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Terraform 1

Henry Art Gallery, Seattle
Dec 8, 2000 - Apr 19, 2001


Installation view from the exhibition (2000)

Produced by a team of interdisciplinary digital artists led by Richard Karpen, director of CARTAH (UW's Center for Advanced Research Technology in the Arts and Humanities), Terraform 1 is a computer-generated, walk-through installation of a complete "virtual reality" - one which has as its central goal the deconstruction of our traditional understandings of the gallery space, of art and of technology. In Terraform 1, the gallery space is a maze of low curved walls similar to a warped matrix. The viewer selects their own path through it as multiple channels of projected video colour and audio intersect around them. Compositions move and change every instant, defying detailed study. Traditional art methodologies are absent. Instead, computer programs operate in real time to produce the audiovisual - and computers were used to model the sculpted white walls. Happily, this critical exercise is neither onerous nor cynical. We find ourselves in a technology-based world made quite habitable and "earthlike". At one moment, we're in the sun-drenched yellows of a Van Gogh-like summer day and in the next, the moonlit blue and white shadows of a starry night - and in the next still, we're amidst colour fields of a lyrical abstract expressionism. All the while, sound undulates from 12 speakers and the room seems to move, as we are transported out of the realm of the museum and the everyday world, too. Technically, Terraform 1 is nothing more than the manufacture of art digitally along an axis of time. Yet experientially, it is freedom and light, movement and joy. The result? A technologically driven earth made not just habitable but ideal.

© Jill Townsend