Traditionally art is placed on the walls of a gallery after it is completed, so that viewers can appreciate the finished work; however, the artist collective Universal Everything is anything but traditional. Instead of merely allowing viewers to look at the work, the art piece “Together” invites users to contribute to the work. The artwork asks participants to contribute their own hand drawn animations, within a certain set of parameters that Universal Everything has determined. As an artist collective, Universal Everything likes to operate within a certain set of constraints and was curious to see how the public would react to being given a similar challenge. With this idea in mind, they created a web-based application that allows people all over the world to contribute to the piece of artwork being displayed. The only catch is that the animators using the app, cannot create without following the rules of the program. These rules limit the animator to a certain background color and object, where they can only add or delete color or frames to that particular screen. These particular screens include a blue background with a white circle, a green background with two triangles on either side, and a pink background with a black rectangle in the middle—all of which have been turned into interesting animations. This provides the user with a basis for their animation and also makes sure that the piece remains one cohesive work, that looks and feels similar throughout despite having multiple contributors.
As the Barbican website puts it,
Without the contribution of the public the art would not grow and change; however without the contribution of rules by the original artist, there would be no works at all, thus highlighting the creativity and collaboration that is fostered by digital technologies. As Matt Pyke, the so called leader of the artist collective Universal Everything also informed the writers at Hunger TV that the piece is meant to highlight the democracy that is inherent to digital technologies. Anybody with a computer, whether a skilled animator or not, is allowed to become part of a real-life displayed artwork. There is no vetting system, or qualifications required other than that the person has access to the web-based application and follows the rules of the applications. With this approach, showing artwork becomes attainable for all people, and the line between fine artwork and playing around becomes blurred, this giving the public a different perspective on what art can be.
This dialogue is something that Universal Everything continues to explore in one of their other pieces titled Disciples. Another interactive work, Disciples seeks to visually illustrate the world of followers that people have on the social media application Twitter. To interact with the piece, a person uses the controller to log into their Twitter account, which generates their crowd of followers. Then, as the user walks around and interacts within the space the piece transforms into a performance as the virtual follows move and react to the actions of the person with the controller. Similarly, to the piece Together, Disciples explores the intersections between digital artwork and the everyday person. In both pieces, anyone can interact with them, as long as they follow the stipulations that accompany the art piece. In Together, these stipulations are merely animating within the proper frames of the piece, whereas in Disciples the stipulation is merely having a Twitter account. Both artworks explore the idea that anyone can be a part of digital artworks as long as they have the means to access the tools used to create them. In the same fashion, both pieces generate a discussion about how digital technology facilitates an interaction between people and art pieces by making the artwork more personal for the viewer.
In a very different fashion, the piece In Order to Control by the Instanbul based studio NOTA BENE explores the interaction between people and artwork. Consisting of projected words on the floor of the exhibition space, the piece becomes interactive when a person steps onto the projection space. Then, the shadow of the person creates a gap on the projection on the floor, while a silhouette of the person shows up on the wall in front of them, filled in with the words that they are blocking. The purpose of this piece is to get people to interact with the artwork, but mostly to interact with the text because it challenges the viewer with questions of morality. Due to the fact that the interaction of the piece is only triggered when someone steps onto the piece in an attempt to read it, the words and the morality of the piece are the main focus. As the viewers interact with the piece, they are mainly interacting with the words, and their meaning. In this way, In Order to Control contrasts Together, as the interaction is created for the viewer through text, instead of the viewer created the interaction themselves. Though both pieces focus on the interaction between person and artwork, Together focuses more on the interaction between human and technology, where In Order to Control focuses more on the interaction between human and textual meaning.
Although each of these art pieces explores the interaction between the human world and the digital world, Together, delves further by touching on the democracy of the digital world. As a piece that cannot exist without the viewer’s contributions, Together, celebrates the idea that anyone, with gentle guidance, can become a digital artist. Additionally, the piece generates discussion on how digital tools foster interaction between people and artwork, allowing them to understand the artwork on deeper levels and in this case to even participate in it. A piece that celebrates the ingenuity of both artists and of the public, Together speaks to the community about the accessibility and creativity embedded within digital technology. Both an interesting piece and a commentary on tehnology and relationships, Together is an important addition to the world of 21st century digital art.