Upcycled rotary dial phones that send text messages, a cabinet of mementos that trigger digital videos and an interactive installation designed for Union Station that brings people of different cultures together by asking, “what has changed in you, living in Toronto?” These were just a few of the imaginative works in Xtension, the inaugural Digital Futures Graduate Exhibition on view at OCAD U’s Open Gallery this past week.
The final projects from the Digital Futures Initiative’s inaugural class included a wide range of interactive experiences — everything from digital games to sound installations to multimedia ebooks. One project, You Lucky Dog, by Jessica Knox even measured dogs’ brainwaves using EEG headsets so viewers could type in questions and see a video of a typical dog’s thought response.
The theme of how analogues of our past extend into new ways of imagining our future also had a definite global scope. “It’s amazing to see how diverse the projects are,” said Fayssal Itani, who grew up in Beiruit, and whose projectBlogtivist turns players into activists contributing to helping topple a dictatorship through online activities. “We’re all from different backgrounds, places and areas of expertise, all coming together.”
Interactivity added to the excitement of the show, particularly during the packed opening reception. “Hosting an exhibition that’s so hands on is interesting because people aren’t used to interacting with works in a gallery space,” said Knox. “Hopefully as this becomes more common, people will play more.”
Knox was one of the four student co-organizers of the show, along with Heather Phenix, Ryan Rizzo and Lloyd Gray, under the guidance of Martha Ladly, Associate Dean of Graduate Studies.
Three of the graduate students who exhibited received DFI Awards of Merit for their work: Anne Stevens, Marc de Pape and Elizabeth Eva Coleman. Stevens presented two pieces, stereoPHONEic, a portable music player that positions stereo speakers behind each ear, and textDIAL, the text-messaging rotary dial phones. Marc de Pape’s The Chime: Scoring the City, poetically translates external impulses from the everyday city and translates them into sounds. Elizabeth Eva Coleman’s [Bare] Witness is a multi-sensoral ebook incorporating animation, video, sound and text-based storytelling to convey complex, personal narratives of trauma and recovery.
"The true magic of advanced technology has been brought to life by this year's digital futures graduates," said Tom Barker, Chair of the Digital Futures Initiative. "There is something here for everybody: whether you want your dog to give you advice, you want to learn how to meditate, hear music created by cities or play the latest computer games. Experience tomorrow. Today."
The Digital Futures Initiative is a unique, practice-based, interdisciplinary undergraduate and graduate program for future innovators, leaders and creators of digital media and new technologies. It builds on OCAD U’s historic strength in digital research, design innovation, foresight and artistic practice.
The focus of the program is to develop “X-shaped innovators” for the creative digital industries. Each point of the X is an expertise: in art, design, science and enterprise.