Newswise — Valencia, CA, April 2 — Imagine making music by touching living plants. Imagine entering an illuminated pyramid in which light, color and sound can be controlled by the actions of the crowd or played like a musical instrument. Experience these and other astonishing new projects at California Institute of the Arts’ (CalArts) third annual Digital Arts and Technology Expo on Thursday, May 8, 2014. An essential source for future trends in entertainment, communication, gaming and digital culture, the Expo will demonstrate how the arts propel technological innovation in revolutionary new directions. Click here for Expo website.

Featuring faculty and student projects integrating leading-edge engineering and computer science with the visual and performing arts, the Digital Arts and Technology Expo will transform CalArts into a high-tech carnival. The event takes from noon to 10 pm, on CalArts’ campus in Valencia, California. Admission is free.

“The work is insane,” comments Associate Dean for Research and Development in Digital Arts, Ajay Kapur. “Students are creating prototypes for things I’ve never seen before—proving how artists can generate technological innovation. Our students are reinventing uses for existing devices and developing completely new applications to realize the projects they imagine. You can see how boundaries between artists and engineers are breaking down—with students originating new approaches to animation, human computer interaction, wearable technology, augmented reality, motion graphics, interactive environments, machine learning and more.”

Visitors to the Expo can explore “Cultivating Frequencies”, a hydroponic garden that unites nature with technology. Using environmental sensors, data charting elements of plant health (pH, soil moisture, temperature, humidity) is input into a generative system that transforms it into music. Each plant is enhanced with touch sensitive technology allowing users to activate the music by touching the plants.

The “Light Temple” offers an ever-changing immersive environment in and around a 10-foot light-based inflatable pyramid. Repurposing inexpensive off-the-shelf technology, the pyramid offers the full-color spectrum of light and can accommodate a variety of control options from gestures and Midi controls to Electroencephalography (EEG).

In conjunction with the Expo, the National Science Foundation (NSF) lends its support to the Symposium for Computer Science in Arts Education (SCSAE). For the symposium, game-changing thinkers will convene on the CalArts campus to chart future directions for arts and technology education. Featured speakers include Professor Casey Reas, of UCLA's Department of Design Media Arts, and Ge Wang, Assistant Professor at Stanford University in the Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA). Both Reas and Wang have developed open-source computer science languages geared towards artists—and will discuss how these tools impact future-directed computer science education. Although the event is not open to the public, videos of talks and presentations will be made available afterwards.

More than ever before, the combination of arts and technological skills are activating innovation far beyond the gallery and concert hall. This informs work across the disciplines at CalArts and was recognized by the NSF with a multi-year grant to support CalArts’ arts-based STEM curriculum.

From its inception, CalArts has been associated with technological innovation. In the 1970s, CalArts was renowned for its prescient experiments with electronic and computer-generated music. Currently, CalArts’ Digital Arts Minor teaches students to build, engineer and design innovative custom systems and broaden their understanding of how technology can be used in the arts and beyond. The Music Technology curriculum is unique in the world, engaging students in custom software design, circuit design for human-computer interfacing, and the use of robotic mechanical systems and artificial intelligence in musical and artistic practice. CalArts houses the one-of-a-kind N2N (many-to-many) digital classroom and offers a groundbreaking arts-based curriculum for computer science novices. The Institute’s School of Film/Video, with its renowned animation programs, is a global leader in computer graphics and advanced digital media technologies—and was one of five U.S. schools selected for the Google Glass Filmmaking Initiative. And for fans of vintage technology, students and visiting artists are composing new work on the Institute’s 1970s Serge analog modular synthesizers.

CalArts is unique in its multidisciplinary approach to studying the arts through its six related schools: Art, Critical Studies, Dance, Film/Video, Music and Theater. CalArts encourages students to recognize and explore the complexity of the aesthetic, social and political aspects of the arts. It is supported by its distinguished faculty of practicing artists and provides its BFA, MFA and DMA students with both the hands-on training and the engagement with the cultural community necessary for artists’ growth. Founded in 1961 — and opened in 1969 — CalArts was the first institution of higher learning in the U.S. specifically for students interested in pursuing degrees in the visual and performing arts.

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Newswise: Experience the Fusion of Art, Science and Engineering at CalArts’ Digital Arts and Technology Expo on May 8, 2014

Credit: Edwin Alvarenga

Caption: CalArts Digital Arts Expo 2014 Graphic.