Media Art: Paul Sermon’s participatory interactive media art installations

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This chapter presents Paul Sermon unique contribution to the field of media art through his participatory interactive media art installations since the early 1990s, charting a phenomenological exploration of agency through his artworks that include ‘There’s no simulation like home’ (1999), ‘All the World’s a Screen’ (2011), ‘Occupy the Screen’ (2014), ‘Peoples Screen’ (2015) and ‘Telematic Touched’ (2017).
As an undergraduate Fine Art student of pioneering cybernetic artist Roy Ascott, from 1985 to 1988 at the Newport School of Fine Art in Wales, Sermon’s work was, and still remains strongly influenced by Ascott’s networked art theories and practice. His arrival at Newport coincided with the introduction of desktop computers to the art school studio, and he was amongst some of first art students to explore the interactive media art possibilities of the Apple Macintosh and Commodore Amiga computers that launched in the 1980’s. It was Sermon’s ongoing work with the ‘Amiga’ and use of ‘Deluxe Video’ software from ‘Electronic Arts’ that led to his first recognised hyper-media installation ‘Think about the people now’, an interactive video reconstruction of an actual self-immolation protest in 1990 at Whitehall in London during the annual Remembrance Sunday ceremony. A work that went on to be awarded the Prix Ars Electronica Golden Nica for Interactive Art in Linz, Austria in 1991. Following Sermon’s success in Linz he was invited to Finland by curator and media art historian Erkki Huhtamo, where he subsequently developed his first networked telepresent media artwork ‘Telematic Dreaming’ in 1992 to international acclaim. The telepresence video projection encounter between two beds, connected via videoconference between separate gallery locations, were audiences were conjoined (see figure 1) stylised Sermon’s unique telepresence media art aesthetic. The resulting discourse quickly caught the attention of media artist Jeffrey Shaw who invited Sermon to the ZKM Centre for Art and Media in Karlsruhe, Germany, where he was director of the ZKM Institute of Visual Media at the time. During Sermon’s residency at ZKM he produced ‘Telematic Vision’ in 1993, a further development on the ‘Telematic Dreaming’ video encounter, situating remote gallery participants sat on separate large blue sofas, together on the same telepresent sofa, displayed on television screens in front of them (see figure 2).
Both ‘Telematic Dreaming’ and ‘Telematic Vision’ are further discussed in Paul Sermon’s chapter ‘Telecommunications: A Telematic to Telepresence Art Practice’, in Volume II of this encyclopaedia. This particular chapter presents a departure from these initial media art installations to further explore the role of the participant and the emergent open agency within his work that spans three decades. A media art practice that expounds new experiences of empathy and presence that traverses from the gallery to the street.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe encyclopedia of new media art
Subtitle of host publicationHistory and Theory
Number of pages18
ISBN (Print)9781474280679
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 9 Jan 2022

Publication series

NameThe encyclopedia of new media art

Bibliographical note

Not yet published


  • Arts
  • Media
  • Telematic
  • Telepresence
  • Networks
  • installation


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