Public Display of Reflection
By Jared Bowen
BOSTON — Down on the South Boston waterfront you’ll find the largest canvas in New England and it’s the realm of digital artists.
In a very public display of reflection, art in Boston has reached the digital domain. George Fifield, director of Boston Cyberarts says visitors are in for something unexpected.
“It’s going to be kind of a surprise, and that’s really cool. You know that all of a sudden, ‘Oh my God, what is that? What is that thing of beauty in front of me instead of the advertising I was expecting to see,” he said.
The “it” is video art—programmed on the massive marquee at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center. At 80 feet tall and with more than 3,000 square feet of programming space on seven screens, it’s an unconventional canvas.
“It’s the biggest L.E.D sign I know of in the whole New England area. It’s only dwarfed by Times Square really,” Fifield said. “This is something that is very big in Europe, very big in Korea and in Japan but not so much here.”
Working with the Convention Center Authority, Fifield’s group Boston Cyberarts is programming Art on the Marquee—selecting rounds of local artists to showcase their video ventures.
“We’ve gotten very humorous pieces, we’re gotten very different dystopian pieces, we’ve gotten totally abstract meditative. Um, it’s really been across the board, ” he said.
Among the artists featured now is Lina Maria Giraldo whose piece Rain floods us with commentary on consumption.
“I want to have this overwhelming sensation of the bottles of water falling on your head. And it’s perfect because it’s long, and it’s inside of the columns, so it really got that sensation to the passerbys,” Giraldo said.
Giraldo began working in cyberarts eight years ago—transitioning from her fine arts background. She says she likes how this new media allows her reach the audiences she cares about.
“I’m really interested about social issues and about environmental issues and interactive and digital art. It was the best way to connect them,” she said.
In Boston, this is the beginning of a boom, with public cyberart slated for the Boston Harbor Islands Pavilion on the Greenway and already showing on the exterior of ArtsEmerson’s Paramount Theatre.
The theater’s executive director Rob Orchard said digital displays are very effective at getting attention.
“The funny thing about the marquee at the paramount is that it was the last one built. And as a result it had the biggest, rightest, baddest, loudest marquee of all because it had to strike out beyond all the others on the street.”
And now it quietly compels.
“In order for the image to be seen, because it’s broken up by the spaces between the windows, it has to move through the windows so your eye and your mind connects the imagery when it’s not actually a full image,” Orchard said.
From downtown to the waterfront, it’s the art of the unexpected.
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About the AuthorJared Bowen
Jared Bowen is WGBH’s Emmy Award-winning Executive Editor and Host for Arts.