Digital Arts exhibition showcases interactive new media art

Levi Goldman's "Completion Inc." is a blend of formal sculpture, robotics, and interactive programming. Viewers are invited to navigate a landscape of kinetic artworks, commodity objects, and prosthetic devices. These art works sense and interpret viewers' bodies and make corresponding movements throughout the space.
"Shift Register" is a sound installation by Joe Cantrell that utilizes hyper-directional speaker and brainwave recognition technologies to explore the body as a filter for data.
A snapshot from last year's DANM MFA exhibition at UCSC's new Digital Arts Research Center (Photo by Jim Mackenzie)

“If plastics could speak, what would they say?”

So begins graduate student Meredith Drum in the written description of her project, Louisiana Re-Storied, for the UC Santa Cruz Digital Arts and New Media (DANM) 2011 MFA Exhibition.

“Tracing plastics to their birthplace, Louisiana Re-Storied is an interactive documentary examining the massive petrochemical plants along the Mississippi River between Baton Rouge and New Orleans--home to communities that suffer disproportionately from this weakly regulated industry,” she goes on to explain.

Drum is one of 10 DANM graduate students at UCSC exhibiting works in the program’s annual show that are employing advanced technologies for creative potential and social impact.

The students’ final projects will be featured in Permutations, the 2011 DANM MFA exhibition, set for April 30-May 1 and May 5-8, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at UCSC’s Digital Arts Research Center.

The culmination of two years of research and artistic exploration, the show includes new media works that focus on performance, interactivity, and participation.

DANM faculty member Soraya Murray is curator of the exhibition.

She said that by combining innovative storytelling with new technology, the student artists are  experimenting with digital media to produce unforeseen outcomes or “permutations.”

“The title ‘Permutations’ arose from a conversation between all of the artists and myself,” said Murray. “While there were vastly different types of work being done, the one common theme everyone shares is their use of tools that we call ‘digital,' recombining or reconfiguring them to give rise to something more.” 

Murray noted that through their projects and research, the DANM students are probing fundamental questions and examining the borders and edges of new media art practices.

“Much of the work is oriented toward the experiential,” said Murray. “It encourages participants to have a hands-on experience in relationship to social and ethical concerns--or even in relation to simply being in the world. The work asks, ‘how can we think differently about this, or come at it from a totally different angle?’”

“Several of the works also use technology to point back to the body and the senses--which is interesting since so much of the mythologies around technology are about escaping the limits of the body,” Murray added.

“Much of this art throws the body right back into the mix, and in a way, the participants actually complete the work with their own bodies by playing, touching, and engaging.”

A reception for the exhibition will be held on Friday, May 6, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Digital Arts Research Center, immediately followed by a performance of a newly composed opera. Admission is free and open to the public.

For more information and a complete description of the student works, go to the DANM MFA Exhibition web site .