Technology as Art: A Visit to the Boston Cyberarts Festival

1 May , 2001  

Written by Vikki Warner | Posted by:

Technology as art? Art that uses technology? You bet! Check out the innovative creations that make-up the Boston Cyberarts Festival.

Artists around New England and the world are exploring an assortment of innovative avenues that combine art and technology. Their creations run the gamut of artistic expression, from music to film to sculpture and dance, from the traditional to the avant-garde– all incorporating and manipulating modes of technology. Since the integration of computer art has had a striking impact on mainstream art, many artists have utilised new technologies to create pieces that are anything but conventional. Through experimentation, these artists fashion new art forms and techniques that have been made possible only recently. An exciting time is afoot for those who combine art and technology, and the Boston Cyberarts Festival is on the forefront of the movement.

The Boston Cyberarts Festival, which will take place from April 21 to May 6, 2001, is a chance for experimental artists to congregate, exhibit their work, and participate in lectures and symposia related to their craft and the spirit of creating technology-oriented art. The festival is held in various venues throughout Boston and New England, with companion gallery postings available on its web site, It is also an opportunity for convergence between Boston’s healthy arts scene and its thriving technology community. The festival encourages Boston’s art community to harness the innovative technological breakthroughs occurring regularly in the area and to use artistic finesse to manipulate the media.

Boston is home to a large and growing community of experimental artists, which is a surprise to many who consider the city to uphold a conservative, sober, even stodgy image. However, George Fifield, Boston Cyberarts Festival Director, emphasises that "media pioneers like the creators of the New Television Workshop at WGBH and the inventors of Avid, Media 100, and the first video synthesiser" originated ground-breaking arts-related technology here. Employment opportunities abound in Boston for those who wish to make techno-art their profession. The city is the perfect setting for a celebration of those who make some of the world’s most forward-thinking art.

As Fifield says, the festival is about the "transformation from the analog world to the digital world. First, music went through it; then photography; then video." The Boston Cybertarts Festival commemorates, in an international forum of artists and enthusiasts, the continuation of this transformation to new technologies in all media. According to Fifield, as technology progresses, artists begin to use all elements interchangeably in their work; as a result, there is less of a distinction between "artists" and "tech people" today, as "artists must also be superb technicians." Cutting-edge technology is cheaper, easier to learn and use, and more portable than ever before — and artists are reaping the benefits.

Over 75 arts and educational institutions collaborate to bring a spectacular variety of presentations to the festival. Fifield humbly notes that "an army of producers, curators, and artists have investigated their own parts of this; we just put it together." Fifield and his staff deserve immense credit, however; with an expected attendance of 60,000 to 70,000, the logistics of the festival can’t help but be daunting.

Events will be held in a variety of public spaces, including museums, galleries, theaters, and artists’ studios. A hearty range of media will be represented, including visual arts, music, dance, theatre, film, and video. Film and video offerings are varied and non-traditional, ranging from presentations in low bandwidth media such as Flash, to virtual reality exhibitions, to abstract video shows. Fifield notes that "media artists have unprecedented power at their fingertips" at present, now that "with a laptop and some editing software, you can do what years ago would have taken lots of money and a large crew" to complete.

Highlights of the festival’s impressive volume of film and video presentations include:

• "Ballet Mécanique" (free) at Symphony Hall, Boston. This offering is part of a concert event called "Orchestral Music at the Technological Frontier" and will take place Thursday, May 3rd from

8 p.m. to 10 p.m. "Ballet Mécanique," the cubist film by Fernand Léger, Man Ray, and Dudley Murphy, for which a new print has been assembled by Anthology Film Archives, will be shown. The piece is so complicated to play that only now, with the help of technology, can the music be performed in the way that Antheil intended. The film will be accompanied by George Antheil’s original arrangement for the first time in history.

• "The Lite Show" (free) at MIT List Visual Arts Center, Bartos Theater, in Cambridge, MA. An international festival of cutting-edge low-bandwidth animation and interactive web-based art, "The Lite Show" will take place Tuesday, April 24th, from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.

"The Treasure of the Nibelungs" (free) by Olivier Auber and Bernd Hoge. A virtual reality piece, this majestic interactive installation takes visitors inside a city, to travel through the dimensions of an ancient myth. The exhibit will be open daily from April 25-30, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., at Goethe-Institut Boston, 170 Beacon Street, Boston. An opening reception will be held on April 25th from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. For more information, see or call (617) 262-6050.

The following screenings will take place at Coolidge Corner Theatre, 290 Harvard Avenue, Brookline, Massachusetts. For directions and information on the venue, visit

  • ".ORG" (free) is a video/digital media show that is co-curated by a group of Milan and Boston-based artists. Its aim is to speak to the sense of community amongst users of today’s "exciting but sometimes dehumanizing digital culture." ".ORG" will take place Monday, April 30th, at 8 p.m. For more information, contact Sabrina at
  • "Not Still Art" Festival (free). Sponsored by the New York Foundation for the Arts and Videospace, the festival is making its first trip from New York to Boston to exhibit its "cutting edge and gritty retro" brand of abstract and non-narrative video. "Not Still Art" will take place from April 27-29. Specific schedules are available at under "Categories- Cyberarts Screenings Events."
  • "Periscope" ($5), Friday, May 4th at 9 p.m. "Periscope" is a collection of digitally created video from artists in the Netherlands, Mexico, Italy, Scotland, Germany, and the USA. For more information, contact Dina at, call (518) 573-7947, or fax (518) 276-4780.
  • "U and I dOt cOm and Other Strange Sights," ($5) Friday, May 4th at 7 p.m. Video artist and experimental documentarian Branda Miller will travel to Boston from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute to screen and discuss her work. For more information, contact Branda Miller at

    For a listing of all events, including locations, dates/times, and admission charges, as well as an online gallery, visit

For a listing of all events, including locations, dates/times, and admission charges, as well as an online gallery, visit