Ever wonder what all those webcams set up around the Island capture? The traffic at Five Corners, ferries crossing back and forth and back and forth again, the view of the grounds of stately buildings sitting anchored on top of a Vineyard hill. Footprints in the snow, perhaps.
New media artist Graham Smith decided in the middle of last November when the Island daylight began to wane, that he needed to see the sun rise and set. So he began an experiment then which is still in process: he used custom software he created, the internet, local webcams, apps from his iPhone and his own curiosity, and now he can watch the sun rise and set every day. In fact, he can watch it virtually anytime and anyplace.
His new media experiment was featured at a recent Pathways Projects event at the Chilmark Tavern.
By all accounts it was well received. After all, who wouldn’t want to watch a Vineyard sunset over and over?
Mr. Smith spends his daytime hours at the Vineyard Gazette where he is technology manager and explainer of all things dumbfounding about the internet. In his spare time, he carries out his visual experiments in art using technology. Mr. Smith can determine when and how he views the images he captures. If he gets up in the morning and knows the forecast calls for snow, he can set up his equipment to capture the flakes as they begin to fall. Then, he can manipulate those snowflakes to reflect what looks like a thousand lasers zig-zagging across the screen.
“It [the technology] allows me to condense time and space,” Mr. Smith explained. “I can see multiple locations at once and define the time that I see it or the speed as to which I see it.”
He said that his art is not always about a final object that hangs on a wall.
“Take Jackson Pollock for example,” Mr. Smith said as he explained new media art. “The evidence of the process of splashing paint is his art. The process of how he made the art is evident in the art itself.”
Mr. Smith has a master’s degree in computer art from the School of Visual Arts in New York city and worked for Viacom in Manhattan before coming to the Vineyard. He spent vacations on the Vineyard his whole life, he said, and now at age 30, is still learning and creating, sometimes with the Vineyard as a backdrop. His inspiration, though, can be found anyplace — like in a Vineyard sunset.
“Now, every day I can see the sun rise or set, whether I’m there or not,” he said with a grin.
While Mr. Smith said he finds satisfaction in the constant evolution of his art, like everyone else who uses social media, he also gains gratification in all those “likes” he gets via the internet. Technology allows anyone to view his images. If you look him up on Instagram, for instance, you’ll see gorgeous Vineyard landscapes, or you can watch a video of an attempt to take his cat Charles Babbage for a walk through the woods. If you look up his website, you’ll find a noteworthy short film of a social media experiment where he was inspired to take a week-long, 1,800-mile road trip to meet his Facebook friends in person.