Professor Adrianne Wortzel

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» Spring 2002

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Professor Adrianne Wortzel

A new media artist and professor of digital video and web design, Adrianne Wortzel's creative credentials were well established when she joined the faculty of City Tech's Department of Advertising Design & Graphic Arts only four years before she was named Scholar on Campus in spring 2002. Her works have appeared in venues worldwide, including The Whitney Museum of American Art's first exhibition dedicated to Internet works and one of the first major museum presentations of this medium.

The Whitney exhibition, Data Dynamics, opened in March 2002, featured five projects and attracted thousands of visitors during its run. Wortzel's installation, "Camouflage Town," created a theatrical scenario for a five-foot-high robot named "Kiru" that lived in the museum and interacted with exhibition visitors.

"Kiru" wore a mirrored costume that reflected its surroundings, made philosophical and ironic verbal comments about its museum environment, and transmitted video images to nearby monitors and to the World Wide Web. Its movements, speech and camera could be controlled by exhibition visitors and by viewers logging in from home. Museumgoers could communicate with online visitors by speaking to the robot, that then transmitted their comments, along with video images, to the web audience.

"'Kiru' succeeded in bridging two worlds," Wortzel told her audience in her Scholar on Campus Lecture, "the real and the virtual. 'Kiru' was a wizard that viewed its time in the gallery as a visit to a mythical place that housed the net artworks surrounding it. It paced about, commented on culture in general, and gave advice to visitors on and off the web. In its philosophical exchanges with viewers, it made such pronouncements as: 'A magic carpet flies and is so incredible that it is, in fact, difficult to believe. A true story, however, is harder to get off the ground and has its other liabilities.'"

Commissioned by the Whitney, Wortzel developed "Camouflage Town" at The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, where she also was an adjunct professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. The project was funded with a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and support from Cooper Union's NSF Gateway Engineering Education Coalition. Her Whitney installation team included several of her City Tech and Cooper Union students.

Wortzel has been creating Internet art since 1995. Other major works include "The Electronic Chronicles" and "Sayonara Diorama." In 2002, she delivered a guest lecture to students enrolled in City Tech's Honors-Scholars Program titled "Spies, Lies and Remote Control: Will Robots Take Over the World?" and was invited to document The City University of New York's TV News Boot Camp the following year. In 2004, she spent the fall semester in Switzerland, participating in an Artist in Lab Award Residency at the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, University of Zurich.

Wortzel has a background in fine art painting and studied with internationally renowned abstract painters Ad Reinhardt and Mark Rothko. But what eventually attracted her to the Internet as a medium of artistic expression, she noted in her Scholar on Campus Lecture, "was the Web's ability to publish interactive works that can reach people all over the world. I love being able to combine the various elements - text, graphics, video and programming - into something that is more than the sum of its parts. But the Web is still in its infancy and people haven't seen anything yet."

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