META: A Student-run Venture

“[D]o I touch?” reads a scribble on the guest book canvas that hangs amongst the art installations of META 2014.

This annual showcase certainly isn’t your typical “look don’t touch” art exhibition. Ryerson’s fourth-year new media students create pieces that break the boundaries of traditional art with the goal of interacting with their audience.

“A lot of [artists] try to think differently about how we interact with machines, technology and objects in our everyday lives, and how that changes the world around us,” said Ashley Wilden, the art director of META 2014.

As an onlooker it’s hard to imagine how much work went into the event, but it’s certain that META wasn’t built in a day.

Preparations for this student-run show started at the end of their third year, which is when artists created proposals for their fourth-year project. The curatorial team, also made up of fourth-year new media students, had the job of choosing the pieces, the venue, advertising and running the event.

“This really is a student-run venture,” said faculty advisor David Rokeby. “This show is the celebration of their own work and we wanted them to have that responsibility to present themselves.”

The Burroughes Building was home to the innovative art pieces from March 20 to 22. Evin Lachance, curatorial coordinator, said choosing a venue that best represented the future of art was important.

“We know from professors and other people who are popular in the art scene that the west end [of the city] was more so where the art is happening,” he said.

The building was also where META was first held off campus when the school was rebuilding the Image Arts Centre.

“It’s this idea of bringing it back full circle and creating that camaraderie, family and community,” said Lachance.

Out of a total of 28 pieces, only 20 were approved by a third party jury, according to Lachance.

Kyle Friedman, an artist with a piece in the gallery, was happy to end university on a positive note.

“This exposure and experience has been the best thing for me,” he said.

Friedman’s piece titled “Procrastination/Obsession” was a performance installation that involved the artist riding his bike in place while a recording of him explained to the audience the piece’s conception.

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“The reason I created this project was because I procrastinated on another project,” he said. “I want them to see my point of view because it’s sort of a self portrait about me and my habits.”

Nikki Kim’s piece titled “MoodSwing” was an interactive data visualization piece that collected people’s emotions in real time. People would come up to two laptops (one for women and one for men) and would click on the emotions they were feeling at that moment. Each emotion had a correlating colour to represent it in the piece.

“You don’t think about your feelings all the time, it’s unconscious,” said Kim. “But when you see the colours and words, you then start to realize how you’re feeling at that moment.”

Friedman and Kim’s installations were just two out of the 20 contemporary art pieces that had the audience questioning and learning.

The students hope that META continues to make a mark not only in the Ryerson community, but also in Toronto.

“It shows the potential of Ryerson students in the future and recognizes ourselves as leaders in an industry,” said Wilden. “Innovation is what we’re trying to do and we’re trying to do it in as many different ways as we can.”