META 2014 puts art into new media


Chris Danelon’s Third Eye Emulator (Courtesy Chris Danelon)

By Sarah Jones

Preparation for META 2014 – the exhibit showcasing work from Ryerson’s fourth-year new media students – began on the first day of the school year and will conclude with the collaborative event on March 20, where serious academia will meet creative art.

“It’s for the public, it’s for industry people,” said Chris Danelon, fourth-year new media student and META artist. “It’s about more than just being a student.”

Spatial awareness is a central theme in this year’s new media show. The exhibits explore how the artistic works speak to each other within the gallery space – not an easy feat, considering the show forces 20 individual minds to meld into a cumulative ego.

To head off any potential conflict, META 2014 curatorial co-ordinator Evin Lachance organized a speed dating exercise where artists adopted the identities of their pieces and talked to each other for one minute each. Lachance was then able to sift through the various themes and find coherent elements.

“Since we are in the same demographic and the same age, a lot of it has to do with ‘Where am I going in my life?’” said Lachanche, who described many of the new media works as an “existential crisis coupled with technology.”

Ryerson’s new media students are entirely responsible for organizing, curating and expressing their vision for the annual exhibit. This year, META will showcase the work of 20 fourth-year students while, behind the scenes, the curatorial staff will handle everything from finances to community outreach.

META attendees can expect to see photo and video documentaries, sculpture, screen installations and a mood-reading light show, to name a few pieces. Visitors will also hear abstract audio from inner monologues, see musical robots and play an interactive video game. What sets META apart is its central focus on interactivity: you can interpret the art, but the art might also interpret you.

Third Eye Emulator, Danelon’s piece, takes inspiration from “Buddhist meditation, quantum physics and self-reflexive consciousness.” Danelon has created a screen piece that generates atoms and microbes, adding or subtracting them based on the number of people viewing the piece. The piece is ironic and satirizes creative millennials supposed fame-grubbing attitude.

Danelon hopes his piece appeals to visitors looking for deeper meaning. “You don’t want to give away your piece,” said Danelon. “I like to think that if some people don’t understand your piece whatsoever, then that’s actually a good thing – as long as some people do.”

Daniel Ku, META’s curatorial outreach, brought a personal touch to the pieces by filming artist statement videos that reflected students’ creative processes. “This year, we’re trying to focus really heavily on the artists behind the artwork,” said Ku. These videos, described as “artist profiles on steroids,” can be viewed on the META 2014 YouTube Chanel.

That’s not to say program feedback hasn’t made some artists’ visions difficult to follow, though. Part of the juried selection process for META involved regular feedback sessions from instructors and fellow artists, commonly known as criticisms or “crits.” Early criticisms of Danelon’s piece questioned its interactivity and atomic rendering – which Danelon fought for until the end.

“If you can show me what an atom really looks like, I would be ecstatic,” said Danelon to his critics. “But until then, I’m going to make an artistic rendering of what I think it looks like.”

Though his piece has changed since first semester, Danelon says that adhering to his vision is what got him into META.

New media pieces often have a more obscure takeaway than works seen in the typical theatre, musical or visual realms. Lachance says this is an “endearing quality of new media,” and that people are at least “challenged by the art.” Even if that means analyzing a piece once or twice, even three times.

META 2014’s opening reception will take place on March 20, from 5 to 10 p.m. at The Burroughes Gallery, 639 Queen St. W. at Queen and Bathurst Streets. The exhibit will run until March 22.

This story was first published in The Ryersonian, a weekly newspaper produced by the Ryerson School of Journalism, on March 19, 2014.

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