published in German
in "Klangkunst" Munchen:Prestel/Akademie der Kunst. p. 124-125, 1996
INTERACTIVE ART OF DON RITTER
by Julie Crysler
live performances and interactive installations of Canadian artist Don
Ritter fuse technology and human action to create a "living" and ephemeral
visual art form. Ritter's work allows the audience to become an active
participant in the creative process, liberating the spectator from the
passive manner of observation required by most visual media.
Ritter began his career
in the fine arts as a painter and sculptor. His electronic art work incorporates
his disparate interests in psychology, human interface design, engineering
and his longstanding fascination with technology. In the 1980's, Ritter
began collaborating with musicians and developed his Orpheus software
which allows imagery to be "played" like an instrument. This unique software
provides real-time video imagery in response to music or MIDI data. When
combined with improvised music, Orpheus permits the simultaneous creation
and experience of a work of art.
Like his live performances,
Ritter's interactive installations allow the instantaneous control of
sound and/or imagery by a person in real time. They are, in their very
essence, collaborative works of art. Installations like his series "Captured
Moments" are dependent on the viewer to determine their performance. In
the installation "Intersection", the sound of cars along four lanes of
traffic reacts to the presence of visitors in the space. Infrared sensors
determine the position of the visitor, and alter the sound of the oncoming
cars accordingly. Similarly, "TV Guides" requires that spectators remain
completely motionless if they wish to watch broadcast television; when
sensors detect even the slightest movement, the television screen fades
to black, the sound fades out and a text message appears, requesting that
the viewers remain still.
In Ritter's installations,
the spectator is enveloped by technology, and becomes as much a part of
the work as the sensors, speakers and video projection equipment. Human
action is melded with technological systems creating an symbiotic and
cybernetic hybrid. By becoming part of the machine the spectator brings
Ritter's art to life.
In a sense, these
installations collapse the concepts of spectacle (Debord) and surveillance
(Foucault). The performance of Ritter's spectacle is dependent on the
actions of the spectator, but also on the surveillance of that same spectator.
The location and motion of each visitor to the space is observed by sensors,
triggering a response in the installation. Ironically, in these works,
it is ultimately through surveillance that the spectator is given power
over the art.