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    Prosthetic Memory: Bodies, Bits, ‘ Devices By Christa Erickson

    Can science be art? Science is thought to be tedious and technical, catering to the intellect, whereas art is considered more imaginative and provides for the passionate and emotional sides of the brain. However, despite the dissimilarities, there exists common ground. Science can be an alternative mode of artistic expression. Nature, for example, is studied as part of science, and the inherent beauty in nature is expressed in many art forms.

    Recently, there has been a movement in the art area that utilizes computers and other technologies for artistic presentation. “Prosthetic Memory,” an art exhibit currently being presented in the University Art Gallery at Staller Center for the Arts, demonstrates the interrelationships between science and art.

    “Prosthetic Memory” is an examination of communications, technology, and human interactions, and how all of these together create memories, both in the philosophical sense and the physical domain. This exhibit will be open until Feb. 24, and features the artwork of Christa Erickson.

    Erickson is an Associate Professor of Art at Stony Brook University (SBU), the Director of the Digital Arts Studios and Co-Director of the Collaborative Laboratory for Technology Arts. Previously, she was an Assistant Professor in Fine Arts at Indiana University in Bloomington, and also taught at the University of California, San Diego. Her specialty is electronic media arts[i], the integration of non-conventional methods of artistic expression into the areas of art, music and theater arts, including the use of video, sound and computers[ii].

    The most striking characteristic of the exhibit is its use of “hi-tech” gadgets to tackle commonly explored subjects, like societal expectations of women, displaying them in a unique and refreshing manner. “Femme” shows high heels stuck with pins to depict the painful and arduous task of walking in high heels, but can also be a metaphor – what is it like to walk in a woman’s shoes?

    Another remarkable feature of the exhibit was that each piece was interactive, allowing the viewer to control what they see. “Search” examined global migration, for example, and consisted of a motion tracking device. As a viewer walks, they leave a trail of words that deal with migration, like ‘drift’ or ‘wander,’ and if they stood still, words describing why people move come up, like ‘stability.’

    In “Learning Distance,” live stills of highways, airports and waterways from five continents 15 seconds apart are projected across the floor in the form of hopscotch. Just like in “Search,” it shows that boundaries and borders can cease to exist, especially in the technological age. And with the Internet and Jet Age, it isn’t a novel revelation, although it still shocks many.

    Apart from the technological dimension, imple human aspects are also combined: memory and nostalgia. For example, “Whirl” consists of an archival film connected to a pinwheel, where its speed controls the playback of the film, which shows wild play, characteristic of childhood. “Mnemonic Devices: Seesaw” takes a common playground structure, and uses it to control the playback of video depicting interactions between people, like thumb wrestling.

    As you stand in the gallery, the pure genius behind each piece hits you. The hodgepodge of media installations aptly illustrates depth you can’t help but appreciate. Erickson proves that science can be an art form. She explores the stock market, disease and medicine, scientific and miscellaneous data, and everything is metaphorical on some level.

    The exhibit questions memory, and whether or not it is increasingly influenced by technology. Extremely thought-provoking, it looks at issues such as how data and personal experience, cultures in history, and territorial borders can blend together. It even examines identity. The artwork is definitely worth a look, because no matter where your interests lie, you can definitely relate.

    [i] (http://emedia.art.sunysb.edu/christa/educator.html)

    [ii] (http://emedia.art.sunysb.edu/emedia/)

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