Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Going Digital in Rural Vermont

Exploring digital art in Vermont at the 2012 Woodstock Digital Media Festival

Vermont is the place to see and discuss the latest in digital art this summer at the Woodstock Digital Media Festival, June 22 and 23. Now in its second year, the Festival brings leading digital media innovators from the arts, business, education, and non-profits together to explore some of the important and influential work being done in new media today.

Joe McKay is the Festival’s curator and an Assistant Professor of New Media at Purchase College in New York. McKay believes that Woodstock is a great environment to explore issues around new media. “Particularly for the art world, where historically the sense has been that if you are not in New York, you are not relevant, holding a digital media art exhibition in Vermont is both provocative and predictive of the possibilities inherent in new media and digital media art,” McKay says.

A panel discussion on “Issues in Digital Media Art” will bring artists, curators and commentators together on Saturday, June 23, from 10-11AM at the Norman Williams Public Library. Panelists include Barbara London, curator of the MOMA Visual Media Center and Paddy Johnson, founding editor of the New York-based art blog, Art Fag City.

Whether on the screen or in an environment, new media art can take many different forms, even when created by the same artist. Johnson cites the work of programmer and artist, Aaron Koblin, which ranges from TheSheepMarket.com, an online collection of 10,000 tiny drawings made by workers paid two cents each to "draw a sheep facing to the left" to “Flight Patterns,” a video representation that gives color and form to the paths of air traffic over North America.

Flight Patterns by Aaron Koblin

Digital art takes advantage of that inherent variability to engage the viewer, Johnson says. “Viewing conditions are more easily controlled by the viewer in digital mediums. For example, the viewer can turn the screen lighting down or up, or the digital art is in physical space and may include an interactive element. With other visual arts, the lighting is fixed, the display is fixed, and the artist may expect the art to just flow over you.”

Johnson mentions Very Nervous System by David Rokeby as a good example of that interactivity. In Very Nervous System, motion sensors around the room connect to a computer program that responds to movements in the space and plays music. (See a video of David Rokeby interacting with Very Nervous System in 1991here.)

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