The Internet And Collaborative Art: An Interview With Interactive Diaries

Note: Since we first interviewed the Interactive Diaries team, they have completed their project.


The internet is a powerful tool for interaction. Art too, has its role in bringing people together. But what happens when artists from all over the world, strangers to each other, are invited to work together, online, on one project?

Can collaboration over art reveal the inherent similarities between cultures and people?

What would something like that even look like?

That’s exactly what the team at Interactive Diaries are trying to find out. Right now, they are preparing for their first all-online collaborative piece of art in October, where 9 artists of 3 different disciplines from 3 different countries (Egypt, Serbia, and Italy) will work together. I spoke to Filomena, based in Italy, on Skype.

Tell me how Interactive Diaries started. What is it?

Interactive Diaries came about during the 3rd forum of the Cultural Innovators Forum, which is a project of Geothe Institute. It’s a week-long event for incubating ideas, emphasising collaboration.

It’s an inter-cultural interaction happening in real time through the medium of art. Normally to collaborate on an artwork, you have to gather in the same place and the same time. But with the internet, you can gather in online spaces and save time and money.

So, the objective is to encourage collaboration?

The objective is to merge different cultures in an artwork — for people to explain their everyday life to each other. If people can collaborate and produce beautiful art, why can’t they collaborate on other things [in life]?

Our hope is to prove that people all over the world are dealing with the same things, just in different ways.

At the moment, the project is only focusing on three mediums: sound, illustration, and photography. Why the limited scope?

We discussed the different mediums we could use, but had to settle on three. We would use more, but we are testing it out this year. That’s the same reason we’re only doing it in three countries.

Are these three mediums the easiest to do online, do you think?

Yeah, I think so.

How will it work?

The sound artists will be recording the ambience of their home town, before uploading it to our engineers, who will create a universal soundtrack.

The photographers will be taking photos sequentially with each other in one album, so the photos will be talking to each other.

For the drawing, the artists will all log into the same program, and draw on the same canvas without talking.

The artists won’t be able to communicate with one another?

Not initially. The diary is purely visual. The communication comes through the art.

How are you auditioning artists?

We’ve looked for artists who share our vision. We had to narrow our vision to make sure everyone is on the right track; so we’re going to focus on “normal life”, whatever that means to each artist: public transportation, going to school, shopping, etc.

So the artists meet up online, and collaborate. What happens next?

We’re setting up three separate exhibitions in the three countries, at each one there will be a live stream of the other two. The real issue is logistics..

It sounds you’ve been learning a fair amount about other cultures along the way, too.

We have! Just by trying to organize the international exhibitions, we’ve come up against questions, like: “What is a public space in Egypt? What is it in Serbia?”, in some cases the answers are varying a lot!

There’s also the matter of resources — what happens if the electricity goes out in Italy? Will there be strong enough internet to stream in Serbia? We’re looking forward to the audience feedback.

That’s a good point; the whole idea is collaboration, and understanding between cultures, how can you measure that?

Good question! We are building a plan to monitor the reaction from the visitors, hopefully through some audience interaction during the project. So far, from the number of people who want to help next year, it’s looking good.

Is the project about proving that art, or the internet, is a tool for collaboration?

Both. People are slowly becoming aware of the possibilities that the internet can give artists. Technology unites people, and art unites people. It levels the playing field for those who don’t have the resources.

London may be the best place, commercially, for an artist to be, but some people can’t get to London. When technology and art meet, people are not restricted by their surroundings. The same internet that gives them the opportunity to work together can also promote them.

Thanks, Filomena.


The 2014 Interactive Diaries Project has already happened! For more information on the results and exhibitions, go to https://www.facebook.com/interactive.diaries?fref=ts

Or visit their official website: http://interactivediaries.tumblr.com/

Article by Chris Yeoh.