PROJETS / STATUT
ESTHETIQUE DE L'ART TECHNOLOGIQUE /
Démarche | Bibliographie | Intervention
Assistant Professor of Art and Technology
Art and Technology Department
The School of the Art Institute of Chicago
112 S. Michigan Avenue, 4th floor
Chicago IL 60603
Phone: (312) 345-3567
Fax: (312) 345-3565
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.
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
His writings have appeared in several books and journals
in many languages, including French, German, English,
Portuguese, Spanish, Hungarian, Finnish and Russian.
He holds an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of
Chicago and has received numerous grants and awards for his
Eduardo Kac's work can be seen at:
He can be contacted at:
ORNITORRINCO AND RARA AVIS : TELEPRESENCE ART ON
THE INTERNET TELEMATIC AND TELEPRESENCE INSTALLATIONS
This paper is a discussion of aesthetic implications and practical
implementations of the author's telepresence art. Ornitorrinco in
Eden and Rara Avis, two recent examples of worldwide networked
telepresence installations presented publicly over the Internet, are
discussed in the paper. A framework is presented to introduce
theoretical and cultural aspects of this work. It is proposed that
the use of electronic media in art to physically act on remote spaces
constitutes a new aesthetic element, compared to the more traditional
representational use of such media. It is also proposed that a new
aesthetic is emerging out of artistic experimentation with operation
of telerobots, co-existence in virtual and real spaces, synchronicity
of actions, real-time remote control, man-animal-plant-robot
interfaces, and collaboration through networks. My work with
telecommunications started in 1985, when I created a virtual gallery
that could be accessed via the videotext system, forerunner of the
Internet. In 1986 I created a robotic performance, and in the next
few years a series of works with fax machines, slow-scan televison,
and live broadcasts. Since 1989, I have been working with Ed Bennett
on the Ornitorrinco project of telepresence installations. The basic
structure of these installations is comprised of a wireless
telerobot, regular phone lines (both for vision and remote control),
and remote spaces. Viewers become participants as they transport
themselves to the remote body and navigate the remote space freely by
press-ing the keys on a familiar telephone.
Ornitorrinco remote spaces are always built to the scale of the
telerobot, inviting viewers to abandon the human scale temporarily
and to look at a new world from a perspective other than their own.
In our international telepresence event, Ornitorrinco in Eden,
realized in 1994, we hybridized the Internet with telerobotics,
physical (architectural) spaces, the telephone system, the parallel
cellular system, and a revised if literal digital "tele-vision." This
enabled participants to decide where they went and what they saw in a
physical remote space via the Internet. Anonymous participants shared
the body of the telerobot, controlling it and looking through its eye
A new aesthetic is emerging as a result of the synergy of new
non-formal elements, such as coexistence in virtual and real spaces,
synchronicity of actions, real-time remote control, operation of
telerobots, and collaboration through networks. Ornitorrinco in Eden
integrated all these elements.
I have created other kinds of interactive telematic installations.
For instance, in Essay Concerning Human Understanding (with Ikuo
Nakamura), a bird in a cage has a dialogue with a plant 600 miles
away through a regular phone line. Placed in the middle of the Center
for Contemporary Art in Lexington, Kentucky, the yellow canary was
given a very large and comfortable cylindrical white cage, on top of
which circuit-boards, a speaker, and a microphone were located. A
clear Plexiglas disc separated the canary from this equipment, which
was wired to the phone system. In New York, at the Science Hall, an
electrode was placed on the plant's leaf to sense its response to the
singing of the bird. The voltage fluctuation of the plant was
monitored through a Macintosh running soft-ware called Interactive
Brain-Wave Analyzer. This information was fed into another Macintosh
running MAX, which controlled a MIDI sequencer. The electronic sounds
themselves were pre-recorded, but the order and the duration were
determined in real time by the plant's response to the singing of the
When this work was shown publicly, the bird and the plant interacted
for several hours daily. Humans interacted with the bird and the
plant as well. Just by standing next to the plant and the bird,
humans immediately altered their behavior. When humans were in close
proximity, the interaction was further enhanced by the con-stantly
changing behavior of the bird and the plant. They res-ponded by
singing more (bird), activating more sounds (plant), or by remaining
In my presentation, I will also discuss more recent pieces. In the
Siggraph '96 Art Show, for example, I showed a piece entitled
Teleporting an Unknown State. This piece connected the Contemporary
Art Center, in New Orleans, to the placeless space of the Internet.
In the gallery, the viewer saw an installation: light irradiates from
a circle in the ceiling, breaking the dominat darkeness and being
projected against a pedestal, where viewers and participants find a
single seed. At remote sites around the world, anonymous individuals
pointed their digital cameras to the sky and transmitted sunlight to
the gallery. The photons captured by cameras at the remote sites were
re-emitted in the gallery through the ceiling (via a non-visible
video projector serving as the output for the Internet connection).
The video images transmitted from remote countries were stripped of
any representational value, and used as conveyors of actual
wavefronts of light. The process of birth, growth, and possible death
of the plant was broadcast live to the world via the Internet as long
as the exhibition was up. All participants were able to see the
process. After the show, I re-planted the living organism (which grew
to be 24 inches high) near a tree outside the Center. Through the
collaborative action of anonymous individuals around the world,
photons from distant countries and cities were teleported into the
gallery and were used to give birth to a small, fragile plant. It was
the participants' shared responsibility to care for this plant as
long as the show was open. Other pieces from 1996 to be discussed
include "Rara Avis", "Ornitorrinco in the Sahara" and "Uirapuru, the
Webot, travels around the world in eighty nanoseconds going from
Turkey to peru, and back" -- all pushing telepresence art into new
Fox, Catherine. "Technology as a canvas", The Atlanta
Journal-Constitution, July 26, 1996, p. 53.
Holz, Keith. "Eduardo Kac's Dialogues", pamphlet published by the
Center for Contemporary Art, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY,
apropos of Kac's solo exhibition Dialogues, October 21-November 11.
Also published on the Internet in Leonardo Electronic Almanac, Vol.
2, No. 12, December, MIT Press, and in print in YLEM's Art Online
issue, Vol. 15, No. 2, April 1995 (CA);
Kac, Eduardo. "Ornitorrinco: Exploring telepresence and remote
sensing", Leonardo, Vol. 24, No. 2, Special Issue on Art and
Telecommunication, Pergamon Press, Oxford, UK, 1990.
"Aspects of the aesthetics of telecommunications", Siggraph Visual
Proceedings, J. Grimes, editor, Association for Computing Machinery,
NY, 1992 (republished in German , Hungarian , and
"Towards telepresence art", Interface, Vol. 4, No. 2, November 1992,
Advanced Computing Center for the Arts and Design, The Ohio State
"Sur la notion d'art en tant que dialogue visuel", Art-Reseaux
(book), Karen O'Rourke, editor, Centres d'Etudes et de Recherches en
Arts Plastiques, Université de Paris I,
Panthéon-Sorbonne, Paris, France (in French and English),
"Telepresence art", Entgrenzte Grenzen II (book), R. Kriesche and P.
Hoffman, eds., Kulturdata and Division of Cultural Affairs of the
City of Graz, Graz, Austria (in English and German), 1993.
"Interactive Art on the Internet", Wired World, Proceedings of the
Ars Electronica Symposium, Peter Weibel, editor (in English and
"Internet Hybrids and the new aesthetic of worldwide interactive
events", Siggraph Visual Proceedings, ACM, New York, NY, pp. 29-31,
"The Internet and the Future of Art", in the book Mythos Internet,
Stefan Muenker and Alexander Roesler, eds., Suhrkamp Verlag,
Frankfurt (in German only), 1997 (no prelo).
"Telepresence Art on the Internet", in the proceedings of the III
Interface Conference, Klaus Peter Dencker, ed., Kulturbehrde,
Hamburg, 1997 (no prelo).
"Ornitorrinco and Rara Avis: Networked Telepresence Art" (with a
technical appendix by Ed Bennett), in the Digital Salon special issue
of Leonardo, Vol. 29, N. 6, 1996.
"Kac Web": http://www.ekac.org
"Uirapuru, the Webot", in Metamachines - Where is the Body
(exhibition catalogue), Otso gallery, Espoo, Finland, 1996 (in
Finnish and English).
"Ornitorrinco in the Sahara", in Leonardo Electronic Almanac, Vol. 4,
N. 11, November 1996, published on the Web by MIT Press.
"Networked Telepresence Installations", in catalogue of the St.
Petersburg Biennale, Art Colegium Gallery, St. Petersburg, 1997 (in
Russian and English).
Maschke, Kathy. Out of Bounds: New Work by Eight Southeast Artists,
exhibition catalog, Nexus Contemporary Art Center, Atlanta, 1996.
Nance, Kevin. "It's All About Perception", Lexington Herald-Leader,
June 23, 1996, F1, F3
Osthoff, Simone. "Object Lessons", World Art magazine, #1, 1996, pp.
Probus, Joyce. "Eduardo Kac: Dialogues", Dialogue - Arts in the
Midwest, Jan/Feb, Vol. 18, No. 1, 1995, pp. 14-16.
ART DE TELEPRESENCE SUR INTERNET
Mon intervention portera sur la mise en oeuvre et les
conséquences esthétiques de l'art de
"téléprésence" de l'auteur. "Ornitorrinco in
Eden" + "Rara Avis", deux exemples récents d'installation de
téléprésence, sont décrits et
discutés. Nous suggérons que l'utilisation des
média électroniques dans l'art, pour agir physiquement
dans les lieux éloignés, constitue un nouvel
élément esthétique qui diffère de
l'utilisation représentationnelle traditionnelle de ces
média. Nous suggérons également qu'une nouvelle
esthétique émerge de l'expérimentation
artistique avec des télétobots, la coexsitence des
espaces réels et virtuels, le synchronisme d'actions, le
contrôle à distance en temps réel, les interfaces
homme-animal-plante-robot, et la collaboration à travers des
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