Sound-Image Relations in Interactive Art

2 The Open Work: From the Concept to the First Products

The traditional object-oriented concept of the work of art was already called into question by the avant-garde artists of the first half of the twentieth century, who advocated a more process- and event-oriented understanding of the artwork. Futurists and dadaists demonstrated their opposition to the traditional concept of art in provocative manifestos and spectacles. Dadaism and surrealism relied on elements of chance during the genesis of a work of art, either through the incorporation of everyday materials or the psychic automatism of écriture automatique. Jackson Pollock’s action paintings then led these ideas into the realm of full abstraction, thus shifting the creative process during the genesis of the work to center stage.

This interest in processes and factors that cannot be controlled by the creator of the work anticipated a debate about the role of the public and the act of reception. In reference to the exhibition of his entirely monochromatic White Paintings, Robert Rauschenberg insisted in 1951 that the paintings were not passive but hypersensitive, because, for instance, the shadows cast on them showed how many people were in the room and they appeared differently depending on the time of day. It was irrelevant, he said, that he had created these paintings: Today is their creator.[3] John Cage, a close friend of Rauschenberg, translated these ideas into music—for example in his famous piece 4′33″ (1952), whose score simply opens a temporal window to the sounds of the environment. Marcel Duchamp commented pithily that a work of art is created entirely by those who observe it.[4] These developments were first elaborated theoretically by Umberto Eco, who in 1962 in his book Opera aperta (The Open Work) described literary, musical, and visual works of art that were characterized by the invitation to make the work together with the author.[5]