Keynote lecture at the 11th International Conference on New Interfaces for Musical Expression. 30 May - 1 June 2011, Oslo, Norway.
David Rokeby spent the 10 years from 1981 to 1991 gesturing in mid-air and throwing his body against the virtual while creating Very Nervous System, an interactive installation which tracks body movement with video cameras and turns the movement into music and/or sound. Developing this work and exhibiting it around the world gave him a wealth of opportunities to experience and observe what happens when we place our bodies at the conjunction of physical and digital spaces. Since the early nineties, he has often returned to this exploration of “phy-gital” experience in a range of video and sound installations, considering this hybrid space as one of the fundamental features of life in a digital culture.
In his presentation, Rokeby will explore characteristics of the experience of phy-gital space, reflecting in particular on how these features affect interactive performance and interactive performers. Then he will present a variety of projects which expand the notion of interactive performance into publicly accessible interactive installations.
Main thrusts of this examination will include the effect of phy-gital space on the interactor’s mind and body, virtuosity in the context of interactive interfaces, and the interface as audience.
David Rokeby’s early work Very Nervous System (19821991) was a pioneering work of interactive art, translating physical gestures into real-time interactive sound environments. It was presented at the Venice Biennale in 1986, and was awarded a Prix Ars Electronica Award of Distinction in 1991. Several of his works have addressed issues of digital surveillance, including Taken (2002), and Sorting Daemon (2003). Other works engage in a critical examination of the differences between human and artificial intelligence. The Giver of Names (1991-) and n-cha(n)t (2001) are artificial subjective entities, provoked by objects or spoken words in their immediate environment to formulate sentences and speak them aloud. David Rokeby has exhibited and lectured extensively in the Americas, Europe and Asia. His awards include a Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts (2002), a Prix Ars Electronica Golden Nica for Interactive Art (2002), and a British Academy of Film and Television Arts “BAFTA” award in Interactive art (2000).