Video Art Students to Stage Public Show about Important Maine River

HBS Students(3)

Students in a new Bowdoin art class, Site-Specifics: Production of Socially Engaged Media, have created a series of videos that explore people’s past, present and potential future relationships with the Androscoggin River. The 178-mile river flows between Brunswick and Topsham, and was once so polluted that it helped inspire the Clean Water Act.

The students will show their videos at Fort Andross in Brunswick on March 10, from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. The event, Reading the River: Video Installations in Fort Andross, is free and open to the public. Visitors can enter through two doors, either the Cumberland Self-Storage door or the one under the sign for Cabot Mil Antiques. The show will be on the opposite side of the mill from Frontier cafe.

Using projection mapping software, students will project videos onto stairwells, inside storage units and onto windows, all of which will be experienced by participants as they traverse the property. Students in the advanced dance class, Modern III, will lead participants from installation to installation, activating the spaces in between with gestures and movements that respond to the architecture and proximity to the river.

The course is taught by visiting artist Erin Colleen Johnson. Last semester, she taught another new course for Bowdoin, Introduction to Digital Media.

Over the last few weeks, Site-Specifics students have met with a range of guest speakers from environmental historians to tribal historic preservation officers. Building on insight and knowledge from these sessions, students then met with fifth graders from Harriet Beecher Stowe Elementary School. The young students performed movements, answered questions, drew pictures and told stories relating to the Androscoggin River, creating lines of inquiry for the college students to explore.

By producing site-specific videos, sound projects and new media artworks, students in the video art class are gaining an understanding of how digital media technologies can serve as tools for creative cultural practice, Johnson explained. Site-visits, meetings with community experts, and collaboration with local organizations contribute to the development of works that can be distributed and displayed through mobile devices, projection, installation and online platforms. Students develop technical skills in camerawork, lighting, audio recording and editing, and are introduced to video and sound artists whose works investigate race, class, gender, sexuality, labor and environmental politics.

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