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Themesicon: navigation pathOverview of Media Articon: navigation pathCommunication
Interaction, Participation, Networking
Art and telecommunication
Inke Arns


Reception, participation, interaction–from receptive to active participation

The idea that the reception of a work of art demands the participation of the beholder was not exclusive to the twentieth century, but was anticipated in the late nineteenth century by Mallarmé's notion of process-based art encompassing permutable, aleatoric elements that would, in the form of the «open artwork,»[1] become programmatic for the avant-garde movement some fifty years later. Along similar lines, in 1957 Marcel Duchamp asserted that every aesthetic experience assigns a constitutive role to the spectator, who in the process of viewing «adds his contribution to the creative act.»[2] On a different occasion, Duchamp even claimed that «a work is made entirely by those who look at it or read it and who make it survive by their accolades or even their condemnation.»[3]

The notions and concepts of interaction, participation and communication are central to twentieth-century art, and in equal measure concern


the work, recipient and artist. Generally speaking, these terms involve a movement from the closed to the «open» work of art, from the static object to the dynamic process, from contemplative reception to active participation. It was a movement away from the concept of the «author» and leading, over the «author as producer»[4] and the «death of the author,»[5] towards «distributed » or collective authorship. As the twenty-first century approached, the nineteenthcentury artist-genius had evolved into an initiator of communicative, and often also social and political, (exchange) processes. In all these «opening-up movements,» the notion of interaction plays an important role.

However, the meaning of the term «interaction» underwent continuous transformation in the years between the participatory happening and Fluxus actions of the 1950s and early 1960s and the interactive media art[6] of the 1980s and 1990s. On the one hand, the change of meaning came about because of the

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