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2003 Leonardo Award for Excellence

Awarded to Arthur Elsenaar and Remko Scha

Arthur Elsenaar and Remko Scha have been named the recipients of the 2003 Leonardo Award for Excellence for their article "Electric Body Manipulation as Performance Art: A Historical Perspective," published in Leonardo Music Journal 12. This annual award recognizes excellence in an article published in a Leonardo journal. 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 35:5), Oron Catts and Ionat Zurr’s "Growing Semi-Living Sculptures: The Tissue Culture & Art Project" (Leonardo 35:4), and Edward Shanken’s "Art in the Information Age: Technology and Conceptual Art"(Leonardo 35:4). READ THESE ARTICLES.

Elsenaar and Scha’s winning article traces the historical developments of using electrically manipulated human bodies as theatrical display. Addressing the controversial aspects of this sometimes destructive art form, they 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 theatre performances.

Arthur Elsenaar 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 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, theatre 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 comprises: Lynn Hershman, chair; Hisham Bizri, Char Davies, Marcos Novak, and Bill Seaman.

In addition to the winning article and three honorable mentions, six other articles were nominated for this prize: Anne Bray, "The Community Is Watching, and Replying: Art in Public Places and Spaces" (Leonardo 35:1); Harold Cohen, "A Self-Defining Game for One Player: On the Nature of Creativity and the Possibility of Creative Computer Programs" (Leonardo 35:1); Ken Gonzales-Day, "Analytical Photography: Portraiture, from the Index to the Epidermis" (Leonardo 35:1); Antoinette LaFarge and Robert Nideffer, "The Leonardo Gallery: Shift-Ctrl" (Leonardo 35:1); Phoebe Sengers, "Schizophrenia and Narrative in Artificial Agents" (Leonardo 35:4); and Christa Sommerer and Laurent Mignonneau, "Modeling the Emergence of Complexity: Complex Systems, the Origin of Life and Interactive On-Line Art" (Leonardo 35:2).

The 2003 Leonardo Award for Excellence is co-sponsored by the Technoculture Studies Department and the Art Department at the University of California, Davis, where it will be presented at a prize award lecture on campus during the Spring 2004 session. For further information visit http://technoculture.ucdavis.edu.

History of the Leonardo Awards Program

The first Leonardo award, the Frank J. Malina Leonardo Award for Lifetime Achievement, was established in 1985 to honor artists who have melded technology and the visual arts over a lifetime. The initial recipient, Hungarian artist Gyorgy Kepes, was a founder of both the New Bauhaus (Chicago) and MIT's Center for Advanced Visual Studies. His art and life were dedicated to the advancement of new technologies and relationships among scientific discoveries and art.

In 1987, Leonardo gave its first Leonardo Award for Excellence to recognize outstanding and particularly significant articles published in Leonardo. Excellence is defined as originality, rigor of thought, clarity of expression and effective presentation. Past recipients of the award include Rudolf Arnheim, Otto Piene, Charles Ames, Frieda Stahl, Donna Cox, George Gessert, Janet Saad-Cook, Alvin Curran, Karen O'Rourke, Eduardo Kac, Hubert Duprat with Christian Besson, and José Carlos Casado and Harkaitz Cano.

For more information about the Leonardo Awards Program, contact Leonardo/ISAST, 211 Sutter Street, Suite 800, San Francisco, CA 94108, U.S.A. E-mail: isast@leonardo.info.

Updated 5 October 2004.

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