Very Nervous System and the Benefit of Inexact Control

Interview with David Rokeby
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The Canadian artist David Rokeby (1960) has been creating interactive sound and video installations since 1982. His work directly engages the human body or involves artificial perception systems and intends to explore time, perception, issues of digital surveillance and the relationships between humans and interactive machines. In 1982 Rokeby started developing Very Nervous System, a real time motion tracking system, which monitors the user's action via video camera, analyses the data in the computer and responds to the interactor's input. On the basis of this system - which is also used in music therapy applications and as an activity enabler for victims of Parkinson's Disease - Rokeby created several interactive installations with real-time feedback loops using video cameras, image processors, computers, synthesizers, and sound systems.

Rokeby has graduated with honours in Experimental Art from Ontario College of Art in 1984, he has exhibited and given talks in Canada, US, Mexico, Brazil, Germany, Austria, France, Italy, Belgium, Finland, Japan and Korea, including the Venice Biennale in 1986, Ars Electronica (Linz, Austria) in 1991 and 2002, the Mediale (Hamburg, Germany) in 1993, the Biennale di Firenze (Florence, Italy) in 1996 and the Venice Architecture Biennale in 2002. Rokeby was, among others, awarded the Petro Canada Media Arts Award (1988), the Prix Ars Electronica Award of Distinction for Interactive Art (1991 and 1997), and the Award for Interactive Art of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (2000). Roberto Simanowski talked with him about "systems of inexact control" which reject the control fetish, about their pragmatic role in every day life, about the bastardization of aleatoric art, about interactivity as the decline of critical distance and about technology as a genre.

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