Digital Mudra Web, 1989 – 1998


View original Digital Mudra Web via Sonya Rapoport’s website

In 1989 Rapoport received a grant from the California Arts Council for the production of an online version of her gallery-based interactive installation Digital Mudra via Carl Loeffler and Fred Truck’s Art Com Electronic Network (ACEN). This work was first published online in 1989.

The Web Art project now available on Rapoport’s site is an updated version published in 1998 to accommodate evolving technologies.

Digital Mudra originated with a collection of photographs of participants’ hand gestures gathered during Rapoport’s early computer-assisted interactive performance Biorhythm (1983). In the gallery-based version of Digital Mudra (presented in 1987 at Kala Art Institute in Berkeley) the repurposed photographs were correlated with similar gestures appropriated from the Indian Mudra gesture vocabulary. Verbal expressions accompanying the western gestures were compared with the meanings of their corresponding Mudra.

Mudra, from Sanskrit, means “gesture”. For 400 years Mudra movements have been used in Southern Indian Kathakali dance to tell a story – a blending of Aryan and Dravidian cultures from 1,500 years earlier. The story is cued by the storyteller and interpreted by the dancer who creates a highly structured physical and emotional interpretation.

In this interactive Web Art project, viewers are asked to make their own selection of Mudra gestures, which are then correlated with phrases from the poetry of Rabindranath Tagore (1861 – 1941).

In 2010, Rapoport returned to Digital Mudra, publishing Digital Mudra – Extended, a blog post that analyzed contemporary newspaper photographs using the Mudra gesture language.