Arthur Elsenaar and Remko Scha Win the 2003 Leonardo Award for Excellence
Arthur Elsenaar and Remko Scha’s article “Electric Body Manipulation as Performance Art: A Historical Perspective,” published in Leonardo Music Journal 12, has been named the winner of the 2003 Leonardo Award for Excellence. This annual award recognizes excellence in an article published in Leonardo. Excellence is defined as originality, rigor of thought, clarity of expression and effective presentation. Three articles received Honorable Mention: Steve Dietz’s “Ten Dreams of Technology” (Leonardo 35, No. 5), Oron Catts and Ionat Zurr’s “Growing Semi-Living Sculptures: The Tissue Culture & Art Project” (Leonardo 35, No. 4) and Edward Shanken’s “Art in the Information Age: Technology and Conceptual Art” (Leonardo 35, No. 4).
Elsenaar and Scha’s winning article traces the historical development of using electrically manipulated human bodies for theatrical display. Addressing the controversial aspects of this sometimes destructive art form, they extend their inquiry to investigate the implications of electrical executions. More often, they note the stimulating effects of electricity upon the body, studying Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation as implemented in the 19th Century by Duchenne and continued in practice today by artists such as Stelarc and co-author Elsenaar. Citing technological advances that enable interactive nerve stimulation, Elsenaar and Scha point
toward a future of computer-generated dance and theater performances.
Arthur Elsenaar, coordinator of the graduate program “Interactive Media and Environments” at the Frank Mohr Institute in Groningen, is an artist and electrical engineer who ran his own pirate radio station and built the transmitters for many illegal radio and television stations throughout the Netherlands. Elsenaar’s recent work employs the human face as a computer-controlled display device. Remko Scha, Professor of Computational Linguistics at the Humanities Faculty of the University of Amsterdam, is an artist, DJ and computational linguist. He has built an automatic electric guitar band (“The Machines”), designed an image generation algorithm (“Artificial”) and developed a theory about language processing (“Data-Oriented Parsing”). Arthur Elsenaar and Remko Scha have jointly developed a series of automatic performance pieces and video installations that involve computer-controlled facial expression, algorithmic music and synthetic speech. These works have been presented at scientific conferences, theater festivals and art exhibitions throughout Europe and the United States. Elsenaar and Scha also explore the use of automatic radio stations as a medium for computer art.
The Leonardo Award for Excellence was originally established by chemist and inventor Myron Coler and Leonardo publisher Robert Maxwell. Previous winners have included Rudolf Arnheim, Otto Piene, Alvin Curran, Karen O’Rourke, Donna Cox and Bill Seaman. The 2003 Prize and Awards Committee is composed of Lynn Hershman, chair; Hisham Bizri, Char Davies, Marcos Novak and Bill Seaman.