Activating interactive arts

While the Electric Garden is called “the place where all the cool interactive stuff is” by the chairman who orchestrates the exhibit, and the Fine Arts Gallery no doubt will draw the discerning crowd at Siggraph 97, one venue could draw any Moe or Molly with a garage door opener or car alarm to become another reason why traffic slows on Sunset Boulevard.

But they also can make a difference in a gigantic soap opera, as drivers and passengers have the option with their personal remotes to vote whether, as Electric Garden chairman Rick Hopkins says, “The dog gets it,” or if a starlet can wonder whether life will ever be the same as it once was.

Such thoughts vaporize daily on Sunset Boulevard, but never before at two stories high. At Billboard Live, the interactive nightclub on the Sunset Strip, a drive-by soap opera will play on two billboard-size TV screens Aug. 5-7.

“Two Sony Jumbotrons will show the narrative,” Hopkins says. “If the receiver up there gets a certain quantity of votes by remote, the narrative changes. We think it’s pretty remarkable as an interactive event.”

The 45 other exhibits in the Electric Garden will be located in the L.A. Convention Center.

“Technology is seductive,” Hopkins says. “It begs us to touch it, to see it, to hear it, to experience all that it is. This is the foundation for the Electric Garden — the challenge of invention, the excitement of creation and the seduction of technology.”

Garden highlights are expected to include the Jet Propulsion Laboratory Space Garden, which contains operations software used by the Mars Pathfinder mission this summer to the Red planet, Stereoscopic mission planning tools that support rover navigation on the Martian surface will be ready for manipulation.

A virtual reality basketball game can be engaged in by players who wear rings that are connected to computer-driven electric motors to provide tactile sensations.

“Sony research labs in Tokyo is bringing a multiplane, seven-camera, real-time device that can put anyone in a virtual world,” Hopkins says. “It records volumes of the individual and generates a 3-D representation of your body without any wire devices whatsoever.”

Some of the other titles in the garden are Bodymaps, Toco the Toucan, Mind Garden, Cyber Space Adventure, The Beach Party and Faery Garden.

Meanwhile, the Fine Arts Gallery will consist of 57 works by 13 artists in what has evolved into the most prestigious computer-generated art exhibit in the world, according this year’s curator and chair, Lynn Pocock, an associate professor of computer graphics and interactive media at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, N.Y.

“Like the mainstream art community that evolved over centuries and centered in Paris and New York, we are a global community connected by such conventions as Siggraph,” Pocock says.

“For a theme this year, I decided on ‘Ongoings,’ to explore the ongoing visions of a small group of artists, with each contributing at least two works,” she says. “Most of the works hang on the wall, but two artists, Anna M. Chupa and Chris S. Johnson, work with light boxes, which glow from the dark.”

The artist with the most works in the exhibit — seven — is Tammy Knipp, a professor of art at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, whose “Case Study” series is influenced by the cognitive processes of dyslexia and its relationship to art-making. Six pieces will be exhibited by Roman Verostko, Diane Fenster, Madge Gleason and Michael O’Rourke……

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