A Conversation with Eduardo Kac

on the Interactive Art Conference on Arts Wire, March 1996

 

Anna Couey
Judy and I are pleased to welcome Eduardo Kac as Interactive guest artist for the month of March.

Eduardo's work spans performance art, artist's books, public installation, holography, telecommunications and telepresence. Several of his recent telecommunications projects have utilized remote control and "communication" between different species or humans/machines. In one such work, a collaboration with Ikuo Nakamura, a caged canary's song is transmitted via the Internet to a Philodendron, whose response (measured by the voltage fluctuation in its leaves) triggers and determines the performance of a digital sound work. Kac describes this work thus: "the inter-species experience observed in the gallery reflects our own longing for interaction...this interactive installation is ultimately about human isolation and loneliness, and about the very possibility of communication."

Anna Couey
About (& by) Eduardo Kac

Eduardo Kac is a writer and artist who works with computers, holography, telepresence, video, and the Internet. He is the assistant professor of New Media in the Department of Art at the University of Kentucky, in Lexington.

Eduardo Kac is a member of the Editorial Board of the international art journal Leonardo. In 1995 he lectured from coast to coast at prestigious American universities, such as Yale and the University of Washington. He also lectured extensively at conferences and symposia around the world, including Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Nice, France; University of Amsterdam, Holland; Ars Electronica Conference, Linz, Austria; Interface 3 Conference, Hamburg, Germany, and Art in the XXI Century, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sao Paulo, Brazil. In 1995 he received the Al Smith Fellowship from the Kentucky Arts Council for his computer art. He was also the recipient of the Shearwater Foundation Holography Award, the most prestigious international award in the field of holographic art.

In 1996 he will be showing two new commissioned pieces: one at the "Out of Bounds" exhibition, organized by Nexus Contemporary Art and the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games, in Atlanta, and the Siggraph Art Show, at the Museum of Contemporary Art, in New Orleans. Both pieces will link physical spaces to the Internet.

WORLD WIDE WEB REFERENCES

A major Web retrospective documenting Eduardo Kac's 15-Year career:

* URL: http://www.uky.edu/FineArts/Art/kac/kachome.html

Additional references not available from Eduardo Kac's main site:

Search The Light - Featured Artist: Eduardo Kac
An online reference for all that is best in creative holography. If you are new to the field, you will find biographies from some of the world's pioneering artists using holography, plus stunning images and details about their work.If you are already an expert, obtain up-to-date information from around the world, sources of critical discussion, contact points for further research and news about exhibitions.
* http://www.holo.com/search/feature.html

Text information on Eduardo Kac's solo exhibition Dialogues, October 1994.
* URL: http://www-mitpress.mit.edu/LEA/bkissues/lea2-12.txt

Participation in Interface 3 Symposium (1995), Hamburg, Germany
* URL: http://www.hfbk.uni-hamburg.de/interface3/participants/kac/kac.html

Irc/CU-SeeMe/NetPhone session with Kurd Alsleben (Kurd) and Matthias Mayer(eager/matthias), as part of the Interface 3 Symposium (1995), Hamburg, Germany
* URL: http://www.hfbk.uni-hamburg.de/interface3/participants/telematicWorkgroup/mesh/951020m1.html

The Department of Art at the University of Kentucky (Under Construction)
* URL: http://www.uky.edu/FineArts/Art/kac/ArtDepartment/HOME.html

Information about the 1996 Olympics show "Out of Bounds: New Work by Eight Southeast Artists," in which Eduardo Kac will show an interactive electronic installation
* URL: http://www.atlanta.olympic.org/acog/oaf/d-exibprob.html#bounds

SIGGRAPH 96
* URL: http://www.siggraph.org/conferences/siggraph96/siggraph96.html
Eduardo Kac will be showing a new telematic interactive installation in the Siggraph '96 Art Show, which will take place in the Contemporary Art Center, New Orleans, and on the Internet.

Anna Couey
Hello Eduardo, and welcome to Interactive!

You've worked across a wide array of media...some of your work explores the body, or language, or the human condition. Is there a unifying vision that connects your artistic production, or is each work its own statement?

Judy Malloy
Welcome Eduardo! I'm looking forward to hearing about your work.

Beth Kanter, Arts Wire
Thanks Judy and Anna for the opportunity to read and interactive with interactive artists. Welcome Eduardo . . . will have some questions at some one about CuSeeMe.

Beth Kanter, Arts Wire
Anna or Judy can repost some of your words as a pointer in SpiderSchool. At one point, a couple of us got CuSeeMee cameras and we started talking tech talk . . but want to let others know about this?

Timothy Collins (tmc)
This is a little confusing...(is he here occupying somebody elses online body?). but Welcome! Eduardo I'm looking forward to your presentation!

Eduardo Kac
Today (3/7/96) the connection worked and I'm pleased to join the discussion at last.
Anna, in reply to your question (#2): This is something that I have been thinking about in a more organized way quite recently. One key issue that seems to underline all my works is a concern for communication processes. Not in the banal sense of a TV program, for example, but in a more profound way. I'm interested in how communication processes enable the contruction of realities, identities, society. I must say, however, that I do not take "communication" for granted. I do not offer a single definition for the word. I'm interested in questioning the very idea of communication. To me, there is no communication if a shared space is not created. In the absence of a shared space, all we can have is two parallel monologues. I'm very interested in exploring dialogical processes in art.

Beth Kanter, Arts Wire
Hello Eduardo!

I work for Arts Wire, I'm the Network Coordinator. I had the pleasure of inheriting the job from Anna. I'm not an interactive artist, although my background is in music. I'm coming from an "arts administrator addicted to telecommunications" perspective.

I only had time to do a quick visit to the first Web site that Anna referenced in her introduction. I thought I might do this to dive in and get started. My goal was to quickly learn enough information about you so I wouldn't ask a really stupid question. But, of course, there is no guarantee. To tell the truth, I don't think that stupid questions are bad. Like mistakes, they are good teachers. If you don't ask, you don't learn. If you don't learn, you don't grow.

With that said . . .

What is telepresence?

In reading your responses above, I was struck by your words:
"To me, there is no communication if a shared space is not created. In the absence of a shared space, all we can have is two parallel monologues."

Now, I will tell you why and hope that it doesn't offend you. I've been reading lots of press releases, mewspaper articles, books, and other stuff that is coming out of the for-profit sector about "intranets" "telecommuters" and the "virtual workplace." Recently, a new book called Scared Cows Make the Best Hamburgers was published. The author, whose name escapes at the moment, main thesis is: "Telecommunications and virtual workplaces are doomed to failure because successful for-profit entities require face-to-face interaction for teamwork, innovation, collaboration, and efficiency."

So . . . I guess what I'm trying to ask is:

How might your experience/wisdom in telepresence art work be applied to a telecommuting workplace to make it work? Or do you think telepresence is something that only exists in making interactive art?

Anna Couey
Glad the connection worked & you found your way in, Eduardo! Thanks Tim & Beth for joining in too...

Eduardo, am curious to see your response to Beth's question, and partly because it connects to another - how do the different media you've worked with effect communication, and with it perceptions of self and reality? Do you agree with the author that Beth alluded to (paraphrasing here!) that mediated connections simply limit communication?

I agree with you that communication requires shared space. It reminds me of Gene Youngblood describing (years ago now!) the difficulty of communicating new ideas because the language to communicate them doesn't exist. Whereas we have a semblance anyway of shared language and so, understanding. I take it from what you say that you believe communication can actually occur. How do you know when the shared space is there, and is it something you can predetermine?

Jeff Gates, ArtFBI
Eduardo, I think we met at the Center for Creative Inquiry during the summer of, I think, 1991. You were there on a fellowship, correct?

If so, I want you to know that it was YOU who was instrumental in moving me in this interactive telecommunications direction. And a lot has happened since we first talked. Welcome!

Eduardo Kac
Hi Beth.

You ask (#8) about telepresence and telecommuting.

I see telepresence as directly related to telerobotics. What I call "telepresence art" is created in that zone of intersection where telerobotics, communication media, computers, and interactivity meet. I understand that others will interpret the word in different ways. French philosopher Pierre Levy, for example, told me once that for him telepresence takes place even over a regular telephone call. I understand clearly what he means, but I use the word in direct relationship to telerobotics (which is the original sense of the word).

Concerning telecommuting: I can see how it can be practical in many instances, but the idea of reducing human activities to productive factors makes the major mistake of forgetting the human element itself. We don't go to a restaurant just because we are hungry. Dinning out is a social experience in itself. We don't go to a shopping center because we need this and that. It is also a social experience. Humans like to see and be seen because this builds social bonds, reinforces the image we have of ourselves. It constructs and preserves our identity. The same thing happens in the workplace. The social interaction that takes place at work is a very important component that disappears with telecommuting.

Eduardo Kac
Anna, you ask (#9):
"How do the different media you've worked with effect communication, and with it perceptions of self and reality?"

I think of most of my works as avenues to investigate the question you raise.

My performance work emerged in the context of the political transition in Brazil from a military dictatorship to a democracy. At the time of my performance work (1980 to 1982), this transition was still a fragile one. With the discovery of a new sense of political freedom, came the revelation of a new sense of social and artistic freedom. My performances of the period included texts written specifically for public presentation. These texts were written with the raw material of the forbidden side of the Portuguese language. I wanted to turn it around and use this forbidden vocabulary with a liberating power, with a cathartic power, and create a political view that was tied in with an appreciation, a liberation, a celebration of the human body. The performances from 1980-82 had elements of scatology, surprise, humor, subversion, gags, and the mundane. In these poetic performances, the so-called vulgar or bad words became noble and positive. Scatological discourse and political di

In my work in the early 80's, the body was everything. The body had to be present. It was from the sounds of the body that the work emanated. The body was the tool I used to question conventions, dogmas, and taboos -- patriarchy, religion, heterosexuality, politics, puritanism, etc. The body became my writing medium at the very end ultimately. Text dissolved into flesh. The world has changed dramatically in the past fifteen years. Ours is a society that can save lives or massacre other societies from afar. Physical presence is acquiring a more and more secondary role in both processes. We use remote vision to look inside our own bodies and inside celestial bodies. We collect samples of both. Ironically, the distances between different cultures shrink on a physical level but remain largely untouched on a social and political level. The perpetuation of distance as such, be it territorial or symbolic, becomes an impediment to knowledge of different cultures and viewpoints. I

You also asked:"Do you agree with the author that Beth alluded to (paraphrasing here!) that mediated connections simply limit communication?" And you stated: " I take it from what you say that you believe communication can actually occur. "

I do not take it for granted that communication can occur. If an ad makes somebody go to the store and buy a product, I would not call this communication, or "effective communication." I would think of it as persuasive discourse.

Once the shared space is created, there will always be tension between what I say and what you hear, between what I write and what you read. In this shared space, language, sounds, and images oscillate between my intentions and your intentions, between my expectations and your expections, and so on. I think of this oscillation as communication, regardless of whether one can get a point accross or not -- i.e., regardless of one's "success" in expressing an idea or obtaining the desired response.

All communication is mediated. Mediation by verbal language is complemented by body language, for example. If we conduct this conversation in French, for example, we may feel differently. We may inhabit another persona. We may think and act differently. Electronic media add another layer of complexity to the oscillation I mentioned above.

In this sense, it opens up fascinating possibilities for art.

Eduardo Kac
Thanks for your kind words, Jeff. You must be thinking of somebody else, though. I wasn't at CMU in the Summer of 1991, and was never a fellow there.

Beth Kanter, Arts Wire
Eduardo, digesting your thoughtful response and will respond in a bit.

I do have another question and excuse my ignorance, but what is telerobotics? I envision pedaling on my exercise bike while typing into the computer. I'm sure that's not it though, :-) Can you explain it to me?

Jeff Gates, ArtFBI
Well, then...I take it all back <grin> Shoot, and I thought I'd found you! Say, do you know of another Brazilian who might have been there?

How many Brazilian telecom artists can there be who have had some contact with CMU? Anyway, I digress. On with the converstion.

I got a chance to peruse your web site and found it to be a repository of wonderful experiments. I am teaching a class at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design on web design (entirely via the Net, btw) and will direct my students your way.

I downloaded the vrml viewer and entered, for the first time that 3D world. It was wonderfully spacious! And especially nice when I came upon the words backwards! A really nice extension of poetry. My business partner is a poet and I will let him know of your piece.

Judy Malloy
(Jeff - that was probably Artur Matuck)

Jeff Gates, ArtFBI
Yes, Judy, I think you're right! Do you have contact with him and do you know where he is and what he's been doing? (You can send me e-mail if you wish, so as not to go off on a tangent here). Thx.

Eduardo Kac
Beth, concerning your question (#14):

Traditionally, robots are thought of as self-guiding devices.

A telerobot has little or no independent features. A telerobot is controlled remotely by a human operator.

Telerobotics is the field dedicated to designing, making, and studying telerobots.

Eduardo Kac
Jeff (#15), I visited CMU in 1990, when Bruce Breland was there. Could we have met then?

Anna Couey
Bruce Breland! DAX was a big part of my early telecom art days, and I have fond memories of Bruce.

Eduardo, really enjoyed reading about your performance work...the examples you used to portray the reduction of the role of physical presence show the omnipotence of telepresence over physical. It made me think of ways that power works - even without technical teleapparatus. The sheltering of people in power - secretaries screening phone calls; decisionmakers in time of war who are far away from the battlefield - hasn't this existed for a long time? So what does telepresence mean in terms of our social relationships?

Also, just to clarify my post (#9), by "effect communication" I meant "bring about, or cause communication."

Much more in your post to think about...but will stop here for now and say goodnight!

Jeff Gates, ArtFBI
Yes, Bruce was still at CMU when I was there, altho I do think it was Artur whom I met.

Well, we seem to have Bruce Breland in common here. I actually met Bruce through his son, Jeff, who was a grad student of mine at the Maryland Institute, College of Art. Bruce is in Washington State now, I believe.

Eduardo Kac
Anna, I fully understood what you meant (#9) by "effect communication".

I mentioned "effective communication" because very often communication is thought in terms of how "successful" one is in getting a point accross.

I think that it is essential to move away from the dichotomy "success/failure" when approaching the complexity of the communicative phenomenon.

I'll be back to address your question about telepresence and our social relationships.

Judy Malloy
(just an aside to say how much I'm enjoying hearing what you have to say, Eduardo)

Eduardo Kac
Anna, concerning your question (#20) on telepresence and our social relationships:

In a growing tendency observable since the sixties, when videotape and communication satellites became the major vectors in forming the grammar of television, many important social events (both of a progressive and conservative nature) have been experienced as media events. Recent examples would include the historic democracy movement in China and the Gulf War. Not that these events became the content of special programs; the new phenomenon is in that for us these events took place in the media. Thus, it comes as no surprise that Chinese crowds were cheering American reporters as heroes and asking "Get our story out!" and that missiles transmitted from their own perspective images of their targets as they approached them, until the very moment of the explosion, when all we saw was a noisy screen. What one observes here is that the meaning of actions no longer results purely and simply from the actions themselves, from negotiations between co-present inter-actors; meaning is now ge

Television is of particular importance here because it is the mass medium par excellence, the most influential medium worldwide (as compared to books, movies, magazines, radio, newspapers, computers, etc.). It is easy to see that television's influence will grow even stronger once it becomes integrated with computers and the Internet, which is already happening in a small scale, and once fiber-optic networks become as ordinary as the introspective walkman. I mention the walkman because in its private sensorial experience it can be seen as the epiphenomenon of a society that chooses to remove itself from public space. Away from the public space, we experience different forms of socialization as phone conversations or through the electronic Agora which is television (or e-mail systems, or special networks such as the French Minitel). More and more the phenomenon that used to be thought of as "direct" experience becomes electronically mediated experience without us really noticing it

Eduardo Kac
Sorry: my post # 24 for some reason got garbled.

Here it is again.

In a growing tendency observable since the sixties, when videotape and communication satellites became the major vectors in forming the grammar of television, many important social events (both of a progressive and conservative nature) have been experienced as media events. Recent examples would include the historic democracy movement in China and the Gulf War. Not that these events became the content of special programs; the new phenomenon is in that for us these events took place in the media. Thus, it comes as no surprise that Chinese crowds were cheering American reporters as heroes and asking "Get our story out!" and that missiles transmitted from their own perspective images of their targets as they approached them, until the very moment of the explosion, when all we saw was a noisy screen. What one observes here is that the meaning of actions no longer results purely and simply from the actions themselves, from negotiations between co-present inter-actors; meaning is now ge

Television is of particular importance here because it is the mass medium par excellence, the most influential medium worldwide (as compared to books, movies, magazines, radio, newspapers, computers, etc.). It is easy to see that television's influence will grow even stronger once it becomes integrated with computers and the Internet, which is already happening in a small scale, and once fiber-optic networks become as ordinary as the introspective walkman. I mention the walkman because in its private sensorial experience it can be seen as the epiphenomenon of a society that chooses to remove itself from public space. Away from the public space, we experience different forms of socialization as phone conversations or through the electronic Agora which is television (or e-mail systems, or special networks such as the French Minitel). More and more the phenomenon that used to be thought of as "direct" experience becomes electronically mediated experience without us really noticing it

Eduardo Kac
Well, it got garbled again.

I'll divide in 3 parts.

#1 In a growing tendency observable since the sixties, when videotape and communication satellites became the major vectors in forming the grammar of television, many important social events (both of a progressive and conservative nature) have been experienced as media events. Recent examples would include the historic democracy movement in China and the Gulf War. Not that these events became the content of special programs; the new phenomenon is in that for us these events took place in the media. Thus, it comes as no surprise that Chinese crowds were cheering American reporters as heroes and asking "Get our story out!" and that missiles transmitted from their own perspective images of their targets as they approached them, until the very moment of the explosion, when all we saw was a noisy screen. What one observes here is that the meaning of actions no longer results purely and simply from the actions themselves, from negotiations between co-present inter-actors; meaning is now ge

Eduardo Kac
Judy, Anna:

It got garbled again.

Is there a problem with the server? Thanks.

Judy Malloy
Occassionally wierdness with uploading happens when one is telneting. Sorry! (or are you using the web version?)

Anna Couey
Ok, here's another go at Eduardo's response (posted at his request)

From ekac1@service1.uky.edu Sun Mar 17 00:08:40 1996
To: Anna Couey <couey@well.com>
From: ekac1@service1.uky.edu (Eduardo Kac)
------------------------------------------------------------------
In a growing tendency observable since the sixties, when videotape and communication satellites became the major vectors in forming the grammar of television, many important social events (both of a progressive and conservative nature) have been experienced as media events. Recent examples would include the historic democracy movement in China and the Gulf War. Not that these events became the content of special programs; the new phenomenon is in that for us these events took place in the media. Thus, it comes as no surprise that Chinese crowds were cheering American reporters as heroes and asking "Get our story out!" and that missiles transmitted from their own perspective images of their targets as they approached them, until the very moment of the explosion, when all we saw was a noisy screen. What one observes here is that the meaning of actions no longer results purely and simply from the actions themselves, from negotiations between co-present inter-actors; meaning is now generated directly in the domain of reproducibility, in the realm of the ubiquitous and unidirectional immaterial image. Telecommunication media now seem to abstract everything, from their own pseudo-mediation process to the massacre of a population. It all becomes abstract, spectacular and, in a perverse twist, entertaining.

Television is of particular importance here because it is the mass medium par excellence, the most influential medium worldwide (as compared to books, movies, magazines, radio, newspapers, computers, etc.). It is easy to see that television's influence will grow even stronger once it becomes integrated with computers and the Internet, which is already happening in a small scale, and once fiber-optic networks become as ordinary as the introspective walkman. I mention the walkman because in its private sensorial experience it can be seen as the epiphenomenon of a society that chooses to remove itself from public space. Away from the public space, we experience different forms of socialization as phone conversations or through the electronic Agora which is television (or e-mail systems, or special networks such as the French Minitel). More and more the phenomenon that used to be thought of as "direct" experience becomes electronically mediated experience without us really noticing it.

To "get in touch" (touch!) is to make a phone call. People are getting married after having developed personal relationships over the Internet. >From a technological standpoint we are not so far from routinely touching someone remotely through a phone call by means of force-feedback devices. Like in Heinlein's "Waldo," the dream is of being there without ever leaving here. At different levels we subordinate local space to remote action promoting what Baudrillard so succinctly described as "the satellitization of the real." What we understand by communication is changing because physical distances of the public space no longer impose absolute restrictions on certain kinds of bodily experiences (audition, vision, touch, proprioception - i.e., sense of limb position, mobility, etc.) as they once did.

Anna Couey
(jumping back to an earlier response first...)

Eduardo, your point about effective communication not being the same as getting a message across is good to remember/think of. And has a lot of interpretations - ambiguity/multiplicity of meaning, but even more so, communication being about dialogue and creation, not just function.

Storytelling - who tells what to whom - does have a powerful impact on our perceptions of reality. And our imaginations too, I think. TV holds so much power not just thru the abstraction, but because, as it currently exists, the stories it tells are limited and its reach is broad. Whole sectors of reality are excluded from the history it makes. The Internet, for all its distance from the body, still promises to offer people to people communication. I hope so, and we'll see. If it can do that I'm willing to sacrifice some of my day to the computer screen :-)

Since we're edging into the 2nd half of the month, & I don't want it to go by without asking...my next question is ..what are you working on now?! Thanks!

Judy Malloy
Yes, I'd like to hear how you are integrating your ideas about communication into your work.

Eduardo Kac
I'm currently working on two installations. One is for the group show Out of Bounds, at Nexus Contemporary Art Center, in Atlanta. It is co-organized by the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games and will take place during the games. This is an interactive telepresence installation. The other piece I'm working on now is for the Siggraph Art Show, which will take place at the Contemporary Art Center, in New Orleans. This piece is an interactive telematic installation.

Both pieces create situations that call for a sense of community and collaboration.

Timothy Collins (tmc)
Eduardo can you go more into detail on the "community" end of these projects. Also a "nickle" tour of the Olympic projects would be interesting. I'm told Rob Fisher is set to do a laser beam project.

Hank Bull, Western Front
Love the bit about shared space. I've just come back from Shanghai where we tried to create a shared space through a fax art show. Modest but a great success--80 contributions from 16 countries, including a nice one from you, Eduardo. Of course the sapce won't really be shared until we send faxes, and maybe a catalog, back to the participants. I am also interested in the dynamics of communication, especially the noise--the breaks, interruptions, mistakes--the parts that don't work but that make up a large part of any real conversation. Subverting communications can be a useful exercise.

Eduardo Kac
Tim, it is hard for me to talk about these projects in detail at this point because I'm still working on them. I can say, however, that both projects will promote awareness of the significance of remote dialogue, participation and collaboration -- albeit in non-traditional form. Both projects will rely on individuals who will choose to be involved.

Eduardo Kac
Hi Hank,
I'm glad to know that the show was successful. I'm also glad my fax got through. It was hard to send it.
I'm also interested in "the parts that don't work but that make up a large part of any real conversation."
Tell us more about the show. How was it received?

Anna Couey
I'd love to read more about subverting communication as a useful exercise too :-) Nice to see you back Hank, & look forward to reading more about the Shanghai project!

Anna Couey
Eduardo...now that the end of the month is almost upon us...thanks very much for joining us in Interactive! I've really enjoyed the conversation & the chance to hear about your work firsthand.

Is there anything you'd like to add before the month rolls over?

Eduardo Kac
I just want to thank you for inviting me to participate in Interactive.

I enjoyed the dialogue very much.

See you on the Net, and hopefully in person!

Hank Bull, Western Front
Just under the (arts)wire, here are comments on the Shanghai Fax Show and"subverting communication".

The Shanghai Fax sgow was called "Let's Talk About Money". We publicized byfax and Internet from Vancouver. The work came in over a three week period, 80 contributions from 16 countries. It was displayed in the gallery of the Hua Shan Art College. I came for the last three days. The Shanghai artists who collaborated in this project gave me the red carpet. We did a seminar discussion with students and critics in the gallery. As this was the firsttime in China, many questions were raised, leading ultimately to a consideration of the problematics of of such concepts as "collaboration", "network" and "Interactive". We use these words as ideals of a sort but they conceal all sorts of power relationships.

That's where subversion comes in. Most of the media and even words we use to today pretend to communicate but in fact do not. Even in an ordinary conversation a great deal is lost through various kinds of "noise"--coughs, interruptions, talking at once, etc. Communicating across cultural or language barriers is all the more difficult. It can be useful to invent absurd structures that reveal the illusions of propaganda and advertising ideologies. More personally, I feel that our ability to communicate at all is a sort of miracle, that often comes about more through chance, conicidence, or psychic phenomena than by literal intention.

Judy Malloy
Eduardo, it was wonderful having you here! Hank, great to hear about the experiences in China.

Beth Kanter, Arts Wire
Eduardo, a pleasure to read you! Hank, thanks for slipping in under the (arts)wire. And, above all, thanks to Judy and Anna for a hosting such a lively discussion each month!

Anna Couey
Uh Hank...what do you think about using a new topic to explore the power dynamics of "interactivity" "network" & "collaboration" & subverting communication?! I'd love to see that thread continue..

Hank Bull, Western Front
Thanks for the invitation, Anna. As a matter of fact, I am now running a listserv discussion as part of a project called HYPERNATION: What is a nation in cyberspace? You can get an intro to it at the Western Front's web site <http://vanbc.wimsey.com/~front/> or join the list by sending email to <listserv@artopro.mlnet.com> with the following message: subscribe hypernation. At the end of May we will produce some live events using CUSeeMe, IRC, videophone, fax etc. The project is hosted by Oboro Gallery in Montreal, so the discussion of the impact of electronic netweorks on the nation idea takes place within the current discussion of Canada/Quebec's identity. I would be be most happy to establish a link between Artswire and Hypernation, especially to involve Artswire during the last week of May, first weeks of June when things will be more happening. As for establishing a new topic here on interactivity and power, I'd love to but not sure that I can add it to my plate right now. Lets play it by ear. I'm able to check in here about once a week. Cheers everyone, Hank

Anna Couey
Sounds great, Hank! OK with you if I copy your previous post into one of the exhibition announcement topics? Someone might be interested who isn't reading this topic...

Yeah, it'd be great to develop some kind of link between Hypernation and Arts Wire. Do you have something particular in mind? One possibility would be to have an AW discussion that could be fed into the larger assemblage...or those here who are interested in participating could simply subscribe to your list - each becomes a statement on the idea of "nations" in cyberspace.

I think an interactivity & power topic could move along slowly, at a rate that we can all keep up w/along w/everything else...if you wanna try that :-)

Judy Malloy
From: sinsley@starnetinc.com

RARA AVIS, AN INTERACTIVE NETWORKED TELEPRESENCE
INSTALLATION BY EDUARDO KAC
ON THE NET, THE WEB, AND THE MBONE

OPEN TO PARTICIPATION FROM ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD

WHAT, WHEN, WHERE:

Rara Avis, an interactive networked telepresence installation by Eduardo Kac, opened to the public on January 17, 1997, at the Archer M. Huntington Art Gallery, University of Texas at Austin, and on the Internet. The exhibition closes on March 2, 1997.

To see live Web uploads, go to http://128.83.58.140/Raravisoft/index.html. You will also find a link to this site from Kac's original Rara Avis site, shown at the Olympic Arts Festival in the Summer of 1996: http://www.uky.edu/FineArts/Art/kac/raraavis.html.

To participate in the interactive component of the show, connect to the Rara Avis Reflector with CU-SeeMe and/or Enhanced CU-SeeMe. The IP address is 128.83.58.142. With your microphone you'll be able to speak through the telemacaw's mouth. Through your computer speakers you'll hear the sounds in the environment, including the singing of the birds. If you have Enhanced CU-SeeMe, you'll be able to see the space through both eyes of the telerobotic Macowl, otherwise you'll see the space through one eye.

On the MBone, log on to the Rara Avis session. For more information on works by Eduardo Kac, visit his web site at: http://www.uky.edu/FineArts/Art/kac/kachome.html.

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RARA AVIS

A white aviary confines a large colorful telerobotic macaw and thirty gray, small birds. Through a critique of the notion of "exoticism" embodied on this bird with brilliant plumage, Eduardo Kac invites us to look at familiar spaces and ideas in unfamiliar ways.

As local participants wear a virtual reality headset, they transport themselves to the body of the telerobot. At once inside and outside the aviary, and able to observe themselves in this situation from the point of view of the macaw, they also share the telerobotic body with Internet participants worldwide. What local participants look at is seen live on the Net. With their own voices, remote participants activate the vocal apparatus of the telemacaw. Birds and local participants respond to the incoming sounds.

Located next to more stable artistic objects--paintings, sculptures and installations, as part of the *Out of Bounds: New Work by Eight Southeast Artists* exhibit, Kac's interactive telepresence aviary plays with the boundaries between material and immaterial presence, live birds and robotics, isolation and connectivity, VR and Art. Rara Avis continues Kac's investigations on how technology affects perception, exploring social, political and philosophical implications of communication processes. Pointing to the passage into virtual culture, Rara Avis confronts viewers with complex, yet playful issues--the interactions among humans, animals and machines. Its aesthetic of hybridization defies traditional definitions of art as the making of form, displacing in the process, the unidirectionality of media culture and opening new dialogic channels to the viewers. Rara Avis--a macaw-robot--lends its body to the public, offering a range of experiences that start, ironically, by making ours its *exotic* existence.

In this piece, Eduardo Kac merges immediate perceptual phenomena with a heightened awareness of what affects us but is visually absent, physically remote. Local and online participants experience the space in complex, different ways.

"This suggests that the mediascape--the highly technological environment in which we live--modulates and defines our perception of reality," said the artist. "In a word, the events taking place in Austin will be perceived differently by viewers and participants worldwide, depending on the kind of access they have. Which makes us realize the inequalities promoted by technology, and, more importantly, that reality is never the same for everybody."

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Credits: Eduardo Kac - Conceptual design and direction; Ed Bennett - Technical direction; Bob Connell - Exhibit design; Joe Peragine - Space design; Bill Morgan and Greg Baskind - Network Systems Programming; Anna Yu - Installer. Technical Support provided by Apple Computer Inc.
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"Out of the Bounds: New Work by Eight Southeast Artists" was curated by Annette Carlozzi and Julia Fenton.
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Catalogue of "Out of the Bounds: New Work by Eight Southeast Artists" available from Nexus Contemporary Art Center, 535 Means Street, Atlanta, GA, 30318 - (404) 688-1970.

Judy Malloy
For Immediate Release November 6, 1997

Contact: ssinsley@starnetinc.com

ARTIST EDUARDO KAC IMPLANTS IDENTIFICATION MICROCHIP

TIME CAPSULE, AN INTRACORPOREAL ART WORK BY KAC,
RAISES ETHICAL QUESTIONS ABOUT MEMORY AND IDENTITY
IN DIGITAL CULTURE, LIVE ON TV AND ON THE WEB

ARTIST'S ARM WILL BE SCANNED VIA THE INTERNET

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WHAT, WHEN, WHERE:

What: Event in which a microchip (identification transponder tag) will be implanted in the artist's left arm

Artist: Eduardo Kac (ekac@artic.edu)

When: Tuesday, November 11, 1997, at 9:30 PM S Cultura, in the daily program "Metropolis," at 9:30 PM Snd permanent site: http://www.ekac.org/timec.htm
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AN ARTICLE ABOUT TIME CAPSULE BY EDUARDO KAC CAN BE READ AT:
http://www.ekac.org/timec.html
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TIME CAPSULE

"Time Capsule" is a work-experience that lies somewhere between a local event-installation, a site-specific work in which the site itself is both the artist's body and a remote database, and a simulcast on TV and the Web. The object that gives the piece its title is a microchip with a programmed identification number which is integrated with a coil and a capacitor, all hermetically sealed in biocompatible glass. Scanning the implant generates a low energy radio signal (125 KHz) that energizes the microchip to transmit its unique and inalterable numerical code, which is shown on the scanner's 16-character Liquid Crystal Display (LCD).

As we call "memory" the storage units of computers and robots, we antropomorphize our machines, making them look a little bit more like us. In the process, we mimic them as well. Memory today is on a chip. The body is traditionally seen as the sacred repository of human-only memories, acquired as the result of genetic inheritance or personal experiences. Memory chips are found inside computers and robots and not inside the human body yet. In "Time Capsule", the presence of the chip (with its recorded retrievable data) inside the body forces us to consider the co-presence of internal lived memories and external artificial memories within us. External memories become implants in the body, anticipating future instances in which events of this sort might become common practice and inquiring about the legitimacy and ethic implications of such procedures in the digital culture. Live transmissions on television and on the Web bring the issue closer to our living rooms.

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Eduardo Kac is an artist and writer who works with electronic and photonic media. His work has been exhibited widely in the United States, Europe, and South America. Kac's works belong to the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Museum of Holography in Chicago, and the Museum of Modern Art in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, among others. He is a member of the editorial board of the journal Leonardo, published by MIT Press. In 1995 he received the prestigious Shearwater Foundation Holography Award for his body of work in the medium, and in 1996 he received a grant from the same foundation to compile the first book on the aesthetic theory of holography (in progress). His anthology "New Media Poetry: Poetic Innovation and New Technologies" was published in 1996 as a special issue of the journal Visible Language, of which he was a guest editor. His writings on electronic art have appeared in several books and journals in many countries, including Australia, Austria, Brazil, Finland, France, Germany, Holland, Hungary, Mexico, Portugal, Spain, Russia, United Kingdom, and United States. He is an Assistant Professor of Art and Technology at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and has received numerous grants and awards for his work. Kac works with multiple media to create hybrids from the conventional operations of existing communications systems, engaging participants in situations involving elements such as light, language, distant places, time zones, telerobotics, interspecies interaction, video conferences, biological elements, and the exchange of digital information. Often relying on the indefinite suspension of closure and the intervention of the participant, his work encourages confrontation of complex issues concerning identity, agency, responsibility, and the very possibility of communication. Eduardo Kac can be contacted at: ekac@artic.edu. His work can be seen at: http://www.ekac.org.

 

Transcript of A Conversation with Eduardo Kac, Item 81, Interactive Art Conference, Arts Wire.
Posted to the Web with participants' permission.


Conversations with Artists