New Blood/New Media: Digital Media Interactions and Projections opened in the Florida Gulf Coast University Art Gallery last evening. Straight from curator Michael Salmond's Department of Awesome, this highly diverse digital exhibition wrangles maximum artistic content out of a host of technological media that installation artists are only just now beginning to embrace.
Although art appreciation is by no means generational, using digital media to create installation art does seem skewed to younger, tech-savvy artists. While many of the older folks attending last night's Gallery Talk wore that slack-jawed "how in the hell did you do that?" look on their faces, the eyes of the FGCU students in the audience were filled with infinite possibilities. Not just a recognition that with time and hard work, they could emulate the digital displays laid out before them. With unencumbered imagination and a dose of brainstorming, they tweak and even surpass the digital mastery laid out before them in the New Blood/New Media show.
As the six installations in New Blood/New Media underscore, digital media art typically combines computer graphics, programming, physical computing, fabrication, prototyping, interactivity and computer games all in a single work. Artists working in the field bring to bear a constellation of real-world skills, including graphics, programming, digital video, interaction design, and computer game design using a wide range of tools, technologies, and techniques. It's this heady, combo approach that lands the resulting art installation in Salmond's self-described Department of Awesome.
For example, Six Degrees of Transportation is a data visualization website that asks the question “Where in the world’s mass of airports could you get to from one spot in 6 flights?” Placing the audience at the center of this airport universe, the program calculates 6 airport routes from a starting position of the user's choosing. To make their tech-heavy variation on Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, University of Florida graduates Chad Juehring and Joseph Murray used java script and python programming language to produce what Salmond describes as "mad data visualization."
Chromesthesia converts the viewer into interactive participant, providing each the experience of what it's like to have synesthesia, a neurological condition in which stimulation of one sensory pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory pathway. In one variation, for example, voice, music, and assorted environmental sounds such as clattering dishes or barking dogs trigger color and firework shapes that arise, move around, and then fade when the sound ends. And it is this experience that Clive Wright delivers through a wearable headset that captures EEG signals, converts them into MIDI, which controls sound and light.
Chicago-based interdisciplinary artist Leonardo Selvaggio used two TV sets to comment on the world of video surveillance. Technology aside, Surveillance Art1 enables the viewer to usurp the surveillance process through motion. "The more you move, the more your image is distorted," Salmond pointed out for his Gallery Talk audience. As with most installation art, Surveillance Art1 engages in socio-political commentary. "Too often, people assume the person behind the camera is good and has good intentions," said Salmond. "That's not always the case and Leonardo wants people to think about that before they blindly give up their image or face to technology like Facebook," a message reinforced of late by the controversy swirling about the NSA's Prism program which which allows officials to collect material including search history, the content of emails, file transfers and live chats from Google, Apple and a host of other internet providers.
New Blood/New Media will be on view in the FGCU Art Gallery through September 19. The gallery is located inside the FGCU Arts Complex, Florida Gulf Coast University, 10501 FGCU Blvd S, Fort Myers FL 33965. The gallery is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 4-8 p.m. on Thursdays for Evenings with Art.