Prof plugs seductiveness of cyber art

Rebecca Teale

A computer seduced Marjorie Franklin, and the assistant art professor says it happens more frequently than people think.
Computers are not only an essential tool of society, but Franklin said the technology’s allure is creating an inseparable bond between man and machine. A pioneer in the field of electronic or “cyber” art, she uses the sights, sounds and feel of computers as a painter would use a brush and watercolors.
And starting in fall 1999, students will be able to work toward a degree in the field.
Electronic art uses computer technology to create interactive art on video and CD-ROM. Franklin’s art has been shown in museums and classrooms all across the United States, Canada and Europe.
Franklin said her art is inspired by the phenomenon of computer and culture. She is primarily interested in how culture changes the way people use computers and how technology changes culture.
One of Franklin’s most acclaimed pieces, titled “Seduction,” is a video symbolizing technology’s ability to seduce its users. Franklin set up a computer that could “hear” movement, and videotaped its response to people’s actions. The computer responds in a low, whispery voice:
“Do you want to be digitized? I want your fleshy fingers to touch my keys. I like the image of you going in and out of my processor …”
Another of Franklin’s art projects, a sculpture called “Miss Violate And Her Boundaries,” represents the relationship between women and technology. The sculpture includes a video screen showing women using technology in their careers.
“Women have been socialized to think it’s cute to be afraid of technology. The culture in the United States seems to say that to be a woman is to not be intellectual,” Franklin said. “A woman should feel as feminine when she writes a computer program as she does putting on lipstick.”
Franklin’s experience with electronic art has not gone unnoticed by her students. “She knows what she’s talking about,” said Helen Yeager, a College of Liberal Arts senior. “I want to be a graphic artist, so I appreciate her knowledge.”
But electronic artists, like Franklin, are still learning a lot about the art form themselves. Art connoisseurs are still adjusting to the new craft.
“At first I was very dubious,” said Lyndel King, director of the Weisman Art Museum and professor of art history. “I used to be very skeptical but I think it’s changed radically in the last five years, which has made me change my opinion.”
Franklin said electronic art is a perfect resource for people needing a place to vent their love of technology and art. Franklin also stresses that artists must start learning about and using technology.
“Technology is such a part of our culture and one of the great uses of art is for people to get a different take on what’s happening around them.”