POSTED ON FEBRUARY 15, 2012:
Life Imitates Art
A sketch of two compelling exhibits
There's an increasingly powerful connection between art, public policy, technology and our emerging world. Living Arts of Tulsa is slated to start its 19th rendition of Tulsa's only multi-day art festival devoted to novel, interdisciplinary art.
You can see it in this year's obsession in the film world with big-ticket historical films like War Horse, the Tuskegee Airman drama Red Trails, and the magical Hugo from Martin Scorsese -- esthetically pleasing, but very intense special effects and animated content heavily fuel all of these movies. And the geeks and design freaks and fashionista everywhere are feverishly watching to see the inventive new design/form factors that will be featured in the new Apple iPhone and iPad models slated for release in March or April.
This year's New Genre Fest kick off is covered in some detail by Jennifer Ratliff in this issue of UTW (Page 33). I'm writing on two outstanding parts of the show that have a great connection to themes that I often cover in this column -- technology and public policy.
Here is what Living Arts and New Genre chief Steve Liggett says about this year's program:
"...(It) takes the opportunity to seek out those opportunities which expand our creative horizons and elevate us... I believe that by patronizing those arts events, the fresh, the controversial...we establish a potential renaissance of the arts in Tulsa, a truly contemporary way of looking at our lives. The New Genre Festival gives us this opportunity..."
There's an increasingly powerful connection between art, public policy, technology and our emerging world. The New Genre Festival, which formally gets underway on Feb. 17, has several exhibitions that tap the connection between society and technology and an important piece or two of public policy.
This year there are a couple of pieces in the upcoming show that have a riveting nexus to two signal issues: our increasing dependence on a vast spectrum of technologies for personal productivity, life management and entertainment, and one of our most unsatisfactory and counterproductive public polices -- the death penalty.
U Complete ME
The first piece is called You Complete Me: an interactive audio and video installation by HAL art lab out of Wichita Kan. -- the piece is, in part, a look at what some call "interface" technology -- how we access information, the visual world and the physical one. The HAL group is a highly collaborative posse of artists, digital programmers and engineers -- the piece gets underway during Week 2, Feb. 22-26 of the festival.
The expo is designed in part by John Harrison who is with Wichita State University in Kansas. Harrison is dually trained in music and in engineering. His work in music lead him through a range of experiences and to a posting as a music instructor at WSU before leaving for graduate work at the legendary MIT Media Lab, an interdisciplinary technology and media systems graduate program created by Nicholas Negroponte and profiled in Stewart Brand's The Media Lab: Inventing the Future at MIT.
Amazingly, he is also concertmaster of The Wichita Symphony Orchestra. Harrison is joined by Ann Resnick, a multidisciplinary visual artist, also from Wichita, who is responsible for the look and feel of big parts of the project. The effort is an energetic mix of pieces with great multimedia content, some powerful visual compositions and a heavy interactive dimension.
Here is a description from the website for the exhibition:
"You Complete Me explores the relationships between viewers and technology and the role that cooperation plays in creative endeavors. Using micro-controlled sensors, GEM and Pd (aka Pure Data is a real-time graphic programming environment for audio, video, and graphic processing), HAL invites the viewers to be active collaborators in the creation of several interactive audio and video installations."
The second exhibition is a powerful "public policy" piece done by a cadre of artists. Called Eye 4 Eye the exhibition explores artists' perspective on capital punishment and is being shown in conjunction with the Tulsa Opera's launch of Dead Man Walking. The curator for Eye 4 Eye is Walt Kosty, a Tulsa installation, spoken word artist and a passionate Tulsa contemporary arts advocate.
People, in my experience, don't think a lot about the death penalty.
Here is a thought experiment: imagine a world where the death penalty was the punishment for every crime. Death was: if you are accused of stealing a tomato and found guilty -- you get the death penalty, if you kill 10,000 people in a terrorist attack and you're found guilty you get sentenced to death. You get the idea: this is obviously a horrid fantasy world -- one that none of us would want to live in and one that hopefully no one would construct. If we lived in this kind of world though, lots of work would go into determining the quality of witnesses and evidence and legal defense folks would be high priests and juries would work very, very hard before handing down the one and only penalty. But we live in a different world -- a world where the death sentence is both rare and rarely dispensed fairly. But the "ultimate penalty" and how we impose it, says a lot about who we are as a country-- -- since most of our international peers abandoned it long ago. And the Kosty/Tulsa Opera New Genre exhibition is a powerful, truly evocative, multimodal rendition of the trauma spawned by Oklahoma's continued upsized usage of this deeply flawed policy.
As UTW readers may know, Oklahoma has been one of the leading states since 1976 in executions, behind only Texas and Virginia, and leads in the number of executions per capita.
Go and see Eye 4 Eye: see the last notes of some death penalty bound folks, the panoramic misery produced by capital punishment and the high intensity character renderings delivered by the Tulsa Opera folks -- you will not forget it.
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