Post by Andrew Gardner
Tuesday, September 16 was the Fall 2013 DML Salon in which BGC faculty and students presented digital projects from the past semester and shared their insights on the use of digital tools both inside and outside the classroom.
A presentation by Associate Curator Ann Tartsinis showing the interactives developed for the her upcoming Focus Gallery exhibition An American Style, which opened September 27 at the BGC Gallery, detailed the process of developing a digital exhibition component when working with an outside developer. The results of the project, which will be displayed on a touchscreen in the gallery and online, raised questions about the importance of the digital in contemporary exhibitions and understanding how digital can augment the material objects in the exhibition.
Prof. Catherine Whalen presented her BGC Oral History Craft, Art and Design Project, which is the culmination of work by students over the course of several years. Students interviewed a number of modern “makers,” from furniture designers and product designers to textile artists and architects, and compiled the written dialogues with visual components. In the time since each interview was recorded, Prof. Whalen and DML Director Prof. Kimon Keramides have worked with an outside team and BGC’s art director to interpret the work of these students and translate it into a website with a scholarly digital archive of influential modern makers.
Of particular note for this first year MA student was the use of SketchUp, a 3D rendering tool that allowed students to mock up their vision for an exhibition in a digital form. Students in Prof. Deborah Krohn and Prof. Ulrich Leben’s class tied to the BGC Gallery’s George Hoentschel show Salvaging the Past were asked to dream up their own exhibition, thinking about the main themes outlined by the show, entitled “Salvaging the Past.”
One student, Kelsey Brow, mentioned her initial phobia of the digital space, preferring analog forms, like developing a gallery layout using an old shoebox. But the minute she got started working on her project on a now-destroyed French chateau, working in Sketchup became “a nine-to-five job, as in nine PM to five AM,” she said.
Brow went on to explain the tool’s usefulness outside the classroom. Her internship this past summer called for a digital mock up of a new gallery space. Her previous experience using SketchUp for class allowed her to lay out her ideas for the exhibition so that her boss could see her concept before any objects had been brought in or moved around. The class also taught students the importance of thinking about the physical limitations of some objects in terms of gallery space and the importance of taking detailed notes about an object’s dimensions, as well as important considerations like object availability and insurance.
Student’s from Prof. Keramides’ class on Interface Design talked about their own approaches to presenting their exhibition ideas. One student, Zahava Friedman-Stadler, utilized SketchUp and the supplemental 3D Warehouse to digitally render every single object in her exhibition in 3D form. Another, Danielle Charlap, was new to some of the digital tools presented in the class, but chose to render her exhibition about the process of buying books on Amazon.com using Prezi, a web-based presentation and interactive tool. The results of both projects showed the diverse range and possibilities for thinking about these projects and the importance of moving these ideas beyond the paper and into the digital—and finally—the physical space.
Several members of the faculty and students continued to return to questions of digital pedagogy and how digital fluency is a key asset for students working in the real world. No longer are students resigned to thinking about their exhibition in terms of a tiny shoebox or presenting a flat PowerPoint of images and text. As the coursework moves more towards the digitally savvy, tech-friendly space, it becomes imperative for us all to think about new ways of working with our beloved objects.