Feedback provides and elicits response. Whether it is received from humans or machines, feedback is cyclical – looping over time, encouraging great debate and action. It is also a response that is subjective; but while we may conceive of mechanical and computational feedback as predetermined and therefore predictable, this exhibition hopes to demonstrate that it can be otherwise.
Sandor Ajzenstat's Cumulative Interplay is an interactive sound sculpture that locates an intersection between two abstract concepts: phasing and feedback control. The visual focus of the piece is a maze pattern with three lights moving along the paths at independent speeds. At the same time, there is an interplay in which the path taken by each light has a determining effect on which paths the others will take – the lights control each other and are controlled by each other. These conflicting control elements propel the sculpture into complex behaviour that appears and sounds chaotic. It casts doubt on the user’s input, the light's input and the overall feedback being portrayed. In the end, the sound sculpture challenges preconceived notions of causality in interactive art, leaving users to finally stand back and watch their settings morph into an elegant display of travelling lights and musical tones.
Jessica Field's Semiotic Investigation into Cybernetic Behaviour illustrates the influence of perception on behaviour patterns by exploring the complexity of interpretation when one free-thinking individual observes physical environments with another. The four machines – named Alan, Brad, Clara and Daphne – are programmed to perform specific human functions used in observation, interpretation and reaction. Alan and Clara perform eye functions, one sensing distance and the other interpreting movement. Audio is emitted by Brad, which conveys the state of certainty or level of skepticism in the two observing machines. For gallery visitors in this work's observed environment, Daphne translates Alan and Clara's binary transmission to English words, and their confidence level into coloured display. The piece breaks down basic functions of cybernetics, showing how interpretation, when communicated, can broaden our knowledge, influence new ideas and, conversely, prompt one to overlook the reality of a situation.
Ajzenstat is a Canadian artist living in Toronto. His artistic focus is sound sculpture, and the design and application of computer technology to art. Cumulative Interplay was exhibited at the Durham Art Gallery (Durham, Ontario) in spring 2004.
Field's artistic practice focuses on creating a parallel between the artificial intelligence of machines and behaviour of humans. She previously exhibited at the 401 Gallery in Toronto and has done performance work using a robot entitled Stumbling Robot, which roams unattended in public spaces. Semiotic Investigation into Cybernetic Behaviour was produced with the financial assistance of the Daniel Langlois Foundation for Art, Science and Technology.
Ajzenstat and Field are both graduates of the Ontario College of Art and Design where they studied under renowned electronic artist Norman T. White.
Feedback is part of Toronto Artsweek at the 401 Richmond Street building (Thursday, September 23 – Sunday, September 26) and the McLuhan International Festival of the Future (Sunday, October 10 – Sunday, October 17).