Flight of Fancy at Boston Cyberarts Festival
FLIGHT OF FANCY Turn a crank on top of Erica von Schilgen’s sweet, collaged picture and the girl’s head bobs as the bird flutters around and a music box plays. 
"Move Me" includes Erica von Schilgen's Flight of Fancy, a sweet, collaged picture of a pair of big flowers and a little girl standing on a pile of green beans or apples holding a bird on a leash. Turn a crank on top and the girl's head bobs as the bird flutters around and a music box plays. Across the gallery is Arthur Ganson's The First Noble Truth, an elaborate, geared machine with a long wire arm that keeps poking a little fabric doll in the back of its head. The title refers to a core belief of Buddhism that suffering exists. It reads like a mechanical voodoo doll. The poking gets under your skin.

"A Tool Is a Mirror," curated by Elizabeth Keithline at Mobius (725 Harrison Avenue, Boston), offers Erik Sanner's video of changing sunlight reflected on a traffic cone and Dennis Hlynsky's video of flying birds altered so that they seem to leave wakes in the sky. The show suffers from tech art's familiar pitfall: artists deploying neat-o technology without much to say with it. But check out Brian Kane's giant inflated red word balloon, which reads "OMG!" It's a real-life version of the kind of word balloons that pop up in computers. The virtual graphic made physical is magnetic, and funny.

Goethe-Institut (170 Beacon Street, Boston) offers "Record-Again," viewing stations for 40 years of German video art. None of the amateur documentaries and simple action performances particularly stands out, but together they distill an era.

The festival's headquarters, CyberartsCentral (290 Congress Street, Boston), presents "Fluid Perimeters," a disappointing collection of digital art screening on monitors around and awkwardly high above the building's lobby. Robert Arnold's Morphology of Desire has romance-novel covers morphing one into the next like a strange erotic dance. Brian Knep's Trigeminy Pulse features white lights pulsing in a grind of zebra-stripe inkblots. The effect, as with a number of the pieces here, is a finely wrought virtual lava lamp.

On the whole, this year's festival feels kind of half-assed. Cyberarts has an open-source format wherein it invites galleries to present their own projects under the festival's banner. But it doesn't impress when Cyberarts stakes a claim to events that would be happening whether there was a festival or not — like the Francis Alÿs exhibit that has been at Wellesley College since February, or Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Festival of Art, Science and Technology (FAST), a three-month-long celebration of the school's 150th anniversary. FAST does offer what should be one of the major art attractions in the region this year: MIT legend Otto Piene's Sky Event will lift "a large-scale, brightly lit star" over Killian Court, off Memorial Drive near Massachusetts Avenue, this Saturday, May 7, at 7 pm.

Cyberarts is well suited to Boston because of our avant-garde tech tradition. Think experimental videos produced by WGBH's New Television Workshop, Polaroid instant photography, MIT tech art shenanigans, pioneering video games from Spacewar! and Zork to BioShock and Rock Band. Facebook began here. (How come no major local museum has a permanent display of these internationally groundbreaking works?) But Austin's South by Southwest Interactive Festival, which began only in 2007, has already surpassed Cyberarts.

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Related: Catherine Opie and 'The Record' at the ICA, Photos: Swoon Art Wall at the ICA, Swoon takes her street art to the ICA 'Wall', More more >
  Topics: Museum And Gallery , Institute of Contemporary Art, Goethe-Institut, Goethe-Institut,  More more >
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