Digital Festival to Showcase Arts and Humanities

An upcoming digital arts and humanities festival — open to the public — will let participants take part in interactive projects that explore the impact of technology on our lives.

The five-day festival Feb. 16-20 will feature discussions and workshops involving faculty and representatives of Research Triangle Park companies. Participants in CHAT (Collaborations: Humanities, Arts & Technology), coordinated by UNC’s Institute for the Arts and Humanities, will be able to connect with faculty from area universities and technologists who created the projects and performances.

“The institute has cast a wide net in bringing artists, scholars and practitioners to Chapel Hill for this festival,” said John McGowan, Ruel W. Tyson Jr. Distinguished Professor of the humanities and institute director. “The festival is a showcase for all the exciting work being done right here in North Carolina, with some national and international figures brought in to spice up the mix.”

Projects will feature work by faculty, technologists and students from UNC, Duke and N.C. State universities, the Renaissance Computing Institute, and academic and corporate partners throughout the region. RENCI, a multi-campus, multidisciplinary research center based in Chapel Hill, brings together experts and advanced technologies to seek solutions to complex problems affecting life in North Carolina.

Registration and fee information is available online. Upon registering, participants will receive advance information by e-mail, all-access passes and times and places for events.

The following faculty projects are scheduled to be exhibited or performed on the UNC campus:

  • “The Virtual Performance Factory”: A live and virtual simulation of a video game, this project lets audience members move through a performance space and interact with live actors and virtual experiences. Audience members’ actions affect the performance. Game authors will craft narratives for the audience to experience.
  • “The Bathysphere: Motion Capture as Art”: Designed as a virtual underwater opera and interactive game, the Bathysphere features 3-D animations and projections on the walls, ceiling and floor of a space, creating under- and above-water worlds. Two motion-capture systems deployed in the space will enhance the atmosphere: Picking up a beach ball, for instance, will cause an octopus to appear, while waving a wand will direct a school of fish around the space. A sound designer will contribute a musical score to round out the Bathysphere experience.
  • “Psychasthenia”: This project explores the game engine as an artistic medium. An interactive experience, Psychasthenia involves custom-made sensors and input devices that govern how a user interfaces with a simulated environment. The project will be displayed and accessed in an immersive dome at RENCI’s UNC site. The dome is a video-projection environment with an ultra-wide field of view (160 degrees) that gives a viewer a sense of total immersion.
  • “The Architecture of Association” Led by a Duke University research team, this project is a large-scale, generative artwork that draws associative links among media elements to form an evolving visual collage. “The Architecture of Association” creates rich media landscapes from real-time associative processes. The work will use keywords, metadata and custom clustering algorithms to make selections from the databases, bringing associative material into proximity for a particular duration.
  • “Festival on the Hill” The UNC music department’s contributions to CHAT will serve as this year’s “Festival on the Hill,” a department event comprising performances, classes, lectures and more, held every other year. Registering for CHAT will not be required to attend “Festival on the Hill “events, which will be free to the public. Among offerings, to be detailed in later CHAT announcements, will be an electro-acoustic concert on Feb. 16 and a symposium, “The Art and Culture of the DJ,” Feb. 18-19.
  • “Then/Now: 3-D Virtual Space as Temporal Telescope”: An interactive digital world representing parts of downtown Raleigh, this interactive space on a computer screen allows viewers to freely explore the virtual downtown while encouraging them to interact with virtual multimedia kiosks featuring archived images, text and audio of historic buildings, spaces and events. These digital kiosks are strategically placed in the same camera location and orientation as the original archived photos, allowing viewers a chance to both see multimedia displays of the past and participate in a new, virtual space.
  • “Internet Archive of African-American Performance Art”: This project team, comprising a UNC faculty member and his graduate seminar, is creating a Web archive of African-American performance art, featuring an online exhibition to support a variety of media, from texts and photographs to audio, video and Web-based artworks. During a two-week visit to campus in fall 2009, New York performance artist Clifford Owens debuted a performance to be archived on the Web site. Owens is scheduled to return during the festival.
  • “The William Blake Archive”: This federally funded, free Web site of Blake’s poetry and art is based on some 5,500 images (two-thirds from illuminated books and one-third from Blake’s paintings, drawings and engravings) transferred to digital form. Illuminated books are those in which text is supplemented by decorations such as borders and miniature illustrations. The archive is an international public resource that provides unified access to major works of visual and literary art that are highly disparate, widely dispersed and often severely restricted as a result of their value, rarity and extreme fragility.

Besides these projects, the Carolina Digital Library and Archives in Wilson Library will showcase digital collections.

Student projects are being chosen and will be announced before the festival.

Community members interested in sampling these projects and more are invited to join a tour from 7-9 p.m. Feb. 17, the CHAT Festival Art Walk. To participate, attendees must be registered for the festival. During the art walk, five venues will feature festival projects for observation, and many of the faculty, students and community artists who created the projects will be on hand to meet and greet.

During the art walk, Wilson Library will display faculty projects as well as collections from the Carolina Digital Library and Archives; the UNC RENCI site will feature several inter-institutional faculty projects; student projects will headline an exhibition in the Johnston Center for Undergraduate Excellence; Sitterson Hall, home to the UNC computer science department, will showcase “Avatar” and other demonstrations; and the John and June Alcott Gallery in the Hanes Art Center will feature community art on the theme of video gaming, including conceptual art and drawings from local gaming artists.

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