Mary Ann Skweres talks with the people behind putting together SIGGRAPH's Art Gallery and what we can expect in the future in the world of digital art.
After many years as a SIGGRAPH attendee, in 2001 artist/curator Linda Lauro-Lazin began volunteering in a number of different capacities. A true art enthusiast, she wanted to make a mark in the art community with technology-based work and, as 2005 Art Gallery chair, her chance has come. This years SIGGRAPH Art Gallery presents more than 100 pieces consisting of 2D, 3D and screen-based artwork by 52 juried artists and six invited artists, as well as 11 animation storyboards and 11short animations. The art is diverse from digital prints to CD-ROM to interactive installations and ranges from political to humorous. This exhibition represents a truly remarkable display of talent and cutting-edge creativity.
The criteria for selecting artists and works for the Gallery changes from year to year, decided upon by the program chair. Besides requiring that every piece be created using a computer in some capacity, as the 2005 Art Gallery chair Lauro-Lazin asked jurors to choose work that fit several criteria. First she wanted the work to be within the theme of the show, Threading Time, meaning she wanted images and data mapped over time and space. Second, the artists were asked to show a body of work so as to spotlight each individual artists depth of vision. She also wanted valid artistic pieces; work that was content driven with technology in the service of that content as opposed to showcasing the technology. And, finally, the work needed an inherent reason for being digital. Otherwise, why bother doing it? If you can create with paint, then why dont you paint? expounds Lauro-Lazin.
The Gallery has been designed to steer the participant from one space to another. Each space contains loosely themed content. A space that is about landscape in the broad sense leads into another space that is about narrative. Then theres the re-contextualizing group of artists who take ideas and completely change the context in which those ideas are expressed. One of those works is a billboard piece based on an overheard cell phone conversation so text of this intimate conversation is on the billboard. Another turns a trace root command into traditional turn-of-the century cross-stitch. Continuing into another space, the viewer enters the political area. An intriguing piece shows black-and-white, de-saturated, Hollywood war footage projected onto the head of a pin viewed through a magnifying glass as a large pixilated poster of George Bush taken in the kindergarten class on 9/11 squints down from the gallery wall.
Lauro-Lazin wanted to share work she really loved with the SIGGRAPH community, so she curated six significant, internationally recognized artists from the contemporary art world: Jim Campbell, Paul Kaiser and Shelly Eshkar, Perry Hoberman, John Gerrard and Camille Utterback. According to Lauro-Lazin, Campbell, who is an engineer as well as an artist, is a perfect example of a technology savvy, poetic individual and his work shows that. Two samples of the curated works illustrate why Lauro-Lazin was determined to include these artists in the exhibition.
Originally a painter, Utterback also holds technology patents. Described as beautiful and painterly, her installation, Untitled 5, is a space with a projection system that turns viewers into creative participants by allowing them to interactively craft a constantly changing painting on the wall based on the users gestures in space. It is a really visceral experience, explains Lauro-Lazin.
Perry Hobermans work is funny, wacky and political. His piece at the entryway to the gallery, Art Under Contract, is very tongue-in-check. It includes the user license agreement so prevalent nowadays. In order to view the artwork, the participant needs to click and accept the agreement. Then the large steel structure next to the computer opens its creaky window to allow the artwork to be viewed. I have seen the artwork and I cannot tell you what it looks like because Ive already agreed to that end-user license agreement, quips Lauro-Lazin.
A sampling of the juried artists further confirms the varied scope of the exhibition.
Reflecting the exhibitions theme of Threading Time, the Oral Fixations evolves throughout a seven-hour time period. In this absurdist commentary on gluttony, a conveyor belt delivers hams at a rate of more than100 an hour to an animated character that takes a bite of each ham before discarding the remainder and delightfully dancing around flossing. The hams pile up around the character over the duration of the piece until the room is filled with the oddly humorous refuse of this gluttony. SIGGRAPH attendees are encouraged to revisit the piece periodically throughout the day to see the changing environment.
Oral Fixations is a team project, a collaboration of seven artists, animators, computer scientists and actors each working in their respective fields. Originally developed by James Duesing, an animator and professor at the Carnegie Mellon School of Art, and Jessica Hodgins, a professor at the Carnegie Mellon School of Computer Science, whose interests include motion capture and behavioral algorithms, the project evolved from an animation class they co-teach that combines art and technical approaches. The team that worked on the project was recruited from their respective schools.
Duesings work has been exhibited in diverse venues, including The Sundance Film Festival, PBS, MTV, the Los Angeles Institute of Contemporary Art and The Best of SIGGRAPH. The 2003 SIGGRAPH papers chair and a recipient of a NSF Young Investigator Award, a Packard Fellowship and a Sloan Fellowship, Hodgins research focuses on computer graphics, robotics and animation. As a junior at Carnegie Mellons School of Art, Bum Lee focuses on computer animation, including 3D modeling and silhouette animation. He is also a book illustrator, portrait artist and web designer. Besides being interested in traditional portraiture, Moshe Mahler, a Carnegie Mellon College of Fine Arts alumni, likes to explore personalities through computer animation. He is currently an animation designer in the computer graphics department at Carnegie Mellons Robotics Institute. Jay OBerski holds a masters of fine art in acting from Carnegie-Mellon and Moscow Art Theatre School. He teaches acting at Duke University and is the theatrical director of the Little Green Pig Theatrical Concern. A researcher in the area of computer graphics, Sang Il Park is a postdoctoral fellow at Carnegie Mellon University with a Ph.D in computer science from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology. His current research is on synthesizing character animation and visually simulating natural phenomena. Currently working on his masters in fine art at Carnegie Mellon University, David Tinapple, works at the crossroads of art, technology and perception. He has performed and shown work internationally as well as produced interactive CD-ROMs for Saturday Night Live and designed interface and interaction at Match.com.
Peter Hovarths Intervals is a web based audio/video piece inspired by an interest in the nature of identity and consciousness. Unfolding through cinematic interludes, these animated character portraits explore the identity of four subjects, exposing their most intimate selves through accounts of lost innocence, fear of the unknown, masculine ritual and the mystery of love. Yet much like memory these accounts are subject to slippages, distortions and filmic alter-egos.
A net-based artist, Hovarths interests in multi-media art began with photography at the age of six and progressed to other art forms, including photomontage, which he uses in his net-based and 2D works. At the birth of the web, he immersed himself in digital technologies, becoming a founding member of the net.art collective. He believes one of the benefits of working on the Internet is the large audience base that can access his work from anywhere in the world. Hovarth also likes that the Internet, Allows me to combine image/text/audio/video. I see myself as a participant and investigator in the realm of new media art as it exists on the web.
Hovarths exhibitions include the Whitney Museum of American Arts Artport, 18th Stuttgarter Filmwinter (Germany), FILE Electronic Language International Festival (Brazil), Video Zone International Video Art Biennial (Israel) and venues in New York, Quebec, Tokyo, London as well as numerous net.art showings.
A digital fiction, The Breathing Wall is a full-length interactive program created by writer Kate Pullinger, artist/designer babel and Berlin-based software artist Stefan Schemat using a story-telling software developed by Schemat that responds to human breathing. The users breath becomes an input device that affects the way that the story is told. Visually it uses a mix of digitally altered photos and video. In keeping with the theme of threading time, Pullinger explains, There are two temporal threads in the story represented by day and night dreams interwoven to reveal the story as a classical who-dunnit. During the night-dreams, time becomes a function of the readers breathing rate: it takes each reader a different amount of time to relax enough so that the full story is revealed.
The Academy award-winning film, The Piano, is based on a novel that Pullinger co-wrote with director Jane Campion. Her published books include several novels and short story collections. She also writes for film and television; her feature, Violet, is currently in development at the BBC. Schemat is a media artist, writer, programmer and pioneer in GPS-driven storytelling. His breathing book, an electronic work that responds to the breathing rhythms of the reader, is a truly innovative use of computer technology. Digital writer, artist and editor of the post dada magazine 391.org., babels recent projects include a collection of multimedia childrens poetry, Animalamina,and a collaborative multimedia CD/website, Online/Offline.
Brian Knep exhibits three wall pieces showing slowly drifting shapes entitled, Drip, Drift and Drift Grid. Explorations into mathematics, biology and architecture, the pieces never look the same. The art records an infinite process that in all probability will never repeat. Knep admits his fascination with the idea of the infinite arising out of the finite.
Although he is trained in mathematics and computer science, Knep retains a love/hate relationship with technology. He pursued pottery as an antidote to those feeling. Liking the physical feel and unpredictable nature of clay, Knep believes that work has more soul, but continues to be drawn to the potential of computers, attempting to infuse his digital works with as much soul as the pots that he has created.
Knep has exhibited in galleries and museums across Europe, the United States and Korea. Effects and production software that he developed has been used on feature films, such as Jurassic Park and he was awarded two science and technology Academy Awards for his work at Industrial Light & Magic.
Inspired by traditional music as well as illustration and sculpting, Amit Pitaru is showing Sonic Wire Sculptor, a work using projection, surround sound and Wacom Cintiq in a custom made kiosk. The work is time-based with the user creating 3D threads. Pitarus interest includes the tools used in traditional artistic disciplines but extends this traditional craft so that the piece is both the tool and the medium, which is perhaps a unique aspect of using computational media in an interactive manner.
Lee Arnolds Here is a time-based piece that continues to explore the themes used in his still images color, space, abstraction and pattern. With a background in painting and photography, creator Arnold considers digital media, to be a natural extension of his artistic practice. He likes to create a dialogue between still and moving images through vibrant paintings that use digital stills as their source and digital animations.
Born in London, England, Arnold attended undergraduate and graduate school in the United States. He currently teaches at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. He has had numerous exhibitions, including ones at the Golaith Visual Space, Gallery Onetwentyeight and Long Island University.
Inspired by cinema and painting, Jonathan Wilkinson uses the medium of interactive video to execute his work. His SIGGRAPH exhibition, Interactive Panoramic Video Sequences, is screen-based art best suited for gallery installations. A multisensory experience, the user navigates the work with a resulting feeling of immersion and relocation within the scene reinforced by directional soundscapes. Wilkinson shoots the scenes on location, recapturing feelings and emotions in the studio, coaching the scenes after they have been shot, adding a character here, deleting a boat there, letting a bird fly into a different time and space.
Wilkinson is a lecturer in video and audio production at Leeds Metropolitan University, who combines teaching with his commercial practice and further research into his chosen specialty, creative technology. His work has been exhibited internationally at venues, including the New York Independent Film Festival and The Numbers Gallery in London. In 2005, he produced and directed a video for the U.K. punk band, Abrasive Wheels.
This is just a sampling of the multi-sensory experiences awaiting attendees of SIGGRAPH 2005. Take the time to stroll through the Gallery and then move on to view the animation storyboards, performance art and short animations, as well as visiting the Electronic Theater and Computer Animation Festival. Its well worth your time and effort.
Mary Ann Skweres is a filmmaker and freelance writer. She has worked extensively in feature film and documentary post-production with credits as a picture editor and visual effects assistant. She is a member of the Motion Picture Editors Guild.