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Works by Past and Current UB Media Study Faculty and Students at Hi-Temp Fabrication

From Laura Curry's "Bike Date."

Tempus Fugit

What is—are—media studies, anyway? Current UB graduate students in the discipline would like to know, too. To find out, they are instituting a series of media studies exhibits—one a year over the next 10 years—featuring work of past and present media studies students and faculty. The inaugural effort of the 10-year project opens Friday, May 3, in the Hi-Temp building, 79 Perry Street, next to the hockey arena.

“We’re all doing such different kinds of work, in different media, with different interests and outlooks,” explained Liz Lessner, a sculptor who is also into robotics, and does audience-interactive performance pieces about the ways we communicate our deepest aspirations and desires. “We wanted to contextualize, to see for ourselves, and give others a chance to see, the commonality of what we’re doing.”

Commonality features, she said, such as a penchant toward experimentation—in an artistic sense but also often in an explicitly scientific sense—an interest in engagement, with the audience and larger world, and concern with the social, cultural, and ethical aspects of artwork. Art as experiment, art as engaged, art as activist.

For example, Jordan Dalton’s piece called Beyond the Multitude, which is one interpretation of the Seneca word “Scajaquada.” The artist has done a number of previous projects focusing on Scajaquada Creek. The current work is in two parts. An installation of maps, photos, and other materials related to the previous Scajaquada projects, and directional materials for the actual second part, a series of mp3 audio files ideally to accompany a walking tour along the Scajaquada Drain—the tunneled part of the creek extending from Cheektowaga to the outflow in the Forest Lawn Cemetery—consisting of running water sounds of the creek within the tunnel, overlaid with voices of area residents, activists, engineers, etc., talking about the creek and its interrelationship with the surrounding neighborhood, in the past, the present, and future.

Jordan said when the project is finished—it is his thesis project—there will be 12 mp3 files geared to 12 marked listening stations along the route. Six of the mp3 files are completed at this time and can be accessed at

Laura Curry’s project is about roadways and bicycles as subtly subversive of the dominant function of roadways, to accommodate motor vehicle traffic. Her project—or a portion of her project—is called Bike Date. She can set you up on a bike date if you email her at

Jennifer Gradecki’s project analyzes texts of FBI files made public through FOIA procedures and creates picture portraits of investigated individuals out of frequently occurring words in their files. Word mug shots, as it were. Incidental information gleaned from the computer analyses: Ernest Hemingway’s file contained 930 instances of the word “communist.” It was the second most frequently occurring word in the file, after his name. Duke Ellington’s file contained the word “communist” 66 times.

A project Derek Curry is conducting in collaboration with Jennifer Gradecki involves what he describes as “singing bacteria.” Bacteria found to be characterized by different sound wave lengths. Who knew?

There are some 26 artists in the show, including current students, alumni, current faculty, and former faculty, showing works in artistic categories ranging from film, to video, sculpture, performance, robotics, virtual reality, and game design. A few others.

Many of the participants are well-known based on recent or not-so-recent presentations at venues such as Hallwalls and Squeaky Wheel. Filmmaker Matt McCormick and interdisciplinary artist Kathy High, for example. McCormick’s film The Great Northwest was shown last year at Hallwalls, a film about then and now, based on an actual road trip taken by four sisters 50 years ago. Kathy High is a former curator at Hallwalls and started up the video collection there. Her piece for the current exhibit is called Blood Wars, an art and science experiment that pits different people’s white blood cells against each other in a Petri dish. Winners go on to fight another round, against another opponent.

Faculty participants include Josephine Anstey, Tony Conrad, Marc Böhlen, and Dave Pape. The one former faculty member is poly-artist and theorist Peter Weibel, who was a pioneer in media studies at UB back in the 1970s. He now heads the Center for Art and Media in Karlsruhe, Germany.

Laura Curry said the 10-year plan was also a way for current students and faculty to keep in touch, personally and professionally. Continue the commonality.

And why just 10 years? “Other students will be coming along. Hopefully, they’ll keep it going,” she said.

The Friday night opening at Hi-Temp is at 7. The exhibit continues to May 15.

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