Top 2 images
: Bedlam Telekinesis
Bottom 3 images: Wind Array Cascade Machine

The sound, image, or message transmitted or received in telegraphy, telephony, radio, television, or radar.

We receive signals, they pass through and around us - some undetected, others indiscriminately assimilated or consciously ignored - informing and shaping our electronically mediated worldview. Technological advances in electronic communication networks enable one to enter the habitat of endangered species in Africa via webcams or witness presidential palaces destroyed by "smart bombs" in real time, CNN-itized with a slick 3D graphical interface. Far removed from decimated dictators and vanishing exotic species, how do we perceive these transmitted representations of remote events and behaviours? Is technology facilitating our world knowledge by removing spatial boundaries or does the promise of "real-time" experience only lead to more uncertainty when reality can be digitally augmented to suit global infotainment standards or personal agendas?

With its geographic immensity, relative remoteness, advanced telecommunications and artist-run centre infrastructure, Canada has always been at the forefront of the international tele-art movement. As early as the 1970's artists were using telephones, faxes, radio, television, computers, and satellites to explore and question our ambiguous relationship with machines and communication networks.

From 1978 to 1982 Worldpool, a Toronto artist collective founded by Judith Doyle and Fred Gaysek, were dedicated to using emerging telecommunications technologies such as slow-scan video transmission, proto-fax machines and early portable computers to create art and initiate international collaborative projects.

I.P.Sharp Associates (IPSA), an APL timesharing system, owned a sophisticated, international computer network with local dial-in connection to the central computers in Toronto from most major industrial cities. Costs were not related to distance, which made exchanges between artists in various parts of the world possible.

Probably the first use of IPSA for an artists' communications project was Interplay, a computer communications project organised in 1979 by Bill Bartlett for the Computer Culture conference in Toronto. Bartlett contacted artists in 12 cities in Canada, U.S.A., Australia, Japan and Austria and arranged for the local IPSA offices to provide them with free accounts and technical assistance. Interplay was an on-line chat that resulted in printouts that scrolled from computer terminal printers around the world. Robert Adrian, a Toronto born Austrian based artist who organised the Vienna location comments on the rationale behind early artist networking projects, “One of the motivations for artists to work with telecommunications was the growing awareness that political, military, commercial and financial power was migrating to communications networks. Penetration of these networks by artists could perhaps make them visible and maybe even begin to map their growing social and cultural influence (proto-hacktivism?).”1

In 1983 Robert Adrian and Hank Bull organized WIENCOUVER IV a 3 hour exchange of sound and image SSTV (slow scan television) between the ÖKS in Vienna and the Western Front artist run centre in Vancouver – an experiment in two way interactive television.

One of the earliest works of Telerobotic Art was Telephonic Arm Wrestling by Norman White and Doug Back. White, who began making robots in the early 1970s and was a pioneer of Telematic Art, explained that, "the idea was to allow contestants in two different cities to arm-wrestle, using motorized force-transmitting systems interconnected by a telephone data link."2 Telephonic Arm Wrestling was first succcessfully exhibited during a 1986 link-up between the Canadian Cultural Centre, Paris, and the Artculture Resource Centre, Toronto.

In 1985 at Toronto’s A Space Gallery Norman White launched Heresay, a one day international collaborative art project using network technology. A message originating from Toronto was sent around the world in 24 hours, roughly following the sun, via a global computer network. In each of the participating eight cities the message was received in one language, translated and sent in another until the final message was sent back to its place of origin.

Steve Mann is a University of Toronto professor who has been working on his WearComp (wearable computing technology) since the 1970’s. In 1994 Steve Mann invented the world’s first wearable wireless webcam. The net connected WearCam, records and feeds images to a remote server from a wearable computer and imaging system thus allowing the web audience to experience his daily activities in real-time.

Throughout the 90’s Canadian artists continued to expand on the creative use of telecommunications technologies beyond text/sound/image by utilising the internet to manipulate remote objects. From Nancy Patterson’s Stockmarket Skirt to Rafael Lozano-Hemmer’s Vectorial Elevation artists extended their ideas into a more social space where remote mediated actions held “physical” consequences.

signal is an exhibition of two projects that electronically record and transmit behaviours and natural processes over network cabling in order to explore notions of time, space, representation, and transmutation.

Wind Array Cascade Machine: Pod by Montreal based artist Steve Heimbecker is a digital landscape of the tactile and the ethereal. It consists of an array of sixty-four movement sensors on the roof of the Méduse Artists' Co-operative in Quebec City and sixty-four corresponding light sculptures at InterAccess Electronic Media Arts Centre in Toronto. As the wind blows across the roof in Quebec, the sensors gather real-time data and transmit it though the WWW to the light markers in the Toronto exhibition space. The lights illuminate according to the pressure waves of the wind, showing the audience a visual representation of the pattern related to the amplitude, direction, and wave motion of the wind at the remote location.

Bedlam Telekinesis is a collaboration between Quebec artist Bill Vorn and Australian artist Simon Penny which explores the creation of mixed or augmented reality through the use of computation and telematics. It is a two-way telematic/telerobotic installation that joins two locations within the DECONism gallery space. An enclosed space in the back of the gallery contains four cameras which capture and record bodily gestures of the visitors. This data is used to determine the behaviour of a vaguely anthropomorphic robot installed in the semi-public space of the gallery window. A fifth camera records the robot and the responses of onlookers, which are then projected in the video, capture space at the back of the gallery. In this way, a highly mediated gestural communication loop is formed by Bedlam.

As signals continue to occupy and affect our daily lives, the artists that prompt us to explore these technologies reveal how thought, emotion, and behavior are consciously and unconsciously adjusting to these mediated worlds.

Michael Alstad and Camille Turner


1) Re: <nettime> Qx2 Bartlett/Interplay – Robert Adrian

2)Telematics, Telerobotics, and the Art of Meaning

selected Canadian telematic/telepresence art links


Robert Adrian

Hank Bull

Garnet Hertz

Rafael Lozano-Hemmer

Steve Mann

Nancy Paterson

Alan Storey

Michelle Teran

Bill Vorn

Norman White

further reading

ARTEX - Artists' Electronic Exchange System

Art and Telecommunication, 1979-1986: The Pioneer Years

Is There Love in the Telematic Embrace? By Roy Ascott

: an exhibition of telematic art

Wind Array Cascade Machine: Pod
by Steve Heimbecker
InterAccess Electronic Media Arts Centre
401 Richmond Street West, Suite 444
May 23 - June 7, 2003
Opening Reception: Saturday May 24th, 5-7pm

Bedlam Telekinesis
by Bill Vorn & Simony Penny
330 Dundas Street West (at McCaul Street)
May 23 - June 7, 2003
Opening Reception: Thursday May 22nd, 9-11pm

Gallery Hours: Tuesday to Saturday, noon - 5pm

curated by Michael Alstad and Camille Turner
co-presented by InterAccess Electronic Media Art Centre
and Year Zero One
as part of the Subtle Technologies Festival

Sponsored by DECONism, Avatar, Méduse, The McLuhan Programme in Art and Technology
The Canada Council for the Arts, Ontario Arts Council, Toronto Arts Council


Bill Vorn
Based in Montreal (Canada), Bill Vorn is pursuing research and creative work in Robotic Art. His installation projects involve robotics and motion control, sound, lighting, video and cybernetic processes. He pursues research on Artificial Life (and Death) and Agent Technologies through artistic work based on the "Aesthetics of Artificial Behaviors". He recently received a Ph.D. degree in Communication Studies from UQAM (Montreal) for his thesis on "Artificial Life as a Media". He actually teaches Electronic Arts in the Faculty of Fine Arts (Department of Studio Arts) at Concordia University in Montreal where he is responsible of the A-Lab, a Robotic Art research lab. He is also a member of the Research Committee in the new Hexagram Institute for New Media.

His work has been presented in many international events, including Ars Electronica, ISEA, DEAF, Sonar, Art Futura, EMAF and Artec. He has been awarded the Life 2.0 award (1999, Madrid), the Leprecon Award for Interactivity (1998, New York), the Prix Ars Electronica Distinction award (1996, Linz) and the International Digital Media Award (1996, Toronto). His current projects include a telerobotic installation called "Bedlam", a collaborative project with Australian artist Simon Penny; "Evil/Live 3", an audiovisual cellular automaton; and a series of robotic installations entitled "Trilogie des Stèles". In collaboration with Martin Peach, he is also developing "LifeTools II", a MaxMSP control software toolbox based on Artificial Life algoritms and integrating OpenGL display. You'll find more information about his work at

Simon Penny
Simon Penny is an Australian artist, theorist and teacher in Interactive Media Art. He makes interactive and robotic installations which have been exhibited in the US, Australia and Europe.

He edited the anthology Critical Issues in Electronic Media (SUNY Press 1995) and is currently working on a book on embodied interaction and procedural aesthetics for MIT press. His essays have been translated into seven languages. He curated Machine Culture at SIGGRAPH '93 in Anaheim CA, arguably the first international survey of interactive installation.

Recent awards include a grant from the Langlois Foundation (with Bill Vorn), first prize in the Cyberstar 98 awards (GMD/WDR, Germany) and a residency at the Institut fur Bildmedien, ZKM Karlsruhe, spring97.

Penny is Professor of Arts and Engineering at University of California Irvine. He is architect and director of a new graduate program in Arts, Computation and Engineering. He is Layer Leader for the Arts in the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology, CAL(IT)2.

Steve Heimbecker
Born in Saskatchewan, Steve Heimbecker studied fine art at The Alberta College of Art and Design and is now recognized internationally for his role in the development of audio art installation, performance, and multi channel sound composition in Canada. His critically acclaimed (1999) double CD anthology "The Enormouslessness of Cloud Machines", is a showcase of his multi channel sound diffusion performances since 1992. Heimbecker’s installation exhibitions have included; “Nirvana - 1987”, “The Acoustic Line as the Crow Listens - 1993”, “Soundpool: The Manufacturing of Silence - 1996”, “Hell is just the Opposite - 1999”, and “Songs of Place: Ile de Montreal - 2002. In 2001, he moved to Montréal and performed for the final concert of "Silophone" (Société Radio-Canada & [the user]). Since 2000 he has been producing a series of DVD Dolby 5.1 audio art portraits entitled “Songs of Place”. In 2003, after 3 years of research and production, the ambitious 64 channel network diffusion system, "Wind Array Cascade Machine" phase 1, along with the first network installation “Pod” was completed. He is currently creating and exploring national and international installation and performance variations of the WACM system, through his studio, The Qube Assemblage for Art in Motion - 1987, splitting his time between Montreal and Ville de Quebec, Quebec, Canada.


Michael Alstad is a Toronto based artist and curator working in installation and digital media. He is a founding member of the Canadian artist collectives Year Zero One and Symbiosis. Michael has co-ordinated several site-specific projects in Toronto including The Clinic(95), The Bank of Symbiosis(97), The Hoarding Project(98) and the Transmedia video billboard exhibitions (00, 02). His web/video works were presented at the Images Festival(Toronto 02), FILE(São Paulo01), Graz Biennial on Media and Architecture(Graz, Austria 01), Global Multimedia Interface(London 99) and the Pandæmonium Festival of Moving Images(London 98). Michael’s most recent site responsive project trans_plant consisted of a series of 'living sculptures' in a former cable factory on the banks of the River Spree in Berlin-Oberschöneweide.

Camille Turner is a curatorial resident at InterAccess Electronic Media Arts gallery in Toronto and the co-founder of Year Zero One, a new media art collective. Recent projects include an ongoing journal on the theme Belonging and Home for Horizon Zero's latest issue: FEEL, a collaborative project between Wayne Dunkley and The Banff New Media Institute. She is an international collaborator on The Container Project initiated and coordinated by Mervin Jarman of mongrel, a UK group of artists/activists.The container is a mobile media lab used to teach media arts to people in Jamaica who have been locked out of technology.