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Golan Levin

(Pittsburgh, PA, United States)

Golan Levin, Messa di Voce, 2003
Tmema, The Manual Input Workstation (2004-2006) Golan Levin, Dialtones (A Telesymphony), 2001 Golan Levin and Paul Debevec, Rouen Revisited, 1996
Golan Levin is an artist, composer and designer whose work focuses on new modes of interactive audiovisual expression. He received his master's degree in media arts and sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.) in 2000, where he also obtained a bachelor's degree in art and design in 1994. While pursuing his master's degree, Levin participated in John Maeda's Aesthetics and Computation Group at M.I.T.'s Media Lab where he developed his Audiovisual Environment Suite, a series of instruments he has since used in several artworks and performances. Levin is currently Assistant Professor of Electronic Time-Based Art at Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh (PA), USA.

One of Levin's first major projects, a collaboration with artist Paul Debevec, is titled Rouen Revisited (1996) and is now in the collection of the American Museum of the Moving Image (Queens, N.Y., United States). A homage to artist Claude Monet's repetitive, obsessive impressionist paintings of the Rouen Cathedral, the interactive art installation offers visitors a kiosk where they can discover the cathedral's facade from a variety of angles, times of day or atmospheric conditions. Using a series of sensors and touch-sensitive interfaces, the arch-shaped maple cabinet kiosk invites users to explore the various dimensions of the cathedral through different renderings of the structure, through Monet's paintings themselves, and finally through archival photographs. The artists state that:

"Rouen Revisited is an artifact about artifacts about an artifact-an interactive and open-ended interpretation of paintings and photographs, which are themselves interpretations of an ancient Gothic artwork. Ultimately, the interpretation which Rouen Revisited affords is a dynamic one, forged in the mind of the user when she creates, using the multidimensional interface, her own Rouen Cathedral composition." (1)

The notion of an interface that allows users to dynamically compose their own individual experience, composition or artwork in real time has proved paramount in Levin's consequent artworks and software design. From 1997 to 1999, he created several interactive drawing environments under the heading Real-Time Systems for Fluid Abstract Expression. All written in C++, these software programs use the principle of creating visuals on the computer with human gestures, a process that Levin has compared to abstract expressionist painting. (2) Some of these complex programs have been translated into smaller Java applets that are accessible on Levin's Web site, such as Meshy (1998), a program that lets the user play in a cat's cradle environment in real time.

While pursuing his master's degree at M.I.T., Levin developed a series of five visual instruments called Audiovisual Environment Suite (AVES) (1998-2000). According to Levin's master's thesis abstract:

"AVES is a new computer interface metaphor for the real-time and simultaneous performance of dynamic imagery and sound. This metaphor is based on the idea of an inexhaustible, infinitely variable, time-based, audiovisual "substance" which can be gesturally created, deposited, manipulated and deleted in a free-form, non-diagrammatic image space. The interface metaphor is exemplified by five interactive audiovisual synthesis systems whose visual and aural dimensions are deeply plastic, commensurably malleable, and tightly connected by perceptually-motivated mappings." (3)

The five instruments, Aurora (1999), Floo (1999), Yellowtail (1999), Warbo (2000) and Loom (1999), all have unique properties and interfaces that allow users to create related audio and visual compositions through the gestures they make with their cursors.

Levin has won several awards for AVES, including the Award of Distinction (2nd Prize) at Prix Ars Electronica 2000; an Honorary Mention in the category Software Art at Transmediale 2001 (Berlin, Germany); and a Bronze Medal from ID Magazine's Interaction Design Awards 2000. AVES was also the winner in Communication Arts Interactive Design Annual 6 (2000) and received the title Best of Interactive Category at the BitByBitDigital juried exhibition (2000).

Using AVES, Levin has created artworks such as Scribble (2000), a live "colour-music performance" (4) that was commissioned by the Ars Electronica in 2000. Scribble is included on the DVD-ROM Active Score Music (2001) produced by the Ars Electronica Centre and featuring two performances from the 2000 festival, Scribble and Small Fish Tale by artist Kiyoshi Furukawa.

Levin has also produced Dialtones (A Telesymphony) (2001), a concert presented at Ars Electronica 2001. This project, partly funded by the Daniel Langlois Foundation, is a concert performance in which all the sounds are wholly produced through the choreographed ringing of the audience's own cellphones.

During the summer of 2002, Levin and Zachary Lieberman were artists in residence at the Ars Electronica Futurelab in Linz, Austria, where they created and produced RE:MARK (2002) and Hidden Worlds of Noise and Voice (2002). These can be considered as the groundwork leading to the creation of Messa di Voce.

In 2010, Katja Kwastek made a detailled study of The Manual Input Workstation by Tmema (Golan Levin and Zachary Lieberman) during the exhibition See This Sound (2009-2010) at the Lentos Kunstmuseum in Linz (Austria). This documentary collection is available on the Daniel Langlois Foundation website.

Angela Plohman © 2004 FDL

(1) Golan Levin, Rouen Revisited.

(2) Golan Levin, Audiovisual Environment Suite (AVES), (accessed May 30, 2001):

(3) Golan Levin, Painterly Interfaces for Audiovisual Performance, (accessed May 30, 2001):

(4) Golan Levin, Scribble, (accessed May 31, 2001):