Basic Questions

Even for the seasoned exhibitor, computer-based arts can introduce a range of unfamiliar variables to the organization of an exhibition. As with video, the professional protocols, guidelines, and definitions for the exhibition of computer-based arts can often fluctuate widely as artistic practices evolve, technology develops, and exhibition contexts change. However, some of the most basic and common questions can be posed beforehand.

Do computer-based works always need to be displayed on a computer? What does "streaming" media mean? What is "compression"? How do I ensure that the audience engages with an interactive piece?

The answers to these and other basic but crucial questions might begin to shed light on what one should expect in exhibiting computer-based arts.

The Single-Channel Video and Media Installation sections of this Guide also feature information relevant to exhibiting computer-based artworks.

How do I delineate between computer-based arts and other related forms, such as single-channel video and media installation?

The lines between these categories are becoming increasingly blurred. Single-channel video is increasingly being streamed directly from computer hard drives, and recent computer-based installations echo the characteristics of media installation. Some key attributes of computer-based artworks can include direct interactivity, network connectivity, and computability. These works often feature customized software, online elements, or interactive installation environments, among numerous other strategies employing computer-based technologies in significant and innovative ways. While these categories do indeed have specific characteristics and requirements, it is important to note that the Single-channel Video, Computer-based Arts and Installation sections of this Resource Guide contain information that is relevant to one another.

Do computer-based art works always need to be displayed on a computer?

This is highly dependent on the work in question, and a number of considerations must be weighed. Among them are the artist's intent, physical space, dimensions, light levels, degree of interaction, and budget. It is of utmost importance that you work with the artist to determine what configuration such as monitor, projection or other devices will best support the work and its installation requirements. Visit Best Practices for more details on this topic.

If a work is interactive, what kind of input device should be used?

In order to best gauge what input device to use, you need to evaluate the level of interaction. For some installations a simple touch screen will suffice; for others it is necessary to install a keyboard and mouse, or a game console or joystick. Once again it is important to be in contact with the artist to define the parameters for the work. Visit Best Practices for more details.

How can you ensure that viewers will engage with an interactive installation?

Not everyone will engage with interactive works to the same degree, due to issues of personality or comfort level with technology. Careful consideration of basic elements such as interface design and creating a comfortable viewing environment can help ensure that your audience will interact with a work as intended. Once again, this should be decided with the artist's input. For more details, visit Best Practices and the interview with Michael Connor.

What does "streaming" media mean?

Streaming media refers to media (video or audio) that is consumed (viewed or heard) while it is being delivered. Streaming allows a lengthy audio or video program to be transmitted over the Internet by transmitting a continuous signal in real time rather than downloading an entire clip at once. For example, most online radio is "streamed," whereas a podcast would not be considered streaming media as it is downloaded first and then consumed.

What is "compression"?

The amount of data contained in a native video or audio file can be large enough to make playing it, using it or downloading it impossible or impractical on any but a very fast computer with enormous storage. In order to remedy this condition, large files are compressed using algorithms, which eliminate data in a way that allows the picture/sound to be decompressed back to its original form without losing any of the original information (lossless compression). When the file needs to be made smaller, more information is removed, resulting in a file that can't fully reproduce the original picture/sound information (lossy compression). To use a compressed file it must be decompressed within the hardware or software. This procedure of compressing and decompressing data by using algorithms is called a codec.

When the exhibition is closed can I keep a copy of the work for reference purposes?

All screening and reference copies should be returned to the artist, gallery or distributor after the exhibition, unless otherwise agreed to.