'Smoke and Hot Air,' a mechanical sculpture by Ali Momeni, releases smoke rings every time an automated voice says 'attack Iran.' - Photo courtesy of Southern Oregon University

Automation in art

Three college professors create dialogue between technology and art in the Schneider Museum of Art's newest exhibit, "Three Tales: Narrative, Mechanism and the Digital Thread."

The exhibit, which contains live and static works, will be displayed through Saturday, April 28, at the museum on the Southern Oregon University campus, 1250 Siskiyou Blvd., Ashland.

There will be works by David Bithell, assistant professor of emerging media and digital art at SOU; Ali Momeni, assistant professor at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh; and Jenny Vogel, assistant professor of new media art at the University of North Texas in Denton, Texas.

Bithell will display two pieces. The first, "Caught. Catching," is an interactive installation in which a Web camera tracks the locations of viewers and, depending on their positions in the room, changes the audio and video, displayed on three screens.

"It's a piece that began as a live performance," Bithell explains. "It was done as a backdrop. This realization of it is a transformation of the process that can exist on its own in a gallery or museum. ... It's about capturing moments, freezing them in time and extending them through video and audio."

Bithell's second piece, an interactive kinetic sculpture, "The Traveler," appears to be simply a suitcase with a rotating metal disc and toy elephant inside. However, the installation responds through sound, movement and light to the proximity of the viewer.

Vogel's exhibit includes large, black-and-white photographs taken with a Web camera, Xerox prints strung together in video form, as well as a chandelier that blinks Morse code.

"Jenny (Vogel) unearths the duality of technology in that it brings people closer together but, in another way, isolates them," Bithell says.

Momeni, who was born in Iran, takes a more political approach with his mechanical sculpture, "Smoke and Hot Air." The sculpture features automated audio, which repeats excerpts found on Google News, containing the phrase "attack Iran." When the phrase is read, the machine releases smoke rings as if it was "blowing hot air or smoke in someone's face," Bithell says.

Museum hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Admission is $5. Call 541-552-6245 or see www.sou.edu/sma.

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