Interactive Visual Heartbeat Wins Australian National New Media Art Award

Interactive Visual Heartbeat Wins Australian National New Media Art Award
George Poonkhin Khut, Australia b. 1969 | Distillery: Waveforming 2012 | Still from video portraits of sitters interacting with heart rate controlled composition software for iPad
(Photograph: Julia Pendrill Charles | © Courtesy: The artist)

An intriguing work of art originally designed as a relaxation training system for managing the pain and anxiety experienced by children undergoing medical treatment has won the $75,000 Australian 2012 National New Media Art Award.

Australian artist George Poonkhin Khut’s winning entry Distillery: Waveforming began life as heart rate controlled composition software for the iPad that displays visual representations of the viewer’s heartbeat and instantly responds to their changing reactions, creating a continuous biofeedback loop.

The artistic version of the artist’s groundbreaking technological innovation uses video portraits of sitters interacting with the program in a poetic exploration of the interactions between the mind and body; art and science.

Through his exploration of the link between the mental and the physical, Khut reveals the fragility of human life while at the same time celebrating the incredible complexity and resilience of the human body.  Distillery: Waveforming confronts viewers with their own mortality, but does so in an empowering and inspiring way.

In a medical context, the device can help increase an individual’s ability to control and distance their sense of pain and anxiety, particularly during painful rehabilitative and surgical. “The goal of the interaction is for children to maintain a lowered heart rate: children are rewarded with sounds and visuals that respond to decreases in heart rate over different periods of time i.e. changes that they can influence with their breathing, and longer-term changes that require relaxation” Khut explains on his website.

The invitation only National New Media Art Award is a three year program first held in 2008 which comprises a biennial acquisitive Award of $75 000 and an exhibition at the Queensland's Gallery of Modern Art. The Award recognises the achievement of an Australian artist whose work encompasses new media.

George Poonkhin Khut is an Australian artist and design-researcher working between the fields of electronic art, design and health. He holds a Doctorate of Creative Arts from the University of Western Sydney, Australia for his research into biofeedback-based interactive artworks, and has exhibited his work across Australia, the UK and Asia.