Virtual Design Media Arts exhibition explores realities and changes during the pandemic

“Fill in the Void: I Am ___” urges audiences to slow down amid the illusion of rapid normalcy.

Organized by the Design Media Arts student council, the student-run show was created in line January 27 with the help of faculty and department staff. Inspired by moments of self-reflection throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, its theme was chosen by the show’s curatorial team of undergraduate DMA students, who then gathered submissions from students throughout the fall term. But with the sudden shift to online learning, curators and attendees had to make several adjustments for the scheduled premiere, including fourth-year DMA student Ainsleigh Douglas, who said it had prompted her to make the last-minute decision to transform her art. in a performance piece.

“(My piece) is an automaton to replicate the way humans interact with a device,” Douglas said. “I wanted to know how we work and why we flip the switches this way, but also to learn more about the design of the switches themselves: why do we have buttons that work the way they do? Why are we moving away from this analog realm of flipping a switch or clicking a button (to use) touch screens? What do we lose in this transformation?

For Amie Xiu, a second-year DMA student, adapting to the virtual exhibition of the exhibition did not involve much stress, but she was still disappointed to have to exhibit her work virtually since she was looking forward to see its end result. She said the pages of her artwork – a book – were first rendered digitally through Adobe Illustrator and she wanted to work on its physical texture with various elements.

In the newly changed format, some of the coins’ meanings are lost through the screen, Douglas said. She originally planned to install a switch to be operated by the public, which she says encourages them to think about the purpose of the functionality of various objects. Despite the importance of physical interaction, she said the adjustments she made to the virtual exhibit still conveyed a similar narrative.

“This piece is not a direct reflection of myself, but it is a reflection of how we all treat the world around us through this digital space,” Douglas said. “If I had to fill the void, it would be: I am not a robot, I am not a machine. I am a human.”

Nonetheless, the show still presents an opportunity for students to become more involved with the DMA community, said Aileen Oh, a second-year DMA student. After spending her freshman year at online college, Oh said she was less involved last year because she struggled with the challenges of virtual learning and was eager to catch up. .

“I just wanted to find all the resources I could to get more involved,” Oh said. “(Then) I saw the email (asking students to apply). I wasn’t going to because I didn’t think I could get in. It was actually an hour before the scheduled time that I was like, ‘You know what? Let’s do it. Why not?'”

With the resources she had as a DMA student, Oh said she wanted to challenge herself on the show by experimenting with different mediums. She said she chose to submit installation work – now a video of the piece – although her strong suit is photography. It was out of her comfort zone, but she said that in the future she plans to create more art in this medium.

“It’s made of books,” she says. “It’s practically a literal swing just made of rope. I pasted from childhood books my grandfather gave me when I was younger and painted this white. ”

For Oh, the coin is meant to commemorate her solitary and solemn childhood where time seemed to be endless. She said she put it in a park to pay homage to the days she spent there, reading in silence and swinging. Now that she’s in the fast-paced college environment, she said she no longer has the opportunity to revel in those little moments.

In keeping with the show’s reflective theme, Douglas said his article is an exploration of the machines people have interacted with during the pandemic and how they have affected their daily lives. For Xiu, her play encapsulates the memories she had with her grandfather, who died across the ocean. She said her death during the pandemic caused her to reflect on her true values ​​and desires, which also allowed her to sort out the things she should cherish while they are still here.

“The pandemic brings about very unique circumstances, especially in 2020 when everyone was sitting at home,” Xiu said. “You really took the time to find out who you really are.”

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