Démarche | Bibliographie | Intervention

Eduardo Kac
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

Web :

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 editor.

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 work.

Eduardo Kac's work can be seen at:

He can be contacted at:


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 simultaneously.

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 bird.
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 quiet.

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 directions.



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 [1993], Hungarian [1995], and Portuguese [1997]).

"Towards telepresence art", Interface, Vol. 4, No. 2, November 1992, Advanced Computing Center for the Arts and Design, The Ohio State University, 1992.

"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), 1992.

"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 German), 1995.

"Internet Hybrids and the new aesthetic of worldwide interactive events", Siggraph Visual Proceedings, ACM, New York, NY, pp. 29-31, 1996.

"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":

"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. 18-23.

Probus, Joyce. "Eduardo Kac: Dialogues", Dialogue - Arts in the Midwest, Jan/Feb, Vol. 18, No. 1, 1995, pp. 14-16.


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 réseaux.

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