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What Are the Different Types of Interactive Visual Art?

Jennifer O.
Jennifer O.

Interactive visual art includes a wide range of media and practices. The most basic requirement is that viewer must interact with the artwork in some way other than by simply looking at it. Interactive art is often created to challenge traditional rules about making and viewing art. The different types of interactive visual art involve the use of electronic video or audio, computers or other electronic devices, but they do not necessarily have to use electricity or electronics. Interactive art usually is associated with contemporary art, but earlier examples exist.

The underlying goal of interactive visual art is to give viewers a role in the creation of the artwork. Its polarity grew rapidly in the second half of the 20th century as an overt challenge to traditional roles of artists. It also was influenced by challenges to political authority that were occurring outside the art world.

Woman painting
Woman painting

The works often take the form of an interactive installation that is reassembled each time it is displayed in a new space. This art form continues to evolve, constantly employing new technological tools and mediums. It often borrows from interactive design, which is used in numerous sectors outside the art world. The proliferation of digital technologies allowed for rapid advancement of interactive visual art. Even so, interactive visual art does not necessarily have to employ cutting-edge technology.

Text, audio, painting, sculpture and photography can be employed in interactive visual art. Video and other mediums can be employed as well. Common electronic elements include digital film or audio, electronic screens and computer programs that allow users to input information. In fact, some artworks are entirely contingent on prompts or responses from the viewer.

The range of viewer-art interactions varies as much as the imaginations and capabilities of those who create interactive art. Viewers might be required to complete actions such as pressing a button, touching a screen, clicking a mouse, entering a space or rotating an object manually. They might be required to move their bodies, walk, sit, turn a page or make a noise. Some works have been designed so that users actually see themselves as part of the work by using mirrors, real-time video and screens, interactive projections and other devices. Interactive visual art might also have a performance element in which viewers must participate.

The installation-based nature of much interactive visual art means that the work is sometimes transitory. This can make the works more difficult to collect. The issue is even more common with internet-based art.

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Discussion Comments


@Mor - I think more and more galleries are interested in this kind of interaction, because people like it. I haven't been to an art gallery in a while that didn't have some way for people to "contribute" even if it was only writing something up and sticking it on the wall.

Quite a few museums seem to get into this as well. One I went to recently has an area where people can take photos digitally and put them up on a wall using a projection unit and interactive software, blending them in with other objects from the museum. So, they are helping to create a display and history.

I've also seen digital artworks on screens where people can interact with them, like "touching" various things on the screen to move them, or whatever.

But my favorite is when people go even further and make a whole game designed around an artistic concept. If they do it well, it can be amazing and beautiful at the same time.

I really think that is one of the things that we will see more and more as time goes by, the blending of video games and art.


I had a friend of a friend who would use electronics in his artworks in order to make people think more closely about art.

One of his examples was rigging up some teddy bears so that they would "come alive" when people were near them, and would turn their heads to watch them go by.

I'm not sure if he intended it to be this way, but a lot of people found that to be really creepy.

I thought it sounded kind of awesome though. I love it when art can really create an emotional response in me, even if it is fear or disquiet.


I especially like the use of interactive visual art in artworks meant for children. There's something really special about being able to play with a work of art.

I'm thinking of the carousel horses my sister collected as a child. They were meant to be limited edition works of art, for adults or children and they could be fitted into a carousel and spun to music.

But you can also get things like paper dolls or music boxes which blur the line between what is meant as a toy and what is meant as art.

Of course, there are people who think that almost anything can be art as long as someone is willing to call it that. I wouldn't go quite that far, but I do think that art for children should be considered the real thing.

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