Sample Undergraduate Art Essay

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Art as an Interactive Experience

Question: In your opinion, at which point does a piece of art become an interactive experience?

For centuries, the artwork has been inducing an interactive experience like conversations by sparking individual emotion and philosophy through works such as but not limited to The Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci, The Scream by Vincent Van Gogh, Guernica by Pablo Picasso, and The Persistence of Memory by Salvador Dali.

All these artists had created pieces that sparked conversation, provoked society, and introduced innovative themes. However, with the dawn of the digital age, the art form has also evolved with time to interactive art forms. According to Paul (2003), art that involves the viewer or spectator to allow that art to achieve its purpose is often defined as interactive art.

The earliest examples of interactive art are seen to date back to the 1920s, with digital art becoming more prominent in the 1990s (Paul 2003). Thus, it can be concluded that art becomes ‘interactive’ when the audience can participate as an integrated part of the artwork. Interaction between artwork and audience is examined using the Rain Room by Random International displayed at London’s Barbican’s Curve gallery.

Hannes Koch and Florian Ortkrass found random International in 2005 for experimental practice within contemporary art (Random International 2015). The company looks to study behavior and natural phenomena using the audience for active participation to examine the man-machine relationship (Random International 2015).

Random International’s Rain Room is an enclosed environment of falling water through which it is possible to walk without getting wet (Wainwright 2012). This interactive piece is accomplished using a set of 3D cameras that detect an individual’s position as they slowly walk, allowing the turning off or on of its specific rain streams accordingly (Goddard 2012).

According to Sweeney (2012), the artists involved in the creation of Rain Room describe the piece as a social experiment used to examine individuals’ behavioral experiences. Random International’s projects are used to research the relationship between people and emerging intelligent technologies working with cognitive scientist Philip Barnard to analyze people interacting with the installations (Wainwright 2012).

Rain Room can be categorized as interactive art since the audience must interact with it to achieve its purpose. Based on the study of the piece Rain Room, it is concluded that the purpose of the piece is to empower individuals to control rain with their bodies that may spark an intimate experience of contemplation that is recorded and observed by the group.

Kwastek (2013) asserts that interactive art can provoke disruptions that further induces conscious reflection on the process of interaction itself even though the art piece is using illusion, immersion, and flow; residing in artificial realms allowing the viewer to play.’ To make interactive art, the artist(s) must go past contemplations of how the art will look or sound to the audience (Kwastek 2013).

Instead, how it will interact with the audience is of more critical importance and is considered the essence of the art. Therefore, interactive art’s fundamental aspect is its behavior more than any other component, consideration, or art aspect (Kwastek 2013).

Thus, it can be concluded that the creative practice used by an artist developing interactive art is different from that of an artist such as a painter. A painting is not dynamic.

It is inert, so as far as the painted is considering the audience’s reaction, they will focus on the discernment of color relationships. Symbolic references in the painting or scale are considered more imperative in such a form of art (Brill 1980). On the other hand, interactive art emphasizes and places the most importance on the audiences’ behavioral response to the art.

When examining the term “interactive experience,” it can be defined as an event or occurrence which leaves an impression on an individual through the influence of each other (of two or more people or things) (Oxford Dictionaries Online 2015). Based on this literal definition, it is reasonable to conclude that static artworks such as paintings cannot produce an interactive experience.

Even though influential art pieces, such as Guernica by Pablo Picasso, can induce an experience and influence the audience, it is one-sided. The audience is unable to influence the piece. However, installations such as Rain Room, Audience, and Swarm developed by Random International can be defined as interactive art that induces an interactive experience. The piece’s influence is two-way between the audience and artwork.

However, if one were to stray from the literal meaning, all art forms could be interactive. The audience viewing the artwork is left with an experience that induces emotions such as pain or pleasure. Regardless of whether or not the artwork is an installation or a still painting, the artist is communicating to the audience with their work using its medium, color perception, focus, and other aspects; and the audience has individual interpretations of the piece, which varies based on what they experience.

The artwork becomes an interactive experience when it can influence the audience leaving an impression on them. Furthermore, the artwork is interactive when the art’s influence and the audience are two-way, meaning the artwork influences the audience and can reciprocate.

The interactive act is a form of art that depends on its audience’s interaction to fulfill its purpose. It has been accomplished with the piece Rain Room by Random International. In general, all artwork is an interactive experience. It induces the audience to contemplate and make meaning from it, whether it is an interactive installation or simply painting.

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Brill, T. B. (1980) Light- Its Interaction with Art and Antiquities. Plenum Press: New York.

Goddard, L. (2012) ‘Artists create miraculous “rain room”, keeping you dry in the middle of a shower.’ The Verge. [online] Available from [Accessed: 05 November 2015].

Kwastek, K. (2013) Aesthetics of Interaction in Digital Art. MIT Press: London, England Paul, C. (2013) Digital Art. Thames & Hudson Inc.: New York, NY.

Random International. (2015) ‘Rain Room-Exibitions.’ Random International. [online] Available from: [Accessed: 05 November 2015].

Sweeney, S. (2012) ‘Exhibition gives visitors power to control the rain.’ BBC Entertainment & Arts. [online] Available from: [Accessed: 05 November 2015].

Wainwright, O. (2012) ‘Random International installs torrential rain in barbican gallery.’ The Guardian. [online] Available from: [Accessed: 05 November 2015].

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