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Fluid light swims up and around a ceiling-high wall, illuminating the atrium with colourful LED lights. This will be the new greeting for visitors entering the TIFF Bell Lightbox’s digiPlaySpace.
Over the course of seven weeks, more than 20 New Media students from the RTA School of Media collaborated with Micah Scott, an American artist, to create the entrance to the digital playground which opens Saturday.
“I was really excited to volunteer because it was a major collaboration between three things that are close to me: Ryerson, New Media and TIFF,” said fourth-year new media student Karina Nicole, who participated in the project. “Just over a month seemed impossible to build such a massive piece, but with a lot of problem solving and really, really late nights, we pulled it off!”
The interactive light artwork, dubbed Forest, was designed by Scott and created by the students under the supervision of instructors Steve Daniels and David Bouchard. They relied on Skype sessions and emails to communicate with San-Francisco-based Scott.
“I wanted to do something that was tangible and hands-on; something we can physically interact with, something that blurs the boundaries between what’s virtual and what’s physical,” Scott said. “So I created a computer simulation of these flows moving upwards through the piece and (it) led me to think about the piece as if it was alive and growing… like a forest.”
Forest echoes the digiPlaySpace exhibition’s theme of interconnectivity or in other words, the convergence of the physical and digital realms. It gives children new avenues to learn, create and share stories with each other.
Elizabeth Muskala, Director of TIFF Kids, says TIFF is about transforming how people see the world through film and Forest is another form of moving images.
“Forest is all about storytelling, creativity and learning new technology. What better way to combine all of those things than to have an exhibition that deals with technology? And there’s nothing like it in the city,” Muskala said.
This is the first time the new media program has worked alongside an international artist on an exhibit. It was Nick Pagee, curator of the fourth annual digiPlaySpace exhibition, who brought them together. Pagee himself is a 2003 Ryerson new media alumnus.
At Ryerson, the Maker Space drop-in workspace in the Rogers Communication Centre on campus became their workshop. Laser cutters drilled holes into panels of medium-density fibreboard wood. These quarter-sized holes outline the paths to be followed by the LED lights. Propellers were added for the audience to control where the light goes.
To Scott, the installation mirrors life’s arbitrariness.
“It’s a lot like the real world,” she said. “It can start out with some randomness but then a lot of it is a complex natural process.”
For new media program director Steve Daniels, allowing contemporary and emerging technology to mix with a creative spirit is one of the most interesting practices in the field.
“It has been amazing to watch our students celebrate the opportunity and really take advantage of the chance to work with such an internationally renowned artist,” said Daniels. “Every time you see the wonder in people’s eyes when they approach the work and come to interact with it, it makes the time and effort beyond worth it.”
Forest will run until April 19.