Last Friday, the students of Professor David Teng Olsen’s Advanced New Media class, ARTS 321, turned Tishman Commons into a gallery for their annual showcase. This year’s rendition, “___WAVE,” was sponsored by the Cinema and Media Studies (CAMS), Media Arts and Sciences (MAS) and English departments. Chill electronic music began to play as student artists finished setting up the show. The line curled up the staircase as students waited nearly thirty minutes to enter the showcase. When it opened, visitors made a chaotic beeline for the bubble tea event organizers advertised.
The crowd thinned as the event went on, and people were able to look more closely at the work. Each student brought their own unique perspective and work to the show. Some used 3D modeling software, others took and edited digital photos and others still created storyboard videos from digital drawings. The showcase had eye-catching anchor pieces located around the room: Karina Alvarado ’20’s three-part photo exhibit on self-love, Dom Lafontant ’19’s “Surprise Eggs” presentation, Hershel Carbajal-Rodriguez ’19’s video game designs and Amy Jin ’19’s photo series on six key emotions. Other installations were located around the room, nestled in the strange angles of walls or tucked into corners of the Tishman Commons.
The showcase began with two monitors set up on separate tables. One, an online game called “Ego” created by Axel Thompson ’19 contemplates the idea of the self and ego while a character travels through their neighborhood. The other monitor played Alyssa Woodruff ’19’s animated storyboard of Persephone’s legend, with quick sketches to convey the storyline. Alvarado’s eye-catching photo series was divided into three parts, the first part as graphic versions of childhood photos, the second featuring people laying on piles of clothes and the third impressive jewel-toned nude portraits of current students and the artist herself. Each nude portrait was printed on two tapestries of translucent paper and suspended from the ceiling. Next to Alvarado’s work were Valeria Yang ’21’s projections of a gray 3D male fighting game character, one projecting him standing and shifting slightly and the other featuring him performing a spinning kick. Tucked behind Yang’s project, Julia Burmeister ’19’s 3D printed large dangle earrings hung in pairs from a window frame. Other student artists were wearing Burmeister’s earrings, one side of the pair a cracked heart and the other a hammer.
Lafontant’s “Surprise Eggs” performance piece drew a crowd over the course of the showcase. The artist stood behind a table covered with a black and purple tablecloth, with small gift bags arranged on one side and a basket of eggs on the other. Attendees selected fist-sized paper-mache purple eggs and Lafontant placed one into a small tub of purple liquid to dissolve the shell. Some eggs housed tiny objects tied to events in Lafontant’s life and others were empty. If the egg had an object inside, Lafontant would tell the story of the object and then give it to the participant to take home in a small paper bag with an explanatory tag. Near Lafontant’s table, a music stand displayed Emilia Ball ’19’s tiny, heartwarming children’s book about a barnacle finding a family illustrated with delicate watercolors. Jee Lee ’19 created geometric graphics that were displayed high on Tishman’s walls.
Carbajal-Rodriguez’s game design project stood in the center of the showcase. The game, “SHARE,” is still in the planning stages, but an intriguing animated storyboard played on repeat from a projector. The script for the first section of the game and character designs, complete with biographies, were displayed to the right of the screen. The planned gameplay involves the protagonist helping others in order to make progress in a familiar world, and features sweet milestones like “Achievement: you are loved.” Beside “SHARE,” Grace Owen ’20’s game made with Unity was set up on a blanket on the floor with various objects and written explanations surrounding the computer. Tabia Smith ‘19 made a model and digital designs of the props for a stop-motion animation about a dinosaur learning to live without relying on the opinions of others.
Jin’s photo series was the final work in the showcase. It utilized the six “core emotions” of happiness, surprise, sadness, fear, disgust and surprise. With her photos, she explored how the color surrounding a person affected others’ perception of their emotions. The series included a grid of thirty-six tiny square photographs. Each row had six images with the same color background with different models portraying an emotion. In some photos, models covered parts of their faces with a hand to add a layer of difficulty to interpreting their feelings.
One qualm I had with the showcase was the relative lack of labeling on the pieces, which I found frustrating. I would have liked to know more about the artists and for it to have been more clear as to who made what art while moving through the showcase. The event had a casual vibe and seemed like it was thrown together quickly, though the quality of the work made up for the somewhat disorganized set-up and the music choices added a warm atmosphere. Overall, the hard work and heart the students put into their projects was clearly visible, and their impressive artistry made “__WAVE” well worth the wait.