Interview with Dominique Cunin
Dominique Cunin (1980) is an artist and researcher at the EnsadLab in Paris (laboratoire de l’École nationale supérieure des Arts Décoratifs) where he runs the subject ‘Mobility: interactive narrative in context’ within the DiiP course (Dispositifs interactifs et performatifs). He lectures at the Valence School for Art and Design, specializing in graphic design for digital media. He is currently writing his doctoral thesis in art aesthetics, science and technology, under the supervision of Jean-‐Louis Boissier at Paris8 University.
Dominique Cunin's Book Tales series of interactive pictures, intended to take a critical look at the reading conditions offered by mobile screens, was mainly created with Mobilizing, a computer programming language designed for authors without specific computer programming expertise who wish to include mobile screens in their artistic projects. With this series of works exhibited at The Book Lab exhibition - part of the Futures of the Book event, the predominance of the physical book model used in reader software of mobile devices is questioned.
The Book Lab exhibition : October 22 - November 1, 2013 @ swissnex San Francisco.
In your opinion, how do the digital technologies transform our access to knowledge ?
Dominique Cunin: The Internet and the Web are filled with information produced by a great variety of people and take several forms: texts, books, videos, movies, music, etc. This greatly facilitates access to information to anyone who owns a computer or any digital device that can be used to look up digital files and browse the web. Thanks to the numerous type of sources that can be accessed from this ocean of files, one can collect useful information that could be very difficult and long to find otherwise. But this ease to access information facilitates access to knowledge for those who know how to manipulate them, not only in the technical way, but also intellectually. I think that quick and easy access to information is the main contribution of digital technology to our access to knowledge, but one is still required a real investment, patience and perseverance to acquire knowledge from this information. For this access to information to be a real tool for knowledge transmission and progress, a certain critical distance is necessary for both the knowledge producer and the knowledge receiver. This implies that a general freedom of the use made of digital devices and networks must to be protected and defended, in order to avoid information filtering that would certainly lead to knowledge progress deceleration.
To what extent would you say that your work as an author or artist has been impacted by the digital technologies ?
DC: I could almost say that my artistic practice emerged from the potential I saw in the digital technologies, both in the technical and the theoretical ways. Computer graphics, and especially 3D graphics, somewhat fascinated me in their capacity to simulate 3D spaces and forms through generated pictures and animations. That’s why, when I was student in art school, I decided to produce my works exclusively with computers. While I was exploring computers' graphic potential in artistic creation, I understood that giving the spectator a way to control some part of the image generation could involve computers’ possibilities more widely and could produce interesting situations. As real time modification of displayed images requires programming, I began to tinker with multimedia tools scripting systems. The more I gained technical autonomy regarding computer programming, the more I could question digital devices' positions in art creation and produced new kinds of works. The main idea that keeps me motivated today with digital technologies implementation in the artistic field is interactivity.
How would you define the concept of "interactivity" in the spectrum of the digital technologies of the image ?
DC: The technical origins of the term shouldn’t be forgotten: in computer history, interactivity refered to the terminals equipped with a monitor display that allowed users to directly send commands and programs to a computer machine and to see the result instantly. The "interactive terminal" introduced the ideas of visual interface and instantaneous interaction, upon which an interactivity takes place between the user and the device. As digital devices can be programmed in order to adapt images, videos or sounds behaviors correspondingly to the user's actions in real time, a wide variety of interactive situations can be achieved. Therefore we could say that interactivity is fundamentally situated "in-between," it is a third party element linking the user/spectator and the apparatus (s)he encounters. For example, our relationship to a real time 3D shooting game we play on a computer is not the same as our relationship to a word processing software we use on the same computer, even if the physical devices used and the interactions they allow are the same in both cases. In this way, interactivity could be seen as a link shaped by a specific disposition of technical elements translating the author's intentions (and, possibly, artistic ones).