"Characters" showcases the interplay of art and science

"Characters" showcases the interplay of art and science

Georgia Tech, hallowed halls of all things left-brain, ignited both cerebral hemispheres with an arts and technology collaboration turned performance art piece hosted at the Ferst Center for the Arts.

The show, called “Characters” incorporated elaborately whimsical visual elements designed to accomplish a simple goal: “to let other people know it’s okay to appreciate yourself and be comfortable with yourself,” said producer, choreographer and solo performer Katherine Helen Fisher, who Madison Cario, Director of Georgia Tech’s Office of the Arts, commissioned to create the piece. 

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While developing the performance, Cario connected Fisher with Clint Zeagler, program manager for the Wearable Computing Center. Inspired by the possibilities found at the intersection of art and science, the duo worked to create wearable technology for the show.

“When I heard there was a possibility to work with a scientist, I was just really stoked,” said Fisher. The only direction she gave Zeagler was, “I want you to make what you dream of making in your head that’s the most wild, fantastical thing. Anything you make me, I will make work on stage.”

This wasn’t Zeagler’s first foray into wearable technology as performance art. Two years ago, he worked with Italian musician Rhó to build a wearable musical instrument and organize a performance at Tech Square.  

But this project was different, both in scope and possibility. Thanks to a Research and Engagement seed grant from the GVU Center and IPaT, “for the first time, it was a project where we were really free to do whatever we wanted,” he said.

So how does one approach a project of this scale, building a piece of technology with no limits to creative freedom? By using the scientific method, of course.

“I loved seeing how they worked strategically through their problems, just line by line,” laughed Fisher. “I think that’s why these types of collaborations are so incredibly valuable, becaue they get us outside of our own training. When we start thinking in a different way, all sorts of new possibilities open up.”

Zeagler counts Fraggle Rock as a major inspiration for the garment he dubbed Le Monstré. During the show, audience members, including Georgia Tech’s President Bud Peterson and his wife, Val, broke the fourth wall and engaged with Le Monstré, blurring the lines between artist and spectator.

“I think it’s really important we all acknowledge that we are artists,” said Fisher. “There is no distinction between scientist and artist or regular person and artist. The creative impulse is human; it’s what makes us human.”

To see more photos from the show, visit Tech Square ATL’s Facebook page.

You can find Fisher on Twitter at @khfdance and Zeagler at @clintzeagler. Our thanks to Safety Third Productions @safetythirdproductions for contributing footage to this video. 

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