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Golan Levin, Artist and Associate Professor of Electronic Art, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh

Looking at Looking at Looking

March 10, 2008; 80 Minutes; Video

Much consideration has been given to the idea (in, for example, reader-response criticism) that the gaze of the viewer is the force by which artworks become constituted. Yet most interactive artworks to date have lacked fundamental information about where their participants’ visual attention is actually directed. Likewise, many of our richest models for interactivity are grounded in notions of mammalian facial behavior—to understand an animal, we look into its eyes—yet the powerful expressive affordances of eyes, as a form of dynamic display, are almost never granted to interactive artworks. What if artworks could know how we were looking at them? And, given this knowledge, how might they respond if they could look back at us?

This talk will present a survey of Golan Levin’s personal research into the “medium of response,” with consideration given to the conditions that enable people to experience sustained creative feedback with reactive systems; to the potential for audiovisual abstraction to connect viewers to realities beyond language; and more generally, to information visualization as a mode of art practice. The talk concludes with a presentation of Levin’s most recent attempts to create engrossing and uncanny interactions structured by gaze: by endowing responsive artworks with new perceptive capacities—the ability to know where we are looking—and new expressive means, through simulated eyes that can return and meet our own.