Technological art at UCSB
The air pollution in her hometown near Beijing suffocated Yin Yu so much that when she moved to Oregon to earn her master’s degree, her lungs sighed with relief.
Ms. Yu currently studies media arts and technology at UCSB, pursuing a Ph.D. with which she hopes to research and teach.
On Friday evening, UCSB showcased more than 50 installations created by students, and Ms. Yu’s work “airMorphologies” attracted several curious viewers.
The project included two silicon masks that wrapped around the whole head. A microphone is attached to the mask, which swells up in different parts whenever the microphone detects a human’s voice. It was no coincidence that the swelled parts of the masks resembled deformities. Ms. Yu drew inspiration from biology to create the project, which attempts to make viewers think about air pollution and its biological impacts.
Before embarking on her Ph.D. journey, Ms. Yu was a Silicon Valley engineer. She has also worked as a designer in Beijing, Shanghai and Hawaii. With such a multidisciplinary background, she said, “I want to continue to do research-based art practices and teach multidisciplinary courses.”
Ms. Yu, however, is not the only student in UCSB’s MAT program with plans to teach future generations. After completing her undergraduate degree at UCSB, Xindi Kang decided to continue her media education by pursuing a master’s. Her dream job? “To be a professor,” she said.
Ms. Kang’s work on Friday visualized for people the sound of their voice on different frequencies.
Ms. Kang’s installation “Ring Modulation Visualizer” excited both children and adults, who could go up to a microphone in front of a projector screen. A circle made of purple and green rings glowed on this screen. When someone spoke into the microphone, the circle transformed into the shapes that corresponded to the frequency of the voice, creating flowery patterns.
As the child of two engineers, Ms. Kang giggled when asked how her parents reacted when she told them she wanted to pursue art. “They were a little confused,” she said.
Despite her parents’ confusion, she seems to be gaining traction as an artist. “Ring Modulation Visualizer” has been displayed beyond UCSB.
“It’s been shown at SBCAST in downtown Santa Barbara,” said Ms. Kang
Meanwhile, Junxiang Yao has his eyes set on launching his works beyond UCSB. Mr. Yao specializes in virtual reality and his installation Friday evening brought individuals into a realm of data. From the Seattle Public Library, Mr. Yao compiled a decade’s worth of data on Star Wars-related items being checked out of the library.
The VR headset wearer can interact with the graphs of the data. Mr. Yao’s inspiration for the project stems from his interest in “patterns between movie franchise,” such as Star Wars.
After completing his master’s at UCSB, Mr. Yao plans on pursuing a master’s in design in San Francisco. So far, he does not plan on monetizing his installation, but he does recognize that virtual reality is “the new way to interact with data.”