New media students showcase media arts at annual META exhibition

The winning piece from META 2012 is Daedalum by Xhensila Zemblaku. More on Daedalum below.

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[M]ETA, Ryerson’s annual media arts showcase kicked off last night with a bang. META is a showcase of the artwork of the graduating students from Ryerson University’s School of Image Arts.

The interactive art pieces, which provide immersive and multi-sensory experiences, are meant to approach the issue of how technology defines our era. This was very evident in one of the featured pieces Icing on the Cupcake by Rikki Cohen and Christina Parente.

Their machine that ices cupcakes is a commentary on the ‘50s housewives. “This era has brought on the need for technology for most mundane tasks,” said Cohen.

“At some point in time there were no mixers. Something that used to take 10 minutes now takes 10 seconds,” said Parente. The piece was meant to make people think about what will happen if technology continues to take over.

“A lot of technology does seem excessive. Why hire someone when a machine can do it for free? We’re almost not needed,” said Cohen.

Another display called Social Obsession Series by Jessie Ng uses a light dependence resistor connected to Twitter to show how people are addicted to the computer and social networking.

“I go on Facebook and Twitter a lot and I constantly see people updating their statuses but they’re meaningless, like saying ‘I’m in McDonald’s. What’s the point?’” Ng asked. The display tries to make people think about how obsessed with social networking we are.

Cargo, by poet Kwame Newman- Bremang (a.k.a. Sybolik) and Kyle Weltman is an audio-video installment that tells the story of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade as a metaphor about our capitalist society.

The small crate, meant to mimic the space that slaves were kept in during travel. When watching, standing inside the crate, you become the cargo said Newman- Bremang.

“It’s something that you can look at becoming an adult and filing us into this capitalist system. We have to make money so we accept these things and, usually, forget our dreams,” said Newman- Bremang.

Gregory a piece by Jason Yeh and Kalvin Wu, is an interactive installment that uses elements from graphic novels and choose-your-own adventure stories.

Participating in a day in the life of the character Gregory, there are four different endings that are influenced by the choices you make. “It focuses on the struggle between free will and determinism It’s about self-reflection. It provokes people into thinking ‘what if?’” said Yeh.

The winning piece, Daedalum by Xhensila Zemblaku, was inspired by zoetrope mechanisms, one of the first mechanisms able to play animation.

It features 16 3D sculptures of one head splitting into two on a spinning disc with a strobe light. “I wanted the scale to be large and I wanted people to be able to walk around it and make it really emmersive,” Zemblaku said of her large installment.

“I’m just really into exploring optical illusion and human perception. It’s a contrast between rational thinking and sensory perception. Your visual perception tells you you’re seeing something but your mind says that’s not what’s happening,” said Zemblaku.

META is meant to showcase media arts, a somewhat “underground” section of art said Cohen. “People don’t understand it but they’re slowly opening their eyes to it. You wouldn’t walk into the AGO and see it,” said Cohen, “but maybe someday.”

The free META showcase continues today and ends on March 31 at Airship 37 at 37 Parliament Street in the Distillery District.

Tamara Jones