Digital immersion as art

Five artists explore the boundaries of technology and expression at the Soap Factory.

Dylan Hester


Art(ists) on the Verge 3

When: Saturday, March 3 through April 15

Where: Soap Factory, 514 Second  St. SE

Last year, a jury decided on the five artists to participate in their show. Each individual showed an understanding of the junction between technology and art. It is an exhibition called Art(ists) on the Verge and this Saturday, the third installment is set to open at the Soap Factory.

But the idea behind Art(ists) on the Verge goes beyond choosing and displaying works of art. It is a mentorship program that promotes artistic growth beyond that which is taught during school years. Each art piece seeks to fully engage the viewer through various creative technological innovations.

Presented by Northern, Art(ists) on the Verge features five complex art pieces that are intrinsically experimental. “They find a way to blur media, time and space,” says Piotr Szyhalski, co-director of Art(ists) on the Verge.

Szyhalski has been involved with Art(ists) on the Verge in its two previous years, during which he served as a mentor. This year marks his transition to co-director along with Artistic Director, Founder and President of Northern, Steve Dietz.

The five artists chosen for this exhibition draw inspiration from the technological wonders of modern world. But the art remains grounded in the personal and local significance to the artists.

“There is a real point of intersection here, between traditional practices and new technology,” Szyhalski says.

Duluth native Drew Anderson recalls his experience deer hunting in “Near the Ghosts of Sugarloaf,” with a hand-held projector that allows the viewer to explore a miniature landscape through a puppet’s camera eye.

Likewise, “Poho Posit” uses a camera-like viewpoint. The piece is inspired by artist Michael Hoyt’s south Minneapolis neighborhood. His neighbors are active in an online forum, where they report all sorts of local happenings. Hoyt has recreated a number of these reports as stop-motion video-paintings.

But before message boards, there were telephones. Antique telephones and light bulbs are at the center of Caly McMorrow’s “Status Update.” Viewers move through a series of recordings and are encouraged to create their own messages for the next round of observers.

Of course, most communication today is conducted through the air. As such, “Wire Less,” from St. Paul’s Anthony Tran, examines the invisible aspects of modern communication: complex electromagnetic radiation. His project utilizes 3D cameras and considers our physical space beyond what we can see.

Technological exploration comes into full-on simulation: Aaron Westre has developed a two-player video game called “City Fight!” Players take turns developing a city piece by piece, protecting the areas they love and destroying those they do not. The result is an intricate and dynamic simulation.

While the pieces are, by design, intuitive for the viewer to engage with, they each have a significant level of depth and complexity to them. “These are very layered projects,” Szyhalski says, “and it is hard to pinpoint the center.”

While technology plays a major role in all of these pieces, art is still at the center of the exhibition. These works focus on a positive side of technology in society that is not often demonstrated. Szyhalski says the art “connects at a local level. That’s what makes it unique: It is quintessential interdisciplinary artwork.”