David Rokeby has won acclaim in both artistic and technical fields for his new media artworks. A pioneer in interactive art and an acknowledged innovator in interactive technologies, Rokeby has achieved international recognition as an artist and seen the technologies which he develops for his work given unique applications by a broad range of arts practitioners and medical scientists.
The Toronto artist, who was born in Tillsonburg, Ontario in 1960 and studied at the Ontario College of Art, uses technology to reflect on human issues. Rokeby’s best known work, Very Nervous System (1986-90) premiered at the Venice Biennale in 1996, won the first Petro-Canada Award for Media Arts (1988) and is permanently installed in several museums around the world. The work uses video cameras, computers, and synthesizers to create an interactive space in which body movements are translated into music. The technology Rokeby developed for this work is widely used by composers, choreographers, musicians, and artists. It is also used in music therapy applications and is currently being tested as an activity enabler for victims of Parkinson’s Disease.
Several of his works have addressed issues of digital surveillance. Watched and Measured (2000) was awarded the first BAFTA award for interactive art from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts. Guardian Angel (2001) received the award for best installation at the Images Festival in 2001.
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.
Rokeby has twice been honored with Austria’s Prix Ars Electronica Award of Distinction (1991 and 1997). He has been an invited speaker at events around the world, and has published two papers that are required reading in the new media arts faculties of many universities. He recently received a Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts.