Focus Artistic Research

Breaking the Wall - Playful interfaces for audience participation

Fares Kayali

Institute of Art Sciences and Art Education / national research partner
Audience participation allows the audience to influence and shape musical live performances together with the performing artists. The field has a rich history of custom-built instruments and devices, and ways to facilitate collaborative performances. The artistic potential of audience participation both for musicians as well as their audiences is very high. Recent advancements in sensor and interface technology have further increased this potential. While research on audience participation shows both practical as well as theoretical perspectives, a structured creative and evaluated approach to fully explore the artistic potential is missing so far. Thus this project addresses the central research question “Which new ways of artistic expression emerge in a popular form of music performance when using playful interfaces for audience participation to facilitate interactivity among everybody involved?”

To answer this important question and to shed light on the artists’ creative practice we develop, document and evaluate a series of interfaces and musical performances together with popular music artists. The focus will be on providing playful game-like interaction, facilitating collaborative improvisation and giving clear feedback as well as traceable results. The interfaces will be deployed in three popular music live performances at one event. The artistic processes and the performances will be evaluated using mixed methods, including a focus group and surveys as well as quantitative data logging and video analysis to identify parameters of acceptance, new ways of artistic expression and musical experience. The evaluation will allow us to present structured guidelines for designing and applying systems for audience participation.

The project team is uniquely qualified to tackle the challenges of this field. It is comprised of four popular music artists, and researchers covering diverse areas such as media arts, computer science, Human-Computer-Interaction, game design, musicology, ethnomusicology, technology and interface design.
The results of the project will be situated at the interdisciplinary intersection of art, music and technology. We will present structured and evaluated insights into the unique relation between performers and audience leading to tested and documented new artistic ways of musical expression future performances can build on. We will further deliver a tool-set with new interfaces and collaborative digital instruments. The results of the project will be highly relevant to musical practice, and contribute to theory from the areas of media arts and musicology.

The project greatly increases the visibility of experimental music performances and audience participation through a large public performance, detailed online documentation, media coverage, and a public symposium at the Ars Electronica Center.