Andrea Hornick’s Journeys – Digital Media Meets Fine Art with WIC iPads

Andrea Hornick – an artist, shaman, and Fine Arts Lecturer in Penn’s School of Design – recently used WIC’s iPads in the Classroom Program to create an immersive art gallery experience.

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We have featured unique initiatives with our iPads on PennWIC such as display of sheet music for Penn’s Madrigal Singers, creation of drawings from photos, and students practicing Cantonese.  Hornick’s recent use shows how our iPads can facilitate student learning and engagement with artwork.

Recently featured in the Savery Gallery, Hornick’s classic Old Masters’ style pieces evolve from the regeneration of famous historical portraits with their power animals, identified through her Shamanic process. Given their motivation, style, and overall development, these paintings take a tremendous amount of time and energy to create, contributing to a unique and complex narrative. The iPads facilitate a novel way for patrons to visualize the pieces while being immersed within Hornick’s poetic voice. I spoke with Andrea about her use of our iPads:

Claire Witherel (CW): So great to meet you! Tell us about your project and about your experience working with the iPads from WIC.

Andrea Hornick (AH) – It just fit perfectly with what I wanted to do. You know, sometimes you have an idea and you don’t know what the exact technology would be, but it was a perfect fit for the iPad. The goal of this work was kind of like an audio guide, but it didn’t have to be the very specific audio guide device you get in a museum. This was even better for a number of reasons: 1. I was able to display an image on the iPad to instruct people as to which groupings of paintings went together with each specific sound piece, and 2. Headphones were used, instead of a sort of phone device that is usually used, which enveloped the listener/viewer in the experience of the sound and image in the very intimate way that I had intended.

CW – As you were creating these paintings, was this narrative always in the back of your head and something that you knew you always wanted to communicate via some sort of technology?

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AH – So I made them [the paintings] really intentionally around these narratives. I curated this group of 11 paintings and they all had relationships between all of paintings in the groupings: how the people connected and how the animals were transformative for the people, and how each historical sitter’s story, including their spirit animal related to a larger narrative for the whole group. After I did the Shamanic part, I did more art historical research to corroborate things or learn more. I’d go back and forth with all of these processes and the writing which yielded the lager narrative and became these epic poems to accompany the paintings.

Part of the intention with the sound pieces was to slow people down. I think the text being put into this really slow, listening form and then onto the iPad, uses new technology, but isn’t zip-around-the room technology. I did get some feedback just this morning from a curator at a museum – who saw the work on Dropbox – and said, “what a unique and great combination of text and image,” so, even though it’s important to see the work in person, a virtual experience of it with the sound really augments the experience of the paintings.

CW – What kind of feedback have you gotten from people visiting the gallery and using the iPads to experience the art?

AH – The most amazing thing was to see people, the sound component makes them spend a lot longer with the artworks instead of looking at it quickly and not taking in all of the layers. I use Old Masters’ style and [the paintings] are meant to be looked at for a long time; they can hold your attention for a long time. And in a way [the iPad ] helps them stay with it, because people’s attentions spans are short these days. And I saw them doing that and really pouring over the work; it takes me like two years to make a painting. It’s really nice when they take the time. And then the things I heard from them were how much it really filled out the experience of the work and gave them a window into what my practice is and what fuels the work; this whole narrative. This text that informs the generation of the paintings and then the existence of the painting sort of then informs the text again. It’s art history conflated with Shamanic work, that I do, that adds more narrative and makes it a historiographic project… questioning the subjectiveness of the recording of history. It’s similar to familiar things, but it’s its own thing. The cadence and voice quality of the recording of the epic poem sounds both like an academic lecture as well as like a spiritual authority inducing one into a hypnotic trance.

CW – Would you use the iPads again?

AH – Yes, actually I’m here picking up the iPads again for the same show that will be displayed for one week in Harlem, New York City. It’s a private space connected to Savery Gallery here. There are all these artists that need / want to use technology and it doesn’t need to be the most recent technology – It’s been really great because I’ve been using other digital means to share the documentation – sound clips and photos – to see how people experience the art outside the gallery context. I also think using the headphones that connect to the iPads was really good to have that seal – you’re ensconced in the sound. It was a transformative experience for people, and that was what I was after.

I’m just really grateful that this resource is here and now I know about it and can tell my students, too. They don’t always think about having options outside of Fine Art or PennDesign. I get a range of students from different departments, and they are excited to hear they can check out equipment. Fine Art has amazing equipment, though they can’t have everything. It’s great that there are resources outside of PennDesign that offer additional types of technology for use by artists or students taking PennDesign courses.

About witherel

Claire Witherel is a PhD student at Drexel University studying Biomedical Engineering. She has expertise in all of Microsoft Excel, PowerPoint and Word, statistical software called GraphPad Prism 6, image analysis software Image J, and basic experience in MATLAB and R. Claire loves to help facilitate others' learning through collaborative projects and tackling challenging problems. She also has a passion for international travel, photography, and craft beer.

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