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New room, new ideas for new media program

Martin back and Lisa LaFleur

Martin Back, left, and Liss LaFleur, right, have transformed a classroom into a hub for their new media students. They hope to grow the new media program as well.

Back, senior lecturer, and LaFleur, assistant professor, have taken the helm of the emerging new media field that combines multiple disciplines with digital forms. Back and LaFleur are both new faculty this year and are bringing their research and creativity to move the program forward for the College of Visual Arts and Design.

“One of my goals is to put this program on the map,” Back said.

A cutting edge field

Interdisciplinary art and scholarship is based on multiple forms of technology. The discipline also is called “emerging media” and “art and technology” at other universities.

“New media involves combining two things together and making something new,” LaFleur said.

“It's like you're cooking …”

“ ...with many ingredients,” Back added.

“We're not purists,” LaFleur said. “Students who come to our program are curious about multiple forms.”

And Back and LeFleur have the experience to foster their interests.

LaFleur, who earned her Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Fine Art degrees from UNT in 2011 and her Master of Fine Art degree at Emerson College in Boston, said she fell into new media. She had been already been working with hybrid forms, mixing video and sound, when she began creating 3D, interactive and installation based works. For a current project, she is creating a performative re-envisioning of Surrealist artist Claude Cahun’s 1925 manuscript, HEROINES. She hopes to produce this work in the U.S. and in France over the next year.

For Back’s research, he designs systems comprised of custom software so they can generate new material – whether it be video or sound. His work has been shown and performed in festivals and galleries in the United States, Canada, Estonia and the United Kingdom. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree from the College of Santa Fe in 2004 and Master of Fine Art from UNT in 2013.

Growing the program

Back and LaFleur are growing the program in a classroom in Hickory Hall.

Along with help from students, they took a few Fridays to transform the 1200-square-foot room, that they call “The Cave.” They painted the walls black to control the light better for projection-based works. They also built two 8-foot walls on wheels to help divide the space and for use as general backdrops in which students can document their work with video or still photography.

Back and LaFleur found creative ways to use some of the quirky elements of the space. The room has a long, narrow closet that they will use as a gallery to hang artwork. In the hallway, they plan to use a large display case for exhibitions and performances.

“This classroom has been a labor of love,” LaFleur said.

Students come to the space to check out equipment ― including cameras, tripods and virtual re-ality kits. And, the room can be used for many functions, including a critique space and to hold workshops in. A guest artist, ChiKa, will use it for a projection mapping workshop in November.

“The Hickory space is just perfect,” Back said. “It's a fluid space for the needs of faculty and students.”

In addition to helping their students exhibit well-crafted, critically engaged work, Back and LeFleur aim to increase grant support and student recruitment for the program. 

“It's exciting to be a part of the new media program and having the opportunity to help it grow,” Back said.

“It's a really awesome feeling,” LaFleur said. “We're able to shape it based on our own experiences.”

—Jessica DeLeòn, University Relations, Communications and Marketing

Posted on: Mon 14 December 2015

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