Alex Hodges, Campus Carrier Arts & Living Editor
Currently on display at the Mason-Scharfenstein Museum of Art at Piedmont College in Demorest, Ga., is a massive combination of interactive technology and visual art created by Berry’s Clinical Instructor of Creative Technologies Zane Cochran. The project, entitled “EventHorizon,” is the brainchild of Cochran and his two assistant designers and creative technology students, junior Mariah Kelly and senior Graham Widmann.
The project began last summer after Cochran received an invite from the museum curators to create a piece for their exhibit. Piedmont’s invitation was prompted by a piece previously done by Cochran and another student. They gave Cochran total creative liberty and challenged him to create whatever he wanted to fill a space that is 20 feet wide, 40 feet long and 20 feet tall.
“Given the nature of the creative technologies program, we decided to accept the challenge to create something new,” Cochran said.
The display consists of 2.5 miles of wiring, 9,216 light emitting diodes (LEDs), an interactive kiosk and a few thousand lines of code. The kiosk has a mesh pad being monitored by a hacked Xbox Kinect camera, which takes three dimensional images of the input and displays it in a spectrum of colors using the LEDs.
“EventHorizon” breaks a lot of norms for museum etiquette, according to Cochran. The main difference is that visitors to the exhibit are encouraged to interact with the art rather than peer at it through a glass encasement. Another is that, due to the way the LEDs are displayed, visitors are encouraged to take different perspectives for looking at it, including laying on the floor and looking up into the field of light.
“We spent a lot of time trying to create the experience around letting people be a little more playful with the technology. It’s one of the very first of its kind of interactive art exhibits that this museum has exhibited,” Cochran said.
Another benefit to having the project on display at the museum is that Kelly and Widmann are able to include the work on their resumes. Widmann stated that, when the time comes, it will be a main point of discussion with potential employers. As for Kelly, with intentions of attending graduate school, she can use it to show that she has helped design and create a major work that has been displayed at a legitimate museum. Widmann said that he had always seen projects like this as somewhat distant, but that now, he is actually constructing them.
“It’s a really good experience and exposure for my students to be able to showcase work that they are working on in a professional museum and gallery,” Cochran said. “It was a really good benefit for our program to be able to show people some of the really creative things that come out of a lab like this and put them in new contexts.”
Such a large design and construction process can be difficult to manage, but both Cochran and Kelly affirmed that taking a methodical approach and making small advancements will lead to big things. As Kelly said, it is about patient problem-solving. The beginning of the process was a lot of testing strands of lights and using trial-and-error to figure out what would make the display work.
“For us, this enormous Herculean project with “EventHorizon” started with just making one LED light up. You can make really big ideas out of just combining small ideas together. Climbing Mount Everest is all about just taking that first step,” Cochran said.
Cochran emphasized that the combination of art and technology is an interesting way to explore and potentially represent visual ideas in the universe, such as the event horizon, after which the project is named.
“Sometimes we see that they are very disparate subjects, but when we combine them together we find that they really compliment each other,” Cochran said. “Art is so much cooler when you’ve got some tech running behind it, and when we can apply some really wonderful aesthetic elements to technology, it becomes something that people appreciate much more.”
“EventHorizon” will be on display through April 16.