Josephine Anstey & Dave Pape


Josephine Anstey's main creative and research focus is the production of interactive computer-mediated experiences: stories, performances and games. Since 1995 this has resulted in works of interactive drama, virtual & mixed reality, and intermedia performance populated by intelligent agents, networked human actors, and puppet avatars. She is currently active with and is a founding member of the Intermedia Performance Studio at the University at Buffalo, an experimental center for collaboration among media creators, dramatic performers, and computer technologists. Between 2001 and 2005 she was part of a group of artists who exhibited networked VR projects worldwide on CAVE systems and low-cost, CAVE-like VR systems.

You can learn more about her work at

“The Office Diva” is an audio-visual installation; a large scale projection of a computer-controlled character living in a claustrophobic virtual space and compulsively talking. Conceptually, the project is a reproduction and examination of a consciousness ruled by manic-depression. But she is also a machine, and the work plays with the ways in which mad and machinic behavior can manifest in similar ways. Phoebe Sengers argues that the modular design of some intelligent agents makes them hard to understand, they appear to be a schizoid assemblage of random, unmotivated behaviors. Contariwise the computational limitations of other agents have been masked by their insane personalities. Repetitions, lack of affect, inappropriate responses, and non-sequiturs are signs of disturbed people as well as machines. In this project, we deliberately chose a bland machine voice, that speaks the stream-of-consciousness text which is generated, re-ordered and reassembled by a machinic algorithm. But, just as deliberately, we massage the relationship between text and code so that our ”mad” consciousness is not so badly fragmented and fractured as to be indecipherable to a human audience. Over time the bland voice reveals a mad, sad story: a pedestrian story of a receptionist; a perfectionist who works too hard in her small therapy center; a critical observer who sees too much going wrong and strives to fix it; an office Don Quixote tilting at the windmalls of petty inefficiency and corruption; a woman slowing exploding. The voice comes from the psychic emanation of the Office Diva: a larger than life projection of her ego. The graphics represent another synthesis between machine and human; procedural animation creates the flaming or dripping archetype that forms into a dimly human form, that is then reanimated with motion capture. The Diva’s anima swirls chaotically in response to the internal narratives she retells so intently. She drifts in the dimly seen and utterly mundane office environment that has taken on so much overdetermined significance.

“Office Diva,”

by Josephine Anstey & Dave Pape