June 6, 2007

Daily Pilot

Fun with a focus on interaction

By Heidi Schultheis

The Orange Lounge encourages guests to interact with emerging technologies.

Nestled between a Paul Frank store and Yuen Lui Studio at South Coast Plaza (Macy's Home Store Wing), the front of the Orange Lounge almost looks like a trendy store. But instead of clothes and shoes for sale, this museum space features emerging technologies and ideas.

The flat-screen computers, noise-canceling headphones, computerized turntables and other high-tech pieces are inviting — in a very mod, high-tech sort of way. That's exactly how the Orange Lounge and its current exhibition, PlayTech, are supposed to be.

Aimee Chang, co-curator of the PlayTech exhibition and former Orange County Museum of Art curator of contemporary art, felt it was important that PlayTech encourage a kind of dialogue among viewers as well as between the viewers and art.

"I really wanted to explore how we could use interactive technologies in that space," Chang said.

The works are by four students and one graduate of the UC Irvine Arts Computation Engineering program. All five installation pieces employ digital technologies and require human participation.

Simon Penny, founder and co-director of the program and professor of arts and engineering at UCI, said that the five artists come from China, Korea, Mexico, Canada and the U.S. He described the program as "a radically interdisciplinary program prepping people for new careers in digital cultures."

Addiel de Alba's piece, "Unrealistic Sonic Experiences," creates an original soundscape using special turntables and nontraditional instruments.

"Tenses," by Bruno Nadeau, displays poetry and urban graffiti using fonts and vectoral animation; and Eric Kabisch's "Sonic Panoramas" invites viewers to create music to accompany a landscape image.

Byeong Sam Jeon's piece, "Drop Drop," tracks a remote-control car on a computer-generated canvas, leaving colorful abstract dots along its route and then printing the image. And "GoScape," by Shan Jiang, creates music in response to the positioning of black and white stones on a game board.

The exhibition is especially unique because many of the student projects produced in the UCI program are not conducive to being displayed in a gallery setting, Penny said. But these pieces helped bridge the gap between technology and art.

"Those people who attended have experienced a range of practices that they might not have previously thought of as art," Penny said.

Jeon, a first-year student in the program, has shown "Drop Drop" at a San Diego conference and at a UC Riverside gallery. He said that during a period of only two hours on the opening night of the exhibition, more than 250 drawings created using his installation were printed.

Jeon hopes to do even more with "Drop Drop" after the PlayTech exhibit closes in August.

"It's an ongoing project, and I would like to develop this using a remote-control airplane so that instead of 2-D dots, 3-D dots would appear and a new space will be generated."

The ambition of Jeon and the other artists in the program is important, because they are earning degrees in areas of study that are in early stages of development, Penny said.

"We consider ourselves to be training people for careers that don't yet exist, for new kinds of cultural practices that become possible with emerging technologies," Penny said. "We're concerned with humanizing emerging technologies, but we're also developing those technologies ourselves."

IF YOU GO

WHAT: PlayTech exhibition at Orange Lounge

WHEN: Now through Aug. 12: Lounge hours are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday-Friday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Sunday.

WHERE: Orange Lounge at South Coast Plaza, 3333 Bear St., Costa Mesa

COST: Free

INFO: (949) 759-1122 or www.ocma.net/orangelounge
Fun with a focus on interaction