Briefly describe the work you do.
As an artist and designer, my work explores the medium of human-computer interaction as a context for cognitive and emotional engagement. For me, a key dimension of that engagement involves a sense of playfulness. I like to build things that allow users to investigate and create individualized experiences for themselves. A common way that I do this is by rewarding users’ for their curiosity with little discoveries! I believe that we all construct our own understanding of the world through exploration. Through my work, I try to promote people’s engagement by fostering exploration.
Tell us about your background and how that has had an influence on your work and on you as an artist.
My initial interest in the arts was through music. I began my undergrad career as a jazz major studying the electric fretless bass. My interest in music eventually led me to become a recording engineer, which is when I first started working with digital media. Over time, my work with digital audio evolved to involve digital video, and eventually, interactivity. As a result, I’m often led to create experiences that include the use of multiple media simultaneously.
The concept of the artist studio has a broad range of meanings in contemporary practice. Artists may spend much of their time in the actual studio, or they may spend very little time in it. Tell us about your individual studio practice and how it differs from or is the same as traditional notions of “being in the studio.”
I work almost exclusively digitally. Therefore, my studio is my laptop, and increasingly, my phone. More often than not, the place where I make work is my faculty office, as the space affords me the seclusion I need.
What roles do you find yourself playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?
The roles I find myself playing that I did not envision when I first started making art are all of the trappings of being a university professor (e.g., committee member, advisor, instructor).
When do you find is the best time to make art? Do you set aside a specific time everyday or do you have to work whenever time allows?
I enjoy making work the most when I have dedicated blocks of time during which I can focus on the creative task and not be disturbed or distracted by other things. Often, this is during the evenings and nights alone in my office. But perhaps the most immersive way I’ve found for achieving this is through an artist residency. What an amazing opportunity to jumpstart a project!
How has your work changed in the past five years? How is it the same?
In the past five years, my work has grown to involve a lot more commercial web design. This change connects directly to my activities as a professor of interactive design at the University of Wisconsin-Stout. The university has a polytechnic designation. Therefore, the curricula for many of our degrees emphasize students developing industry-based competencies. In an attempt to help my students become Web designers, I kinda had to become one first!
How have people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers, other artists or even pop icons had an impact on the work you do?
My influences are many and diverse. Most recently, I’ve enjoyed studying the work of Christopher Alexander, an architect and theorist. His work on the Timeless Way of Building is fundamental to my current major project.
Have you ever been pulled in the direction of a pursuit other than being an artist? What are your other interests?
The other directions in which I am pulled include my roles as father and husband. But, as much energy as having a family demands, it provides me with even more in return. My one remaining hobby for which I struggle to find adequate time is juggling. As a complement to the intense precision of the digital space, I find the imperfection and spontaneity of freestyle juggling (https://vimeo.com/user8398059/videos) creatively rejuvenating. So much so that I’ve recently started exploring ideas for integrating juggling into my creative research agenda. We’ll see how that goes…
Robert Fraher is an associate professor at the University of Wisconsin–Stout. He has a Master of Fine Art degree in graphic design with an emphasis on interactivity from the University of Minnesota. His research explores how interactive design and digital media can facilitate individual expression and community involvement. He has exhibited, published, and presented research in the fields of graphic design, art, instructional design, interaction design, and creativity.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.