2009 marked the 10th anniversary of the Boston Cyberarts Festival. From April 24-May 10, 2009, fifty organizations, their curators and artists produced more than 80 events, including exhibitions, symposiums, public projections, dance performances, web art, workshops and screenings that showcased the complexity that the cross-pollination of art and technology can generate. In addition, the combination of interactive platforms, the web and digitally immersive environments generated a digital network of hundreds of artists who participated in our Festival, even if they were not physically present.
Participating galleries and museums took advantage of the Festival’s mission to showcase work that explores new technologies. Venues like the Judi Rotenberg Gallery, Charles River Museum of Industry & Innovation, Howard Yezerski Gallery and CounterpART Gallery presented exhibitions that introduced the general public to a survey of works by both local and national artists.
Over the course of eleven months, Daniel Phillips set up a camera to take thousands of still images of his studio floor, including his own actions in the space, and then connected these images into a moving animation of cycles of destruction and construction. His work Inherent Tendencies Toward Disorganization was a collection of multiple digital works that document the futile endless rotation of debris & objects within his studio. This presentation won the Merit Award for the 2009 IBM Innovation Award for artistic creation in art and technology.
Syntax, at the Photographic Resource Center, presented digital prints that addressed the concept of digital information and systems—their meaning and aesthetics. In the words of Curator Leslie Brown, the exhibit “visualize[d] digital information and systems and meditate[d] on the building blocks of digital itself, the pixels and programs”. Artists included Patricia Ambrogi (Rochester, NY), Benno Friedman (Sheffield, MA), Meggan Gould (Topsham, ME), Brian Piana (Houston, TX), Mark J. Stock (Newton, MA), Luke Strosnider (Rochester, NY) and Matthew Swarts (Somerville, MA and NJ).
Boston Sculptors Gallery featured an exhibition of Boston artist Beth Galston’s Luminous Garden (Aerial). Her delicate installations converted the entire space into a glowing nest of LED’s, copper wire, and resin casted acorn shells transformed into flowers.
Projections, prints, and interactive programs took over the gallery space at the Axiom Center for New and Experimental Media. PARSE: Visualizing Data That Makes Us Human featured works by artists using raw data as material for their final images. In the Boston Globe, Cate McQuaid mentioned that “it’s hard to resist Fleshmap,” by Fernanda Viégas and Martin Wattenberg. Calling the piece “fun and yummy,” Fleshmap playfully worked with information gathered from the Internet about body parts people like to touch and have touched.
Netherlands artist duo Carmin Karasic and Rolf van Gelder installed their interactive kaleidoscope projection, Humann at the Museum of Science. As viewers enter the range of the installed hidden camera, the live video of their image is fused with images of humanity from around the world. The motion of the visitor controlled the range of spinning and zooming in the final kaleidoscope image. This mixing of individuals and world events forces the viewer to recognize our intertwined relationships and our effect on the global condition.
The Decordova Museum and Sculpture Park exhibited a series of immersive projections and installations by artist collaborators Ann Carlson/Mary Ellen Strom. Their work fuses video art’s tendencies towards the visually spectacular and its legacy as a tool for social change. Using the strategies of collaborative performance and time-based art work, they examine the moving body within a range of “landscapes”.
|Lectures / Discussions
Employing tactics of spectacle and humor, Carlson performed a piece with the cow featured in a video in the exhibition, Madame 710, before the museum’s Paul J. Cronin Memorial Lecture. This year’s lecture featured both Mary Ellen Strom and Ann Carlson and was moderated by video art scholar and Rose Museum Director Michael Rush.
With the onslaught of interactive digital platforms available to anyone online, this year ’s festival invited some of the influential players and artists working within these technologies to discuss and share their insights and experiences. Navigating Cyberworlds: Creative Practice in Virtual Reality was a panel discussion held at Boston University’s Photonics Center with Mark Skwarek, Tamiko Thiel, HongLei Lee, Jeff Lipsky, with George Fifield as moderator.
Boston Public Library’s Copley Branch co-hosted a lecture and interactive presentation about art in Second Life™ with members of Boston is Watching. Keynote presenters included Dr.Lori Landay (L1Aura Loire), Jay Van Buren, and Second Life artists.
Utilizing digital technologies to create immersive environments, many artists—local and international, physically present and digital, emerging and established—created works that invited public interaction and global audiences.
Berlin-based artist collaborative T+T (MIT alumna Tamiko Thiel and Teresa Reuter) reconstructed a 3D visual timeline of the Berlin Wall and a selection of its surrounding neighborhoods as seen from 1961 to 1989. Virtuelle Mauer / ReConstructing the Wall was on view at the Goethe-Institut of Boston for the duration of the Festival and provided a unique and beautiful didactic tool for the general public, special interest groups, and also visitors from various local schools eager to explore this historically significant world.
The atrium of Cambridge Arts Council was transformed into a virtual baroque painting entitled Children of Arcadia. The projected installation, created by Mark Skwarek, Joseph Hocking, Arthur Peters and Damon Baker, took over an entire wall. The work tracked current events and societal issues, fed by real-time information about the American economy from the Internet, to determine the climate of the world of “Arcadia”. Visitors could explore this virtual world through a game controller. Surround sound and the panoramic visuals immersed the viewers in a world that artfully describes the shifting climate of our country as a literal metaphor.
Students working at Boston University’s SCV Computer Graphics Lab (HiPArt) collaborated to create, Unnatural Disasters, a virtual planet meant for exploration. Displayed on a 15’x8’ wall, visitors put on 3D glasses and used a game controller to navigate this virtual world that investigates themes of interspecies conflict, planetary exhaustion and financial meltdown.
Boston Cyberarts organized an art exhibition in Second Life entitled Traversing Sweet Illusions. An exquisite work of art in its own right, Artropolis, an island of ancient ruins, by Todd Tevlin is the portal for the other six featured artworks: I'm Not Here by Lance Shields, Hostile Space by D.C Spensley, Land of Illusions by Lily & Honglei, Traversal for Faneuil Hall by John Fillwalk and Jesse Allison, In the Sweet Bye & Bye by Philip Jones and Adventures of Filthy Fluno by Jeffrey Lipsky.
Various arts & technology enthusiasts provided workspaces as educational venues to give visitors opportunities to interact with media development professionals.
The collective Willoughby & Baltic invited the public to Microsoft Startup Labs to experience interactive art by making their own at several stations set up with materials and instructors. Members of Willoughby & Baltic hosted a panel discussion and featured some work, including Andrew Sempere’s Sod Off! (an interactive grass installation), Doug Moore’s electronic bottle organ, sound installations from Derek Hoffend, Mary Murray’s interactive video Falling up and a concert performance of Orgy of Noise by Bill T. Miller.
In the MIT Museum the Center for Advanced Visual Studies, participants had four hours to write programs that display the time using Processing, a code for creating digital projects that was developed by Ben Fry and Casey Reas. The final projects were presented in the open studio space and the winners of the “Fame” prize were selected by Fry and Reas. The winning program — Motion Clock, Stillness Clock by UIMprovers (Eric Rosenbaum & Seth Hunter) — was displayed in the MIT Museum for the remainder of the Cyberarts Festival.
MIT also houses a research and development facility for video games at their Singapore-MIT Gambit Game Lab. The game lab opened their doors to the public and invited visitors to participate in the process of game development. The lab’s designers, programmers, artists and researchers were available for questions and were ready to instruct visitors on video game systems and computers running game development programs.
|Sound Art/Musical Performances and Festivals
Collaboratively curated events and presentations developed by musicians, programmers, visual artists, performance artists, and even talk radio personalities coordinated with local organizations to offer events that encouraged unique arrangements that overlap definitions of traditional presentations.
Presented on enormous projection screens at Massachusetts College of Art & Design’s newly renovated Pozen Center, the Live Video/Dead Video Festival offered attendees a variety of presentations. These ranged from instructive experimental video procedures, to live performances of real-time video and audio mixing, to a screening of 20 finalists in a call for new video art.
For two separate nights the Enormous Room, a Central Square hotspot, hosted multimedia video and electronic music shows with an event called Beat Research, the long-running weekly dedicated to “Experimental Party Music”. Veteran crowd pleaser DJ Flack teamed up with the duo Zebbler Encanti Experience (Peter Berdovsky and Ben Encanti) and DJ RNDM (performing a vinyl controlled video set) for both club aficionados and Festival attendees looking for a late night dance party!
Jad Abumrad of the popular science talk radio show Radio Lab (produced by WNYC) came to the Planetarium at the Museum of Science to broadcast a selection of his stories and ideas about space and the endless fascination with looking up. The hour-long event included discussions about that vast void with scientists, theorists, and field practitioners to an audience gazing at choreographed constellations, projected images and sound.
At the Radio Lab reception visitors saw two ladies in coordinated outfits carrying what looked like makeshift industrial cigarette trays holding laptops, they were watching the performance work of Scarlett Electric. This duo, Jeanne Jo and Rachelle Beaudoin, were commenting via Twitter from various Festival events, including Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Lab’s Videogame Research & Development Lab, the Ensemble Robot performance at Axiom Center for New & Experimental Research, and at the LOOPS Project Performance at the MIT Museum.
|Presentations by Boston Cyberarts
Boston Cyberarts was awarded a grant from the LEF Foundation to present a project at the MIT Museum entitled Loops. This project is a digital portrait of Merce Cunningham by artists Marc Downie, Shelley Eshkar and Paul Kaiser and was released as open source data by the Cunningham Foundation and OpenEnded Group (the artists’ organization) for this purpose. For the opening of this event Boston Cyberarts curated an exhibition of open source software and an evening of performance. Four artists — Brian Knep, Golan Levin, Casey Reas and Sosolimited — used the data and software from 2001’s LOOPS Project and generated new digital portraiture of Cunningham. After Downie’s keynote talk there were performances by dancers Jonah Bokaer (who had worked under Merce Cunningham in the past) and Marjorie Morgan.
CyberartCentral, the Festival’s visitor center, was located at 1331 Boylston Street in a spacious storefront generously donated by Samuels and Associates The CyberartCentral exhibition featured early computer animations from the 1960’s, on loan from the Anne & Michael Spalter's collection of experimental digital films (originally produced by Bell Labs), and works by area digital art students. The juried exhibition of digital and new media art represented graduate and undergraduate programs at Brandeis University, Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), Emerson College, School of the Museum of Fine Arts (SMFA), and others.
On May 8 the IBM Collaborative User Experience (CUE) Research Group hosted the Boston Cyberarts Gala. Arriving guests entered into an exhibit of interactive works by artists from CUE, including Jesse Kriss’s Dead Air, Live which turns local radio signals into an interactive and indeterminate composition; Matt McKeon’s 100 LED Balloons floating free in the IBM Atrium; Andrew Sempere’s Bowl of Oceans: Meditations on Burst Philosophy, in which sounds of the ocean are triggered in headphones and grow louder as the bowl of water is disturbed, and Sod Off!, a grass installation exploring the emotional lives of the botanic life forms that share human space. In the main hall Anne and Michael Spalter’s collection of early computer animations from Bell Labs in the 1960s and 1970s were on display, along with a remixed video montage After School Special Remix by SoSoLimited.
At the Gala, Boston Cyberarts Founder and Director George Fifield announced the recipients of the 2009 IBM Innovation Awards for artistic creation in art and technology. This award was given in recognition of outstanding work presented at the exhibitions and events featured in the 2009 festival. The Grand Award of $3000 went to Virtuelle Mauer / ReConstructing the Wall, by the Berlin-based artist team T + T (Tamiko Thiel + Teresa Reuter), at the Goethe-Institut Boston. Two Merit Awards of $1000 each were presented to Daniel Phillips, for his work Inherent Tendencies Toward Disorganization, at the Judi Rotenberg Gallery, and to Mark Skwarek, Joseph Hocking, Arthur Peters, and Damon Baker for Children of Arcadia at the Cambridge Arts Council Gallery.
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