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Contents © 2020 Golan Levin and Collaborators

Golan Levin and Collaborators

Interviews and Dialogues

Interview for Dazed and Confused

Interview by Tom Giddins for British style magazine Dazed and Confused,
27 September, 2009.

What do you find interesting about interactivity in art?
I'm interested in the possibility of an open-ended work, whose realization consists of an infinite possibility-space instead of a single, fixed form. This is exciting because the work can continue to surprise me, and others too. I'm also interested in the way that interactive work can allow visitors to discover their own potential as actors. Ask me about my liberation ideology ;)

What draws you to try and constantly push the boundaries between design and performance?
I don't really give much consideration to categories like "art", "design", "performance", "science". These boxes may be helpful for making sense of the past, but not necessarily for anticipating the future. I enjoy pushing the envelope of culture by developing provocative machinery; I call this activity "research". Hopefully my work poses new questions, and prompts people to ask new questions themselves. To be effective, it seems to be helpful when my work operates or acts on people in a way they can experience first-hand. Perhaps that is what you mean by "performance"?

What’s the idea behind the Opto-Isolator?
This is an interactive robotic sculpture which attempts to address the questions, "What if artworks could know how we were looking at them? And, given this knowledge, how might they respond to us?" The sculpture consists of a single mechatronic blinking eye, at human scale, which responds to onlookers with a variety of familiar but unnerving psychosocial eye-contact behaviors. Among other forms of feedback, Opto-Isolator looks its viewer directly in the eye; appears to intently study its viewer's face; looks away coyly if it is stared at for too long; and blinks precisely one second after its visitor blinks.

What interests you about the theme of gaze?
The eyes reveal our focus of attention. To use a technological metaphor, eyes are input devices as well as output devices.

How do you think the human relationship with machines is evolving?
A few technologies have already become inseparable from our identity as humans. Language is an especially good example; it has been around for, say, a quarter of a million years, and we have evolved specialized areas of our brain for using it. Writing is another; it is difficult to function as a full citizen in most human societies today without the ability to read or write in some way. Computation is a likely candidate for the next indispensable augmentation of human intellect, if there is one.

Taking into account the current speed at which technology is evolving do you think humans influence machines or machines influence humans?
Machines are not created in a vacuum. Technology and culture exist in feedback. New technologies, especially communications technologies, make new forms of cultural expression possible. People -- whether everyday people, kids or culture-workers like artists -- then push these technologies to their limits, highlighting their limitations and prompting the development of new technologies.

Will we ever have a "Terminator 2" scenario on our hands?
I think other dystopias are far more likely, such as the ones depicted in "Mad Max" or Cormac McCarthy's "The Road". The "singularity" predicted by Ray Kurzweil, where machines surpass human intelligence, is a possibility but it will look very different if it happens. There will be no need for lumbering genocidal warriors; we will have already become the machines ourselves.

[Follow-Up Questions]
Can art and technology exist in harmony?
What is your vision for art in the future with advancements in technology?

Put me down for "yes" and "optimistic".