John Tonkin is an Australian media artist who has been working with new media art since 1985. His work explores interactivity as a site for physical and mental play. John has collaborated on a diverse range of projects that have been exhibited extensively (including ISEAs 1994, 1995, 2006, 2011, 2013). He is the recipient of multiple awards and prizes including a prestigious fellowship from the Australia Council's New Media Arts Board in 1999-2000. John lectures in contemporary art at Sydney College of the Arts, The University of Sydney.
Tonkin’s sophisticated artworks have involved the integration of a broad range of skills with a considered conceptual approach. Many of these projects have engaged with ideas that have grown out of a long-term interest in the sciences and an ongoing investigation into our attempts to make sense of the world. These have ranged from more formal explorations of the passing of time and virtual simulations of physical systems, to participatory artworks that are formed through the accumulation of participants’ responses to a provocation. John’s recent artworks include three large-scale permanent light sculptures that explore interactivity in public spaces. The most recent of these, “Sensing with Light” (2018) is a creative response to research carried out by the Institute for Photonics and Advanced Sensing at The University of Adelaide. This work explores different notions of the instrument – both scientific and “musical” – and invites the public to play. His other focus of enquiry has been around different models of perception and has involved the production of a series of interactive video installations that examine the relationship between the body, movement and vision. He is currently extending this research to explore the possibilities and problematics of VR technologies.