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404 Fest Humanizes Tech through Art

International Artists to Present their Work on Campus

Ellen Wetmore and Deborah Santoro hang out with TweetBot, v.2., in the University Gallery. The spider-like robot will be sifting through tweets during 404 Arts Festival through March 5. Photo by Ed Brennan
Ellen Wetmore and Deborah Santoro hang out with TweetBot, v.2.in the University Gallery. The spider-like bot will be sifting through tweets through March 5.

02/01/2019
By David Perry

If your idea of art is static and staid, bound by the borders of a frame, then Ellen Wetmore wants you to see the 404 International Festival of Art & Technology.

Start with “Tweetbot, v.2.,” South Korean artist Hyun Jo Kim’s tweet-reading robotic spider. Or there’s a virtual reality tour of a Chinese monastery, an augmented reality piece that explores homelessness. “Innocent Surveillance,” Canadian artist Jean Philippe Cote’s interactive installation, has fun with facial recognition technology: It will take your picture and construct a portrait using algorithms.

Wetmore is the associate professor of art and design responsible for bringing the festival to University Gallery in Mahoney Hall, as well as other spots across campus.
 
The global-flavored 404 Festival, created 16 years ago by artist and musician Gina Valenti in her native Argentina and subsequently staged in 11 other countries, is taking place in the United States for the first time. It runs through March 5, and the heart of the festival – a three-day splash of receptions, performances and panel discussions gathering artists from around the world – is set for Feb. 6 through 9. Twenty artists from Taiwan, Argentina, Canada, Korea, Slovenia and the U.S. are included in the show.

The exhibit, which is free and open to all, is funded by the Department of Art & Design, the Office of the Dean of Fine Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, the UML Nerve Center, the Lowell Cultural Council and the Massachusetts Cultural Council.
Wetmore hopes the exhibit, subtitled “Humanizing Art & Technology,” will draw visitors from both the university and the Lowell community at large, especially those who might not otherwise visit a gallery. She hopes, especially, to draw from those who work, teach and learn in the worlds of science and technology.

The university will be well-represented among the ranks of the show’s 20 artists. Collaborative artists Caitlin & Misha, including Misha Rabinovich, an assistant professor of interactive media, will be exhibiting their “Total Jump,” which explores the possibilities and implications of everyone in the world jumping up and landing in unison. There is “Darkness Mets Light,” a digital sculpture installation by Yuko Oda, an Art & Design assistant teaching professor, and Kevin Holmes, a 2018 computer science graduate who created “GoLUM,” based on John Conway’s “Game of Life” and using a train ticker board.

Some of the art is placed in various buildings across campus (O’Leary Library, Lydon Library and the third floor of Dandeneau Hall), spanning a bridge between UML’s centers for art and technology.
   
Gallery Coordinator Deborah Santoro says the exhibit explores how people engage with computers, their phones and other technology rather than people.

“This is really a huge thing to be able to bring here, and it is in step with learning that takes place on our various campuses,” says Santoro. “Most of the technological learning happens on North Campus, and the humanities, including art, takes place on South. So there are the physical divisions, and this is an attempt to bridge the two worlds.”

Gallery hours are Monday through Wednesday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Thursday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. A panel discussion, including artists, will take place Feb. 6 from 3:30 to 5 p.m. at a venue to be announced, followed by a South Campus reception at University Gallery from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Performances, including one by Valenti’s music/interactive art group Renti, will take place Feb. 7 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. in Durgin Hall. A North Campus reception is set for Feb. 8 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.