The Oregon State University campus has seen a number of intriguing questions raised this fall:

  • Imagine an orchestra of musicians, but instead of oboes, violins, and flutes, each person on stage has a networked laptop computer and custom-designed speaker. As a group they are capable of filling a concert hall with evocative and remarkable sound. What creations are possible for such a “laptop orchestra”?
  • Consider also how technology can help us visualize and understand in new ways the tremendous volume of data we can now collect about our world — can this data be “art” and how in that sense can art help science?
  • Everyone gets that technology evolves at a breakneck pace. But what about the ways in which this pace of change transforms how we see and understand the world around us, through our cities, and houses, and daily activities?

These were just some of the topics and questions brought to Corvallis this fall via a series of visiting artists and thinkers. Sponsored by a partnership between the colleges of Engineering and Liberal Arts, this ongoing series highlights the intersections of art and technology, and the creative possibilities that lie in the borderlands between the worlds of the engineer and the artist.

Shona Kitchen
Shona Kitchen

“In this seminar series we have invited artists who have successfully integrated technology into their art work to discuss the process, what questions they address, and how working with interdisciplinary teams drives and informs the artistic process,” said Cindy Grimm, a robotics professor at Oregon State. She has been instrumental in planning the series along with colleagues William Smart, Shawn Trail, Julia Bradshaw, and other faculty from both the colleges of Engineering and Liberal Arts.

Multimedia artist Shona Kitchen kicked off the series on October 10 with her lecture on “Technological Landscapes.” She shared examples of work with a packed house of students, faculty, and Corvallis residents. Her projects highlight the way technology shapes our experience of our world by transforming the structure of our cities, our buildings, and our selves. For example, her project Datanature was a multi-site electronic installation in and around San Jose International Airport in California, in which Kitchen used a kiosk station to provide passers-by with a customized and unique “ticket” that revealed a tremendous amount of data and photos about the airport and its visitors.

Ruth West
Ruth West

Ruth West came to campus on October 24. She is a professor of art and director of the xREZ lab at the University of North Texas, and a proponent of “ArtScience” —the method of blending scientific endeavor and artistic creativity in order to create new ways of seeing and knowing the world. Her recent work explores the possibilities and the challenges inherent in visualizing the great wealth of data we now have access to about the world and humanity. One of these, Atlas in silico, is a physically interactive virtual environment in which people can encounter and manipulate data from the world’s largest dataset, the Global Ocean Survey (GOS) — a ground-breaking snapshot of biodiversity in the world’s oceans.

Laptop Orchestra
Laptop Orchestra

Perry R. Cook, the pioneering figure at the heart of the evolution of computer-mediated music, delivered in-class workshops OSU Music students and gave a public lecture on November 5. Cook and his long line of graduate students at both Stanford and Princeton have defined the models and methods of electronic music, and he co-created the world’s first laptop orchestra. His lecture explored the history of computer music through the long evolution of laptop orchestras, ensembles, and choirs. Along the way he demonstrated a wide range of musical instruments, ranging from an electronically augmented 3,000-year-old conch shell to a variety of custom speakers and innovative electronic percussion and wind instruments.

Most recently, Joel Slayton, artist and professor from San Jose State University and the director of the ZERO1 Network, spoke on November 21 about the intersections of art and “techno-culture.” His talk reviewed his long career in creating art, writing, and researching technological solutions within both industry and academia, especially his experiences with the path breaking CADRE laboratory for New Media and his creation of the C5 corporation.

Though their subjects and methods vary, these artists have found innovative ways to create new visions using both art and technology.

“The landscape between art and technology can be challenging to navigate – but it provides an unprecedented opportunity to explore how humans come to terms with our ever-changing, technology-driven world,” said Grimm.

Grimm and her colleagues will be bringing one final visiting artist to campus in early 2014 and are looking forward to other collaborative opportunities between the arts and engineering to make life at OSU more engaging and enriching.

For more information about the series, call 541-737-6535 or email Video of each event will be available online at

–Charles Robinson


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