June 10, 2023
Ithaca, NY | 50°F


Experimental art emerges internationally

Once featured on the floor of the Handwerker Gallery and soon to be abroad, “Submerged,”a media art installation, is reaching new audiences outside of Ithaca College.

Megan Roberts, associate professor of television-radio, and Raymond Ghirardo, professor of art, recently received an Electronic Media and Film Finishing Fund Award from the Arts Council of the Southern Finger Lakes and the New York State Council on the Arts for their media installation, “Submerged.” Their newest work uses sculpture, photography, video and sound to form a metaphoric installation with water.

The two artists displayed a prototype of the installation, currently a work-in-progress, at last year’s faculty show in the Handwerker Gallery. The funding from the Finishing Funds Grant is allowing Roberts and Ghirardo to finish the installation and collaborate with Venezuelan artist Naysa Andrade, a sculptor who also works with light.

During winter break, all three artists will attend the Ondarte International Artist program in Akumal, Mexico, a month-long opportunity to continue working on “Submerged.” This summer, they will also work together in Norway, where they will display the installation.

Roberts teaches an experiential media course, while Ghirardo teaches sculpture and computer art. Working together since the 1970s, Roberts and Ghirardo have displayed work in about 40 different countries.

Media arts, Roberts said, is a broad term that encompasses all manners of electronic media — including aspects such as sound, video projection and sculptural elements. Roberts said the nature of media art is to experience in the moment and actively engage in during an installation.

“The kind of work we do is more public work, in that it is not for sale,” Roberts said. “It’s much more like going to a concert, or a play, or seeing a great piece of architecture. You experience it, but you don’t own it.”

In “Submerged,” video projections of a person are flashed onto two pools of water. The new image from the water is reflected onto the wall. Underneath the pools, the artists generate sound from the speakers, which will create wave formations invisible in the actual water but will change the movement pattern of the projected image.

Roberts said much of their past work has evolved from a study of natural and unnatural landscapes, as well as geologic features. Roberts said they chose to focus on water for “Submerged” as a metaphor for an awareness of reality.

“The particular interest in water is that with water, you can see the surface,” Roberts said. “But you can also see through it, and it also reflects the light that’s on it. The metaphor is, what’s real? The surface of the water, what’s underneath it, or what’s being reflected?”

Ghirardo and Roberts displayed a prototype of “Submerged” at last year’s faculty show in the Handwerker Gallery. They used two 6-by-9-foot pools of water with a boardwalk in between the pools for observers to walk through.

“It will be a continuation of the projections on water, probably with additional sound elements,” Roberts said. “It will be more refined and with multiple projections. We will be including a lot of underwater photography.”

Ghirardo and Roberts are excited that this grant will not only allow them to complete “Submerged” but also to take it to an international scale. Ginnie Lupi, executive director of the Arts Council of the Southern Fingerlakes, said the Electronic Media and Film Finishing Funds grant program is very competitive. Eighteen projects were awarded grants in 2012, out of a pool of 65.

While the ARTS Council gets a large collection of work from artists, grants are awarded based on the strength of the work, Lupi said. The Electronic Media and Film Finishing Funds grant is meant to help artists in the post-production stage complete their work.

“The New York State Council on the Arts made a decision a long time ago that it was very important to fund media-based projects, partially to encourage conversation between artists and audiences but also to validate electronic media and film as an art form in the state of New York,” Lupi said.

Ghirardo said he and Roberts look to continue creating art to keep up with their fellow artists and their creations.

“That is the role of the artist,” Ghirardo said. “To compete with all great art that has come before. We’re not competing with other artists, we’re competing with art that has come before.”