is one section of an article about technology in the visual arts
at the University of Washington. Click
here for the complete article.
All of these technology-savvy
faculty agree that teaching both traditional and new methods is
the best approach. Then there’s Shawn Brixey. “Traditional”
is not even in Brixey’s vocabulary.
Brixey is associate
director of the UW’s new Center
for Digital Arts and Experimental Media (see box, page 10) and
associate professor of art. His work has strong visual elements
but cannot be comfortably pegged as “visual art.” In
fact, categorizing his work as a specific arts genre would be futile.
“I am committed
to the exploration and development of new and experimental art forms,”
Brixey explains. “My art work attempts to soulfully address
the impact of advanced technology on artistic expression and the
creative landscape it is dramatically altering.”
Brixey (left) and crew put final touches on his telerobot,
"chimera obscura," for the exhibition, "Gene(sis):
Contemporary Art Explores Human Genomics." Photo
by Shawn Brixey.
with experimental media emerged early. While he was in college,
he became disenchanted with trying to represent what was in his
head through drawings or sculptures. “I wanted to create emulations—the
exact thing that was in my head, not a representation of it,”
he recalls. “I realized that traditional arts approaches and
media would limit me from exploring this. I felt that if I could
understand physics, chemistry, neuroanatomy, and cosmology, I could
build a strategy for achieving this radical form of art emulation.”
That realization led
Brixey to M.I.T. As one of a handful of artists invited there to
make experimental art, he became comfortable working with scientists
and began creating works that combine the physical sciences with
the creative arts.
An example of this approach
is “Alchymeia,” a work done for the 1998 Winter Olympics
in Nagano, Japan. Brixey was invited to create a piece commenting
on the spirit of the Olympics. “I think they thought I would
do ice carvings,” Brixey laughs. Instead he transferred hormones
from Olympic athletes into constantly changing ice crystal—or
snowflake—for-mations that actually contain a tiny piece of
the athlete. “To do this, I had to do science no one had ever
done before,” says Brixey.
new work for which Brixey received a Rockefeller Fellowship, incorporates
the phenomenon of sonolumi-nescence, a process by which sound in
water can be converted directly into light. Visitors to the project—in
person or through the Internet—can send short, poetic emails
that are then converted into text-encoded ultrasound. The ultrasound
modulates a small vessel of ultrapure
water, creating a miniature star-like sonoluminescent light source.
Visitors wearing specially designed headphones can “listen”
to the light source—and to their own text or the voices of
the net-based visitors, which are emitted from the light.
Sound complicated? It
is. Brixey’s complex projects require him to gain mastery
of physics concepts and then translate them in entirely new ways.
Each project takes about five years to complete, including developing
ideas, devising a process, and securing funding.
But even for Brixey,
technology is a means, not an end in itself. “Technology serves
a very particular purpose—it is a lens for observing the culture
and for creating work that is on the extreme boundary of arts knowledge,”
says Brixey. “For me, art is a process of inquiry. However
we execute an artwork is central, but it ’s still really all
about the conceptual framing of it. It’s about the idea.”
Article : Defying Categorization: DXARTS
[Autumn 2003 - Table of Contents]