Technology and the arts come together in this innovative research cluster. Faculty across the arts, engineering and sciences explore new media applications based on shared expertise and evolving technologies. Concepts from diverse disciplines partner to create compelling expressions: dancers wired with sensors perform an interactive concert; media artists incorporate robotics and surveillance hardware in a social context; musicians compose complex scores based on math equations; computer-artists animate visual models from biological data. Experimental process and inquiry energize research and lead to new frontiers. The use of new technologies in art often acts as a laboratory for subsequent industrial and commercial applications. iARTA's affiliate journal, Moebius, gives critical insight to these emerging interdisciplinary practices in an international context.
BioMediation was produced by iARTA in collaboration with CEMI, College of Music (Composition Studies Division) and College of Visual Art and Design (Studio Art / New Media). The BioMediation concert takes its name from the evening’s featured work presented by João Beira and Yago de Quay, two Portuguese artists currently completing their doctoral work in digital media at U.T. Austin . The event highlighted a variety of live approaches exploring a range of electronic performance possibilities including gestural and brainwave input, image to sound transcoding, optical-sonic feedback systems and hybrid human-digital-analog network interactions. Participating iARTA faculty and affiliates included, Copulative Signules: Prolixitic Light Chamber (2014), composed and performed by Martin Back (Studio Art). Aludel of the Dawn Albedo (2014), Created by David Stout (Composition Studies & Studio Art / New Media) and Cory Metcalf (iARTA affiliate, University of Denver), with music composed and performed by Trio KAZE and NoiseFold (Stout & Metcalf). Sonic Synergies V (2014), composed and performed by Panayiotis Kokoras (Assistant Professor, Composition Studies).
iARTA associated faculty James Thurman (Assistant Professor of Studio Art) and Panayiotis Kokoras (Assistant Professor of Music Composition) have brought together two separate courses in metalsmithing and composition for a collaborative project. In this project, the students in the senior-level metalsmithing studio class have to create a metal object that the music composition students use to make music. In Kokoras' composition class, the students have learned to make hybrid acoustic/electronic instruments using arduino controllers and other techinques. This cooperative instrumental design project challenges the aesthetics and techniques of both the metalsmithing and music students. "The ending product [for the metalsmithing students] may not have significantly changed, but the process will be very different due to the context." Thurman said.
According to Thurman, this change in context also challenges the presuppositions of design culture in which the idea of the lone artist prevails over the potential of working together with others. "Within craft and design, there's a lot more reluctance for collaboration. The culture of the disciplines, oddly and incorrectly, promotes the idea of the lone artist doing their thing. But in my practice, both inside and outside of academia, I can't do anything without other people. There's always some kind of exchange, negotiation, and collaboration, particularly in the most successful projects."
The overall emphasis of the project, in addition to documenting the student work as both a performance and an art-object, is to teach students to articulate their ideas and needs within a group. "The point is to eventually find the right team and stick with it," Kokoras said, "so the more you know how to cope with [collaborating in a group] the better results you can have."
All in all, both Thurman and Kokoras seem pleased at the possibilities of the current project and potential future projects, "It's one of the richest semesters that I can imagine," Thurman said, "having both this collaboration project and the visiting artists we've had."