Sound-Image Relations in Interactive Art

7 Pioneers of Interactive Art

Developments in computer technology were so far advanced by the 1960s that real-time interaction between humans and computers as well as the first graphical representations moved into the realm of the possible. This was the prerequisite for real-time interaction with visual information, which was quickly discovered for artistic applications. As early as the 1970s, American computer scientist Myron Krueger developed a system that recorded people’s movements with a video camera and immediately converted them into silhouettes that could interact on a screen with graphical objects. Krueger also experimented, in the different versions of this Videoplace system, with the use of sound to accompany the visual feedback. However, he emphasizes that at the time he was not able to satisfactorily resolve the challenge of creating works that brought forth a meaningful association between visual and acoustic outputs as well as an aesthetically successful outcome.[10]

The true pioneer of the translation of human movement into sound may therefore be David Rokeby, who designed his Very Nervous System—also based on video recordings of body movements—in the 1980s. This system entirely dispenses with visual output, but analyzes human motion and reacts to it via synthetically generated sounds that imitate different musical instruments. While this kind of activation of sounds by means of human motion was increasingly used in performative media art, it was the exception to the rule in interactive installations.[11] Much more commonly the movements of the audience controlled a visual feedback.

Interview with the author, May 20, 2007.  
One example here is the performance group Palindrome, cf. (last access 24 March, 2009).