The Non-Art of Interactive Art

Congratulations Leonardo

Congratulations to Leonardo DiCaprio on picking up his first ever Oscar. Sure there have been times when I thought he would have picked something up before, but this time came as no real surprise, especially because he pretty much got everybody to write him a note to give to the judges, and everyone ran a campaign for him, or so it seems.

After six nominations, he won the Oscar for survival epic The Revenant in the 88th annual awards ceremony. Mad Max – Fury Road picked up the most awards, with a total of six accolades, and Mark Rylance won the best supporting actor Oscar, with Britain’s Sam Smith winning best original song.

Technology has also been at the forefront of the news this week with the Blackberry Pi becoming the most popular British computer ever made. This is strange because when I was younger, it seemed like more people owned a Sinclair ZX Spectrum than I ever hear of people owning a Raspberry Pi.

The accolade for bestselling British computer was held by the Amstrad PCW which is said to have sold an astounding 8-million units during its life, but sales of the Raspberry Pi are set to overtake this figure this month just as the Pi 3 is to be unveiled which will feature a faster 64-bit processor and built in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

And it has been a busy week here at BeechHouse Media, with a range of new art appearing on both Pixels and Fine Art America, it certainly feels like I have been breaking records for the number of works I can complete in 24-hours! In fact, that gives me an idea, I will ponder this over and see if I can get my name in to the Guinness Book of Records. Honestly I have no idea how many pieces of digital art can be created in one day, or if a record actually exists, as soon as I find out, I will let you know.

I did though manage to spend a couple of hours finally watching the latest James Bond film last weekend, Spectre. To be fair I enjoyed it, but I couldn’t help but think that in parts it was slower than the usual pace of Bond films, but it was also a little more tongue in cheek than recent affairs with comedic moments. I would have usually been first in line at the cinema to go and see the new film, but life has been busier than ever, perhaps just like James Bond, I am getting older.

Talking of James Bond and Spectre, Christie’s did a sterling job with their recent combined online and evening auctions with 100% of the lots sold with registered bidders from 26 countries across four continents for their sale of James Bond memorabilia, with all profits being donated to charity.



Total £3,034,375 / $4,328,857 / €3,885,541

Top lot: an Aston Martin DB10, which sold for £2,434,500 / $3,476,466 / €3,118,595

London – This February, to celebrate the release of Spectre on Digital HD, Blu-ray™ and DVD, Christie’s and EON Productions presented two charity auctions of James Bond memorabilia. The combined evening auction at Christie’s London (18 February) and online-only auction (16-23 February) realised a total of £3,034,375 ($4,328,857/€3,885,541), with 100% of the lots sold.

The proceeds will benefit Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), other charitable organisations and the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS); Christie’s will be donating all profitable proceeds to the charities.

24 lots of Spectre memorabilia were offered across the two auctions, giving Bond collectors a unique opportunity to acquire a piece of memorabilia direct from the archives of EON Productions, with additional donations from Bond cast members, Director Sam Mendes and Bond Producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli. The auctions welcomed James Bond fans from across the world, with registered bidders from 26 countries across 4 continents.

David Linley, Honorary Chairman, Christie’s Europe, Middle-East, Russia and India, commented: “I am thrilled that Christie’s was chosen to host this James Bond Spectre charity auction with EON Productions, which has proved a fitting celebration of the 24th film in the franchise. We are delighted with the response from Bond fans across the world – their generosity has raised a fantastic sum for the charities that these auctions were conceived to support. The exhibition at Christie’s welcomed over 1,300 visitors each day and the excitement around the live and online auction demonstrates the enduring appeal of Bond.”

James Kliffen, Head of Fundraising, MSF UK, said: “MSF relies on private donations to provide aid free from political or military influence. The funds raised by the James Bond auctions are making a truly extraordinary difference. We are deeply grateful to everyone who has contributed to such an important result, funding medical care for huge numbers of people, where the need is greatest - thank you!”


I remember the days when a visit to an art gallery essentially meant that you stood in a state of contemplation for a brief period of time before moving on to the next work. Galleries and museums are changing, and they want people to not just stand around it seems, they want people to engage with interactive exhibits, and it is all in a quest to get younger patrons through their doors.

Exhibition goers are shunning passive art more and more, but too me it all seems as though we now have to work hard to enjoy art. A creative way for us to re-engage, re-assess our first concepts of what art is, and of course with budgets being cut all over the world in museums, it seems to me as a way for museums to stand back whilst the “embracing multi-sensory experiences” babysit us. A job once well done by museums, nowadays the art it seems is covering for a lack of staff. I’m not sure if anyone else has noticed this change, but visiting a gallery today is a totally different experience from just a few short years ago.

The question of course is who is doing this new method of delivery best? Galleries and museums in London tend to be much more risk adverse than galleries say in New York. This is a particular problem, if those interactive pieces are just a notch above novelty, the reality is that eventually these younger visitors will be put off. Museums can’t afford in this day and age to go all out, especially those in the British capital, but the downside to this is that they simply cannot afford for something not to work.

Don’t get me wrong, not everything is novelty, world-class interactive shows such as the Tate Sensorium, and a recent Ai Weiwei prison room installation have been outstanding representations of what can be achieved, but for me, art has always been interactive. We never really just look at art because we are supposed to, we react to what we see, and this for me is often close enough to interaction. Art only truly comes alive when you respond to it, so does it really need to be so interactive? People sometimes need some assistance when it comes to “getting it”, but does that really mean we have to consider an automated experience, and does that automated experience take away from the true art?

The National Gallery’s Goya and now Delacroix, sells out repeatedly, but the age range of visitors is older, certainly not the crowds intended for interactive experiences. Soundscapes managed to attract more under 25-year olds than any other exhibition but this is a rarity. The question probably is, are under 25’s all that interested in art and are galleries and museums chasing the wrong market?

The problem for galleries and museums is that if no one comes, they might as well pack up their collections. However, with the mainstreaming of Virtual Reality, one also needs to consider if that is a market where we could see more engagement. For me there is nothing like wandering around the Hermitage in St. Petersburg and seeing first-hand the amazing collections, but the time to travel and let alone the expense makes it a rare occurrence. This is where Virtual Reality could take off. Take a stroll around the Hermitage on a Sunday morning minus the crowds, all from the comfort of your home.

Museums and galleries still have plenty of time, but let’s hope that they don’t rush in to the whole interactive experience before the technology is there to deliver it. Let’s also hope that interactive experiences mature enough to not be the next novelty too. If we are going down this path, let us also not forget what art is all about.


Periodically I like to reflect on technology, as frequent readers of this blog will know. I have been reflecting again and once again we are seeing old technology remerge from the cobwebs, not for once because we all have a deepening sense of retro nostalgia, but because some of the older tech that had previously been abandoned is actually better suited for life now.

The fax machine we thought had long gone, but we are seeing companies taking them out of storage for the first time in a number of years. Confidential messages sent over a fax machine are regarded to be marginally more secure than stuff typed from a laptop and sent via email. Faxes are a little more difficult to tap, generally requiring a bug to be installed, and signatures on faxes are widely regarded as being more worthy than digital email signatures. In fact I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a new version of the fax machine being released in the next few years.

Fax Machine
The Fax it was noisy but it was sort of safe


Suddenly I have also seen an increase in the use of typewriters. In fact, even I am thinking of getting one, in part because I reminisce over the typed pages and it is more of a retro thing, but organisations across the globe are considering the reintroduction of typewriters.

The German government has recently discussed using typewriters for sensitive information, and some intelligence agencies continue to utilise them even today. The issue of course is that although typewriters seem more difficult to bug, the reality is that they too can be placed under surveillance. Every typewriter makes a noise when the keys are pressed, different typewriters make different noises, so all it takes is a microphone and patience. However, quiet typewriters could become very useful in the future if they can just get rid of the noise!


When Polaroid abandoned the instant film it was famous for in 2008, three entrepreneurs bought the production machinery cheap and went straight into profit. Their market was young camera enthusiasts who thought of Polaroid as being a vintage thing.

But after dozens of celebrities’ nude selfies were stolen from hacked online storage in 2014, Polaroid has reclaimed its traditional role as the silent witness to your bedroom secrets.

Polaroid. It just couldn't be hacked.

As one hacking victim, Big Bang Theory star Kaley Cuoco said: “Polaroids are the way to go. No one can get those". Now the moment you take a snapshot, it's gone in to the cloud that you can't actually see.

The problem is that we are a throw-away society. Long gone are the days when new technology continuously changed our lives for the better. In some cases, technology has clearly changed our lives, except email. I really don’t like being copied in to emails that say I will let Pete know, and then I am copied into the email that lets Pete know. Turns out more often than not that Pete didn’t want to know because he had parked his mankini clad torso on a beach in the Bahamas and is away for two weeks on vacation with his latest flame.

Polaroid though, that’s a different matter entirely. Digital pretty much killed Polaroid off, in fact digital pretty much killed the whole of analogue off. Only the diehard 35mm photographers who need some graininess in their lives keep that format going. But Polaroid hasn’t been gone from our lives for quite so long as you would think. When I think Polaroid, I instantly cast my mind back to my parent’s parties, with curled up sandwiches, and a keg of Party Seven beer in the 70’s.

More recently we are starting to see attempts at bringing the brand back, none of them really setting the world alight with innovation, but it is nice to see some familiar brand names occasionally. The Impossible Project have clearly done their best at reinventing the classic instant film, but it is really nowhere near the same as the original. The problem of course started when Polaroid closed their doors and lost all of the knowledge and technology.

Polaroid introduced the first analogue instant camera back in 1947. In fact the date was February 21st 1947. Edwin Land was the original creator and first demonstrated the camera at a meeting of the optical society in New York City.

Originally known as the Land camera, the device contained a roll of positive paper with a pod of developing chemicals at the top of each frame. Turning the roll with the use of a knob forced the exposed negative and the paper through a pair of rollers, spreading the chemical evenly between the two layers. A paper cutter then trimmed the paper and low and behold, a black and white image would appear as if by magic.

I remember my parents using one back in the 70’s and I also remember vividly all of the people who were in the shot gathering around and oohing and aaghing when magically they appeared. It was like witchcraft. Panic set in when the last exposure had been reached, and it was a trip to the local photography shop to stock up with another packet.

In 1948 the Polaroid Land Camera Model 95 was on sale at the Jordan Marsh department store in Boston for $89.75. It made more than $5 million in sales in the first year, and would be the prototype for Polaroid cameras for the next 15 years. The 1963 introduction of Polacolor film enabled the cameras to produce colour pictures and that was when everyone could be a photographer.

Over the years digital printing and photography lessened the need for this relatively expensive to feed camera. The concept was magnificent, but the cost of digital was quickly reducing by the day. Then one day in 2008, Polaroid said that they would stop making instant cameras, now they make digital camera that print colour photographs, but the look and feel of a true Polaroid will alas never be equalled. In terms of security, the original Polaroid didn’t upload your photos to the cloud on the fly, you really couldn’t hack a Polaroid.

So it is often with a sense of nostalgia and sadness that I look back over the years and wonder just what else was as magical at the time. It wasn’t all that long ago that flip phones were the trending must have, but hey, they lasted a week without needing a recharge, call quality was actually much better than it is today, and you knew you had hung up as soon as you closed the lid. In fact I lost a fully-charged Nokia phone in 2005, I found it last week with 50% of the battery still remaining.

It seems that older technology is coming back from the grave, and for the right reasons in the most part. Is there something though that you would really like to see a resurrection of? Feel free to leave a comment or get in touch on social media.

The battery seemed to last forever

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