The new wave in art

Interactive digital technology is inspiring delight as well as understanding.
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The Independent Culture
Art and technology came together twice in the same day at the Science Museum in London last week. On Wednesday morning, Intel Corporation announced that it would provide pounds 1.5m to fund the creation of a digital technology gallery at the museum. Then in the evening, the Gestetner Digital Wave, an interactive work by the artist Julie Freeman, was unveiled, providing a perfect example of the new medium's ability to make information technology educational as well as entertaining.

The Science Museum's digital technology gallery is expected to open in the year 2000 as part of the new Wellcome Wing, currently under construction. "The Science Museum is delighted that we will be working so closely with Intel in developing our Wellcome Wing digital technology gallery," said Sir Neil Cossons, director of the Science Museum. "As an industry and technology leader, Intel has a great contribution to make to a gallery which we hope will stimulate wide understanding and debate about the technology of today and tomorrow."

"Tomorrow's museums will extend into cyberspace and the Science Museum and the digital technology gallery will be in the lead," said Sean Maloney, Intel's corporate vice-president and director of sales and marketing. "Intel will provide open access to our advanced research facilities and help the Science Museum to develop digital exhibits."

Julie Freeman's 50ft, wave-shaped structure, meanwhile, offers museum visitors of all ages a chance to become part of a digital work of art. Commissioned by Gestetner, the printer and photocopier company, the Digital Wave uses a digital video camera to capture an image of participants as they pass by it.

The captured image is then projected on to the wave, with computers moving and transforming it throughout its journey along the wave. Cleverly concealed microphones enhance the interactive experience, allowing people to speak or even shout at the wave. The noises and actions become part of the creation as they alter the image. The interactions are recorded throughout, and a colour printer produces a print for participants to keep as their very own digital work of art.

The Digital Wave is a part of a wider initiative, the Gestetner Digital Art Experience, which will challenge students of art and design at the Royal College of Art to produce ground-breaking works using the latest digital technology. Students will use the Digital Wave piece as inspiration for their own works, to be created from now until January. The works will be judged by a panel of eminent artists and technologists, with winning creations exhibited at the RCA in February.

"Our sponsorship of the Gestetner Digital Art Experience builds the links between art and science and demonstrates our commitment to digital solutions," said Nigel Palmer, the managing director of Gestetner. "Bringing about change requires imagination. After all, although IT comes in grey boxes, it doesn't have to stay in them."

The Gestetner Digital Wave will be on display at the Institute of Contemporary Arts from 24 to 28 November. More information from the ICA Box office, 0171-930 3647.

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