Remember when your dad used to tell you not to waste your vegetables because people in Africa were starving? And remember how you looked down at those mushy brussels sprouts and said, “Let them eat it then!” Well, you should. In fact, if everyone did, we would effectively end world hunger.
How can this story be told? Installation art has the potential to make a powerful, tangible impact on participants but on relatively few people. Interactive design can reach many hut often with a shallow impact. What can be accomplished through a new fusion of these two media?
Installation art, with its physical space, ephemerality and participation, is a constant commentary on itself. Interactive design provides new means of increasing that introspection, creating an even greater effect on the participant. If space is merely perception assumed through the window of our view, can the screen, as a window within our window, translate real space to the fake not as virtual space, but received as literal space? Can this translated space remain ephemeral despite digital immutability? Can new forms of participation be discovered through mixing installation art’s acquired language of physical participation with interactive design’s native-speaking status in that language—a merger of the underparticipated with the over-participated?
Post-Digital ideology helps to answer these explorations. It is a point of convergence for installation art and interactive design, a philosophy and aesthetic that seeks to re-humanize the fake through embracing the real world as a digital material. It provides a common lexicon between the high arts and the presumed low arts.
This common language allows the artist to direct participants’ attention to the message, rather than the technological execution of that message. Roberta Smith warned of the superficial reactions that the “delusions of high—tech” in installation art can create.
Too often, the tantalization of technology trumps reading a piece as art. But humanizing the materials and conventions allows the piece to return to its original reading. This includes the exploration of performance as a challenge to passive voyeurism, live video as a window to real and ephemeral space, and simultaneous inter-participation that is both web-based and gallery-based.
But creating web-based installation art presents significant challenges. Merely documenting installation art online cannot be sufficient. It must actually translate the entire experience of an installation to a digital format. However, this translation must still be received as art in order to create an experience that neither of the two mediums could accomplish on its own.
Library of Congress Subject Headings
Installations (Art)--Technique; Installations (Art)--Themes, motives; Hunger--Developing countries--Interactive multimedia--Design
Computer Graphics Design (MFA)
Department, Program, or Center
School of Design (CIAS)
Burnett, Doug, "Hunger for the Hungry: Understanding and Benefitting the Global Hungry through Installation Art and Post-Digital Interactive Design" (2011). Thesis. Rochester Institute of Technology. Accessed from
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