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01.23.08 - Interactivity and Human Diversity

Examining humanity one piece at a time

Who are we? What comprises our community? How does identity impact our relationships with others?

“in a thousand drops… refracted glances,” an interactive exhibit at UC Irvine’s Calit2-affiliated Beall Center for Art + Technology, explores the construction of identity in a fragmented environment.  Using more than 100 suspended screens and several audio channels, three new media artists from Vancouver, Canada, are challenging visitors with an innovative way to examine the human form as well as their own perspectives. 

The visitor changes the display in imperceptible ways by moving around it and can transform the fragments into a gigantic composite by changing his/her location.  

The two-sided white rectangular screens hang in varying sizes from fish wire, appearing as one large mobile. Fragmented parts of faces and hands – eyes, ears, lips, fingers – linger on the screens while a haunting melody fills the room. As the viewer interacts with the display, a central computer dips into its database to select one of thousands of human body images from a variety of ethnic groups, placing one fragment on each screen. The result is the formation of new, hybrid bodies.

The exhibit’s creators say that the dynamic and interactive nature of their work simulates the dynamic way humans construct and discover their identities. They chose the face as a focal point because it is often the mechanism by which we judge ourselves and others.

The three artists – part of an artists’ collective called “Computational Poetics” – are trained in art, and have extensive expertise in the digital world, and in film, live performance and interactive installation. Their work was inspired by artist David Hockney’s photo-collages, which used layering and time-lapse images to create composite pictures.

Interactions with the exhibit “take the form of refracted glances, both rewarding and confounding,” write the artists. “‘in a thousand drops’ explores the concepts of the multiplicity with and unity of the human race, and demonstrates the beauty and necessity of each.”

The exhibit is free and open to the public Tuesdays through Saturdays through March 15. For exhibit hours and location, visit:

-- Anna Lynn Spitzer