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Interdisciplinary artist David Rokeby’s landmark work, Very Nervous System (1986–2004), uses video surveillance technology, synthesizers, a sound system, computers, and image-processing software designed by Rokeby to translate movement into music and/or sound. Through an intuitive process of corporeal improvisation, kinesthetic experimentation, and creative play, those who engage with Very Nervous System use their bodies to trigger sonic responses from the installation. This biofeedback loop between the improvising body and the interactive system allows those who interact with the work to enter into what psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi famously called a state of flow. Through an analysis of several incarnations of Very Nervous System, this chapter examines some of the ways the work alters people’s perceptions of their bodies and encourages a state of flow through embodied forms of improvisation.

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