archée
                 • • •  revue d'art en ligne : arts médiatiques & cyberculture


David Rokeby : I’m an interactive artist; I construct experiences

Louise Boisclair

Long Wave, David Rokeby, LuminaTO, Toronto

Interactive installations would not have became what they are without pioneers like David Rokeby who devoted three decades to tame them, making them accessible, subtle and fruitful of complex resonances. His artworks speak several languages, visual, auditory, proprioceptive, synesthetic. Their vocabulary is rooted in our relationship with the world and the perception of our every move. Coupling calculated programming and artistic intention open and original, Rokeby talks about his artistic development by revisiting several works with his visceral understanding of interactivity or interaction, particularly the creative sap of  Very Nervous System and the subtle composition of Taken. As the lamplighter of the Little Prince, David Rokeby is a consciousness lighter.


About interactivity 

Years of development and sources of inspiration 

The sap of the tree : Very Nervous System 

Very Nervous System, David Rokeby

L. B. : On your Web site, I counted 28 installations in the list. Fondation Langlois Web Site distincts two principal roads : « l'une explore la perception visuelle et le temps au travers de ce que filment les caméras de surveillance. […] L'autre piste […] mène au langage, celui des humains et celui des machines, et comment ils (se) représentent le monde; dans cette exposition Le donneur de noms (1991-) et n-cha(n)t (2001).2 »  How do you yourself group them? Do you identify periods, if it suits the evolution of your artwork?

D. R. : Very Nervous System was born as a rough and broad idea in 1979. It started to narrow and take shape in 1981, and I worked on it pretty steadily until about 1991. This period is the trunk of the tree. In 1991, the language / perception branch split off as I started to work on the Giver of Names... moving away from real-time interaction. In 1995 the surveillance / real-time visual branch split off starting with the installation Watch So one trunk became 2 branches through the 90s. In 2000 I started to broaden out again. At first the work did not change much but how works came about did. I started to enjoy working on site-specific installations. Up until then I had not liked them much. In fact now it is one of my favourite work related pleasures to go to a space and imagine what I might do there. And I have no way of knowing where I might end up. Perhaps no media at all, and I love being this unpredictable to myself.

L. B. : Your artwork became famous all over the world with, many would say, Very Nervous System (1986-90), the third one on the list,  which was preceeded by Body Language(1984-86) and Reflexions (1983). Is there a link between these three installations? How do you yourself feel about the success of Very Nervous System?  Also the title suggests an acute sensibility or sensitivity. And the body movements make us think of a dancing improvisation or a tai chi choreography.

D. R. : There is a direct line from Reflexions to Body Language to Very Nervous System. I kept finding new names I liked better than the old ones...

The success of Very Nervous System was a huge blessing and a substantial curse. I had the opportunity to show all around the world in some amazing shows, met wonderful artists, etc. But when your first major work is a big success, it is sometimes hard to come up with another work that matches its success. I spent a lot of time living in the shadow of Very Nervous System. I think it was not until 1993 that I started to feel that there was life after Very Nervous System.

L. B. : Very Nervous System led you to invent a software called VNS. May you elaborate on this happening of the art work and of the software ? As you know, many artists have used VNS for their own artwork? Je pense notamment à Wald de l’artiste allemand Chris Ziegler et KinéFusion de l’artiste montréalais Robert Chrétien.  How do you explain this ‘engouement’?

Very Nervous System image, David Rokeby

D. R. : Very Nervous System was initially both a medium and an artwork in that medium. This got to be confusing. At a certain point I started to deliberately differentiate between the system and the artwork. At the same time (1989 or so) I started to have interest from other artists to work with my system, usually in very different ways than I did. In about 1985 or so I wrote a text called "Dreams of an Instrument Maker." This reflected my sense that there was creativity in the making of instruments (creation of VNS) and in the creative use of those instruments. Offering a powerful creative technology to others to use as they see fit was an exciting venture for me, which gave me a way of experiencing the creativity of instrument making and of instrument using with more clarity than when the two were united in my practise. Instrument making in this way is meta-interactive art making. I love handing people a pile of potential, like giving them dynamite. I also liked the feeling that I did not have to explore every possibility for VNS anymore... Others could take some of it on.

L. B. :  There is also another very important dimension associated with Very Nervous System, qui a donné lieu à une adaptation thérapeutique pour des enfants handicapés, que la professeure torontoise Jutta Treviranus a présentée à l’occasion du colloque Mobile/Immobilisé3. Did you yourself think of this therapeutic dimension during the art processing? What do you think of this specific case, on one hand, but also in general of the therapeutic dimension of interactive art, on the other hand?

D. R. : I think it is inevitably part of the therapeutic dimension of interactive art. Any interactive artwork has something prosthetic about it. It is an alteration, or augmentation of the body and or mind of the user. It provides experiences that can change your relationships to yourself and body. I did not think of the use of it in explicit therapeutic contexts while I was making it, but it may be that I was creating for myself a kind of therapy that I instinctively felt I needed.

Taken : between surveillance and a plays with memory and perception 

Other related activities and the next future  

 

NOTE(S)

1 David Rokeby, « Construire l’expérience, l’interface comme contenu », article publié en anglais dans Digital Illusions (2000) et en traduction française dans Interfaces et Sensorialités (2003).

2 Extrait du site Web de la Fondation Langlois, accessible à http://www.fondation-langlois.org/e-art/f/david-rokeby.html, consulté le 14 mars 2010.

3 Conférencière, Mobile/Immobilisé. Art, technologies et (in)capacités, colloque dirigé par Louise Poissant et Louis Bec, novembre 2007, http://mobileimmobilise.uqam.ca/fr/conferenciers/treviranus.html, dernière consultation le 24 mars 2010.

 

NOTICE BIOGRAPHIQUE

Auteure, artiste et chercheure, Louise Boisclair  a publié de nombreux articles pour Archée, Inter art Actuel, Vie des Arts et Parcours. Outre ses œuvres plastiques et médiatiques, elle a créé et produit une cinquantaine de vidéos dont quatre Vidéo-Mag primés. Parmi ses réalisations : le film d’art expérimental, Variations sur le hook up, le mémoire-création, Variations sur le dépassement et L’écho du processus de création, et le prototype du conte visuel interactif, Variations sur Menamor et Coma et Vitrine Cosmos. Ses recherches portent sur  Voir l’image et ses effets à l’ère de l’interactivité. Membre du groupe Performativité et effets de présence, elle est doctorante au programme de sémiologie à l’UQAM. Par ailleurs, elle offre aussi des ateliers de créativité, mandala et peinture gestuelle.

Artiste international né en 1960 à Tillsonburg en Ontario et basé à Toronto, David Rokeby, lauréat du Prix du Gouverneur général en arts visuels et en arts médiatiques 2002, expose depuis 1982 dans de nombreux pays, notamment à la Biennale de Venise en 1986. Sa carrière de près de 30 ans poursuit deux pistes principales : la perception visuelle et le temps à travers les caméras de surveillance, le  langage  des humains, croisé à celui des machines. Rokeby jouit d’une renommée internationale particulièrement associée à son installation interactive sonore Very nervous system (1986-1990). Il a créé le logiciel VNS qui permet de transformer le mouvement de l’interacteur en son, dont plusieurs artistes se sont inspirés pour leurs installations, notamment Wald de l’artiste allemand Chris Ziegler et KinéFusion de l’artiste montréalais Robert Chrétien.

 

SITE(S) CONNEXE(S)

Texts by David Rokeby online
Challenges in Intermodal Translation of Art
Constructing Experience: Interface as Content
Transforming Mirrors: Control and Subjectivity in Interactive Media
Lecture for the Kwangju Biennale (A survey of my works placed in context)
The Harmonics of Interaction (MusicWorks)
Predicting the Weather (MusicWorks)
Dreams of an Instrument Maker (MusicWorks)

Texts on David Rokeby online
Seeing (Dot Tuer)
Disembodied States: Vision, the Body and the Virtual (Dot Tuer)
Interactive Strategies and Dialogical Allegories (Ernestine Daubner)
Dances With Machines, Technology Review, May 1999 (Rebecca Zacks)
Silicon remembers Ideology, or David Rokeby's meta-interactive art (Erkki Huhtamo)
Very Nervous System,Wired Magazine issue 3.03, (Douglas Cooper)

Websites
David Rokeby, Taken : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ipsz4ALgUi0
David Rokeby : http://homepage.mac.com/davidrokeby/home.html
Fondation Langlois : http://www.fondation-langlois.org/e-art/f/david-rokeby.html
Mobile/Immobilisé. Art, technologies et (in)capacités, http://mobileimmobilise.uqam.ca/fr/conferenciers/treviranus.html

 

haut de la page / retour à la page d'accueil /

 


 

Cette publication a été rendue possible grâce au soutien financier d'Hexagram, du groupe de recherche des arts médiatiques (GRAM), de la Faculté des arts de l'UQAM, de la Chaire du Canada en esthétique et poétique de l'UQÀM (CEP), ainsi qu'à une subvention, pour une quatorzième année consécutive, du Conseil des arts du Canada (CAC).