you ask Richard Karpen about the new Center
for Digital Arts and Experimental Media (DXARTS), prepare to
be overwhelmed. Karpen, who established DXARTS in 2001 with support
from the University Initiatives Fund, is almost evangelical as he
describes the Center.
And with good reason.
DXARTS is stretching the boundaries of art in exciting and unexpected
Karpen at the future site of the Center for Digital Arts and
Experimental Media. Photo by Karen Orders.
about is a synergy between artists and technologists, working together
to invent new ways of experiencing ourselves in the universe,”
says Karpen, professor of music and director of the Center. “We’re
creating the hardware, the software, and the art that utilizes them.”
DXARTS was created as
an independent program, not directly affiliated with any one department
at the University. “There is no other program nationally that
is an autonomous unit standing alongside other disciplines,”
says Karpen, “but we felt this was essential. Often students
spend most of their time with students in their own discipline.
I don’t think that’s the best way to become a great
artist. I think the way you become a great artist is by challenging
yourself on the outside, meeting people with different perspectives.
That’s where the new ideas come from.”
The DXARTS program will
have its own bachelor’s degree and a Ph.D. program. To ensure
that students interact with others outside the discipline, Karpen
plans to limit the number of majors in each class to 60 percent.
Last year the Center began offering courses; this year its faculty
will teach 15 courses including a “gateway” course that
will serve as a prerequisite to the major.
“We have 75 students
enrolled in the gateway course this quarter,” says Karpen.
“More students were interested, but we limited it since we’re
still experimenting with the curriculum. We’ll probably end
up with 150 in that class next year.”
Students can also expect
to take courses in the sciences, as their professors have. Karpen
has studied cognition and psychoacoustics to understand how his
work might manipulate a person’s nervous system. DXARTS Associate
Director Shawn Brixey integrates
complex physics into his work. And nearly every project involves
emerging computer technology.
The Center moves into
its permanent space in Raitt Hall in December, complete with a media
classroom, faculty offices, studios, a large computer lab, audio
classrooms, and graduate student offices.
Karpen is eager for
the move, but he’s more excited to see how DXARTS students—particularly
Ph.D. students—break new ground in the arts.
“There have been
no Ph.D.s in the visual arts in which the dissertation is primarily
a large, research-oriented creative project,” says Karpen.
“Our Ph.D. will be more like a science Ph.D.—the documentation
will be extremely important, but it’s not a book, it’s
the project. The final project will have to be something that is
pioneering in the arts. It will do things that haven’t been
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