Monday, January 14, 2008

Don't interact

click phot0 to enlarge
"Interactive" has to be one of my least favourite words. So-called "involvement" through "interactivity" seems to be the 21st century's ubiquitous "democratic" bolt-on feature. Everything has to be interactive. Radios want you to call in or text and give your point of view. So do TV stations with their "tickertape" messages from the public. Have you ever read any of those - they must be the new outlet for the green ink brigade. Whole programmes now feature nothing but "real" people "interacting" with each other. Websites everywhere solicit the user's input, sometimes (like Facebook) to the point of being almost "content free", apart from people craving recognition in its most meaningless form from other people. And zoos, museums and galleries have caught the interactive disease too.

A couple of years ago I went to "The Deep", a new aquarium in Hull. It had some great fish in some stunning tanks, and I enjoyed seeing them. But the whole experience was spoiled (and limited) by an interactive section with computers, buttons to push, knobs to spin, headphones to wear, etc. Most adults seemed to be walking straight past all this. Children pushed, prodded, rarely listened, and raced between interactivities so rapidly that any information that was supposed to be conveyed must have gone straight into the ether. Art galleries offer this type of thing too - draw like an Impressionist, do a jigsaw of this famous painting, remove the layers of a painting electronically to see what's underneath, all in a feeble attempt to "involve" the visitor. What I - and I suspect many others - want is a well mounted exhibition, with interpretation by someone who is knowledgeable, that entertains, challenges and informs. The money a gallery saved on interactivity over a year could mount an extra exhibition. So, I was pleased when I heard this week a politician say that Government funding of the arts was to be more focussed on quality, and less on participation and "ticking the boxes". Until I realised that this might just mean even bigger doses of the juvenilia of Damien Hurst, Tracey Emin and co, and less space for new artists!

Today's photograph shows the exterior of "The Haven" gallery in Boston, Lincolnshire. It is currently showing some landscapes by the U.S. photographer Hope Greene, and drawings by David Lloyd Brown. I liked the confusion resulting from the layering of lights, the reflected converted warehouses, the grid of the glass curtain wall, and the passing person.

POSTSCRIPT: "Don't interact" seemed a prescriptive, rather killjoy title, and I was going to change it. Then I read this article about "Facebook" in today's Guardian newspaper. It only deepened my concerns about this type of phenomenon. If only half of the article is true, this post's title is advice worth following.

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 16mm (32mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f4
Shutter Speed: 1/100
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: -1.0EV
Image Stabilisation: Off