Saturday, August 6, 2016

Duluth Quantum Computing Project: Kathy McTavish's Latest Adventure

"Something's happening here, what it is ain't exactly clear." ~Buffalo Springfield

When Stephen Stills sang these lyrics the words reflected the ominous spirit that pervaded those times. But if presented in a different light, the very same words could be used to describe the excitement that pervades many corners of the modern world where science and technology are bursting into new territories. Something has definitely been happening, and for sure it hasn't always been clear. The phenomenon of digital technology which now not only connects billions of the world's peoples is soon going to connect all our things as well.

There are artists I know who have chosen to remove themselves from the grid, these electronic networks. They work in media that is tactile and celebrate the raw materials of the earth and spirit. At the other end of the spectrum are artists immersed in emerging technologies, internalizing their capabilities and expressing them through the unique grid of their intuitions and imaginations. Kathy McTavish is in the latter camp, especially in this current iteration of exploration called the Duluth Quantum Computing Project. The subtitle for this interactive project is "Storytelling in a Digital Age."

It must have been five years ago that I first encountered her interweaving of words, sound and technology in a Phantom Galleries exhibition in Superior. Her collaboration titled holy fool made a powerful impression at Sacred Heart in 2012. In 2014 the Prove Gallery hosted another collaboration that expanded the boundaries of installation and interactive creation called "the origin of birds."

Excerpt from Sophronia
2015 was huge as McTavish worked with a whole team of collaborators to produce The Sophronia Project, which travelled about the state with much fanfare. The Walker in Minneapolis, the Barn in Wrenshall, the PROVE in Duluth and many other locations hosted this circus-like interactive experience that once again blended creativity and technology.

Though it has only been a year, I found myself wondering what had become of Kathy McTavish since all of these events had created such a buzz and now she had seemingly been quiet for so long. Then, just a few weeks ago, I finally asked a friend if she were still in the region. I was curious regarding what she was up to. It didn't take long to find out she'd not been idle at all. She's done a lot of homework bringing together this arts fusion space.

I stopped to get an introduction to the project and must admit that I'm still trying to wrap my head around it. We're immersed in technology, she notes. Photography had an impact on art when it was introduced. Film added the dimension of time to the images captured by the lens.

Today with computers and the Internet we have code. McTavish explained that "because it has been professionalized it is distanced from the artists.... forcing us to go through software intermediaries to work with programs. I am wanting to break down this barrier where the html and coding is accessible to the artists so we can re-own that space."

One of the negative results of this process is that artists have created digital art and online galleries that are no longer accessible. Their labors to share their work in an online gallery space can become disabled and instead of timeless has become, in some instances, forever lost. Her desire is to empower artists and leave them victimized by the changing technology.

In preparation for this eight week course she has assembled links to videos and writings that will help lay a foundation of understanding. These are not essential or mandatory, and any level of experience from novice to advanced will find a welcome environment here.

Topics to be covered during the course of these two month include the following:

August 4-6
talking to machines ::: the origins of computing
August 11-13
the anatomy of a web page the flying trapeeze ::: the aerial art of hypertext ::: the gymnastics of reading
August 18-20
the architecture of the internet ::: cloud mobiles ::: social graphs ::: intersecting stories
August 25-27
alice in wonderland ::: hypermedia ::: the cross-sensory house of mirrors
September 1-3
code / algorithms ::: the confluence of text & choreography (literary forms in action) ::: code as improvisation / orchestration
September 15-17
drawing :::
September 22-24
revolutionary spaces ::: contested landscapes ::: arts & resistance
September 29-October 1
overview, brainstorming session for future directions & installation opening

The project is housed at 3 West Superior Street in what was previously a Wine Exchange and (I believe) a restaurant, among other things. Rather than have the space left vacant, the next two months (August & September) it will play host to this very unusual learning experience.

Three days a week, Thursdays thru Saturdays, McTavish will be giving lectures, engaging people in educational activities, and offering space for creative exploration.

Visit the project's website at to learn more.
The dqcp FaceBook page contains an introduction and other information.

For additional information related to programming and quantum computing, McTavish has assembled a reading list here of additional information related to programming and quantum computing.

Meantime, life goes on all around you. Explore it. 

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