We were all blown away by the final critique of Human + Computer last Saturday which was hosted at RISD E’ship’s space at 204 Westminster st. This was the culmination of three weeks of hard work done by students from MIT, RISD, and Brown. We were fortunate to have Kelly Dobson, Department head of Digital + Media at RISD, Lisa Z. Morgan, author, designer, and founder of Strumpet & Pink, and Kimberly Young, a local dance artist.
The first group to present their work showed us a wearable device that can wirelessly transmit one’s heart rate to a special someone from across the world away. Evan Brooks (RISD ‘14) and his partner Alex Czulak (Brown ‘15) showed us a parody TSA video that explained how the devices could be used to identify irregular activity in the security areas, to better find perpetrators. They also screened a facebook-esque advertisement that together with the prototypes immersed us in a world where these devices would be commonplace.
The next work, presented by Celine Chappert (RISD ‘14) and Bevin Kelley (Brown ‘14), was an equally immersive installation piece. Chappert remarked that technology interfaces with us visually, but rarely interacts with our bodies. Their piece is a space wherein aural, visual, and tactile senses are all in touch with each other and responsive to technology. Upon entering the enclosure, the viewer enters an “infinity cube” that expands infinitely and reacts to human motion, connecting the body to technology.
The following work connected technology to the body in a slightly more literal sense. To start their presentation, Alice Huang (MIT ‘15) strapped on a robotic arm, which can be controlled by one’s feet, an incredibly impressive feat for a three-week project. The other group members are Daniel Goodman (MIT ‘15) and Cynthia Liu (RISD ‘15) and together they are working on a new version of the housing of the arm that is more united with the aesthetics of the arm itself to hone in on an artistic voice and embedded story.
The work that Melody Cao (RISD/Brown ‘16) and Ben Moreno Ortiz (Brown ‘14) presented was quite provocative in it’s voice. The duo presented a machine, which when squeezed and blown into speaks phonemes. Although some of the critics were offput by the repurposing of a mouth puppet purchased from a flea market, others were enchanted by its personality and boldness.
The next group showed us their work “Dream of Akinosuke”, a jewelry piece based on a Japanese fable of the same name. The group was inspired by the fable’s imaginings of how butterflies could control humans. The piece is strikingly beautiful and subtle in the way it tricks one’s eye to believe the butterflies adorning it are alive. Upon closer inspection, one realizes that the illusion is caused by masterful use of flexinol, a shape memory alloy that shortens when a current passes through it. This produces an effect that blends beauty with the elegantly grotesque.
The last group, consisting of Josh Bohar (RISD ‘15), Abubakar Abid (MIT ‘15) and James Hobin (MIT ‘16) also addressed the grotesque. “I’m going to need a volunteer” Bohar said “and if the electrodes feel like they are going to heat up and burn your head, don’t worry, it’s totally normal.” Of course, Bohar was only joking and the setup was completely safe. Once the cap (pictured above) was on and functioning, Abid took out an anatomically correct silicone cast brain. A flick of a switch later and the cast brain was alive blinking LED patterns that matched the activity of whoever wore the cap. “That’s your brain” explained Abid. It was peculiar how much ownership of the remote brain the user felt upon placing on the cap. One critic noted how the brain fit perfectly in one’s hands, which made the interaction all the more intimate. “I really want to see you in a rocking chair stroking the brain during the opening” said Sophia Brueckner, one of the workshop facilitators.
After the critique the group discussed plans for the show which will open at 7 p.m. on February 15 at Exposé, located on 204 Westminster Street in Providence, RI. It will include music, refreshments, interactive works, and limited-edition prints will be distributed to attendees. The show will remain up after the opening for at least one week.
We hope you can join us and thanks so much for following us!