The interactive Art of Öyvind Fahlström

It is time to incorporate advances in technology to create massproduced works of art, obtainable by rich or not rich. Works where the artist puts as much quality into the conception, and the manufacturer as much quality into the production, as found in the best handmade works of art.
The value of variable form: you will never have exactly the same piece as your neighbor.

Öyvind Fahlström
Take Care of the World(*), 1966/1975

An innovation in the work of Öyvind Fahlström is its interactive nature. Throughout the last fourteen years of his life, Fahlström created works that invited public participation. The print, Eddie (Sylvie’s brother) in the Desert, for instance, instructs the viewer to “cut out and arrange” its elements, while the large installation, The Little General (Pinball Machine), invites the viewer to blow its floating elements. His pursuit of audience interaction culminated in the political gameplaying of the Monopoly series.

Today these irreplaceable works of art cannot be handled. Hence our interest in transposing them into a digital language. We believe that the new digital technology perfectly suits Fahlström’s utopian goals of interactivity and accessibility.

Fahlström created several versions of the political game, Monopoly, with handpainted vinyl and magnets. These “variable” paintings are perhaps some of the world’s first interactive artworks. The “game paintings”, as Fahlström also called them, were intended to allow the viewer to recreate works by arranging new combinations of the movable elements. Here we use digital media technology to recreate World Trade Monopoly (B. Large), 1970, US Monopoly (Small), 1971, and CIA Monopoly (Small), 1971, so that visitors can participate in the artwork by arranging its elements directly on the screen.

Fahlström wanted to massproduce many of his works as multiples. The high cost of producing such multiples, however, discouraged potential publishers from making large editions of these artworks during Fahlström’s lifetime. His graphics and multiples were usually published in small editions and today they are extremely rare and unavailable to a large audience.

Following Fahlström’s thinking on massproduced, interactive art, we realized that it was important to recreate three of his multiples, Eddie (Sylvie’s brother) in the Desert, 1966, Sitting…Dominoes, 1966 and Elements from “Masses”, 1976, in the same fashion as the Monopoly games.

Our goal was to realize Fahlström’s ideas about distribution and interactivity in a manner he was unable to predict, but that we believe he would have desired.

Mattias Nilsson

*) Öyvind Fahlström, “Take Care of the World”, in Manifestos (New York: Great Bear Pamphlet, Something Else Press, Inc., 1966). The author’s 1975 revised text was reprinted in Sharon Avery-Fahlström (ed), Die Installationen / The Installations (Ostfildern, Germany: Cantz Verlag, 1995) p. 36.