The Wired Blue Yonder

The 2005 Boston Cyberarts Festival, here, there, and everywhere

By Randi Hopkins
April 15, 2005

Read this article on the Boston Phoenix web site.

Many of the artists who operate at the far reaches of technological sophistication will be showing off their cool stuff in the 2005 Boston Cyberarts Festival, a biennial event that invades virtually every corner and power source in our digi-savvy city from April 22 through May 8. Yet though the techno know-how flies high, the content of the artwork remains in large part close to the ground, zeroing in on familiar things like our shadows, garden weeds, nudes in art history, and a walk downtown.

This year's Boston Cyberarts Festival — the fourth — is presenting more than 70 exhibitions and events that showcase the creative connections between art and technology. Complete information is available at; what follows is a round-up of just some of the noteworthy cyber-happenings in the sphere of visual art.

The branching patterns of the common garden weed inspired the art collaborative A.R.T. (Art Re-Envisions Technology) — Remo Campopiano, Guy Marsden, and Jonathan Schull — to pool their programming chops and create an installation in which a robot glues thousands of toothpicks on the floor following nature's clever blueprint. A.R.T.'s Weed is part of "The Science of Causes," which, curated by Fred Levy and Carmin Kurasic, opens April 18 at the Art Institute of Boston. It will also include work by Harvey Loves Harvey (a/k/a Matthew Nash and Jason Dean), who contribute An Interactive Study of Human Response to Mediated Actions Without Consequence: Naughty or Nice? (viewers direct two men who perform and respond to actions ranging from hugging to punching in a kind of interactive human video game) and a multi-media construction about construction by inventive artist Andrew Neumann.

Mapmaking and geographical investigations become metaphorical in "On the Map," which, opening April 22 at the Evos Arts Institute in Lowell, features virtual-reality environments by artist Deborah Cornell and composer Richard Cornell, projected environments by John Craig Freeman, and maps and prints by Steven R. Holloway that utilize technologies from satellite imagery to pinhole photography to "having been there." Keen observation of our cultural landscape inspires high-definition video work in "The Nudes: Mary Ellen Strom," which opens April 22 at Judi Rotenberg Gallery. Strom restages historical paintings of female nudes using live models videotaped in real time, then projects the video onto the gallery walls at the size of the original paintings. Also at the Rotenberg, "Itinerant: Teri Rueb" is an interactive sound piece based on the artist's walks in Boston.

Body language — as captured by our own shadows — is at issue in "Shadow Play: Scott Snibbe," which opens April 23 at Art Interactive. Four interactive wall projections thrust you into the heart of the examination. Other modes of human communication are at play in "Knock-Knock," an interactive installation in the Vertex Building at Kendall Square. Here, four Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute grad students (Bettina Bloc, Jesse Pearlman Karlsberg, Olivia Robinson, and Amy Scarfone) evoke contemporary communications networks using cardboard and copper wire linked by contact microphones that enable viewers to tap messages across short distances. This is isn't the first show that Samuel B. Morse seems to have figured in this year.

Plus ça change ...