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Museum Director Marcelle Giving a Press Preview

MAM Presents the World Premiere of Act/React: Interactive Installation Art

Posted on October 22nd, 2008

Milwaukee, WI, October 2008
Playful, intuitive, first of its kind—Act/React: Interactive Installation Art makes its world premiere at the Milwaukee Art Museum October 4, 2008–January 11, 2009. Showcasing a growing body of contemporary art that is visitor dependent—without the use of specific interfaces like keyboards or touchscreens—this exhibition of motion-driven installation art empowers guests to exercise their creativity and act on their curiosity. Act/React features the work of six pioneers of responsive art, including an Academy Award-winning Jurassic Park special effects designer, in the Museum’s Santiago Calatrava-designed Baker/Rowland Galleries.

Imaginatively diverse in both form and function, each of the ten environments in the 10,000-square-foot exhibition space is designed to constructively respond to the physical presence of visitors. There is a table that speaks when touched (Janet Cardiff, To Touch, 1994), a floor of projected, colorful forms that reconfigure in the wake of passing visitors (Brian Knep, Healing Pool, 2008), and walls of painterly projections that respond to “brushstrokes” of human movement (Camille Utterback, External Measures 2003, 2003; Untitled 5, 2004; Untitled 6, 2005). Liz Phillips contributes a room of responsive neon lights and synthesized sound (Echo Evolution, 1999), while Daniel Rozin‘s Peg Mirror (2007) and Snow Mirror (2005) configure and reflect captivating portraits. Scott Snibbe‘s Boundary Functions (1998) and Deep Walls (2003) bring visitors together in works that require more than one participant.

Technologies that respond to our actions are already so commonplace that we barely notice them—doors that automatically open, elevators that arrive with the press of a button. The immersive environments of Act/React bring to the foreground these background systems, and repurpose them. They replace convenience with power, allowing visitors to control their surroundings and become reacquainted with their immediate environment, themselves, and each other.

“If in the last century the crisis of representation was resolved by new ways of seeing, then in the twenty-first century the challenge is for artists to suggest new ways of experiencing. Through interactivity, contemporary artists mirror, distort, and confuse the audience’s experience not of representation but of reality itself,” notes guest curator George Fifield, founder of the renowned Boston Cyberarts Festival. “This is contemporary art about contemporary existence.”

Act/React is guest curated by George Fifield, founding director of Boston Cyberarts, Inc., and coordinated at the Milwaukee Art Museum by Assistant Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art John McKinnon.

Act/React is sponsored by National City Bank, PDS+HP, and Rockwell Automation.

The 84-page Act/React DVD/catalogue with essays by guest curator George Fifield, founding director of Boston Cyberarts Inc., and Judith Donath, Harvard Berkman Center fellow, document the first totally interactive art exhibition. The DVD/catalogue is co-produced by the Milwaukee Art Museum and  ASPECT. It features a DVD including commentary by the curator and the artists, video documentation of the exhibited artwork, biographies of the artists, a catalogue with color illustrations, and additional bonus materials. Available October 1, 2008 for purchase ($34.00/$30.60 Member) from the Milwaukee Art Museum Store, and online at www.mam.org/store.


Act/React Member Preview Celebration
Thursday, October 2
5–9 p.m.
Lecture, 6:15 p.m.; performance, 7:30 p.m.
Free for Members, $20 non-members

Be among the first to experience what it’s like to physically engage with interactive art. Guest curator
George Fifield visits from Boston to discuss this burgeoning art form, and the Milwaukee Ballet performs “Triptych in four movements,” a work by UW-Milwaukee assistant professor Luc Vanier, layered with the music and visual art of local artists Chris Burns and Leslie Vansen. Enjoy appetizers and a cash bar.

Member-Only Artists’ Panel
Friday, October 3
1:30 p.m.
Free for Members

Join curators George Fifield and John McKinnon in Lubar Auditorium as they discuss the works in Act/React with the artists.

Gallery Talks
Tuesdays, October 7 & 28, 1:30 p.m.
Tuesday, November 11, 1:30 p.m.
Tuesdays, December 2 & 16, 1:30 p.m.
Free with exhibition admission

Join coordinating curator John McKinnon and other experts for these in-depth, 45-minute tours of Act/React, followed by Q&A and discussion, throughout the run of the exhibition. 

Lecture: Art on the Edge: Technology and Its Consequences?
Thursday, October 16
6:15 p.m.
Lubar Auditorium
Free with general admission

Join Steve Dietz, artistic director of the Biennial 01SJ Global Festival of Art on the Edge, as he discusses new media and the artists represented in this exhibition.

Artist’s Lecture: Expanded Cinema
Thursday, November 13
 6:15 p.m.
Lubar Auditorium
Free with general admission

Come see the installation by Amy Granat in the Museum’s Contemporary Galleries and hear about the broadening field of new media and environments. This in-depth look will elaborate on visual effects within Sensory Overload and Act/React.

The Milwaukee Art Museum’s far-reaching holdings include more than 20,000 works spanning antiquity to the present day. With a history dating back to 1888, the Museum’s strengths are in 19th- and 20th-century American and European art, contemporary art, American decorative arts, and folk and self-taught art. The Museum includes the Santiago Calatrava-designed Quadracci Pavilion, named by Time magazine “Best Design of 2001.”

Digital images available upon request