To create critical and appropriate methods and models for the planning, construction and realisation of public interactive exhibitions.
Constructing and exhibiting interactive artworks is still in its infancy and as yet there are very few successful examples of shows incorporating the use of interactive media. This has been highlighted repeatedly in lengthy consultations in Australia (Burning the Interface, Australian Film Commission and Digital One conference, Sydney), in Holland (The Next Five Minutes conference), and France (Espaces Interactifs Europe).
Four basic problem areas have been detected:
1. Available hardware and software technologies are unsuitable for public exhibition, certainly on a scale envisgaed for National Heritage. For example, the standard mouse and pointer interface can only be operated by one member of the audience at a time; Asian users are notably disadvantaged by not having a character set that conforms to the QUERTY keyboard standard of twenty-six letters. To solve these problems Mongrel plans to develop an interface through skin analysis and pressure pads.
2. As an interface location device flashing across the screen, the cursor signifies an unacceptably limited metaphorical engagement.
3. Interactive media industry standards are far lower than the standards required for use in a public spaces. An example is the CD-ROM. Industry standards allow that it may crash once in one hundred times during home use. In a well attended gallery, this is the equivalent of once an hour and is therefore useless for exhibition purposes. As a result, for the exhibition of National Heritage, software must be constructed that is more robust than industry standards require. In order to achieve this, Mongrel plans to customise commercially available software and hardware in the most economical way.
4. Mongrel needs to construct good models for the production process that both acknowledge and celebrate the process itself. Most reasonable interactive artwork is tested and modified on an audience, but usually there is no acknowledgement of the audience in this process or in the finished work. Audiences are an active research engine against which the authors can evaluate and re-evaluate their creation. This fundamental component in the process of all interactive work is usually relegated to a bug test.
Mongrel plans to address this latter issue by looking closely during the planning stage at the complex interrelationships between artists, collaborators and audiences in the following manner.
1. Collaborators as client groups authoring original materials.
2. Artists as imaging and graphic communication specialists, project managers and overall directors.
3. Audiences as active research engines against which the artists and collaborators - ie the authors - against can evaluate and re-evaluate their creation.
4. Audiences forming not only the interface of the final piece but also helping develop the multiple narrative pathways composing it.