Socially Relevant, Accessible and Interactive

Curator's Note

When asked to curate for the InMediaRes topic, Interactive Digital Media as Public Art, I thought to myself that there are so many wonderful works of digital art that I might never be able to distill my selections to a mere 3 minute segment. As I began my process I found myself questioning how art work is considered ‘public’ and/or ‘interactive’ yet often remains very inaccessible; hence questions of how work can be considered a digitally interactive public work. As I pursued my given task, I decided that the works I would collect for review must be works that are socially relevant, digitally interactive and accessible (with the caveat that the project can move forward into something that is completely digitally accessible).

The video clip that I have included references the AIDS Quilt Project, a very strong singular physical textile work that has been in the public venue since 1987. It has physically traveled the world in segments and has been added to by thousands who have been either personally or socially affected by AIDS and wanted to be heard. Their voices are imprinted upon this collaborative quilt and the panels are presented in segments in galleries worldwide. Yet there is more is being done to ensure that the work is seen by a larger segment of our global population.

Advancements in technology are making the AIDS quilt much more accessible and interactive. The touch table, as demonstrated in the video, provides viewers with the opportunity to personalize their experience with the quilt. This new digital format allows users to scroll through the panels of the AIDS quilt by searching for names or simply seeing a section that calls to them and zooming in. The quilt, as a physical object, could not otherwise be experienced in such an interactive way.

Although the virtual version of the quilt does not retain the tactile qualities of the original and not all galleries have a touch table to present the virtual version, how the project might migrate to smart phones and tablets provides an entirely new accessibility and viewership. Not yet an ideal in terms of accessibility but definitely on the right path for a digitally delivered socially relevant, interactive, global message. 


I think you bring up an interesting point at the end of your piece: What is more important in terms of interactive digital media as public art? Is it the piece’s ability to reach the widest audience possible or does that piece need to be something tactile? And how does something like this affect the audience’s relationship with it? The AIDS quilt project is an excellent springboard for looking at something like this. The effect of AIDS is something that is very socially relevant throughout the world. But does this piece need to be seen by as many people as possible or do the people that do see it/interact with it get more out of the message if they can have physical contact with it?

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