Very Nervous System (1982-1991) by David Rokeby

Very Nervous System was the third generation of interactive sound installations which I have created. In these systems, I use video cameras, image processors, computers, synthesizers and a sound system to create a space in which the movements of one’s body create sound and/or music.

The body is implicated as a map within the sensor field. Motion invokes music. Essentially this instrument provokes the user to explore how the sensors map gesture to make music: in this way dance becomes an exploration of an esoteric exterior system whose contours only slowly (if ever) become known.

I created the work for many reasons, but perhaps the most pervasive reason was a simple impulse towards contrariness. The computer as a medium is strongly biased. And so my impulse while using the computer was to work solidly against these biases. Because the computer is purely logical, the language of interaction should strive to be intuitive. Because the computer removes you from your body, the body should be strongly engaged. Because the computer’s activity takes place on the tiny playing fields of integrated circuits, the encounter with the computer should take place in human-scaled physical space. Because the computer is objective and disinterested, the experience should be intimate.


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