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Generative Art Summit Berlin

PresentationNervous Systems

In the late 1980s, the Canadian artist David Rokeby created several music installations based on his “Very Nervous System” – he himself called it a “meta composition”. His idea of ‘artistically wiring’ people into a machine that interacts and reacts with the human brain and body set the scene for artists in the 1990s and the early 2000s to create their own generative systems. For example, William Forsythes “City of Abstracts” translated the concept into the visual space.

At the time, I was working at the Akademie der Bildenden Künste and the Siemens Kulturprogramm as a technology supporter and curator for various artists and witnessed the fascination of the media art community for this kind of installation. What these “systems” mostly had in common was that they were designed as a kind of “artistic black box” that collected some input signals (video, audio, locations, physical forces) from the audience or the performer and played an “inspired” video or audio version back into the performance space, so that the performers found themselves – sometimes without their active choice – in a kind of “artistic” feedback loop. This forces the participants to rethink or re-taste their usual environment – as the Munich-based performer Walter Siegfried described it. Today’s artistic ‘prompting’ of an AI can perhaps be seen in this tradition.

When Herbert W. Franke asked me in the 1990s to create a “soundtrack” for some of his videos, I was influenced by the same fascination and also experimented with the concepts of “video to sound systems”. In this vein, I will present the sonified versions of Franke’s “Falter” and “digital Einstein” and – as a live premiere – a sonification of Franke’s “Programs apple II” series from the early 1980s, controlled in real time by a dedicated musical meta-composition.

Dipl.-Ing. Dr. phil. Jörg Stelkens, born in 1965, has been working as an interdisciplinary coder, curator, lecturer, acoustician, technician and musician in Munich for over 30 years.
In the 1990s he co-founded the Media Lab at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich, worked as a curator for the Siemens Arts Program and completed his doctorate at the LMU and TU Munich on IP-connected multi-user musical instruments. He has lectured at LMU Munich, University of Newcastle, Academy of Media Arts Cologne, Art College Linz, International Computer Association Singapore. Recently he gave a workshop on KI generated sound installations at HS Augsburg.

On behalf of the City of Munich he worked for 10 years as curator of the sound art gallery t-u-b-e. He has developed several computer music instruments such as peerSynth, tubePlug, trojan-Room (internet connected multi-user instruments) and advanced digital sound synthesis instruments phyMod and crusher-X.
He is the founder and owner of the software development company accSone ( accSone’s flagship product crusher-X was born in 1999 and has become the “most sophisticated” granular synthesis tool in the audio and film industry. In 2023, together with the composer Ulrich Müller, he founded the performance and drone music group tranai (

Throughout his life he has worked with many multimedia artists, musicians and composers and feels grateful to be an active contemporary witness of the last 4 decades of the media and music avant-garde:

Aphex Twin, BT, PIRX, Ximena Alarcon, Josef Anton Riedl, Kenneth Atchley, Knut Aufermann, Ros Bandt, Peter Becker, John Bischoff, Jaap Blonk, Jens Brand, Christoph Brech, Chris Brown, Brunner / Ritz, Clifton Cameron, Werner Cee, Nick Collins, Fried Dähn, Mario de Vega, Richard Devine, Wolfgang Dorninger, Robert Dudzic, Gerhard Eckel, Judith Egger, Moritz Eggert, Karlheinz Essl, Ellen Fellmann, Nick Fells, Monika Fleischmann, Edith Flusser, Simon Franglen, Bernhard Gal, Gunnar Geise, Ingo Günther, Georg Hajdu, Lynn Hershman Leeson, Piet Hodiamont, Andrew Huang, Werner Jauk, Ishigami Kazuya, Peter Kiefer, Josef Klammer, Peter Kogler, Christoph Korn, Simonex Krois, Christina Kubisch, Tilman Küntzel, Anne La Berge, Raphael Lanouette, George Legrady, Thomas Lehn, Michael Lentz, Harald Lillmeyer, Tiago Manquinho, Franz Martin Olbrisch, Benoit Maubrey, Thomas Meinecke, Eduardo Miranda, Karl Mohr, Udo Moll, Ulrich Müller, Sarah Neumeister, Frank Niehusmann, Randall Packer, Stefano Papetti, Eva Pernes, Chris Portwood, Christoph Reiserer, David Rokeby, Station Rose, Johannes S. Sistermanns, Klaus Schedl, Patrick Schimanski, Lenz Schuster, Christoph Seibert, Walter Siegfried, Julius Stahl, Norbert Stammberger, Hubert Steins, Gianni Stiletto, Simon Stockhausen, Hans Tammen, Atau Tanaka, Mark Trayle, Barry Truax, Guy Van Belle, Herbert W. Franke, Hans W. Koch, Sibylle Wagner, Norbert Walter Peters, Bruno Wank, Sarah Washington, Peter Weibel, Wolfgang Weileder, Rutger Zuydervelt