doNOTtouch questions the role of the viewer within the art experience. Using a game like format, users are challenged to abide by the signage or succumb to temptation.
produced by: Eleanor Edwards
The art gallery is a space where I have never felt totally comfortable. Although I enjoy discovering what is behind their walls, I find the space can be restrictive and uninviting with an air of pretence. Perhaps this has contributed to my intrigue of interactive and experiential works as, although not always, they are often works situated outside the bounds of gallery institutions. doNOTtouch materialises the personal confusion, discomfort and confliction I associate with an institutional art experience. The game, which may seem unclear in its intentions at times, is there to parrot the gallery etiquette of looking but not touching, in a format that visually and psychologically challenges you to do so.
Concept and background research
As the introduction outlines, this work provokes the social customs enforced within art galleries. This focus is inspired by the imbalance these customs ingrain in terms of status between the institution, artwork and artist, and the viewer. (Troemel, 2013). The prohibition against physical interaction, even physical proximity towards some works, reinforces the status of the institution as the premier citizen within the art experience and yet barely considers the viewer, without whom there would be no reason for the gallery to even exist. It is not denied that art works need protection for longevity and against violence but the aura in which this is carried out often imposes on the viewer’s experience in a negative way.
In this project I have expanded my abilities in terms of openFrameworks through the use of Serial Communication to enable Arduino input. As I am yet to take Physical Computing, this was a relatively new configuration for me, although once I understood the method of handshake between oF and Arduino and the process of checking Serial data within oF, I was able to see the similarties between this process and OSC communication. OSC is also used in this project to send data to the secret artefact. Ultimately, with further developments of this project, the secret artefact will be a physical form, however for this iteration a digital equivalent was built as a proof of concept. OSC was chosen as the advantages enable the secret artefact to be kept separate from what could be considered the User Interface. Although it has only been run locally on one machine to date, OSC also enables the possibility for further separation. This will become more important when a physical installation is possible.
The chosen method of interaction for doNOTtouch is a button push, which although is not a user interaction particularly synonymous with the art experience, the design decision was made because of the well documented psychological impetus of a button. Button pushing gives the user the perception of control and input, even when in some cases their actions may have little to no impact, e.g. placebo pedestrian crossing buttons – I’m talking to you (Baraniuk, 2015). The psychological and societal context of the button makes it a strong choice as the method of interaction in a piece that provokes the user to take action, confuses them over their input and ultimately shows them their role within the creation process when access to the secret artefact is revealed.
To take this project further, as mentioned above, one development would be a physical secret artefact. This is currently proposed as a “secret garden” using watercress, grown in a blacked-out propagator under blue and red LED lights, as this is the spectrum of light to promote photosynthesis (LED Grow Lights (or is it L.E.D. Grow Lights!): The Facts, n.d.). These lights would be linked to the different buttons and they would be set to fade up and down with each alternate, correct button push. This secret artefact, in a physical installation would still be hidden at the point of the UI, but when the user gains access, they would be shown a live camera feed of the watercress. The watercress’s life and growing time are longer than the simulated digital version used currently. This is why this is better suited to a physical installation that would run over a number of days, as the impact of multiple viewers will be documented within the watercress (Dark vs light - Cressinfo.com, n.d.). A time-lapse should also be available to show the changes instigated by the changes in lights on the growth, colour, and movement of the watercress. Once the installation has run its course the artwork, the cress, will be complete.
The further developments outlined above were part of the initial design and proposal. However, limited resource due to the COVID-19 lockdown had significant impacts on the fullness of production. The decision to re-structure the production goals was worthwhile. The submission now provides a strong prototype for a more developed iteration when access to resources, specifically physical computing skills and elements, becomes available. By reducing the focus on the physical computing side, more focus could be given to the game play and logic structures. Developing my own code generator is something I am particularly proud of as that is logic I have not experimented with before and found little guidance online for it.
The virtual secret artefact design is not as developed as I would have liked. I spent a lot of time working with the String to ofPoints to ofPolylines conversions with little success in terms of strong visuals and optimal performance. Therefore, the design was sensibly reined in as time needed to be spent elsewhere.
Another area for improvement is the balance between concept and gameplay, although the aim is to highlight the confusion and uncomfortable nature of the art gallery, where signs often telling you not to touch are often hung next to highly textural, touchable art pieces. Then after the user has successfully played, reward them with the secret artefact, and the actual focus of the installation. The play experience is incoherent – rightly – but it could be made more coherently incoherent to maintain user engagement.
As mentioned before the use of Arduino and oF is a new skill and a success for this project. Other success is my use of classes and use of Setters and Getters. I now feel much more confident with OOP and gaining knowledge of Setters and Getters as an extra way of communication between classes, is something outside of class learning with which I am pleased I have expanded my skill set.
Overall, doNOTtouch was a project which was fun to work on, it has taught me new skills, and helped cement knowledge from both semesters through the combination of animation and interaction needs and I am looking forward to developing it further with greater input of physical computing elements.
Baraniuk, C., 2015. Press me! The buttons that lie to you. BBC FUTURE : THE SECRET WORLD OF... | PSYCHOLOGY, [online] Available at:
Cressinfo.com. n.d. Dark Vs Light - Cressinfo.Com. [online] Available at:
Ledgrowlightshq.co.uk. n.d. LED Grow Lights (Or Is It L.E.D. Grow Lights!): The Facts. [online] Available at:
Troemel, B., 2013. Art After Social Media. Art Papers Magazine 37, 10–15.