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Interactive Exhibit Features Global Art

Published: January 23, 2007
By Robin Roger
Web Writer

When Electronics Alive IV emerged from its cocoon on Jan. 22, it seemed more alive than ever.

“It’s bigger and better,” said Dorothy Cowden, director of the Scarfone/Hartley Gallery on The University of Tampa campus. “We try to add more every year.”

The biennial invitational art exhibit features more interactive, multimedia and animated pieces, including One Rat Short, which won best in show at the 2006 SIGGRAPH Computer Animation Festival in Boston. More than 25 monitors fill the Scarfone/Hartley Gallery with light and motion, while two-dimensional digital works hang from the walls.

Cowden and art professors Lew Harris, Doug Sutherland and Santiago Echeverry chose the pieces from work shown at SIGGRAPH. The pieces come from countries as far away as Japan, South Korea and Iran.

“This is a digital world and a global world,” said, Echeverry, who teaches advanced digital arts at UT. “Our main goal was to bring videos from all over the world. This only happens once every two years, so we had to bring something special to UT.”

Echeverry’s own piece, “World,” is on display, and it includes 210 short videos recorded all over the world with his cell phone. The clips show bits of his personal experience: scenes from a night club in Bogotá, his nephew dancing, friends toasting champagne, a mosque in Istanbul.

These images appear as tiles in a mosaic, and viewers can enlarge them by moving the mouse over them, and change them by clicking on each one. As a new 10-second video loads, a different audio clip plays on the speaker.

“It’s all about interactivity,” Echeverry said. “You end up creating your own story.”

A mixed media installation by assistant professor Sutherland shows a collage of images surrounding an altered self-portrait.The mouth of the self-portrait contains a small video screen, which shows video of him talking about his inspirations for the piece.

The images in the background depict scenes of evil from paintings by European painters. The piece was inspired by pictures of Satan painted by Gustav Doré to illustrate John Milton’s Paradise Lost and scenes of evil from Matthias Grünewald’s Temptation of St. Anthony. One exhibition piece from Japan features a magnetic liquid that moves as it’s affected by the fields around it.

Another piece shows text from spam e-mail messages, such as ads for watch replicas, Canadian drugs and Hoodia, a diet pill. “Sick of the social stigmata of being overweight?” the spam asks. Printouts of the messages hang from the ceiling like long strands of confetti. 

Short films run continuously in a viewing room beside the gallery. One Rat Short appears on a plasma screen at the front of the gallery. It follows a New York City rat, from the dark, dirty streets to a fluorescent lit lab. The film’s director, Alex Weil, speaks at the gallery at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 6.

On Friday, Feb. 9, from 7 to 9 p.m., Harris and music professor Terry Mohn give a performance of digital art and music. A reception follows.

Other speakers are Teri Rueb of the Rhode Island School of Design, Kevin Scolaro from the Tampa-based Tri-Dimensional Animation Studios, Alan Price, director of the interactive real-time animation Tartatus and Bruce Wands of the New York School of Visual Arts.

Wands will discuss his new book, “Art of the Digital Age,” an illustrated survey of digital art featuring more than 100 artists from around the world. He will also talk about his new motion painting series, the Buddha Light Dance, based on the ancient sacred geometry of Buddhist art. This is his second time speaking at Electronics Alive.

“One of the appealing aspects of the exhibition is the international nature of the art,” he said. “Digital art is different, in that it is developing on a global level, rather than the way traditional movements in art did, which were localized, such as the 19th century Hudson River school of landscape painting or the French impressionists. The Internet has been an important component in the development of global culture and art created with computers and technology.”

Electronics Alive IV runs through Thursday, Feb. 22. For full schedule, click here.