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    • A poster for Ting’s exhibit, Color Code.

    • Jason Ting shares his interactive installation during the exhibit’s opening reception.

Cracking the Color Code: Keator Gallery Presents New Exhibit

Shriya Sakalkale ’24 Lead Arts Editor
From September 5 to October 22, the Keator Gallery is hosting Color Code, a vibrant art installation that has piqued the curiosity of students and faculty across campus.
From September 5 to October 22, the Keator Gallery is hosting Color Code, a vibrant art installation that has piqued the curiosity of students and faculty across campus.

This exhibition features New Haven-based artist Jason Ting, who has brought a new medium of art to the forefront: code. Ting creates media art, a visual art genre that uses various forms of recently developed media technology to create works of art. In a biography posted in the gallery, Ting shared his methodology: “[I] use a variety of creative coding tools to create abstract animated visuals that explore the interaction of form, color, and motion.” In a supplementary statement displayed in the gallery, Ting elaborated on his specific inspiration
for this piece, as his installation seeks to create “a mesmerizing spectrum of light visible in nature via liminal
spaces and relatively small screens.” Through the means of code-based artwork, Ting aimed to reflect the “ repetitive motion of life and colorful exploration [while still] allow[ing] viewers to contemplate with the same gaze as when enjoying the natural beauty of the natural world.”

This specific art form is not unfamiliar to Mathematics and Computer Science Teacher Dr. Daniel Gries, who shared his thoughts on Ting’s installation while providing insight into the artistry behind code-based visual art. As a fan of Ting’s work, Gries was pleased to see a variety of art objects on display, including “prints on paper,
live evolving graphics on a screen, objects with lights evolving through coded hardware, and an interactive
display that responds to the motion of a viewer by use of a sensor in the room.” Gries enjoyed seeing the diverse array of objects included in the show; as he put it, “Code-based art isn’t just about one thing.” Gries describes using code as an art medium as “mark-making,” or just another way artists can “[get] lines, shapes, colors, and textures onto the screen or page.” For Gries, “the possibilities are seemingly endless” for code based artists, as computer code “offer[s] the artist a way to complete highly repetitive tasks, or draw shapes
with using complex rules that can yield unexpected results.” He added: “Artists using code will build general rules for how pictures will be drawn, but incorporate randomized parameters in a way that will cause pictures or animations to be generated differently every time. In this way, chance becomes a major part of the creative experience, and the artist becomes the curator of the results.”

With the growing influence of artificial intelligence in mind, Gries addressed the many misconceptions people hold surrounding the work of new-media artists. He explained: “AI-assisted artwork is only one aspect of computer-assisted [artwork], and often is not what we mean when we talk about code-based art.” For artists such as Gries and Ting, the usage of code “in a way that involves a more direct application of artistic intent and creation,” is far more pertinent, and though Gries believes artificial intelligence is a tool that will become increasingly prominent in creative work, he maintains that “it will remain essential for an artist to use the tools in ways that allow their personal voice and intent to come through.”

The installation has also caught the eye of Chemistry Teacher Jennifer Stauffer, who provided insight into the several scientific principles at play in this installation. At first glance, Stauffer admitted that the installation “look[ed] like LED light boxes,” but upon further inspection, she came to realize that “the presence of high-resolution screens with intricate pixel changes, made possible by ample computer memory, secondary
algorithms, and competent processors, yields a constantly changing, immersive series of screens and other objects that illuminate the space.” Stauffer picked up on several scientific principles at play in this exhibition, with “gravity, electromagnetism, vibrations, [and] air currents” comprising only a few. But what struck Stauffer was how the piece “[made] the invisible parts of our natural world visible, and explorable.” She added: “As a human, I experience and obey gravity continually but without much conscious thought devoted to it. As a science teacher, I conceptualize and understand gravity and its role in our universe through equations, diagrams, and simulations. In Color Code, I was able to experience gravity in a way I never had before—as a light field patterned by the gravitational pull I exerted on others while moving through the space...I found this quite compelling.”

Ting’s exhibition has also captivated student artists across campus. Alix Rawald ’24 vividly remembered the moment she walked into the exhibit, describing the “physical impact it had on me.” She elaborated: “I remember I stood in front of one of the wall was so completely overwhelming in the most beautiful way.” Grace Laliberte ’24 expressed similar sentiments, appreciating the “diverse mediums” the gallery puts on display. Laliberte has a few “pieces in the gallery that have had light elements” in her time at Hopkins, but what really impressed her was “[the] exclusively all light interactive piece which I saw many people playing around with... exploring, [and] making their own. It was amazing.” For Helen Xiong ’24, code as an art medium was “never really something I had explored or talked about.” Still, this exhibit stands apart from past shows Xiong has attended at the Keator Gallery, particularly because of how “[it] is more interactive in the way it transforms the space, and although we have seen sculptures and free-standing items in the center of the room, it’s never really pulled together to form such a cohesive environment before.”

After seeing the endless possibilities code-based artwork has to offer, many students and faculty have a newfound appreciation for media and technology-based art and even hope to see it incorporated into Hopkins’ curriculum. Rawald has always had an affinity for “techy art” and hopes to see “[that] as technology advances...Hopkins [will] provide the resources for students to explore these sorts of specialties further.” Laliberte believes this installation has helped broaden the mindset of artists on campus, who may think that “art is limited to studio art...but this is so not the case.” For Laliberte, this representation of new media art is invaluable, and she wishes to keep seeing “this kind of engineering aspect of art reflected in the [Arts] department.” Gries echoed Laliberte’s sentiments, believing that “it would [make for a] truly interdisciplinary class, involving art, mathematics, and computer science in nontrivial ways.” Gries speaks to the “pedagogical benefits to such an undertaking,” and ardently maintains that incorporating this art form would be “a wonderful way to learn both coding and to experience personal expression.”
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