Chats About

How to make art that people look at for more than 5 seconds - Chris Rodley



How long do you look at a work of art for? One survey at London’s Tate Britain gallery found that visitors spent as little as 5 seconds with each contemporary artwork. Another study at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art found that viewers lingered 27 seconds with each work of art: still a fairly brief encounter compared to the time we spend with a book, a movie or a rerun of The Golden Girls.

Of course, the number of seconds people spend with an artwork doesn’t tell us how moved they are by it (haiku poems can affect us profoundly even if they only take 5 seconds to read), it does offer hints about how engaged audiences are. At The Portals – an public art exhibition coming to the big screen at Chatswood’s The Concourse as well as Darwin’s Nan Giese Gallery from 8 June – we’re inviting you to become more deeply engaged with artworks by taking the time to play a more active role in their realization.

In the project I’m working on for The Portals in collaboration with Andrew Burrell, Enquire Within Upon Everything, we are inviting you to tweet questions and see them answered by the Internet hive mind. If you’re on Twitter, you can tweet your question to us now on any subject – from what to name your cat to how to win the lottery –using the hashtag #enquiresydney.

This past week, we’ve been busy developing the inner mechanics of the app that will match audience members’ questions up with crowdsourced answers. We’ve also been making postcards for distribution in cafés and arts venues which call on the people of Sydney and Darwin to query the global data stream. In the process of asking and receiving an answer, we’re inviting you to reflect on the un/reliability of information in the digital age as well as the im/possibility of uniqueness in networked environments, where almost everything we want to say is already being said by someone else.

Metaverse Makeovers (LIVE)

The other artists involved in The Portals are also busy developing works with a high degree of interactivity. In Metaverse Makeovers (LIVE), pictured, the artists will be working with nail technicians in Chatswood and Darwin to makeover members of the public with “appcessories” – augmented-reality nail accessories that interact with a game app. In Shadow Net, which uses Microsoft’s Kinect technology, your shadow and the shadows of other, unknown passers-by in Chatswood and Darwin will be projected into a virtual game space. Distributed Empire is a real-time portrait generator that will recombine the faces and voices of volunteers in both locations. And in Is Starlight A Wifi Signal? audiences will be encouraged to interact with a performance that includes moving bodies, projections and text by tweeting with the hashtag #starlight.

Each of the artworks will evolve as it is updated by user input; in the case of Enquire Within Upon Everybody, the conversation will expand and change over two weeks, reflecting the burning questions on the minds of local communities. We hope you’ll check back in during the course of the exhibition to see how things develop – and hopefully get much more than your 5 seconds’ worth.

View the 19th International Symposium on Electronic Art program in Chatswood.

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