Computers Art and Interactive Systems
Computers Art and Interactive Systems


Profile of Digital Artist Simon Biggs Professor of Digital Arts at Sheffield Hallam University, UK.


Simon Biggs is a visual and inter-disciplinary artist, he uses the computer and interactive systems within large-scale installation, web-based artworks and other contexts to explore issues around identity and reality as social constructs.

Simon initially began to use computers to assist with painting in 1978, and, with his father (a computer scientist), developed an early graphics dedicated computer system in the following year. In 1983, he ceased painting altogether in order to work solely with computer-based interactive installations.

In 1986 he left Australia for Europe where the theme and appearance of his work shifted away from earlier conceptual and formal concerns with language and control towards more metaphorical, symbolic and poetic works, often revolving around texts.

Simon's work has evolved over a long period of time and in some ways has followed the development of the computers from the seventies when being creative on a computer often meant that you had to develop your own hardware and software which he did and used sucessfully in the late seventies and early 80's.

From paint to pixel

As his work developed Simon became more interested in the processes and systems that eventuate in an image than in the image itself. I was wanting to explore those processes as the actual artefact. Initially this involved using the computer to procedurally generate images which, to begin with, I would then paint. Then I shifted to recording the output of the computer to video tape as this allowed a focus on process rather than the individual image. From there to placing the viewer as part of the process was straight forward, and so I started to make the works interactive and responsive to the viewer.

Solitary and Shadows were early examples of the fully immersive interactive work that Simon developed in the early nineties and connect to his most recent works which revolve around the development of multi-user interactive systems, with a focus on the viewer's relationship with both the work itself (which is programmed to react to any human presence) and with the other visitors in the exhibition space.

The inspiration for Solitary came from the writings of the 4th century Roman philosopher Boethius, who wrote from within a prison cell and was was originally commissioned for an old 18th century prison cell in Sydney, Australia. The focus of the work is isolation and deprivation. The work uses remote visual sensing techniques to track the viewer. If the viewers' remain static then they see nothing, and are left in total darkness, but as soon as they move large human shapes begin to follow them about the room. At first the shapes appear to be shadows, but then resolve into the faces of young children, observing the viewers actions.

Shadows is in many ways is a complementary piece to Solitary as the viewer enters a space already full of figures, figures that whilst over-sized do resemble normal, if naked, people. These figures are programmed to avoid the audience, even to the point of leaving the installation space empty, and thus the viewer alone.

Simon continues to use computers and related media as his primary medium, seeing his work as 'occupying a space somewhere between installation, interactive theatre, video art and traditional animation.

Find out more from:

New Work

IDphone eplores an ambivalent conjunction between the Freudian notion of the Id, I.D. systems (biometrics) and a video-phone gone wrong. Employing a digital mirror, reflecting imagery from two different locations, the artwork acts as a portal to somewhere/someone else. Visitors peer into 2 screens, located in different spaces, and are confronted with a blended and distorted 'portrait' of themselves and an unknown other.

Curriculum relevance

A pupil's entitlement to ICT in secondary art and design

'In art education the use of computers, scanners, digital cameras, printers and the Internet is challenging us to rethink the ways in which we develop pupil's creativity. ICT blurs the boundary between traditional art forms providing opportunities to express ideas in many different ways. In teaching art and design we need to consider how ICT might be used alongside and or integrated with art practice and how to develop this new medium in a way that develops and extends visual understanding.
Many artists are using ICT to develop and create their work. Therefore to have the broadest experience pupils must also have access to ICT and the work of artists in relation to their artwork.'
Becta 2003

National Curriculum Links

Art and design at key stage 3 (Year 9)
Unit 9A: Life events