March 21, 2013
Hillary Mushkin, Visiting Professor of Art and Design in Mechanical and Civil Engineering, worked with a group of students taking her new media art history seminar (E/H/Art 89 - the first Caltech course cross-listed in engineering and humanities) to conceptualize, design and fabricate their own original new media artwork using technologies and fabrication methods of their own choice. Students created electroencephalogram (EEG) art, automatic drawing machines, conceptual art-inspired visualizations of mathematical concepts, interactive video projections, electronic instruments and other novel forms. [Photos of the exhibit]
The Caltech students were juniors and seniors majoring in Mechanical Engineering, Computer Science, Electrical Engineering, Mathematics, and Computation and Neural Systems. There were also two CalArts music technology graduate students in the class.
The course provided a platform for an expanded understanding of engineering and an active, project-based engagement with art history. The students studied artists working with technology from the late 19th century to the present. These historical and contemporary precedents provided the students with inspiration and an art historical perspective for their work. Many students chose projects related to scientific and engineering concepts in their fields that they wished to explore in this context. In addition to producing exciting new artworks, the students gained valuable experience in independent ideation and production. Some students even got jobs from this experience, such as one student who hacked an EEG machine for his project and subsequently plans to intern with the EEG company this summer. Another student chose to work with graphics processing units (GPUs) made by the company he will be working with next year. This project was an opportunity for him to gain experience similar to the users who will be using his company’s products.