article by Meaghan Alfonso for ArtsEarth
The Gray Area Foundation for the Arts is a non-profit organization that tries to create social and civic impact using multimedia arts. The artists design and create projects to benefit society using digital tools. In hosting events, such as the Gray Area Festival, international artists attempt to understand the world and try to educate us through different platforms.
The exhibition opening showed us a collection of interactive pieces that exercised the brain. Through each interactive experience, you were taken into a digital world that augmented your senses. Each experience was different, but greatly impacting. In this fast-paced world with virtual reality taking off like a rocket, these artists manipulated the 3D world using the VR platform as an educational structure.
Hyphen Labs’ NSAF showed us a virtual reality world that, explores “alternative content through tangible products, new worlds and 3D landscapes, and scientific research, in order to inform and change the way we depict black women in society, culture, and the future.” Most of us have all seen how virtual reality works. You put on these goggles that close off any perspective of the outside world and it “teleports” you into a new dimension. Through this VR space, seeing the 3D world from the goggles, as opposed to watching someone play from the television screen, is a whole other ball game. You start out sitting on a chair, as you are in the outside world, and you are some-what familiar with the environment. You see a chair, a mirror, and a woman—you are in a salon. She starts talking to you and then suddenly you are drawn into the 3D world. The environment changes, taking you to a dream-like world full of gigantic architectural structures. Overall, Hyphen Labs takes you on a journey that provides a unique thinking of future involvements in our society.
What is interesting about the digital world is that you can create anything you desire, whether it’s to help society’s future or society’s present, in terms of social interaction. There are social dating sites and ways to find a significant other through technology. There are also social clubs, where people of similar interests converse through social media. But in Angela Washko’s dating simulator called “The Game”, she experiments through a different perspective that raises the discussion of feminism in everyday situations. This use of a game simulation grows awareness among society about how women are literally treated as objects. I find this project is an ingenious way for people to explore the social behaviors while being pressed into complicated situations. The game’s tone and color creates a mood that is slightly dark and uncomfortable, but I feel that it’s essential.
Inspiration was greatly spread throughout the exhibit and knowledge was taken. Experimenting with sound, media, and virtually through any technological platform is necessary to better understand the world we live in. All of these artists have created interactive pieces, so that we can subconsciously absorb how they view certain pieces of life. Even if it is abstract as Memo Akten’s Equilibrium. How to play? “Touch the screen, disturb the balance, and watch the system fall into chaos. Then wait for it to settle and reconfigure, self-organize to form a new arrangement, while it searches for a new balance, a new harmony, a new temporary equilibrium.” As my finger swiped to disturb this balance and cultivate chaos my mind eventually wanted to stop it and find some sort of peace, then I watched the lights slowly relax. This concept can apply to various things such as politics, climate, or social development. Akten’s hypnotizing piece is an effective way to show how life isn’t always stable. There is eventually going to be chaos, but life’s events can always change it back and find balance.
Overall, the artists provided us with insight on how the brain can work in certain situations. In comparison, one may have been more abstract than the other yet they all had a purpose. Whether it was Hyphen Lab’s digital world called NSAF or Memo Akten’s Equilibrium, they all created an equal involvement in educating society. I cannot wait what next year’s artists have in store!