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“ESC: Digital Artworks” are interactive pleasures for art goers


While you’re watching C.J. Yeh’s art at the Museum at FIT, the art is watching you. In fact, it’s not only watching, it’s wryly responding to your actions.

One picture stops weeping when you show it some interest, and immediately goes pink and bubbly. Another is like any good self-absorbed, social media curator – it gives each viewer hundreds of “likes” followed by effusive and kaleidoscopic praise.

Yeh’s work is not only entertaining, it can also comment intelligently on some of the major issues of the day. This required some detailed research by Yeh.

For example, when a viewer of one piece moves his or her body, a bird flies in the same direction crashing into rising bubbles. Each bubble carries the logo of one of the 450 large banks that failed around the world when the Great Recession started. Another awards the viewer on-screen gold coins when the viewer places his or her head under the image of a cap and jumps upward.

IYeh, who exhibits widely, especially in Taiwan and New York, has more than a few digital communication tricks to get people involved with art and with social issues.

The exhibit includes a matrix of static photos, each of the exterior of a New York City museum or of the neighborhood of a well-known artist.

The photos themselves would be interesting. But Yeh ups the ante by getting inside each photo’s digital files to introduce “glitches,” — a practice known as “databending” — in this case by replacing the “@” symbol with his own name. It’s a subversive way of inserting oneself into the art scene, but also serves to symbolize the coincidental and happenstance nature of everyday life. The affects are startling and joyous.

Graciously, you the viewer are never ignored, or digitally rearranged. On the way out, however, you can yell into a digital mirror to see what it “makes” of you.

“ESC: Digital Artworks” is on exhibit at the Museum at FIT until December 13.