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Digital artists come to Buffalo for MediaCities conference

80 East Houston Street, New York, part of the "Street Ghosts" project.


Published May 2, 2013

Buffalo will become a hub of exploration for digital artists and scholars this weekend as thinkers from around the world attend the MediaCities conference, taking place May 3-5.

Organized by UB architecture and media study faculty members, the event examines how digital technologies shape the way people experience urban life and spaces—especially in cities that scholars have traditionally overlooked.

Participants will enjoy presentations on such topics as the ability of digital media to create “public spaces” for socio-political movements like Occupy, and how new media technologies can raise, blur and erase boundaries between people. A full program is available on the conference website.

Of particular interest to the public will be the MediaCities Conference Pop-Up Gallery featuring a variety of works by renowned digital artists.

An opening reception for the gallery will be held from 7-9 p.m. May 4 at 743 Main St., Buffalo. It is free and open to the public.

Exhibits, on view through May 11, will include photographs from artist Paolo Cirio’s “Street Ghosts,” a project that places life-sized posters of people found on Google’s Street View in the same spot where the original Street View images were taken. The posters are printed in color on thin paper, cut along the outline of the people, and then affixed with wheat paste on the walls of public buildings at the precise spot where the people appear in the Street View image.

Julian Oliver, artist in residence with the Techne Institute for Art and Emerging Technologies at UB, will present “Border Bumping,” a dislocative media project that maps the discrepancies between national borders and those defined by mobile phone networks. Running a freely available, custom-built smartphone application, Border Bumping agents collect cell tower and location data as they traverse the U.S.-Canada border in trains, cars, buses, boats or on foot. Moments of discrepancy at the edges are logged and uploaded to the central Border Bumping server, which generates real-time maps of these fluxuating border conditions.

More information on the gallery works is available on the conference website.

A citywide light display called the “City Lights Orchestra” has been timed to coincide with the gallery opening, with organizers asking residents to help turn the windows of homes and apartments in Allentown and downtown Buffalo into a symphony of blinking, multi-colored lights. To join the orchestra, visit its website.

Other MediaCities events that will employ Buffalo as laboratory include “Neurovision,” a hands-on workshop for conference attendees. In this session, participants will film moving cars and other urban motions in Buffalo and learn to use video-processing software to turn those basic recordings into works of digital art.

Conference organizers include Omar Khan, UB associate professor and chair of the Department of Architecture; Jordan Geiger, UB assistant professor of architecture; and Mark Shepard, UB associate professor of architecture and media study.

“Digital media is something that is increasingly part of our everyday life in cities, so it’s important to understand not only how they’re shaping our experience of the city, but also how they’re beginning to shape our relationship to each other,” Shepard says.

The conference has taken place every two to three years since 2006, when it originated at the Bauhaus-Universität in Weimar, Germany. Buffalo is the conference’s first location outside of Germany.

Liz Flyntz, a curator and recent graduate of UB’s media study program, is coordinating the pop-up gallery exhibition, as well as the City Lights Orchestra, a project by artist Antoine Schmitt.