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Global Eyes Look Near and Far at SIGGRAPH Art Gallery

J. Paul Peszko sizes up the Art Gallery for SIGGRAPH 2007: Global Eyes, which embraces the explosion of digital technologies around the world.

The focus of the Art Gallery for SIGGRAPH 2007 is on international artists. Ireva by 14-year-old Japanese artist, Shunsaku Hayashi, combines evocative painting with animation. Unless noted, all images courtesy of SIGGRAPH.

When SIGGRAPH 2007 convenes in San Diego, the venue won't be the only difference in its annual Art Gallery. This year's Art Gallery, titled Global Eyes, will run concurrently with the main conference and exhibition from Aug. 5-9 at the San Diego Convention Center. However, the digital art performances and site-specific installations will run from Aug. 4-6 at the state-of-the-art facilities of the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Cal-IT2), and the Center for Research in Computing and the Arts (CRCA) at the University of California, San Diego. The main differences in this year's Art Gallery, not surprisingly, are in its selections and scope.

As one might expect from this year's title, Global Eyes, the focus is an international one. While there has been considerable international participation in past Art Galleries, the chairperson for Global Eyes, Vebeke Sorensen, chairperson for Media Study at the State University of New York at Buffalo, believes that it is greater this year. An artist in her own right and professor working in digital multimedia and animation, interactive architectural installation and network visual-music performance, Sorensen says, "This year we have a theme that's different from most previous years. Our theme is global, so we're trying to be as inclusive of people from other countries and cultures who are working with technologies as possible to give a different kind of view of what is going on around the world. Because now the technology is reaching globally, the question is how and how far are people who were previously isolated being transformed by it. And we're focused on how people see each other and the world around them."

She suggests that the explosion of digital technologies across the globe and the way people are working with them is not only synthesizing different cultures in new ways, but also various fields of study. "Because it very much brings in the whole way people create in the cross media," Sorenson affirms. "That would mean greater physical-digital interaction." She asserts quite correctly that digital technologies have even engendered new ways of looking at and turning to older media. "We have an artist book category, for example," Sorensen points out. "That's because people are making books collaboratively, globally with digital cameras, then uploading (the photos) on the Internet then working collaboratively on the images and then turning them out and distributing them."

This year there were more than 660 submissions from 30 countries that were evaluated by a prestigious international jury. The main categories presented during Global Eyes include animation, artist books, panel discussions, papers, digital performances, art installations, as well as monitor and wall-based works. Sorenson highlighted a few of the works that will surely draw attention at this year's Art Gallery.

La grua y la jirafa (The Crane and the Giraffe) is Argentinian Vladimir Bellini's first animation. He had in mind the interchange of different cultures as his theme.

Ireva is an unusual work by a talented young Japanese artist, Shunsaku Hayashi, from Osaka. Only 14 years old, Shunsaku combines his evocative painting with animation to create a very compelling abstract work. "Ireva means artificial tooth in Japanese," Shunsaku explains. "I saw my father's artificial tooth left on the table. Got inspiration from it. This artificial tooth is bulimia, and loves the human neck." And just how experienced is this young artist? "This work is the fifth work. I am making new freeze-frame animation now. I'll attend SIGGRAPH 2007 from Aug. 5-7. I'll bring and show my new work by DVD at the time." You can preview some of Shunsaku's paintings on his website at www1.odn.ne.jp/~haya4hello/.

Another wonderful animated work comes from Argentina. Although La grua y la jirafa (The Crane and the Giraffe) is Vladimir Bellini's first animation, it's all about the gentle, delicate movement that Bellini is able to give the piece using computer animation. It came about as the result of his last assignment at the University. "I had to create a piece of work of about two minutes," Bellini explains. "I am interested in a story which I can present without dialog. And when I create an animation, I target children mostly. This is, in one sense, a challenge for me. Children are very honest and they would say the truth if they clearly don't like it, period. So I am the most tense when my work is shown to children.

"The first time my animation was shown was at the independent film festival held in Buenos Aires and, to be honest with you, I was very nervous, since a lot of children were there to watch it. In terms of result, it was very well accepted, which relieved me. Last year, when it was screened in Rome, children were there also to watch it. I was delighted that overseas children also at once accepted this strange little love story."

Just like the main theme of Global Eyes, Bellini had in mind the interchange of different cultures as his theme. "'How do different cultures or different people interact?' is the main theme and this is a very important thing in contemporary society -- at least in Argentinean society -- in my point of view. The reason I use a crane and a giraffe is because there is a port on my way to the university and I saw cranes every day. A crane and a giraffe look alike, don't they? I thought about crane, giraffe, crane, giraffe, every day and I came to think it would be good to make a story in which these two creatures appear. I imagined if a crane and a giraffe met, how would they think of each other."

Bellini worked hard to maintain the features of hand drawing while animating the piece. "Although this is my first animated short film, when I got the idea, I structured a story while drawing drafts and created a storyboard on small sheets of paper. After that, I drew illustrations on the PC using tablets. The Crane and the Giraffe was made with a really cheap genius tablet ($50 more or less) but now with the world prizes, I can afford a beautiful Wacom Intuos3 that I really love."

Russian native Arina Melkozernova's Self-Transparency has been chosen by industry leaders as a premier example of digital artwork from one of the country's best and brightest digital media artists.

Bellini prefers hand drawing to computer animation. "It is nice to draw a picture on paper, as it is traditional, but in my opinion, too much paper will be needed, which is a waste if you think from the point of view of resources. The production of La grua y la jirafa took about four months. It doesn't mean I worked on only that every day, but it was time-consuming to draw sketches one by one -- and also it was my first time. When you move a picture, I love that the line of the character wobbles. That's why I draw pictures by hand. Hand drawing gives a lively impression and warm presentation... full of life characters. I personally am not fond of animation using the full range of CG technology, vector graphics, keyframe-made animation as it gives me a very cold feeling. I'm a big Dr. Katz fan (Comedy Central's Emmy-winning cartoon)!"

Arina Melkozernova's Self-Transparency is an animated work dedicated to painter Remedios Varo. The artist has incorporated aspects of the surrealist's iconography that relate to her own experience and explores the inner world of the person. "It is as though you are just waking up to understanding your body in space and having feelings about it," Sorenson spoke of Melkozernova's work, which she admires a great deal. "It's very, very beautiful." This piece has been chosen by industry leaders as a premier example of digital artwork from one of the country's best and brightest digital media artists.

Dennis Miller was the artistic director of an event called the Visual Music Marathon, which was a 12-hour festival of visual music held in Boston on April 28 of this year as part of the 2007 Boston Cyberarts Festival (www.bostoncyberarts.org). "We ran a call for work and got over 300 entries from 34 countries. Sixty of these works were chosen by our judges and another 60 works were selected by our two principal guest curators, Bruce Wands of the School of Visual Arts and New York Digital Salon and Larry Cuba of the Iota Center, to which were added works from invited artists, an excellent section of historic films (Richter, Bute, Fischinger, McLaren, Hirsh, Breer, Whitney and Lye), and one section of live video art performances. In case you are wondering, visual music is defined broadly as film, video or animation in which the visual elements are informed by musical processes. "That means a lot of different things to a lot of people," says Miller. "For example, some would say a work of visual music does not even need a musical soundtrack, but the original judging was done using a very broad definition of the term."

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Dennis Miller was invited by SIGGRAPH to curate two hours from the recent 2007 Northeastern University Visual Music Marathon. His own work, White Noise, will be included in the presentation. © Dennis Miller.

Miller was invited by SIGGRAPH to curate two hours from the 12 and chose 21 works that represented a diversity of styles and approaches to Visual Music. "The works at SIGGRAPH represent just that diversity," Miller states. "There were many priorities for the judging, including geography, professional status (we wanted to include some student works), genre ("challenging" vs. "lite" vs. whatever), compositional approaches, and above all else, quality of work. We were also very keen on including works that represented a wide range of interpretations of the concept of visual music. There are a large number of really excellent works."

What are a few of Miller's favorites? "I would say Eva Toth (Lajka's Memory, music by Gyorgy Kurtag Sr. and Gyorgy Kurtag Jr. ) and Fran Hartnet's work (Navigating the Pearl System) are very representative. Then Jean Detheux (Daydream Mechanics V Sketch 3, music by Michael Oesterle) raises the bar a good bit, and Bum Lee (Sports and Diversions, music by Erik Satie) is entirely different. Also love the VJ work of Kasumi (Ugoku, music by James Lauer) -- too many good ones!"

I would be remiss if I did not mention that Miller's own work, White Noise, will be included in Selections from the 2007 Northeastern University Visual Music Marathon.

Also being shown at Global Eyes will be selected works from the 10th Japan Media Arts Festival. This is a festival that focuses on creative media art works utilizing the latest expression of technology. The festival also supports creative activity through the presentation of a broad base of various works and promotes the development of media arts in Japan by providing opportunities of appreciation for the artists and their work such as exhibitions and sanctioned events.

Another area of Global Eyes that will no doubt garner a great deal of interest is digital performance. One of the standout works, Autocosm 2007, is by a California artist, J. Walt Adamczyk. This work is a continuation of his ongoing Autocosm project that premiered at SIGGRAPH 2005, in which the artist creates artificial worlds in solo live performances. An autocosm is a self-contained personal world, apart from the world we all share. In this case, it is a world of growth and evolution, of life and transformation. It is a realtime 3D animation that is somewhat like Fantasia, only it is performed in front of a live audience, hence Adamczyk has dubbed his work, Spontaneous Fantasia. It is his way of bringing the acts of drawing and animating into the domain of live performance.

Adamczyk began this groundbreaking work in 2003 after years of work in real-time effects and animation for movies, TV and location-based entertainment. "Live performance is a way I get to connect with an audience -- a way to let them share the fun of exploration that I experience in the studio," he explains. "For many years, I've created realtime systems that were used in the studio only, but the excitement that I had making things develop and evolve almost never made it out of the studio."

In his 2005 piece, Autocosm: The Gardens of Thuban, we ventured into a new world near the distant star Thuban (Alpha Draconis) in the constellation Draco. In the course of the piece, the world grows and, with the help of a catalyst, bursts into life. The action is an allegory of awakening and transformation.

"There is something magical to me about 3D objects moving through space," says Adamczyk. "Even a simple rotating shape captures my interest. Computer graphic techniques allow us to create these with a new facility -- to achieve forms that are realistic or impossible, or something in between."

For new fun ways to use a cellular phone, Performing Arts for the Future Mobile Generation by Hiroshi Matoba predicts new styles of play that children will enjoy with future mobile phones. 

With these pieces, Adamczyk explores a new kind of performance that, like improvisational theater, never repeats itself. "These performance works are not complete, but always in a state of change. The only time a piece is finished is when I'm performing it -- but it lasts only as the moment. With the push of a button, I erase it, and it is gone. It's my way of breaking away from the notion that animation has to be a polished, precious artifact. It can be something more loose, more dynamic, more... spontaneous!" You can preview Adamczyk's work at www.spontaneousfantasia.com.

Those of you who are interested in new fun ways to use your cellular phone will no doubt enjoy Performing Arts for the Future Mobile Generation by Hiroshi Matoba, Shizuoka University of Art and Culture. These two performance works predict new styles of play that children will enjoy with future mobile phones. One is made from six units of wireless displays based on LCD technology. The other is based on three units of wireless LED projectors.

Although the Art Gallery is at different venues than the main exhibition, SIGGRAPH 2007 shuttle bus service will be available for round-trip transportation from the San Diego Convention Center to the performance venues at the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Cal-IT2) and the Center for Research in Computing and the Arts (CRCA) at the University of California, San Diego.

J. Paul Peszko is a freelance writer and screenwriter living in Los Angeles. He writes various features and reviews as well as short fiction. He has a feature comedy in development and has just completed his second novel. When he isn't writing, he teaches communications courses.

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