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Design | Media Arts students hold showcase ‘Half & Half’ to feature works

The UCLA Design | Media Arts undergraduate showcase will run through Jan. 29 at the New Wight Gallery in the Broad Art Center. (Daniel Alcazar/Daily Bruin)

"Half & Half" Today, 5 p.m. Broad Art Center, New Wight Gallery

By Leslie Yeh

Jan. 15, 2015 12:13 a.m.

The original version of this article contained an error and has been changed. See the bottom of the article for more information.

Christian Gimber’s interactive installation is an orchestration of computer programming and physical sensors that give people a chance to try juggling a ball in the middle of a room that doesn’t exist.

Inspired by the simplicity of the classic arcade game “Pong,” the third-year Design | Media Arts student said he approached his class project with a simple goal: to create a game that people would want to play more than once. Originally designed as a computer game, Gimber’s reimagined game will be projected on the floor of the gallery, half physical and half virtual, where players physically interact with virtual space.

“Juggle v2.0” will be one of more than 70 student works showcased in this year’s undergraduate Design | Media Arts exhibition, “Half & Half.” The showcase will open Thursday in Broad Art Center’s New Wight Gallery and will run through Jan. 29.

“The show is an opportunity to make (my project) better and for more people to play the game,” Gimber said. “It’s nice to share that experience with other people.”

The exhibition is a culmination of weeks of planning by a curatorial team of eight undergraduate Design | Media Arts students, led by co-directors fourth-year Design | Media Arts students Rebecca Rusheen and Elisa Michelet.

“Students collect the work, students pick the work … It’s a collaborative process. (The Design | Media Arts) department gives us a lot of opportunities to work with our peers,” said Rusheen.

The process began with a call for submissions during fall quarter. Then, the curatorial team finalized the branding and voted on more than 250 submissions of both class and personal projects to decide what would finally be installed in the gallery.

Designed to be broad and subject to interpretation, the title “Half & Half” is significant to the exhibition in multiple ways, Rusheen said.

“It represents our department, which consists of two parts: design and media arts,” Rusheen said. “(It also reflects) how we decided to lay out the gallery this year with specific light spaces and specific dark spaces. The gallery is more or less half light, half dark.”

Rusheen said the implementation of this “half light, half dark” organization of the gallery complemented the significantly video-and projection-heavy selection of works, which was a big challenge to the curators to lay out and install.

“Fortify,” created by third-year Design | Media Arts student Xiaoman Zheng, is an example of one of such video projects. The project explores the human body form in abstraction, presenting unrecognizable fragments of the body out of context, which ultimately becomes its own creature.

Inspired by surrealist themes and by photographer Man Ray’s exploration of the humane and inhumane qualities of the body form, Zheng said she hopes to confuse her audience and challenge their perception by showing that beauty doesn’t have to be only in its ideal form.

“I never saw myself in my projects before … (but) this project is very me, this is what my style is about,” Zheng said.

Zheng said that while her personal attachment to the project was what initially motivated her to submit to the exhibition, that is only half of the experience.

“‘Half & Half’ for me means one half is what the artist puts out there, and the other half is up to the viewers to interpret,” Zheng said. “Together, the work and the viewers make it complete.”

Gareth Walsh, a lecturer in the Design | Media Arts department and one of the faculty supervisors for the exhibition, said that he hopes this event can help students learn how to prepare their works beyond the classroom. As a faculty supervisor, he said that he helps students bridge the gap between what is created in class, and what is exhibition-ready.

Walsh said the range of projects is made possible by the freedom that academia allows artists and that people will see art that they will not expect at the exhibition.

“Nowadays, a lot of people have an opinion on what art can be and what design can be, and a lot of students might create work outside of those expectations,” Walsh said. “The openings are always very energetic. It is certainly not going to be a boring art exhibition.”

Correction: Zheng’s first name was misspelled.

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