In 1969, art historian and media theorist Dr. Jack Burnham approached Professor Sheridan about participating in an exhibition he was organizing at the Jewish Museum in New York for the following year. The exhibition, titled “Software,” exposed the public to a wide variety of perspectives concerning the functional applications of information processing systems. (1)
The project represented a fresh take on the exploration of technology’s impact on creative production: members of the public would have the ability to respond to and interact with computer-built environments operated by participating artists. The catalog for the event, edited by Burnham with the assistance of others involved in the show, emphasized the importance of interactive artist/audience relations. (2)
In the catalog’s introduction, for instance, he states, “(a)nother goal of ‘Software’ is to make clear that art itself is a form of intermittent dialogue. We are trying to make that sense of dialogue a conscious event.” (3)
In an interview excerpt, Professor Sheridan recalls that the opportunity to interact with the audience was the main reason she decided to participate in the project. (a)
In this other excerpt, she discusses the participatory dimensions of other artists’ work included in the exhibit and the excitement that it generated. (b)
Building upon the theme of interactivity, the press release announcing “Software” emphasized the event’s participatory objectives. (c)
Professor Sheridan termed her contribution to the exhibit, “Interactive Paper Systems (1969-1970)” (d)
, and intended the work to highlight the image-making capabilities of communications technologies in real-time.
After demonstrating various graphics processes in relation to classroom instruction, Professor Sheridan offered attendees the ability to experiment with two instruments produced by the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company (3M): the Thermo-Fax
machine and the Color-in-Color
She hoped that the experience of working with new graphic tools would lead to greater awareness about the creative possibilities afforded by rapid methods of production. In her words, “It is obvious that this work process becomes another kind of time for the artist as the distance from conception to conception is reduced to minutes and objects change as rapidly as thinking allows.” (5)
In addition, commercial imaging tools required minimal training and were adaptable to the preferences of users.
Not surprisingly, Professor Sheridan approached the exhibition as if it were an extension of the Generative Systems classroom. Her style of presentation expanded upon a workshop format that she had developed: professional demonstrations, hands-on experimentation with different technologies and student/teacher consultation. Similar to a Generative Systems class, she was sensitive to the configuration and placement of equipment within the exhibit space, as the diagrams attached to this organizational document demonstrate. (e)
Also, Professor Sheridan insisted on having graduate students from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago travel with her to New York in order to participate in presentation activities, granting them real-world production and exhibition experience. Finally, similar to the lesson plans she devised for individual class sessions, Professor Sheridan established a schedule for completing a host of instruction-related tasks. (f)