Technologically Influenced Umweltforshow at Beall Center

The Arts Computation Engineering program at UC Irvine brought the creative forces behind art, computer science and engineering together in a unique graduate student presentation entitled Umweltforshow. On the evening of Thursday, May 18, UCI’s Beall Center for Art and Technology was transformed for an evening into a swank gallery featuring the school’s most innovative works of art.
The 2006 ACE graduate thesis exhibition focused on and celebrated Jakob Von Exile’s concept of the ‘umwelt,’ Exile’s term for the subjective lived environment of an organism. With digital technologies progressively shaping and changing our um welt, the students focused on the issues that arise as we shape the umwelt and the um welt shapes our world.
Simone Perry, professor of art and engineering at UCI and co-director of ACE, explained that the program is meant to prepare people for careers in cultural practice with emerging technologies. The thesis project encourages the imagination of new sorts of techno-cultural practices in mixing technical, artistic, philosophical and theatrical training.
The exhibit features graduate thesis projects by ACE program students Delvin Hanson, Cina Hazegh, Eric Kabisch and Kevin Ponto. Each student presented his own interpretation of how the world of emerging technology, computation, engineering and art combine to shape how we view the world around us.
Arts department graduate student Kabisch explored the relationship between the virtual and the real world with his piece entitled ‘Datascape.’ Kabisch presented a moveable platform device that displays the virtual representation of a city on a screen. Underneath the platform is a large map of what is being seen on the screen, including street names, trees and houses.
‘I wanted to present an alternate reality to the real world,’ explained Kabisch. ‘The device is meant to be conceived as something to be used in a car. It’s like looking through a virtual lens into the data world as we critique what we see through data sets,’ he continued. I could easily see this technology used in a car as a navigational device.
ACE graduate student Ponto also explored the relationship between virtual reality and the real world in his thesis project. Ponto has created a system in which virtual forces feed on real objects and vice versa. A small steering wheel-controlled car drives around a encircled area on the ground. A virtual representation of what a driver in the car would see is presented on a large screen above the audience. As the steering-wheel turns, the virtual representation portrays the route of the toy car.
‘I wanted to blend the virtual world and the real world,’ Ponto said.
Graduate student Delvin Hanson featured two separate pieces of work in his project. The first of his works consisted of mechanical stainless-steel butterfly wings mounted to the wall adorned with disco lights. ‘The wings feature 72-inch motion sensors that activate the flutter of the wings. The closer you come to the wings, the faster they flap. I grabbed all the coolest things I could think of and put them into my project,’ Hanson said.
Hanson’s second project featured a six-inch-tall figure made of plaster and created by a 3-D printer. Accompanying the sculpture is a computer playing a three-and-a-half-minute video of the figure in different poses. The video is stored on a removable thumb drive located in the belly of the figure. The figure is capable of being plugged into any computer with a USB cord, and will then play the same video. When asked why he chose these particular projects, Hanson replied, ‘Because I’m an artist.’
The fourth and final piece of work was presented by graduate student Cina Hazegh. A computer screen displayed the complete Morse code alphabet.
‘I am prototyping a device that acts as a Morse code keyboard,’ Hazegh said. ‘I just think that one-handed text entry is more efficient.’
These unique exhibits incorporated the worlds of art, computing and engineering. It was amazing to see the creative magnitude which the students displayed in their unique interpretations of the um welt.
The exhibit will run at the Beall Center for Art and Technology May 18-27.