Image by Tim Murray-Browne.

Drinks, chats, laughs, learning about the evolution of interactive art… you’ve never seen a weekday like this one! Next Thursday, June 1, the Zealous team will band together for another amazing Zealous Meetup, featuring three incredible panellists and you.

We’ll spend the evening learning about the evolution of art through interactive technology – what does the future hold? How is art changing? Who defines what it is and where we’re headed? We’ll answer these questions and more with the help of Aphra Shemza (media artist), Maria Almena (multimedia artist, Kimatica Studio), and Tim Murray-Browne (creative coder and sound artist). To whet your appetite for next week’s Zealous Meetup, we’ve chatted with the panellists to offer some small, bright windows into their amazing work.

Sold? Sign up! Seats are filling fast, so get your name in, grab a free drink, and hang with us for an evening of exciting new connections and interactive art at its best: in practice.

Aphra Shemza

Canary Wharf Group, Louis Roederer Champage, the Shangri’La Hotel)

Z: How permanent is the bond between technology and art in your work?

AS: I believe that artists often use the most radical technology available to them to create their work – this is certainly the case with my practice. For me, communication is key to how I produce my work. I feel that creating interactive works that respond to the viewer really helps bridge the gap between viewer and artwork, allowing a space for dialogue and exchange, making art that is accessible to all. Using technology to create my work allows me to be a multidisciplinary artist and is very important to my practice in terms of communication to a contemporary audience.

Z: Why is interaction important in the creative industry / process? What, in your mind, makes an audience member so important? In what ways can an audience hinder or enhance a creative work?

AS:  As a society, we are deeply immersed in image on a day-to-day basis – we passively receive visual information without a second thought. Through using interactive devices, the artist can create a new visual language that secures the audience’s attention and asks them to actively take part in the piece. Once the work is made, the artist can take a step back and allow the participants to become co-authors, which embraces notions of community, connection, and performance and helps to further highlight the significance of these things in contemporary society. This often furthers the understanding of the concept of the piece itself.

Maria Almena

Kimatica Studio

Z: How permanent is the bond between technology and art in your work?

MA: I’ve always been fascinated by the power of technology, mainly for the fact that it allows you to create “magical’” objects and experiences that humans cannot. I am mainly interested in using technology to create AV experiences, but for me it’s very important that the pieces are still artistically driven and that technology is not the focus, but a tool that is secondary like any other tool. I am interested in finding a balance between the ancient and the modern – contemporary life is surrounded by technology, so it makes senses to incorporate this in my art practise along with my personal research into ancient civilizations.

Z: If you were born 200 years ago, do you think you’d still gravitate towards art? Why or why not?

MA: Of course! I have been always a creative person – I actually believe that creating and sharing is one of the main characteristics of human behaviour. Creating something from nothing and sharing it with others has been always on me – I’ve explored every artistic medium I could get my hands on, starting with the most traditional forms such as stone carving , metal sculpture, and painting. I ended up creating digital experiences because I believe it’s the best medium to reflect and connect with our contemporary society, and therefore the more relevant medium that expresses all the concepts and ideas that intrigue me.

 Z: Why is interaction important in the creative industry / process? What, in your mind, makes an audience member so important? In what ways can an audience hinder or enhance a creative work?

MA: It’s key for me for two reasons – the art doesn’t exist if no one sees or interacts with it. I love how art is shifting to a much more community-based and interactive way of creating rather than just pure admiration. I also believe our society lacks connection, and that art can to help that through artistic experiences in which connectivity is key. Art doesn’t really exist without an audience – even in the old times, paintings were made for people to see and admire. We are living in very interesting times! Audiences help create the work itself –this participatory element has become fundamental to my point of view because art helps audiences reflect on different concepts. There is nothing more powerful than reflecting through experiencing. I found this truly fascinating: as an artist, you create a piece with an idea in mind, but you’d be surprised how people react to your piece! They help you discover aspects you hadn’t thought of, or realise something that doesn’t quite work. They evaluate the piece and become a key element in its development.

Tim Murray-Browne

Sound and Music, Music Hackspace

Z: How permanent is the bond between technology and art in your work? If you were born 200 years ago, do you think you’d still gravitate towards art? Why or why not?

TMB: It’s pretty permanent. At university, I studied Maths and Computer Science, and I was involved in many creative activities alongside – music, drawing, photography. Perhaps it’s odd, but I didn’t really manage to join the two sides together until after I graduated. Discovering the artistic possibilities of code opened both technology and art for me and now they’re completely entwined in my work. If I was born 200 years ago (to a fortunate position in society), I think I’d be much the same as I am now in spirit: interested in many different disciplines and areas of knowledge. I don’t know whether what I’d be doing would be classed as “art” by the standards of the day, but really it’s just about finding new ways to express yourself, unlock ideas, connect with people and move them. For me, this will always involve a combination of aesthetics, emotion, philosophy, science and engineering.

Z: Why is interaction important in the creative industry / process? What, in your mind, makes an audience member so important?

TMB: I have a feeling that underlying it all is a need to communicate and connect with each other. Even with art forms that are materially non-interactive like recorded music or a painting, they often form a context for us to interact with others, such as sharing music tips or visiting a gallery together. And usually, the audience have the freedom to walk away. But in art I’d consider there to be degrees of interactivity, determined by the audience member’s influence and control over the greater creative act. As more agency is given to the audience, the relationship between artist and audience becomes less hierarchical. Typically the artist is still controlling the frame and the material limits of the media, while most audience members are still holding the artist responsible for make their experience a worthwhile one. But the dynamics of power in this relationship make designing interactivity an inevitably political process, which is one of the reasons I find it such an exciting space to work in.

 Z: In what ways can an audience hinder or enhance a creative work?

TMB: I’m not sure I could consider an audience as hindering or enhancing my interactive work, as the work is only truly materialised through interaction with the audience. If the experience isn’t as I envisaged then the fault usually lies in my interaction design, or it’s not the right audience. Though, one of the best (and scariest) things about interactive work is how much your audience can surprise you, and it can help to have an open mind about what experience I’m aiming to create. For example, in my recent work with Aphra Shemza, Post-Truth and Beauty, audience members see and hear different perspectives onto an audiovisual landscape as they move their head. The interactivity is realised through addressable LEDs, a 3D sound array and a sensor tracking their head position. It’s designed to create an analogy to the relationship between truth and perspective. At least half of this landscape of sound and colour can only be experienced if the participant lowers their head beneath their shoulders. A small fraction of visitors do this, and we were considering whether to provide more explicit instructions. But standing back, I saw how groups of visitors would participate individually and then stand back to watch others do so. Those who had found certain gems might shout to the participant to try different things. “Crouch on the floor, over there!” This was not part of the planned experience but it’s beautiful to see, because it is exactly what the work is about: the limited perspectives we all hold and our struggles to make others see things as we do.

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Lauren Aguilera Brown

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Storyteller | Writer | Singsong Weirdo | Food Whisperer | Jane of All Trades Founder @monologues_the | Upcoming Album @weheartarts