The Art of Interactive Design

I am both a designer and an artist. That is to say, I was educated as a fine artist, and later went into design. Design started out as a coping technique and then grew into an amazing medium for my art.

I was part of the dot com bubble in the late 90’s. At that time I was working as Sr Art Director at Digitas in New York City and freelancing for several design firms with major clients. Interactive design became a passion; I even designed and programed game interfaces. I led seminars in multimedia and trained others in software. I worked in video and motion graphics, but my real passion was interactive design.

At the heart of this design form are the twin concepts of non-linear and user-choice. In contrast with most of my colleagues, I never think of interactive design as something which tells a story, rather, I have always conceived it as being a series of moments, strung together by user choice.

I know that most people strive to make a story even where there is none, but a time is coming when we will no longer need a story that leads the user down a predefined path to the same conclusion. User choice will be paramount.

You can see how I play with interactive media, story, and user choice in my artwork at: www.radi8.org. My video piece “Subtitulo” remakes two films, by taking out the story and dialog. Is it still a film? What makes a film a film? Is it the story, or is it the linear basis of the medium?

In my piece “Exfoliate” I did the opposite. I took a video that had no story and gave it one retroactively. I had video-taped the cutting up of a magazine. A simple documentary of artistic process that had no story whatsoever. So I created one to satisfy viewers:

In this piece a woman who feels unattractive and unloved idolizes the faces and lives of the models she sees in the media. She believes that the answer to her problem of identity and self-love can be found in the very media that has convinced her of her deficiencies.

She attempts to discover a younger and more beautiful self in a woman’s magazine by cutting into the magazine and peeling away successive pages, but she can never fully identify with the idealized women before her. She continues to search, digging deeper and deeper as the magazine before her becomes a complex and fragmented composite of images and identities.

This piece explores the cultural obsession with youth and beauty. The idea of exfoliation is to strip away layers of old dead skin until a younger, more beautiful self is revealed. To the artist the practice of exfoliation is a weird form of self- archaeology.  It is as if we think that each layer of skin represents a physical strata of years and that if we can just strip away enough of it we will eventually reveal a better version of ourselves that is sure to lie somewhere below. What happens if one takes the idea of exfoliation too far?

As an artist I work in any medium that seems appropriate to the piece and, as an artist, I enjoy the freedom of not adhering to any standards (as I do when designing). I like to throw away design and art principles on a regular basis so that I can begin with a beginner’s mind to each piece.

My work has become more and more virtual. I have been engaged in writing for the last two years. Writing my first book, Parallel Mind, The Art of Creativity was a sheer joy.

Copyright Aliyah Marr

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