Interactivity Between Art and Its Audience: Engaging Viewers Beyond Passive Observation
by Hannah Roach
Interactivity between art and its audience refers to the degree of involvement and engagement that the viewers have with a piece of art. In traditional art forms, such as painting or sculpture, the interaction is typically limited to passive observation. However, with the rise of new media and technology, artists now have the ability to create works that invite active participation and engagement from their audience. This has opened up new avenues for creativity and expression, as well as challenges to the traditional boundaries between artist and viewer. In this context, the relationship between art and its audience has become more dynamic, interactive, and collaborative, leading to a richer and more diverse artistic landscape.
Ernesto Neto's large-scale tangible pieces encourage the audience to interact with the created environments. He fabricates three-dimensional worlds for people to be encompassed by. The people are involved physically, through playful exploration of ball pools and soft cushioned rooms. The labyrinthine installations are a place for reflection, where people can interpret the work in their own way. While exploring the elevated environments, one’s perspective changes; seeing the sculpture and themselves in different ways as they move through it. In response to investigating the sculpture, one simultaneously feels their body through the work. The main focus is that he has successfully created atmospheric spaces that the visitor enters and is engulfed by.
The term ‘viewer’ when used in the description of the audience, is not appropriate when describing the connection to Ernesto Neto’s work. The term suggests the audience is merely looking and inspecting a piece. An exchange arises in his installations; the audience is invited to physically interact, touch, smell and enter the work in order to appreciate the created environment. Incorporating social spaces such as a garden and swimming pool in ‘The Edges of the World’, makes the visitors themselves become sculptural elements. The work is to be understood on different levels as his goal is to primarily make a piece of art that you see as a sculpture. Visitors then move to be inside the sculpture; where they travel through the work and reach a third level of interpretation. In forming these embraces, Neto is testing people’s inner limits but at the same time connecting people and connecting space. It’s about protected space and how much space we can get from one space.
"I don’t know what my work is about. People will experience it and tell me"
– Ernesto Neto
I will now discuss Anish Kapoor’s ‘Leviathan’, where he transformed the elegant Grand Palis in Paris with a surreal, space-invading installation. Instead of walking into the museum through the average entrance, visitors entered a gigantic, womb-like world where orifices suspended high overhead morphed into other mysterious spaces. I admire how Leviathan did not become visible until visitors passed through a single-air tight revolving door into a brightly coloured, totally enclosed bubble. In doing this, Kapoor was able to shock his audience on entry with the size, colour and space created.
Inside the large space, everyone from young to old enjoyed the spectacular encounter, examining and touching the walls while making comments of awe or surprise. Importantly, Leviathan engaged a broad range of the public, regardless of taste in art. The experience of the piece extended beyond looking, and reading wall text. Photographs of this type of work are inadequate; an artist making this type of interactive installation wants the audience to submerge themselves and be surrounded by the stunning space. His installation dramatically changed the architecture of the Grand Palis into a holding vessel, giving it a new life when seen through Leviathan’s translucent pink skin. After the initial experience, viewers returned to the museum entrance and then re-entered the vast space of the hall to see the exterior of the installation. In contrast to the exciting translucency of the interior, the exterior resembled a gigantic group of plastic eggplants.
Kapoor leads his visitors around the installation’s interior then exterior so you are never able to see the entire work in one glance; you must build it in your imagination. The three holes give a sense that the space is uterine and Kapoor feels that viewers will share this sense. The power of abstract art is how space can act similarly for many of us; it can go to the source and become personal to anyone. Kapoor recognises that colour and space have a psychological possibility or condition that can prompt viewers to bring their own associations. Kapoor’s Leviathan, through its colour, sensuous materials, and gigantic forms, offered visitors an embrace. Kapoor’s. Kapoor’s ability to create a sculpture that dances between the accessible and the esoteric makes the sculpture relevant to the public while avoiding the predictable.
The abstract spatial labyrinths are large soft, biomorphic sculptures that fill an entire exhibition space. The creation of a social space that surrounds the whole room forming a relationship between the architecture and ambiance ignites my inspiration. ‘Anthropodino’ is a large-scale interactive piece that is designed to give a unique sensual experience that aims to stimulate the senses. It reconnects the audience with a sensory experience by involving amorphous forms stuffed with aromatic spices. As well as inviting sensory interaction, they stimulate psychological and intellectual responses. The fragile fabric membrane subverts or contrasts with the space and the atmosphere surrounding it. In this environment, the audience may feel like they’re inside a volume as the sculptures are very connected to the air, transparency and light filtering.
When interacting with his work he’s asking you to think about nature not as painting or landscape, but think about it structurally; how one thing in nature deals with the other. Once people establish a relationship with the installation, the participant must feel their own bodily presence, that the body is something in common with them.
An artist does not own every meaning of their work; it should be left up to the interpretation of the participant. Ernesto and I share this curiosity of wanting to seek a broader public audience; particularly those not involved in the art world. I think installations should invite public reaction not just too esoteric visitors or visitors who have preconceived ideas of what the piece could be about.
“Visitors will be invited to walk inside the work, to immerse themselves in colour, and it will, I hope, be a contemplative and poetic experience”
- Anish Kapoor
In conclusion, the works of Ernesto Neto and Anish Kapoor demonstrate the power of interactivity between art and its audience. Neto's playful installations engage with the senses and create a space for individuals to connect with art on a deeper level, stripping away any inhibitions they may have had. Meanwhile, Kapoor's use of negative space and emphasis on the void prompt viewers to reflect on their inner selves and the nature of existence. Both artists push the boundaries of sculpture and show that it has the ability to produce tangible and meaningful results. Through their works, we are reminded of the vast possibilities of art and its ability to connect with us in profound and unexpected ways.