UCSC grad students to present exhibition of digital art with social impact at Museum of Art and History

"One notable quality of the DANM program at UCSC is its commitment to translating theory into practice," notes faculty member Soraya Murray (above), curator of the exhibition. "It's theoretically rigorous, but students are also trained to be practicing artists...they're engaged with the most forward thinking notions of what art can be." (photo: Scott Rappaport)

Ten graduate students from UCSC's Digital Arts and New Media (DANM) program will present a two-part exhibition at the Museum of Art and History in downtown Santa Cruz, running April 17 to June 24.

Titled interACTIVATE, the exhibit will explore the intersection of digital art and social consciousness. It is the culmination of two years of research and artistic exploration by the students into digital media art and its many social impacts.

"Each of the projects are very different, although they all utilize digital media to contemplate key concerns of our time," noted DANM faculty member Soraya Murray, curator of the exhibition.

"It's not necessarily what you might expect of a digital arts exhibition," Murray added. "The works are designed to provoke a response about a number of subjects beyond the digital, ranging from the politics of food, to the economic downturn and the right of public dissent."

Melanie Stewart's "Blissomatic Surreal" is a media installation about private and public space-based on the student's own love/hate relationship with technology. While Stewart embraces technological tools that mix video, photo manipulation and sound collages with traditional arts, she often recoils from the invasion of professional life into personal life as a result of "always with us" and "always on" technologies such as cell phones and e-mail.

By juxtaposing today's eagerness for accessibility and productivity alongside a sentimental point of view about the simpler joys of life associated with the 60s and 70s, Stewart's installation is designed for viewers to "confront their own personal map of the breakdown between these two spaces."

Troy Allman describes his "294" project as the result of a 42-week research and development venture, in which a clerical office was used as his primary living space. This unusual living situation inspired the creation of a series of devices designed to make the clerical office more functional as a living space, "while incorporating the aesthetic of the office environment."

Allman's devices--created during the onset of last year's mortgage crisis-offer a satirical commentary on alternative living during times of economic hardship, and visitors to the exhibit are "encouraged to explore the artifacts in their form, functionality, and absurdity."

"One notable quality of the DANM program is its commitment to translating theory into practice," noted Murray. "It is theoretically rigorous, but students are also trained to be practicing artists. The work is very intellectual, introspective and involved with social concerns; at the same time, they're producing some of the most cutting-edge types of art."

"They're engaged with the most forward thinking notions of what art can be," Murray added. "Since the 1960s there's been an ever broadening notion about what constitutes art, and about where and how art happens. And I think for a lot of artists in the exhibition, that art happens in the moment when the viewer activates the work through their participation. So in a sense, the audience completes the artwork by interacting with it and generating an experience."

The interACTIVATE exhibition will take place at the Museum of Art & History, 705 Front Street, Santa Cruz, (831) 429-1964. Part 1 of the exhibition featuring Rupa Dhillon, Roopesh Sitharan, and Melanie K. Stewart runs from April 17 to May 14. Part 2, featuring Troy Allman, Miki Yamada Foster, g. craig hobbs, Lindsay Kelley, Joshua McVeigh-Schultz, Nada Miljkovic, and Laila Shereen Sakr runs from May 29 to June 24. For more information about UCSC's DANM program, go to: http://danm.ucsc.edu.