Performance and Interaction

Animate Architecture • Build Installations • Collaborate With Performers & Machines • Code With Interfaces • Create Sonic Environments • Choreograph Light • Use Advanced Manufacturing • Reimagine Robots • Augment Bodies • Construct Virtual Realities – these are not just simple buzzwords, but much more enables us to consider space, context, systems, objects and people as potential performers to recognize the wide scope for creativity. 

The Interactive Architecture Lab based at the Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London deals with exactly these topics and runs a Masters Programme in design for performance and interaction. Dr. Ruairi Glynn, the Director of this Lab, is trying to break the boundaries and to develop new kinds of practices within this Programme. The core of the Master is “the belief that the creation of spaces for performance and the creation of performance within them are symbiotic design activities”. He sees performance in interaction as a holistic design practice and gave a wide range of (student) projects at the Ars Eletronica 2020, which can also be seen as an impact and inspiration for today’s and future’s development of interaction design. 

The project “Fabricating Performance“ by Syuko Kato expands the conversation between humans and robots by turning both into creative collaborates and equally influential participants of a unique and interactive performance. The constant feedback between the dancer and the robot is definitely a new way of interpreting and representing movement and the dialogue between them. It appears fluent and natural.

“(Un)Balance“ by Elen Legarnisson is an interactive XR experience and invites participants to regain the sense of their body. It plays on the edge of stability and the perceptions of one’s body by manipulating and breaking habitual movement patterns. It is fascinating to see how the body awareness is extended through the combination of virtual and physical tools. 

“Marble Maze“ by Michael Wagner is also combining physical and digital technology. and is exploring the spatial layout of entertainment spaces. Therefore the relationship between stage and audience was rearranged by using different media technologies across multiple spaces. It is based on the Ruby Goldberg principle and creates a moment of exploration, discovery and something unexpected.

The project “Eye Catcher“ from Lin (Charlie) Zhang is definitely an eye-catcher as it catches peoples attention completely unexpected, but with a lot of playfulness and sympathy. At first the frame looks very abstract, but as soon as a participant interactive with it by simple looking at the empty frame, the interactive installation captures people’s facial expressions.

Playfulness is also the focus of the interactive board game “CuGo“ by Kongpyung Moon and Peng Gao, where both humans and robots play and collaborate to achieve a shared goal. It implements artificial intelligence in a physical board game and gives users a lot of freedom by defining and exploring the course of the game. 

There are a lot more of outstanding and unique projects by the Interaction Architecture Lab. To sum it up, all of them are developed with a holistic design approach. I believe, if we merge different disciplines we can create an even more intensive experience. People with a variety of backgrounds and multidisciplinary theories from performing art, digital media, spatial interaction over anthropology, sociology, neuroscience, etc. have been involved to create something unexpected, abstract, scary, fascinating and emotional. When thinking about the future’s development of interaction design, I think it is important to consider the interaction itself in its whole environment and context. Becoming aware of physical processes. exposing material possibilities, spending a lot of time with physical workshops, learning about small gestures, the natural environment and the human body is important for mirroring the movement of the participants and to respond organically and naturally to user’s behavior and control.