Interactive Street Arts

Yeon Ju Hong

I often wondered what it was about interactive drawings on the street that I found eerie. Perhaps it was because most of them did not make much sense without a passerby participation, perhaps it was because they looked so terribly lonely and almost a waste of space when they are not being utilized.


When I see images like the above, while I appreciate the creativity of the participants, I find the activity of posing and taking such photos two dimensional — just as the wall —  and not exciting enough. Then I realized that what is so strange about this whole thing is indeed the fact that the drawing is 2D, while the participants are 3D. Even though the drawing is partly made of a real bicycle it does not change the fact that it is stuck on a wall in a two-dimensional wall, not giving enough room for the participates to navigate through the space around it (riding it, actually being hit by hit, get under it). Because the drawing is stuck on the wall, the participants are also stuck in a limited two-dimensional world, forced to pose either in front of it or behind it. Then I came across another type of street arts that was way more intriguing to me — The literal “Street” art.


As the images above show, this type of street painting has a major difference from the graffiti-based street arts that I have shown previously. They use the entire surface of the street, rather than the wall, as the canvas for the drawings. This is important because the surface of the street is perpendicular to us. Even though the surface of a street is still two-dimensional, its forms a three-dimensional space in relation to the participants who walk on them.  This brings me to Timothy Barker’s point in ‘Objects and Interaction, Digital Creativity”, where he states that in Object-oriented philosophy, objects are “involved in a continual process of becoming, gaining identity through a relational process” (Barker, 66). He also points out that “the structuration of the object is based upon its own internal constitution, such as having no hole, one hole or many holes, and the external organizing principles of the environment” (Barker, 67) The drawing portion of a street-art (be it a giant hole or a shark coming out of water) gains its function because of its other important intrinsic quality of streets, a passage cleared out for people to walk through. And just by existing on a dimension that is perpendicular to the participants (whose intrinsic quality would be their body cannot leave the ground due to gravity), the art work not only gains spatial relation with the participants but also can claim the whole three-dimensional space around the participant. And it is through this three-dimensional space that the participant can now actively seek out movement, navigation, and even come up with short narrative (being eaten by a shark, or making a great jump to prevent the fall to the pit) that would make the work come alive and become unique for different participants in different instances.

Another intriguing factor that draws me to this type of literal street-art is the limited access of view and appreciation for the participants. There is a limited comprehension on the participants side not only because they are part of the artwork, but also because the drawing can only be fully seen in a way that the artist intended to from a certain angle. When a photo is taken from an undesignated random angle, it would look something like this:


As the photo shows, the drawing has not only lost its proportions but also its effect as an illusion of another place. In a way, this shows just how much of an equal stance the participants have with the drawing. They are both objects of the same level in this artwork, which coincides with Barker’s statement “we must situate all objects, including tea cups, saucers and human ideationality, on the same level of existence” (Barker, 66), and it is their relationships between the drawing, the street and the participants that make the artwork, not the participants. The limited information from the participant’s point of view is also psychologically interesting because for a brief moment of posing for the photo, the participant takes on the burden of anticipation that the artists of the work have: “Would this look alright, the way I intended it to be, on the other side where the camera is?” Here, the camera represents the receiving end of the artwork, the audience. In someways, this interactive street art separates the participants from observers in a much more obvious way than other types of interactive art pieces.







Timothy Barker (2011): Objects and interaction, Digital Creativity, 22:2, 65-77

“20 Clever Examples of Interactive Street Art.” Bored Panda,