Interactive Art: “Tape Recorders”

Tape Recorders (2011)


Rows of motorised measuring tapes record the amount of time that visitors stay in the installation. As a computerised tracking system detects the presence of a person, the closest measuring tape starts to project upwards. When the tape reaches around 3 meters high it crashes and recoils back. Each hour, the system prints the total number of minutes spent by the sum of all visitors.



Tape Recorders is an installation that tracks and visually represents the duration a viewer stays at the exhibit. I like how the work addressed the nature of art-viewing today–and in fact, perhaps, not just with regards to art but all stimuli in general. All too often viewers spare artworks only a glance while passing them. Stopping to look at an artwork proper for more than a few seconds is rare, much less for the duration it takes for a measuring tape in the installation to reach 3 metres and crash to the floor.  This is so especially with removed minimalist pieces or when a museum has an overwhelming amount of exhibits to visit. The viewer for whom time is of essence (in capitalistic societies commodifying time) sometimes brisk walks through even time-based video and durational performances. By creating a work that actively encourages viewers to stay (I might even use the word “beg”), incentivising them with the excitement of watching measuring tapes slowly grow and finally crash and recoil (almost like a grand prize for staying “long enough”), Lozano-Hemmer presents a unique and effective commentary on our short-attention span. I like this work even more because it was an artwork commenting about the very viewing of artworks, through a transformed viewing experience designed to engage the very-difficult-to-grab-hold-of public. In terms of effectiveness in communicating its intent, or simply engaging viewers otherwise (degree of engagement measured, literally, by the duration they spent viewing the work), I thought it was also successful for all ages. Not just adults but children also, who are arguably even harder to engage for prolonged periods, were effectively engaged in interacting with the artwork. There is something appealing about interactive art–seeing how one’s actions visually manifest and shape an artwork in real-time–that makes it worth investing time to view, or more accurately, experience. Tape Recorders is an exemplar of art that people would spare more than a glance or a  few seconds to view. 


VC1-01: Rebus Principle



The Rebus Principle evolved out of a need to represent intangible concepts easily which the early pictographic signs fell short in. The Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs were useful in representing concrete objects, but could not do the same for names, ideas and function words.

If you can’t make a picture of something, use a picture of something with the same sound.

I love that the Rebus Principle demonstrates human’s desire/impulse to put a name/finger (hence, tangible) to everything. The act of doing so almost serves as an affirmation of our understanding and knowledge of something; by giving something a name, we officially “own” it and have custody of it in our “knowledge bank”; by spelling out and putting our emotions into words, we legitimise our feelings.

Nothing gets more intangible than an   .  I can only imagine and share in the satisfaction of the Sumerians in being able to put an image/form to something so formless and abstract.