“Biorhythm” (1980-1984), Sonya Rapoport’s interactive, computer-mediated “audience participation performance” is a data-oriented yet playful exploration of the human body as computer.
In the late 1970s, there was a surge of popular interest in the body’s natural circadian rhythms. Using a commercial biorhythm calculator to predict her daily biorhythms, Rapoport recorded her physical, emotional, and intellectual cycles throughout the year 1980. Making use of an oversize calendar, she created each day a small collage with the ephemera of her everyday life and paper records of her art practice – a fascinating autobiographical portrait.
Rapoport created an artist book on computer printout paper in which plotter-printed graphs of her biorhythm data is compared to the computer’s predictions, which appear as sinusoidal curves in colored typewriter.
The “Biorhythm Audience Participation Performance” at Works Gallery in San José, 1983 can be seen in this original video documentation:
A greeter asked gallery visitors how they felt, recorded their answers, and assigned them numbered, color-coded wristbands based on their response. A computer operator entered their data into a custom program that predicted their feelings using Biorhythm Theory. They also visited a palm reader and had their spontaneous hand gestures photographed while wearing a dentist bib – non-computerized methods of intuiting feelings.
The data, gesture photographs, and interviews gathered during the 1983 performance were later exhibited as Biorhythm Phase 3: The Computer Says I Feel… (1984) at San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery. As seen in the video documentation above, Rapoport has printed in bold above her work:
THE COMPUTER OVERRIDES ALL OPINIONS
Biorhythm was featured in the exhibition Sonya Rapoport: biorhythm at San José Museum of Art in 2020. Curated by Kathryn Wade, this extensive solo exhibition included a recreation of Sonya Rapoport’s interactive computer-mediated “audience participation performance.”
The catalogue Sonya Rapoport: Biorhythm (2020) by Alla Efimova and Terri Cohn was co-published by the Sonya Rapoport Legacy Trust and San José Museum of Art to provide historical context for the 2020 exhibition. It explores in detail Rapoport’s development of her Biorhythm project from 1980 – 1984, and discusses the recreation of the performance. Includes essays by exhibition curator Kathryn Wade and Farley Gwazda.
A selection of primary source documents related to Biorhythm that were originally selected by Sonya Rapoport – can be downloaded here: