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.

Light art: From Monet to James Turrell to…

As a person who studied French and lived ever in Paris, everything labelled “French Culture” is pretty attractive to me.

I was very lucky to have visited the Monet exhibition taking place in fall 2010 at the Grand Palais in Paris. It was the only chance to take a glance at all Monet’s paintings accumulated from all over the world. That was the first time that I came to understand impressionism. Museum guide Emmanuelle Rian says the impressionists’ fast strokes, their scenes of ordinary life, and the glimpses they left of unpainted canvas were brand new and brave — “a real revolution in painting.”  I found a series of sunset at the river Seine, with different kinds of “capture of light”. From that moment, I became passionate about the change of light and shadows and mixture with different layers of colors.

Please refer to:

Another miracle happened at a night when I wandered alongside the river Seine, I heared a loundspeaker telling a story of Bible. I followed the sound and found myself in front of the Notre-Dame de Paris. The amazing light show took me immediately into a place like a paradise.

Now, I decide to connect Monet to light art whose medium is light. With help of jhave, I came to know an American artist primarily concerned with light and space,  James Turrell. His immersive work show us how we see light in varying contexts, both natural and created. Turrell is best known for his work in progress, Roden Crater, a natural cinder cone crater located outside Flagstaff, Arizona that he is turning into a massive naked-eye observatory.

Turrell’s medium of choice, light, makes his work both radical and rooted deep in the past. He traces his artistic antecedents back into prehistory. These include the creators of a 5,000-year-old mound at Newgrange in Ireland, who made sure the sun’s rays would shine directly into the passageway at the winter solstice.

Also, that reminds me of the Allegory of the Cave in Plato’s work the Republic. The analogy of sun links to our perception of the world. I wonder whether the light art can be rooted in other philosophy…

I am more interested in light show than Turrell’s works, because the former is more dynamique and exciting.

As for the further research, I would like to read light art history and search more light installation artworks. But I am still confused about the final objective of my research and how to connect Monet to new media art.





The Architecture of Complexity

HERBERT SIMON, one of the founding fathers of systems theory and artificial intelligence, identified hierarchical recursion as a fundamental feature of computational systems. In a seminal 1962 paper “The Architecture of Complexity”, Simon claims that “It may not be entirely vain, however, to search for common properties among diverse kinds of complex systems”. This search for common properties (patterns, harmony, rhythms and more…) in complex systems (emotions, death, time, and more) which refers “to all complex systems analyzable into successive sets of subsystems” (Simon, 1962) has ramifications for many systems (from mathematics to physiology to ecosystems to culture).

Recursion(L-systems, fractals, and more..) in living structures, linguistics, and digital systems points to a deep continuity between life, language and computation.

ALBERT-LÁSZLÓ BARABÁSI,  45 years later published a paper with exactly the same titleThe Architecture of Complexity” (August 2007, IEEE Control Systems Magazine).  He too identifies the unifying force of network paradigms:

Networks exist everywhere and at every scale. The brain is a network of nerve cells connected by axons, while cells are networks of molecules connected by biochemical reactions. Societies, too, are networks of people linked by friendship, family, and professional ties. On a larger scale, food webs and ecosystems can be represented as networks of species. Furthermore, networks pervade technology; examples include the Internet, power grids, and transportation systems. Even the language used to convey thought is a network of words connected by syntactic relationships.

By identifying the structures and principles of networks, Barabási hopes to articulate a science of systems (he sees network theory as a prerequisite for a robust science of complex systems). Empirically-validated network properties such as scale-free (non-random power laws), small world (connecting each to the next “the typical number of clicks between two Web pages is around 19”), and preferential attachment (the probability of links influenced by previous links) have implications for the Internet and for epidemics.

The architecture of complexity continues to expand.

Shelley Jackson : Skin (2003)

Tattoos are an accumulation of ink pigment particles too large to be eaten by white blood cells, it is a technical invasion designed to exceed the body’s defences. Under the skin, injected, tattoo ink merges with the body, becomes part of it. Shelley Jackson’s Skin “A story published on the skin of 2095 volunteers” began with a published online call for volunteers to agree to merge with a story, to tattoo one word each on their body; the conditions:

“the text will be published nowhere else … The full text will be known only to participants … From this time on, participants will be known as ‘words’. They are not understood as carriers or agents of the texts they bear, but as its embodiments. … Only the death of words effaces them from the text. As words die the story will change; when the last word dies the story will also have died. The author will make every effort to attend the funerals of her words.”

Skin forms a distributed network story, a collective meme viral archive of intimate ink injected into social psyche; the internet enabled it. Jackson’s work as an internet hypertext writer was seminal. Patchwork Girl, released by Eastgate Systems in 1995, was a branching narrative, retelling the story of Frankenstein, the word made flesh in cybernetic form available on usb stick for Macintosh at $24.95 (Jackson, 1995). Her work now extends that branching linked structure into the flesh of lived lives, the skin of bodies (that will over time wrinkle, distort and eventually decay) releasing one by one the text they hold. As she visits each funeral, the writing and erasure of the text constitute a story only she is told.

Jackson’s recent work continues this distributed patchwork publishing technique using ephemeral media (snow) and social networking (Instagram): Jackson, Shelley. “Snows” on Instagram, 2014.

A New Post

Below are some artists/exhibitions that I discovered recently and found interesting (not related to my research tho)


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The SPEED SHOW exhibition format: Hit an Internet-cafe, rent all computers they have and run a show on them for one night. All art works of the participating artists need to be on-line (not necessarily public) and are shown in a typical browser with standard plug-ins. Performance and live pieces may also use pre-installed communication programs (instant messaging, VOIP, video chat etc). Custom software (except browser add-ons) or off-line files are not permitted.

2. Monkey Business

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An interactive installation by Ralph Kistler & Jan M. Sieber. Film by Susann Maria Hempel. NEW FACE AWARD 2011, 15th JAPAN MEDIA ARTS FESTIVAL


3. The Khronos Projector:

[a video time-warping machine with a tangible deformable screen]

A bit techie now:

4. Just read this article: How to become a hacker

5. A nice interactive morse code learning website that I have marked down an afternoon in Chinese New Year Holiday for it:

Last but not least, I’d like to share a quote allegedly from Father Alfred D’Souza (though I can’t find any information about the person online except for all the nice quotes credited to him).

“For a long time it seemed to me that life was about to begin – real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be gotten through first, some unfinished business, time to still be served, a debt to be paid. Then life would begin. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life.

This perspective has helped me to see that there is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way. So, treasure every moment that you have. And treasure it more because you shared it with someone special, special enough to spend your time … and remember that time waits for no one…”


Love Constitutes Social Bonds: Mapping Michael Hardt’s Conception of Love

Project Title: Love Constitutes Social Bonds: Mapping Michael Hardt’s Conception of Love    (subject to change.:-))




Drawing out an idea map of Michael Hardt’s Conception of Love, based on Commonwealth and two lectures of him, as :

  1. 1. Michael Hardt on The Politics of Love and Evil

2.Michael Hardt. For Love or Money. 2011



  1. 1.Academic one:

The Break-Up: Hardt and Negri’s Politics of Love

2. Interview

No One is Sovereign in Love: A Conversation Between Lauren Berlant and Michael Hardt – Heather Davis & Paige Sarlin

3. Some supplementary  reading:

On Love (Again): Hardt/Negri and D.H. Lawrence

Love and Other Catastrophes: Tolstoy’s Systems Theory of Love 




The power of myths

After reading the book The Power of Myths, I have concluded the two basic idea of Joseph Campbell. Through his interview, Campbell want to answer two questions, one is why people need myths, the other is what myths can bring to people. In Campbell’s point of view, he thought myths can help people experience being live. What is being live? Nowadays, many resources and books are available to most of people, however, many younger are feeling that they are still empty after reading a lot of books. Why? People are following rules, students are following teachers, but do they really understand what they are learning? In the other world, do they really feel interested when there are learning? People know somethings are good, but not all the good things can make people happy. Campbell thinks, by reading myths, people can find out what they really interested in and whenever they find out the answer, they should follow their bliss and not be afraid. The reason that why myths can give people answer is that the stories told by myths include original feelings about nature and life. It gives people a better way to understand truth, to understand nature, and also themselves by using symbols of world such as animals. But it is still a question to me that how can myths influence people in a more objective way.

And what I interested in myths is that why the world myths have so many similarities. For example, the fox. In the ancient book in China Shanhai Jing, it recorded such kink of fox which has nine beautiful tails. And also in the myths in Europe, there are also a fox, when its tails light a fire, there is Aurora. It is also mentioned in the book The Power of Myths, although the myths come from different region, it seems that they aim to express similar theme.


ResArtis – Worldwide Network of Artist Residencies


What is Res Artis?

It is a worldwide net work of artist resident which found on 1993. With the growing number of members , it has over 500 centers, organizations, and individuals in over 70 countries. It organizes the chance for individual arties as well as organizations to communicate altogether as a global community via face-to face meetings and online chatting.

Now, it covers lots of residencies all over the world. They showed as the map below.

resartis map

How does the net work operate?

The relationship base is resident and the host.

The hosts provide register residency centers in the net work for inviting artists, academicians, curators, and all manner of creative people, to provide them a time and space away from their usual environment. Also they provide a time of reflection, research, presentation and/or production. They also allow individuals to explore his/her practice within another community; meeting new people, using new materials, experiencing life in a new location.

For residencies, they can take part in museums, universities, galleries, studio spaces, theaters, artist-run spaces, municipalities, governmental offices, and even festivals.


How to join the net work?

The way for joining the net work is becoming their member. There are three types of members, including Residency MembersAssociate Members and Individual Members.

About Residency Members, it is the largest group of Res Artis members. The member of residency can participate in organizations, artists groups that organizing artist residency program that provided on the website. They can also get regional support and information, reduction in meeting registration fees and also receiving public & member’s only newsletters.

The Associate Membership is different from residency member, it opens to programs, foundations, or other networks that assist or support international exchange programs or the artists themselves. They can be governmental, non-governmental or privately run. As associate member, they can join the Meetings held by Res Artis, posting upcoming activities   and also accessing the member’s section of the webpage for more information.

Also there is Individual Membership which is open to artists, curators, or any other individual who wishes to support and join the activities of Res Artis. They can also apply for the programs and receive e-newsletter. They can join Meetings and access the member’s section of the webpage.

The fee for each kinds of the members are different. Yearly, the fee for Residency Members is €30-450 , Associate Membership is €375, Individual Membership is € 75.


What help with the net work?

There are four kinds of organizations that within and help with the Res Artis in different ways.

1.Free Dimensional is responsible for organizing community arts space and local resources for the support and protection of individuals who create dialogue on global issues and inequalities through their art and media. It acts as a parallel network to Res Artis, helping with members who interested in activities.

2.Asia Australia Europe Creative Residency Network. It is a sub-network of Res Artis with the mission to specifically promote more cultural exchange between Asia, Australia and Europe. It helps with developing several activities and exchanges to facilitate the sharing of knowledge, resources and experiences regarding the artist residencies in Asia, Australia and Europe.

3. The ‘PAiR’ Initiative – Performing Arts in Residence. It works to strengthen existing and support the development of new residencies for performing artists, helping with organizing members who especially interested in performing art.

4. Microresidence Network. The Microresidence Network is an independent initiative from Res Artis and residencies who are not members of Res Artis are of course able to join. It helps with recognizing the significant proportion of Res Artis members.

How to use technology properly? Make use of it to make the world better.

  1.  The author of the book —Secret Garden:An Inky Treasure Hunt and Coloring Book Johanna Basford  holds  the opinion that works made by computers are cold and have no soul. So she insists on completing her works by hand. From my perspective, this’s an interactive work and it’s the combination of traditional methods and modern technology. First, the author just finished one part of the coloring book and then readers did another part which refers to coloring pictures in the book. Second,although she finished the book without computers,it’s the technology that helps to print books and transfers them to the readers.
  2. When it comes to the soul of the works, I remember there’s a philosopher called Walter Benjamin who represents Frankfurt School. The most famous article of his is The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction. And he claimed that all art works had aura. Aura requires authenticity. However, the mechanism makes art works lose authenticity and their aura.
  3. The beginning part of Technology and the Lifeworld is From Garden to Earth. It compares life in a non-technological imagined “garden” with our experience in the technologically mediated world. “Garden” is used as a reference point for us humans to make sure of the extent how much technology should be used.

Week 3 (Jan.25) – Proposal Draft

Reading material for today:

Truax, B. (1986). Computer music language design and the composing process. In The language of electroacoustic music (pp. 155-173). Palgrave Macmillan UK.

Proposal (draft)

  • History/Background – From instrumental music to computer music
  • Changing Roles of Music: There is no definite or final version of a computer music piece because the program output is not limited by instruments and the user can never predict how the system generates the user’s intentions. And the computer music is not only hearable but visible in a graphic form as well mostly because in softwares, the users compose music basing on parameters but not notes. What’s more, in times of instrumental music, low level skill of playing an instrument results in worse music, but in computer music, simple input can generate well-performed music through smart and well-controlled systems. (Question: Can we still name computer music “music” ? or should we just call it composed sound?)
  • Composing Process: It is not simple representation of sounds. For most time, the user makes a new kind of music. “the important ingredient is that the program offers data manipulation tools which correspond to the perceptual and musical concepts of the user”
  • Human Actions: What the user does is more machine learning or let’s say software experience than arrangement of the note flows. And in the composing process, the user is cooperating with many things but not merely a computer.
  • Question: What a musical softwares can’t do?