanied – or rather, re-per-formed – as an online participatory chapter about embodied research practices, and a multi-location interactive exhibition and virtual book tour. In the free companion chapter, offered in partnership with Networked Book at (or downloadable here), Stern offers a semi-autobiographical account of his own research trajectory, and invites comment, critique, and contributions of new work. This creates a participatory stage for rehearsing the performance of scholarship. At the exhibitions, audiences encounter the concepts and materials addressed in the book. For example, in Stern’s ‘Body Language’ series, which premiered in full at the Wits Art Museum in Johannesburg in June 2013, participants use their full bodies to interact with digitized sounds, projected animations, texts, drawings, and videos, which shift and change with their movements. They explore, play with, experience, and practice how we make bodies and meaning.

Nathaniel Stern’s Interactive Art and Embodiment: The Implicit Body as Performance, released August 2013, is the first in the Arts Future Book series by Gylphi Ltd. Arts Future Book is published and supported by an international editorial board, and represents a substantial practical and theoretical investigation into the future of books about the arts. As a book series it publishes unique works that establish new systems for considering art. Its aim is to explore the relations between the form and content of art books, and to exploit new technologies that expand their literal and philosophical capacities. What is a book about art, and what can and should it do? The Arts Future Book project has been explained, modelled (and remodelled) in the open-access journal article/artwork: ‘Is Art History Too Bookish’ by series editor Charlotte Frost.

In its various modes, Interactive Art and Embodiment performs the philosophical environment of interactive art, and embodies Arts Future Book’s investigations into how we can and should perform art scholarship.

Further performances of art, philosophy and publishing will occur on Twitter using the hashtag: #implicitbody.

Arts Future Book:
Nathaniel Stern:
Companion chapter: or
Networked Book:
Is Art History Too Bookish?

Twitter: @gylphi,  @nathanielstern,  @charlottefrost#implicitbody

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