White Night in a Digital City
- By Lena Rubisova, fourth-year Graphic Design student
Earlier this month, the sixth edition of Scotiabank Nuit Blanche took place, coinciding with OCAD University's 135th anniversary. This year saw many OCAD U students, faculty and alumni exhibiting across the city. Ranging in media and theme, these projects challenged and engaged their audiences in their understanding of the city, the future of digital media and our relationship with technology.
A number of OCAD U students and faculty took part in Leitmotif:Experiments in Public Space, a Scotiabank Nuit Blanche exhibit in association with Parkdale BIA, curated by Stuart Keeler. These included OCAD U's Digital Futures Initiative working in collaboration with artists from the University of Toronto and the University of Waterloo on an exhibit entitled Play With Me: tweetrisTO, and Public Design Unit 1: Parkdale Versions amongst others. Leitmotif featured about twenty cube vans, each containing a separate project that focused on our relationships with the city and urban and digital connectivity. Through Leitmotif, the grand scheme of technology and digital future was brought down to a human scale by using vans to isolate and confine each of the exhibits. These themes were prevalent through Scotiabank Nuit Blanche this year, OCAD U also being host to a project relating to the same topic.
Play With Me: TweetrisTO dealt with play theory in the digital age - exploring how we can playfully appropriate technology to work for us as we move forward in our increasingly digital future. Play theory suggests that we can learn and discover through creative and engaging means, and this installation let audiences explore that sense of learning and inquiry through technology. The game transcended space, as visitors would create Tetris pieces using their bodies, which were recorded and then projected into the Graduate Gallery at 205 Richmond Street West at OCAD U, allowing audiences there to play with the pieces created in Parkdale.
Public Design Unit 1: Parkdale Versions. Photo: Symon Oliver.
Public Design Unit 1: Parkdale Versions is a project by OCAD U's Patricio Davila, Assistant Professor and Dan McCafferty, Instructor, both in the Faculty of Design, and alumni Jessica Leong (BDes, Graphic Design 2011) and Symon Oliver (BDes, Graphic Design, 2011). Over the past few months they have been conducting workshops in Parkdale and getting to know the neighbourhood through conversations, observations and research. By offering software and 3D modeling workshops at the Parkdale Community Information Centre, the group has been able to engage in a dialogue with residents of Parkdale about the past, present and future of their neighbourhood. Using critical cartography, narratives of local and immigrant knowledge are interlaced in a composite map. During Scotiabank Nuit Blanche visitors could place themselves into local representations of the neighbourhood using a green screen and a projection onto the wall of the Parkdale Library. This exhibit was the first iteration of a continuing project.
Shanghai Dragon by Louise Noguchi, part of Future Forward at OCAD U. Photo: Christina Gapic.
Taking over the auditorium, lobby and Great Hall at OCAD U, Future Forward was a collection of installations and media that responded to OCAD U's past and future. Curated by OCAD U alumna and medal winner Farah Yusuf (BFA, Criticism & Curatorial Practice, 2011), Future Forward celebrated OCAD University's 135th anniversary by featuring work by its students and alumni that negotiates the integration of technology into the, sometimes literal, fabric of society by looking forward at 2146, or 135 years from now. Visitors were lead through a path along the first two floors of OCAD U where they had a chance to interact with and consider each piece as an individual entity and as part of the collected experience, as intended by Yusuf. Future Forward featured works by Philippe Blanchard, H2.0 Collective (composed of students from OCAD U's Material Art & Design and Industrial Design programs), Louise Noguchi, and Kelly Richardson. Many of the pieces took on imaginative qualities and played with past, present and future ways of seeing technology. On working with students and alumni from OCAD, Yusuf said, "I wanted to celebrate OCAD U and I feel like there is a lot of talent here." The theme of technology is something Yusuf has worked with before, both in her award-winning thesis project and in a 2008 Scotiabank Nuit Blanche piece called r u part of the art?
Human 1.0 vs. Human 2.0 by H2.0 Collective, part of Future Forward at OCAD U. Photo: Christina Gapic.
The H2.0 Collective piece Human 1.0 vs. Human 2.0 explored wearable technology and ways that clothing can be given human or animal attributes to act as extensions of our bodies. Their exhibit included four garments, each given a personality (bashful, lusty, anti-social and joyful) that would respond as visitors triggered censors while moving through the gallery. The project went through various stages of ideation, starting out with having the garments be large enough to walk through and taking over the entire space of the gallery. The clothing was designed to human proportions, and sat on mannequins, encouraging audience interaction and bringing the exhibit to life. The students making up the collective, Joanne Jin and Loretta Faveri from Material Art & Design and Chris Holborn and Michael Vaughan from Industrial Design, met in Assistant Professor Kate Hartman's Wearable Technology class where they were encouraged to consider how technology affects and influences our interactions as human beings.
Also in Zone B, whose theme was The Future of the Present, Associate Dean for the Faculty of Art Simone Jones and her collaborator Lance Winn were exhibiting Projektor. This piece was an installation of a watchtower that projected an image of a prisoner escaping within an empty prison yard. The tower rotated on a particular path, projecting and taking in the scenes that it was illuminating, over time revealing the narrative of the scene. The project dealt with topics of surveillance, mechanization and control and the ways that this reproduction of a 2D image impacts and controls our perception of the scene.
With plans for Scotiabank Nuit Blanche 2012 already underway, next year will be another exciting opportunity for creative thinkers from the OCAD U community to showcase their work.
Lena Rubisova is a fourth-year Graphic Design student at OCAD U, pursuing her thesis on literal and figurative intersections. She holds a degree in Art History from the University of Toronto.