Who's on Parkbench?

What's Parkbench?


Performance Archives



Nina Sobell

Nina Sobell pioneered the use of video, computers, and interactivity in art; she also pioneered performance on the Web (in collaboration with Emily Hartzell as ParkBench). In 1994, as Artists-in-Residence at NYU Center for Advanced Technology, Sobell and Hartzell began using their telerobotic webcam and server push to stream live weekly performances onto the Web. Now the performance archive contains over 80 server push animations. Another of ParkBench's innovations is 'VirtuAlice', an electronic vehicle outfitted with a telerobotic camera and wireless modem. This camera can be controlled through a Web interface and can send images to the server-push program remotely. This makes VirtuAlice a highly flexible, mobile video source for internet broadcasts. In 1995 they installed VirtuAlice at Ricco/Maresca Gallery, where she catalyzed interactions between participants inside the gallery, outside on the street, and in cyberspace. They presented VirtuAlice at SIGGRAPH96, CHI97, ISEA97, and at Interfaces 97 in Montpellier, and in recent lectures at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, St. Martin's School of Art in London, and Columbia University. Their work has also been exhibited at Sandra Gering Gallery, and in PORT, at MIT's List Visual Arts Center, and featured in articles in Art in America, International Design Magazine, TalkBack, the Village Voice, and YLEM.

Since 1969, when she first used video to document participants' undirected interactions with her sculptures, Sobell has been interested in the extent to which video enables her to manipulate the relation between time and space, and to create a vortex for human experience, in which the mediated event coincides with public experience, memory, and relationships. Her Master's Thesis at Cornell University, in 1971, was the first in the country to integrate video as art.

In 1975 she installed the "Interactive Encephalographic Brainwave Drawing Installation" at the Contemporary Arts Museum in Houston. Pairs of participants sat together on a couch with electrodes attached to their scalps. Their brain wave output was combined, sent through a computer, and displayed on the television set before them, superimposed on their real-time, closed circuit video portrait. She has continued to develop the piece over the years, and is currently working on a piece in which participants will collaborate on Brainwave Drawings internationally, over the Web.

Sobell presented "Brainwave Drawings" and "Videophone Voyeur" (1977) at Joseph Beuys' "Free International University" at Documenta 6. She received awards from the NEA and NYSCA for her pioneering video performance art in the 1970's. Her work has been shown throughout the US, Europe, and Japan. An award-winning printmaker and figurative sculptor, and avid improvisational guitarist and keyboardist, she can be seen sculpting Emily in the ParkBench Performance Archives and heard playing music there as well. (See the top two rows in the archives for performances with music.)

Performance Archives | VirtuAlice | Interactive Sculpture | Brainwave Drawings | Videophone Voyeur | Six Moving Cameras, Six Surveillance Views | Figurative Sculpture

Emily Hartzell

Emily Hartzell graduated magna cum laude in Visual and Environmental Studies from Harvard University and received her MFA in Computer Art from the School of Visual Arts. Since 1994, she has collaborated with artist Nina Sobell. (See above for collaborative work.) Hartzell is a multimedia artist and independent curator, whose work and exhibitions have been reviewed in publications including The New Yorker, Print Collectors' Newsletter, and Arts Magazine. She works as an Education/Media Consultant for New York City Schools with the Media Workshop New York.

Jesse Gilbert

Jesse Gilbert is a composer, multi-instrumentalist, musicologist, and digital audio specialist. Gilbert's interests have carried him into various realms of the digital art/music world - from networking to improvisational saxophone performance, 3D modeling and animation to sound synthesis. He has performed in the New York City and San Francisco areas, and is currently at work on a series of site specific compositions and ongoing collaborative work with Parkbench at the NYU Center for Advanced Technology and Power and Light, NYC. Gilbert graduated with honors from Wesleyan University and received the Pokora prize in composition after studying with such luminaries as Alvin Lucier, Anthony Braxton, Ron Kuivila, and Abraham Adzenyah. He was awarded a Watson Fellowship for a yearlong independent study of the relationship of oral tradition to music pedagogy in a wide range of regions of Ghana, West Africa. Gilbert is a researcher at EDC/Center for Children and Technology, a non-profit research and development organization that addresses approaches to technology and educational reform. He oversaw the functioning of the sound component of PORT, and works with collaborators Helen Thorington and Marek Walczak on the ADRIFT project.