Carnegie Mellon University

Interactive Images

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Studio Art Meets Comp Sci

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Many of today's digital artists produce work out of the same toolbox: Flash, Photoshop and other commercial software. As a result, a lot of computer art has begun to look and "taste" the same. But Golan Levin, an associate professor of art at Carnegie Mellon, is advancing a change.

Levin is empowering the next generation of electronic media artists with the skills to build their own tools for expression — through his interdisciplinary course called "Interactive Image."

The course is an introduction to the use of interactive graphics as an expressive visual tool. It's a studio art course in computer science. The objective is art or design, but the medium is software created by the students themselves.

"Computers can offer an unimaginably greater world of possible forms of expression than Flash or PhotoShop," said Levin. "I try to give students the confidence to build their own tools and artworks from first principles."

In one exercise, students created dynamic typefaces in which all of the letters were code-driven variations on a graphical theme. Examples of the students' designs — which range from bubble-alphabets to cloud-alphabets — can be viewed at the gallery.

Another assignment, which asked students to program an endless, non-repeating landscape, also resulted in fun, interactive experiences. One shows a tangle of twisting, self-intersecting roller coasters, and another involves an elevator whose doors open to different floors with the click of a mouse button.

"One of the most important concepts I learned was the notion of using computers to automate tasks that would otherwise be tedious or altogether impossible," said Eamae Mirkin, a junior in the School of Design who enjoyed taking the course. "Of course, students do this all of the time in the computer science department, but what makes the Interactive Image class unique is that it places these tools in an arts context."

An exhibition of projects was held recently in Margaret Morrison Carnegie Hall. The event featured work by students from the School of Art, School of Design, Robotics Institute, Computer Science Department, Mechanical Engineering Department and the Human Computer Interaction Institute.

Related Links: More on Golan Levin  |  School of Design