Electric kingdom

Digital Solutions is a show for cutting-edge interactive design. Yolanda Zappaterra meets some exponents

To a lot of people, the phrase “digital artist” conjures up really bad Photoshop and Illustrator “art” depicting large-breasted women wearing Viking helmets and stilettos and not much else. Try “interactive art” and it’s just as bad; people think you’re talking Microsoft Barney at best and pointless CD-ROMs at worst. The innovative, experimental work that often can’t be harnessed into obvious commercially viable products rarely gets a look in, and yet it’s in this arena that some of the most original, expressive and inventive interactive work is being produced. For that reason, when Design Week was asked to take part in Digital Solutions, we saw it as an opportunity to give some exposure to some of the best exponents of this cutting-edge research and experimentation, and turned to Tomato Interactive director Tom Roope for some suggestions for possible participants.

Roope chose to “focus on people who were investigating some of the unexplored fundamentals of technology,” and selected a broad range of creatives exploring sound, networks, responses and many other aspects of interactive technology. Roope says: “I wanted to focus on simple, but effective executions that worked in physical rather than virtual space.” This obsession with virtual space, an inability or disinterest on the part of many in the design world to investigate technology beyond screen-based solutions, is an obvious bone of contention.

“There is such potential beyond the Internet for producing interactive work,” says Roope. “The computer allows for the creation of interactive work and the network allows for these systems to communicate, but the Internet has primarily been used in an existing publishing model, from the centre out. The interesting creative challenge for me is the development of more complex networks, where the centre is everywhere, plus continuing the development of non-linear reactive systems,” he adds.

It’s all about fulfilling potential and boldly going where no interaction has gone before. Roope believes the people on these pages are some of the pioneers. “I think those who’ve pursued creative endeavours on the not-so-lucrative periphery are those that we’ll look to evolve us beyond our current vision of creativity mediated via technology,” he explains. If so, the interactive future looks like being a lot more exciting than designers can imagine.

Digital Solutions is at Olympia, National Hall, Hammersmith Road, London W14, from 30 January to 1 February. Hotline: 01923 690682

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