Interactive Installation

Interactive installations leverage the viewer to create an experience that is more than just the sum of its components. What technologies, techniques, and fabrication skills can we leverage to achieve the “wow” factor and create enthusiasm and engagement? We will examine what sustained creative practice we can achieve by building compelling artistic content in a physical space. This class will utilize architecture and space planning, electronics, mechanical construction, cutting edge technologies and design ideals to create prototype artistic installations. Short term assignments will culminate in a large-scale final project.

All course materials, assignments, and notes will be stored on the class website at

Unless otherwise noted, all work should be submitted and posted online, either through the class blog or your personal website.

Evaluation Breakdown:

Teacher evaluation and class performance:        10%

Homework assignments:                                       30%

Midterm project:                                                    25%

Final project:                                                           35%

Assignments must be handed in on time. Points will be deducted for work that is handed in late. Assignments may not be accepted for grading if they are late.

Outline of Topics:

  • Design and Plan of Art Installation project for a specific location
  • Construction techniques for longer lasting projects
  • Design for project maintenance
  • Technology as an added bonus to Art Installation projects
  • Survey of popular technologies used in interactive art installations
  • Art installation as retail experience, public event, and private moment

Attendance Policy:

When students are ill, they are expected to notify professors in advance of class, if at all possible. If the instructor determines that it is an excused absence then the student should negotiate with the professor the time and place for make-up of assignments, tests and/or examinations missed. Students who are seriously ill, should contact the Office of Health and Wellness for assistance and the Assistant Dean for Academic Affairs so that the student’s professors may be contacted.

Students may present, and faculty may choose to ask for, verification of an illness but providing verification of illness does not supersede a course policy that does not allow excused absences for illness or overrule an instructor’s judgment that the illness does not meet the standards for an excused absence.

Students who, in the judgment of the instructor, have not substantially met the requirements of the course or who have been excessively absent may be considered to have withdrawn unofficially and may be given the final grade of F.

Required Textbook

Unexpected Art: Serendipitous Installations, Site-Specific Works, and Surprising Interventions – by Jenny Moussa Spring and Florentijin Hofman   ISBN: 978-1452135489

The kindle version is provided by NYU Shanghai for order, but I strongly recommend trying to obtain a physical copy. Other readings will be posted to our class website.

Contact info:

Eric Hagan
Office #937
Office hours will be available on Mondays from 4:30pm-5:30pm, Wednesdays from 1:00pm-3:00pm and otherwise by appointment.

Sign up for office hours on Monday or Wednesday

Schedule for Fall 2016 (subject to change):

Week 1: Intro, Syllabus, Textbook, Policies,

Read: Unexpected Art preface and introduction

Assignment: Pick one art installation from the book or you have seen in person and respond to it on the blog. What makes the art installation “successful” in your opinion? How does it enhance (or detract) from its location? Does it deliver a message, and if it does how can we tell what the message is?

Week 2: Measurement & Designing for location

Accuracy, Scale, how to estimate and approximate

Read: Iain Borden – Another Pavement, Another Beach: Skateboarding and the Performative Critique of Architecture

Assignment: Measure one room in your apartment as accurately as possible, draw a picture of your space with the measurements marked and post the drawing.

Week 3: Drawings, Plan, and Model building

Virtual and Physical models of space, Digital Fabrication Tools

Read: Khan Academy breakdown of Richard Serra’s Tilted Arc

Watch: Andy Rooney on Public Art and Richard Serra interviewed

Assignment: Respond to the above media on the blog. In the same documentation post, include an updated “model” of the same room you drew for the last assignment, and include how your drawing/construction has changed (detail, scale, method of creation). Does this change your perception of your space?

Bring in 100 of something for next week.

Week 4: Module and Sum of parts

Designing and building a module, Space augmentation

Assignment: Use your 100 items to augment a space and create a feeling, document this install on your blog including photographs and peer reactions

Groups for midterm will be assigned at this time. Begin brainstorming midterm installation ideas.

Week 5: Fabrication

Basic shop techniques and tool usage

Assignment: Finish documentation for one week individual installation, and visit your site. 

Mock up your midterm idea.

Week 6: Assembly, Repair, and Upkeep

Preparing backups and a repair kit, maintenance plan, schedule and techniques for long term installation

Progress report on your midterm project

Week 7: Midterm

Present your midterm installations

Write up your project on your blog, including feedback you received and possible improvements along with good photographs

Week 8: Technology – Value Added

Survey on Technologies to cover

Assignment: Pick an example of an art installation, and write how a technology component could augment and improve the installation. You may choose another project from the class as long as it is not your own.

Begin thinking about your final project.

Week 9: Physical Computing : Sensing and the Arduino

Sensor demos – touch, light, Ultrasonic/PIR sensors

Reading: Excerpt from Donald Norman’s Design of Everyday things

Week 10: User feedback and other sensor options

Kinect, USB camera

Where are people, and how much do you need to know about the location?


Assignment: Post to your blog with your final project ideas. Each person in the group needs to write their own blog detailing

  1. Your idea
  2. Anticipated technology requirements
  3. Fabrication plan

Week 11: Projection Mapping

Projector Choices

Discussing Software

Projection content and examples

Mounting, alignment, and long term requirements

Week 12: Computing Power

Distributed computing: the microcontroller, Arduino, and Raspberry Pi demo

Assignment: In process documentation of your project. What issues do you anticipate during user testing? What parts of the project are fundamental and must be completed for next week, and which parts can be finalized post testing?

Week 13: User testing

Feedback on projects in process

Assignment; Record the feedback you received, and how you will address the issues or thoughts discussed during that feedback.

Week 14: Final

Demo  final projects,

Assignments: Document your work, including a write up which sets out your assumptions, the results of your project, what you would change for the next iteration, and the final feedback you received.