Make a game about walking at sunset. Play it. Achieve the perfect sunset and score points if your experience includes: good company, beers and burritos, clear skies, an awesome dog and witnessing the green flash. Take steps back and lose points if: it starts raining, you encounter noise pollution, you get hurt or you step in dog poo.
This is “Game/Reality Workshops” by Heather Lee Logas. It is just one of the many interactive projects UC Santa Cruz’s Digital Arts and New Media (DANM) “I’ve Got Something on Your Mind” exhibition attendees can participate in.
Logas’ live art game-making workshop is meant to encourage communities to envision new realities through game creation.
Participants pick a topic, construct rules and create a space for their own game. Each piece in the exhibition pushes the minds of the audience — each in its own way — in a new, positive and self-evaluating direction.
“I’ve Got Something on Your Mind” presents a wide range of digital media work by 11 DANM Master of Fine Arts (MFA) graduate students. The title represents the alternate space that is created in the Digital Arts and Resource Center (DARC).
“This phrase points to something flummoxing, bemusing, impossible — like a short-circuit in logic that happens when one tries to simultaneously hold two contradictory thoughts in one’s mind,” curator Soraya Murray said in a statement.
This is not to say, however, that the artists are not asking vital questions about our daily lives’ increasing alienation.
Each piece invites the audience to think consciously and carefully about their relationship with themselves, how they interact with one another and how they function in their bodies, creating a dynamic mental interaction between the audience and the artwork.
Logas’ “Game/Reality Workshops” probes at these questions, as do other pieces, by perhas more subtly asking the participants to reflect on themselves. Those seen exploring the exhibition walk slowly, seemingly absorbing all that the pieces have to teach them.
Almost every piece encourages the audience to become a participant rather than a spectator. Natalie McKeever’s “Internal Worlds” explores the way we perceive ourselves as human beings by measuring a participant’s pulse with a biosensor helmet. The heartbeat is then externalized in a lightshow synchronized with the participant’s pulse, and the heartbeat of another species is played back in cadence with that of the participant. Experiencing the rhythm of another creature alongside their own, the participants become hyper-aware of their own bodies.
Even the non-participatory pieces, like Jolie Ruelle’s stop-motion animation “The Loop,” allow the audience to question and feel. We watch the main character get more entangled in abstract fears, dealing with anxiety in a cycle of avoidance that perpetuates and feeds itself. As the main character is exposed to her habits, the viewer automatically turns inward, questioning what it is they fear. Reconsidering their own thinking patterns as she does, those leaving the small viewing room leave with a deep sense of introspection.
Ruelle’s artist statement said, “Risk-management is being offered in every outlet of our daily lives. The question is: Do we feel any safer? … At what point is our desire for control actually controlling us, and at what cost?”
The artists invite us to think carefully through visual and auditory stimuli, and to question the systems around us and how they make us feel and function. By putting the audience in almost uncomfortable positions, and by confronting them with themselves, this year’s artists reach them in a new and intimate, but wonderful way. “I’ve Got Something on Your Mind” fills in the gap between artist and audience.
The mood was calm but minds were stimulated at the first weekend of the exhibition. People filled the DARC, yet they wandered around as if in a trance, each in their own world, dubbing the exhibition’s title even more appropriate. It’s as if the 11 artists really do have something on our minds.
Scott McCloud, renowned artist and author of numerous books, including “Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art,” will speak as part of the Art, Technology and Culture Lecture Series on Friday at the DARC at 4 p.m., followed by a reception with the artists from 5:30–8:30 p.m.