Art and Technology

author: Alan Brody, Theater Arts and Dance Program, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT
author: Evan Ziporyn, Music and Theater Arts, Center for Future Civic Media, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT
author: Jay Scheib, Theater Arts and Dance Program, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT
author: Krzysztof Wodiczko, Center for Future Civic Media, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT
published: July 23, 2013,   recorded: May 2005,   views: 2808
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Description

High tech tools have become a means for both creating and communicating art. For some of the symposium panelists, this poses a mixed blessing. Evan Ziporyn describes the evolution of his musical composition –as well as many of his contemporaries’ – with the emergence of synthesizers, and labor-saving software for writing and transcribing. “I was in the tail end of an era where to be a composer you studied harmony, counterpoint, and calligraphy,” says Ziporyn. “Composing was interwoven with penmanship – it was like how medieval monks learned how to make illuminated manuscripts.” Now, Ziporyn says, he sits at a desk and computer workstation, getting his computer to work with a Midi keyboard. One down side of computer dependency: losing the connection of writing for real people. But technology can pleasantly surprise. Ziporyn “accidentally pressed the invert button on a sequencer,” rendering a movement “upside down and backwards,” with gratifying results.

Jay Scheib has been integrating communication technology in his theatre pieces as a way to “narrow the gap between reality and fiction on stage.” After the 9/11 tragedy, Scheib was struck by the way news organizations branded the event: “There was a sudden appearance of fictional elements masquerading as a way by which we would experience reality.” He decided to enlarge reality by videotaping and projecting his plays’ characters. “It gave them a bizarre reality,” says Scheib. He even invaded the homes of his actors, preparing footage and editing it for use during performances. This “established a critical distance between reality and the individual playing a role. …The production had an intense and intimate quality.” Scheib wishes he had been around in silent film days when a train on screen racing head on toward an audience caused a panic: “I’ve always hoped to bring that level of reality onto stage, short of giving everyone a heart attack.”

Krzysztof Wodiczko projects films onto the facades of major public buildings to broadcast “all those things no one wants to hear –inconvenient voices, people who should not be seen, matters supposed to be private or inappropriate for discussion in the open.” It’s not enough to give people loudspeakers, Wodiczko says. He wants victims of abuse and oppression to participate in an interactive, developmental process enabled by “megaphone, microphone, projectors, transmission technology and internet networks.” In one such “social animation,” Wodiszko gave young, female factory workers in Tijuana the opportunity to describe horrific physical and emotional violations. He believes personal testimony and confession projected on a large scale abets a victim’s trauma recovery and also forces perpetrators and passersby to confront their own roles in social crimes.

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