Viewer Interaction with Mirror Noise

One of the great privileges of putting on Mirror Noise has been to sit in the gallery space observing how people interact with the piece as a whole. Some of the younger visitors have been the most dynamic in their interactions e.g. running and jumping about to see how this affects the sound and visuals. But some of the older visitors have been the most tenacious in trying out the 5 individual pieces and slowly but surely learning how to interact with each one. In many cases where there has been a small group of friends, 1 person has taken a more active role and the others were happy to ‘egg them on’, being more passive themselves, but enjoying the dynamism of their more active companion.

Some of the youngest children to visit the exhibition were awed just by seeing their likeness on the screen in front of them. The father of a 9 month old baby girl was convinced that his daughter really enjoyed the piece – he pushed her up close in her buggy so that she filled one of the screens.

The ‘instruction sheets’ left out in front of the screens have been a great help but even more so have been the invigilators. One invigilator in particular has been pro-active in physically showing people how each piece works and this has really helped to draw people in.  Despite all the encouragement, some people (generally lone adults), who evidently enjoyed the piece enough to remain in the gallery space for quite some time, did not want to actively interact with it. There were also perhaps an equal number of individuals (again lone adults) who were happy to interact with the piece even though they were alone (or perhaps for some, because they were alone?).

Another observation is that some visitors, after a short period of initial familiarisation with each piece, began to expect more. For example – a lady who believed she might be able to divide the shape shown by Neon Dance into 2 and then control each separate shape with her arms. More than one person thought they might be able to spell a meaningful word by interacting with Data Flow. Both of these expectations would require a far higher level of sophistication than was actually present in each piece and were based purely on the desire and imagination of the individual. For me, this was a very interesting phenomenon to observe and reminded me of research I have conducted into game theory.  In his discussion of what constitutes a game, veteran game theorist and designer Chris Crawford, states that a piece of entertainment is a ‘plaything’ if it is interactive and that if no goals are associated with that plaything that it is a ‘toy’ rather than a ‘challenge’ (which may subsequently be defined as a  ‘game’) (Crawford, 1984). Following this line of definition, the visitors who expected greater sophistication of interaction seemed than was present were moving into the space between ‘toy’ and ‘challenge’.

All of the entries left in the comments book to date have been very positive and I will be collating these as a separate write-up. I have also talked to some visitors directly and many have asked  me more about the piece. Some interesting suggestions have been made by people to whom I have spoken. One visitor suggested performing the piece in a club environment along the lines of a VJ which I thought was interesting. Many of the techniques and platforms I have been working with are drawn from the VJ space and part of my overall interest has been to bring VJ and electronic music practice into the gallery space, but equally it can go back the other way, taking something from the gallery space with it. I also like the idea of performing the work. During the private view I realised it could have been quite a coup to let the pieces run, except Timewarp, and once everyone had become comfortable with the situation, activate Timewarp which can be very arresting. Deciding when to show which piece is surely the first step towards performing the work.

Another visitor suggested taking the show to physically impaired or disabled people or to those with learning  difficulties, which I thought was a great idea, although would obviously be subject to appropriate due diligence. Just from watching some of less mobile visitors playing with Sparks and other pieces, I observed a pleasure in the creation of movement on-screen much faster and more dynamic than would ever be achievable in real life. This a surely an example of gestural interaction as a vehicle for personal empowerment.


Crawford, C. (1984) The Art of Computer Game Design. Berkeley, California : McGraw-Hill/Osborne Media

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