Call of the Wild Echoes Through the Beall Center

These nights, in the dark, warehouse-like Beall Center for Art and Technology, it is not unusual to find a pack of students and professors howling and barking together in formation.
The reason for these strange and somewhat unusual happenings is the result of the Beall Center’s new exhibition entitled ‘Through the Eye of the Wolf’, featuring the works of Bill Tomlinson and Sam Easterson. The exhibition held its opening receptionat the Beall Center on Sept. 26.
Filled with an older audience comprised of many professors, the Beall event had a quiet, elegant tone. Faculty and graduate art students strolled through the exhibit, discussing the individual pieces.
The exhibition runs until Oct. 26 and is open from Tuesday through Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. and Friday from noon to 8 p.m.
The exhibit is comprised of two screen-projected triptychs. The pieces situate the viewer in thewolf’s point-of-view and aim to educate the participant on the social and behavioral patterns of wolves.
Easterson’s installation, entitled ‘Animal, Vegetable, Video: Pack of Wolves,’ immerses the viewer in the daily lives of three wolves. Easterson and his team achieved the video’s unusual perspective by outfitting the wolves with miniature helmet-mounted cameras. This provided for photos that were right in the action that was taking place. They often required more than once glance to understand. The viewer-as-wolf wanders the eerie woodlands of Florissant, Colorado, digging holes and apparently searching for food and companionship.
‘This has been one of my most challenging projects,’ said Easterson, who considers the piece a component of a larger project of videos taken in the perspective of animals and plants.
Easterson has previously recorded the perspective of armadillos, spiders and tumbleweeds and is thus well-rounded in the field of photographing live moving objects.
Easterson’s installation was commissioned last year by the Los Angeles Natural History Museum as part of a large exhibit on dogs.
Tomlinson, who has recently joined UCI’s arts, computation and engineering graduate program, submitted his piece as his doctoral dissertation at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Beyond visually placing the viewer in the life of a wolf, Tomlinson’s work entitled ‘Alphawolf’ requires the actual, physical interaction of the viewer with computer-generated wolves.
Three participants become members of a virtual wolf pack and interact with each other as well as with other autonomous wolves by howling, growling, whimpering and barking into microphones.
Each sound signifies a particular mood or emotion. For example, barking indicates playfulness, and growling indicates anger. The wolf being addressed reacts accordingly to each vocalization. This unique presentation proved effective in helping the audience better understand the complexities of the animal.
‘Having a multi-user simulation was important to us so that the user not only interacts with the virtual creatures, but with his peers using the program as well,’ Tomlinson said.
According to Tomlinson, each five-minute run is intended to simulate the formation and maintenance of the wolf pack’s social structure. The computer-rendered wolves are programmed to behave in a manner that reflects their previous social interactions.
Third-year English and studio art major Lumen Hwang was fascinated by the creativity of the interactive displays that made the evening’s activities different from other art exhibits.
‘I think it’s great how you can pick up the [microphone] and interact with the art,’ Hwang said,'[Both installations] make me ask questions.’
Visit the Beall Center to experience a different kind of art. It’s another one of the unique treasures that UCI has to offer.