Interactivity & Emergence

A common problem with participatory performance occurs when the artist assumes participants will comply with whatever ground rules are imposed, or when the artist anticipates a particular response to a solicitation for interaction. There must be room for play, and play must be expected. The exact nature of this play and its attendant rules is, of course, unforeseeable.

Play emerges from prescribed rules or solicitations for interaction post facto, and it is through this emergent play and its ability to expand on the initial concept that a participatory performance may be evaluated. Too often, the very existence of interactivity is used to justify a work's value. Though interaction has been present in performance art for some time, the critical language surrounding interactivity is still in its infancy, as interactivity in well-received performances too often amounts to little more than gimmick or spectacle.

Outside of the venerable and prestigious "Art World", a critical language of interactivity is being developed in parallel as the next Gesamtkunstwerk is readied for its debut in hallowed museums. I am talking about video games. More on this later.