Category: Research

SHARING 2: Jeffrey Shaw’s The Legible City

Manhattan version (1989), Amsterdam version (1990), Karlsruhe version (1991), Computergraphic installation by Jeffery Shaw, with Dirk Groeneveld. Collection of ZKM-Medienmuseum, Karlsruhe, Germany.

This is a very exciting work by multi-media artist Jeffery Shaw. The interface is not foreign to any user, it is simply a bicycle. Hop on and cycle through Shaw’s world in the screen before you. From the video recordings of participants on YouTube, I can see that it kind of shows a cityscape while you are exploring, only that the buildings and infrastructure have been replaced with text.

Later on I found out that each of the cities named in the titles are what the participants are exploring. The artist has taken the actual maps of these cities and grafted them into his virtual reality, that is the texts we would see. We can read those and we can also listen to the narration that is going on. The Manhattan version features narration by President Trump. There are also monologues by ex-Mayor Koch, Frank Lloyd Wright, a tour guide, a confidence trickster, an ambassador and a taxi-driver.

The interface like I mentioned is very apparent and needs no explanation. What is interesting though is that you really need to put in the effort to cycle for it.  Every choice you make, your speed, direction as well as how you read the world, whether by text or through the audio, will become a highly spontaneous mixture of meanings and understandings. And in this cross-section of sensory experience, the user is faced with both the mundane and the historical.

That is what makes this a very meaningful and compelling form of “narrative interaction” and definitely make a significant note for my research on this topic. Although the experience will probably be heightened for a participant who have been to those cities or lived there. Simply because of the cultural interactivity that will transpire as a result of this sort of mapping that happens through the use of the contraption. So perhaps interactive narratives might require the artist to be more conscious of for whom he designs the experience for.


You may view Shaw’s work here on his website:


SHARING 1: Maria Anwander – interaction through artistic intervention

I shared some works of Maria Anwander in class when we were trying to give some examples of what we think can be considered “interactive narratives”. However as I was giving it off-the-cuff, it kind of made me feel like I did not give a great example. Or that it might lack some relevance.

So just to recap: One of the works is The Kiss (2007) at MOMA. You can read about the intervention in the musuem label she put there. And you can also see her website here:

Maria Anwander’s act of french kissing the exhibition wall at MOMA after she stuck the label. The old man contemplates the work as did all the other unsuspecting visitors to the gallery.

So my take on it was that Anwander’s work is one of intervention in a public space, in this case the MOMA in New York. What she does here is to make the work both a documentation of her performative act as well as that artistic presence she has left behind for the viewer. And it is through the backstory of this performance of surveying the area, planning out how to execute the action and eventually kissing the wall, we as a viewer are drawn to that simply because of the playfulness. As for the gallery-goer, he and many others are trying to interact with this new work. They might have their suspicions because it was uncatalogued or they might be just totally fixated in the encounter at hand.

And the other work is one about musuem labels she ‘borrowed’ or stole from various museums all over the world called My Favorite Art,  ongoing since 2004. Ongoing! In fact, I think museums are glad to let her steal from them.


So what do I feel about the example I raised now? I think that I can see why it is quite hard to say that they are interactive. However I would still like to try again. In reference to my response on Eric Zimmerman’s text the Four Concepts, I would say that Anwander’s work affects me on a cultural level and I feel that I interact with the work in a cultural interaction. Some of these works I have seen, in their rightful place. Some I wish to see but have yet to visit those countries. So it is really more compelling to a specific audience, one that has knowledge of art history or has seen the images before. In the absence of the image, we still connect to the paintings simply because of our previous interactions with the works of art. The narrative behind it is also very appealing in the sense that she is breaking rules here. Stealing from museums to create her work. She is not taking away those art works (the originals) themselves, yet we feel that the works are transferred unto this wall we see.

I enjoy the play and intervention that Anwander does with her work. Perhaps this could be seeds for brainstorming a project in the course. I am not sure whether I have better explained it by writing this reflection out. But as Zimmerman pointed out, it is simply because we do not know how to explain that we are able to find a way to come out with a new type of “interactive narrative”. And I certainly hope to learn new ways.