A network of paper flowers pulses on a wall and ethereal sounds hover in the air, issuing forth as you lift lids from tall clay vessels, whose forms curve and twist like bodies in motion. A dark booth draped in plastic sheeting, where thin streams of water rain from a circuitry of tubes, awaits a participant to activate a light show based on neural impulses.
Further into the culminating exhibition for Pratt Institute’s 2022 graduates studying Interactive Arts, a landscape lit in iridescent tones invites you to pluck amorphous forms from the wall, powdery scents emanating from the objects’ white fur. A wave of your hand in the space above a plinth, outfitted with a sensor, produces mesmerizing trails on a screen, feathery lines that gently dissolve like ink drawn through water on a thick brush. You could free tigers from a burning forest in VR, nestle between two towering Henson-esque monsters whose mouths project a distorted image of a familiar space, or reflect on the sensation of time passing as you place small rocks into a churning tube that cycles the stones in and out in a loop.
The capstone and thesis work of the newest cohort of BFA and MFA alumni in the Digital Arts program’s Interactive Arts concentration, presented in a group show at TriBeCa’s One Arts Space Gallery in May, used digital media in a multitude of ways to physically engage visitors in the artists’ inquiries and concerns. Their installations and environments invited viewers to look, listen, smell, grasp, toggle, touch, gesture, and meditate, to unlock new sensorial experiences realized through AR/VR, programming, physical computing, and more.
This year, Pratt Institute’s Department of Digital Arts celebrates 35 years treading, pushing, and bounding past the edges of emergent technology’s applications in art. Interactive Arts—now named, for the BFA program, Art and Technology—negotiates a particular hinge point, where physical and virtual, tactile and digital meet, dissolving the boundaries of the art experience and offering new modes for understanding our humanity and imagining our place in the world, in this moment and projecting into the future.
Image at top: Halley Bohm, BFA Digital Arts ’22, wove multisensory elements into their work—plaster sculptures could be held, smelled, and repositioned on a wall draped in soft faux fur as light and sound shifted, triggered by motion sensors.