DAC Home   Audience Participation and Response
in Movement-Sensing Installations

Todd Winkler, Brown University
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Movement-sensing installations require audience members to become actively involved in the creative process. These works are often presented as environments open for exploration, with each realization determined by human action, curiosity, and play. Participants become part of the work itself, as others outside of the sensing area view the spectacle of their interaction while seeing the results. Those inside the sensing area (if more than one person is allowed) share in a collaborative "performance."

What is the psychology of this participation? How does it compare to traditional performance? What is the social relationship between the participants and the onlookers? How can installation artists engage, prompt, and empower amateur "performers" who have no prior knowledge or particular expertise? How does the computer program facilitate this action and relationship? How does the content encourage response?

This paper examines strategies for audience participation in several of the author's interactive audio and video installations. Video examples from these works will show a number of methods used to engage audience participation; software solutions to handle one or multiple people within an installation space; and how audience members actions and social interactions add significantly to the content of the work. Technical information will describe real-time sound processing and video projections that respond to movement, using Max/MSP and Director. Sensors used in these works include movement and location sensing (Very Nervous System), and light and pressure sensing (Icube System).


Todd Winkler is a composer and multimedia artist on the faculty at Brown University, where he is Director of MacColl Studios for Electronic Music. His work explores ways in which human actions can effect sound and images produced by computers in dance productions, interactive video installations, and concert pieces for computers and instruments. His is the author of Composing Interactive Music , a book and CD-ROM about the theory and technology of interactive music and performance, published by MIT Press.

His work with motion sensing technology has resulted in several theatrical productions where dancers have expressive input into computer music and digital video systems. These works include Dark Around the Edges, with Walter Ferrero; and Songs for the Body Electric, with Gerry Girouard, Hitches Bitches with Cindy Cummings, and Falling Up, a commission for the 2001 Dublin Fringe Festival. Similar technology has been used for several audio/video installations and in work enabling children with disabilities to create music through movement.

Winkler's concert works and installations have received international attention at such venues as Darmstadt Festival in Germany, New Music America Festival in NYC, Monday Evening Concert Series in Los Angeles, the Rhode Island School of Design, and festivals throughout Europe, Japan, and Australia. His music appears on recordings from Capstone Records, Whole>Sum Productions, MIT Press and ICMA. He has received awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, the American Composers Forum, Meet the Composer, the National Endowment for the Humanities, Rhode Island State Council of the Arts, ASCAP, and a Fulbright Fellowship. His video installation "Maybe...1910," was the Innovative Programming Award from First Night International.


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