Video takes its place as art
OCMA's new gallery at South Coast Plaza showcases digital media creations.
Special to the Daily Pilot
July 31, 2004
COSTA MESA — When a phone rang in the Orange Lounge, the brand new digital art
gallery of the Orange County Museum of Art at South Coast Plaza, no one paid
any attention for a few moments.
"Oh, that's the real phone," exclaimed Irene Hofmann, the museum's curator of
contemporary art as she scurried to answer it.
The typical reaction to the ringing of a telephone is delayed at the Orange
Lounge because in a museum dedicated to digital media, sounds like telephones
are often part of the artwork.
But it also illustrates one of the unique aspects of the art in the lounge:
the distortion of reality.
"Because [digital art] mimics things we understand in our culture like
television or cinema, it can be confusing because it is neither," Hofmann
said. "It requires the viewer to make his own decision about what it might
According to Hofmann, digital art has been in existence since VCRs became
readily available and artists began to experiment with video. More recently,
that art has expanded to include websites, which is the primary reason the
Orange County Museum of Art chose to open a separate gallery dedicated to
digital media, Hoffman said.
"People don't want to sit down at a little desk in a museum and [surf the
internet]," Hofmann said. "We were suddenly given an opportunity to have a new
space and this was a way for us to bring all of this work together."
The Orange Lounge's first exhibit, Hypermedia, which opens today and runs
through Sept. 26, features a variety of work, which can be experienced in
several different ways. The main room contains several desks with monitors
displaying Web pages and three projectors displaying video art on the walls.
There is also a station for listening to audio works and a couch on which one
can lie to view art projected onto the ceiling. And a second room offers
viewers a combination of video and light projected onto all four walls of the
"It ultimately is a very flexible space," Hofmann said. "We hope to display
both pieces, which we have purchased, as well as new pieces we commission."
One of the artists currently on display is Yucef Merhi, 27, of Caracas,
Venezuela. Merhi has been creating digital art since 1985, when he first
hacked into his Atari video game system and learned basic programming
language. He then combined his interest in technology with his love for poetry
to create a series he called "Atari Poetry," which used the Atari to display
poetry on a television screen.
"I wanted to find other ways of experiencing poetry," Merhi said. "I'm dealing
not only with natural language, but with programming language."
At present, there seems to be great potential for the Orange Lounge.
"I hope a lot of things for this space," Hofmann said. "I hope artists and
students working in new media will find this to be an interesting place to
work and learn."
The lounge is located on the third floor of the Crate and Barrel Wing of the
South Coast Plaza.