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Miguel Chevalier's exhibit projects a new idea in video installations

| Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013, 8:58 p.m.
An installation view of “Origin of the World 2012,” as seen at A-PART Festival, on display last year at Carrieres de Lumieres in Baux de Provence, France. It is the same piece that will be on display in “Power Pixels 2013.” Miguel Chevalier

Friday evening, in conjunction with Pittsburgh Cultural Trust's Winter Gallery Crawl, French visual-projection artist Miguel Chevalier's exhibit will open at Wood Street Galleries, Downtown.

“Power Pixels 2013” will feature two new self-generative video installations, including the world premiere of his latest work — “Pixels Wave 2013.”

“Pixels Wave 2013” is a new “generative and interactive virtual reality work,” says Cultural Trust curator Murray Horne. The work is accompanied by an original piece of music by composer Jacopo Baboni Schilingi.

It is made up of various “multicolored graphic scenes,” Horne says. Composed of symbolic motifs drawn from the digital universe of pixels — zeros and ones (as symbolic representations of binary code), as well as mathematical symbols — they follow one upon another in random fashion.

“It's all numerals, and those numbers are combined with psychedelic images that are in constant change,” Horne says of the piece that will be on display on the third floor.

The piece will be projected onto a 10-foot-high wall that is a whopping 60 feet in length, well beyond what our peripheral vision can perceive all at once, Horne says. “It will be one continuous projection. You won't be able to distinguish between the four individual protectors that will be projecting it. It will be one continuous wall of imagery.”

In the piece, waves of numerals will ripple forth, endlessly taking shape and then losing their shapes, thereby creating a ceaselessly replenished world of numerals. This world of numerals will react to the motion of visitors, thanks to motion sensors in which each visitor's movements will amplify the pixel distortions.

This new creative work by Chevalier harkens back to the idea of “the trompe l'oeil technique in art,” Horne says, disturbing the perceptions of the viewer while creating the sensation of a shifting wall that loses its shape and begins to dance.

Previous visitors to Wood Street Galleries may recall Chevalier's work from an earlier solo exhibit of his there titled “Ultra-Nature.” That was in late 2006, when Chevalier displayed a lush virtual garden that was similar to one he created for the Sejul Gallery in Korea the year previous.

“The last time he showed self-generative landscapes, but this is a completely different show,” Horne says.

Known internationally as one of the pioneers of virtual and digital art, Chevalier's wide-ranging artistic vision has been shaped by a broad education and extensive travel. Born in Mexico City in 1959, Chevalier has been based since 1989 in Paris, where he does most of his work.

He graduated from the Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux Arts in Paris in 1980 and went on to Ecole Nationale Superieure des Arts Decoratifs. After graduating in 1983, he was awarded the Lavoisier scholarship by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and studied at the Pratt Institute, New York. In 1994, he served as artist in residence at the Kujoyama Villa, Kyoto, Japan.

Since 1982, his art has been dedicated to the exploration of technology. Taking references from the history of art and reformulating them using computer tools, his pieces investigate the constant flux of the natural world, as well as that of the networks — social and otherwise — that underlie our contemporary society.

Chevalier's “Origin of the World 2012” is just such an example. On display on the second floor, it was created just last year. And like the “Pixels Wave 2013,” it is a newly generative and interactive virtual-reality work that is accompanied by an original piece of music by Baboni Schilingi.

Inspired by the world of biology and microorganisms, “Origin of the World 2012” mixes psychedelic colors and shapes that look like something you'd find on the set of an Austin Powers movie. In it, multi-colored “cells” projected seamlessly and continuously onto three of the gallery's walls multiply in abundance, divide and then re-combine in a sometimes slow, sometimes rapid rhythm.

Each cell functions anonymously, yet in coordination with others, like cellular automata. Also controlled by sensors, when the visitor moves, the trajectory of the cells is disrupted. Much like life, in which we find ourselves facing an intriguing world that perpetually replenishes itself, this piece moves from a black and white world gradually giving way to a world filled with vivid, saturated colors.

Like the other piece, Horne says, “The imagery is all self-generated from a computer, which means that no two images will be repeated.”

Horne sees both of Chevalier's works in this exhibit as an example of “future domestic use,” whereby “people will have, in their homes, a continuous projection wall like this. Instead of a static image, you'll just have a continuous (projection) wall.”

“The whole notion of having a projection on one wall and then have it wrap around 90 degrees on another wall — technically, it's very hard to do,” Horne says. “Technically, it's just been over the last couple of years that it has been possible to do this in terms of projection, because the software has become more developed to the point where one is able to do this. And Miguel is one of the first to be able to do it.”

Kurt Shaw is the art critic for Trib Total Media.

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