"5 ’til 12"
Where: Beall Center for Art and Technology at UCI, 712 Arts Plaza, Irvine.
through March 15. Gallery open Tuesday-Wednesday, noon-5 p.m.;
Thursday-Saturday, noon-8 p.m. Closed Monday and Sunday.
Parking: In the Pereira structure on W. Peltason Drive, off Campus Drive.
Cost: Free gallery admission. Parking $2 an hour.
Info: 949-824-4339 or beallcenter.uci.edu
Brian is dead.But who's to blame? His girlfriend, Sue? Her catty ex-boyfriend, Nathan?
Center for Art and Technology's new exhibit "5 'til 12" initially looks
like a murder mystery. Visitors are told that by listening to video
testimonials from three witnesses and the dead man himself, they can
figure out what happened.
This is anything but simple. First,
the actors give inconsistent accounts of what happened. And when you
listen to them for the second time, you notice they don't even stick to
their own stories.
point is to think about what constitutes truth, a la Akira Kurosawa's
multi-perspective movie "Rashomon." Exhibit creators Sue Huang and
Brian House (who also perform as the eponymous characters), further
push the concept by injecting game theory - a mathematical study of how
people make strategic choices - into the script.
script is made up of 25 to 40 sentences, and most sentences have three
to six variations. A computer algorithm decides which story you hear
based partly on what previous witnesses have said about each other.
example, if Brian says he loves Sue, Sue is more likely to say
something nice about Brian. If Brian says Sue's pearls are ugly, Sue's
going to be a little surly. Your record is logged in a transponder tag
you carry with you in the exhibit.
All this sounds like a giant nerdy exercise suited for the pages of Wiredmagazine.
But when you're at the exhibit, the concept doesn't seem awkward. We've
all been socially conditioned to respond to what others say. We know
how to tone down our conversations, or snidely criticize competitors,
to make ourselves look better to others.
"5 'til 12"'s creators
have merely dissected a social process, expressed it in a math
equation, and delivered their ideas through the form of a
love-and-murder story. Got that?
not trying to be obscure," insists Huang. "We're trying to work with
something that's humanistic. I think it's understandable when you're
The creators' literary talent is evident.
(They claim inspiration from Raymond Queneau's "Hundred Thousand
Billion Poems.") The script, written with help from Amy Finkel, Nathan
Phillips and Joe Schiappa, is unexpectedly funny, particularly the
haughty and immature Nathan character, who says: "I don't hand out
advice. I'm quality control."
For Beall, a high-tech gallery in
UCI created for the purpose of promoting interactive and video art, "5
'til 12" qualifies as art because it makes visitors think about how
they interact with technology. The mechanics of the piece resemble
artificial intelligence, said Eleanore Stewart, Beall director.
a different kind of interactivity in that you are triggering the piece
to create itself, but that's not clear to you. It's really the author
of the piece," Stewart said. "It adds to the conversation about what
For the record, even if you spend hours
listening to the ever-changing testimonials, you still can't figure out
who definitively killed Brian. The story just wasn't written that way.
"5 'til 12" is a satisfying exploration into the twisted,
self-interested ways in which humans respond to each other and make up
stories to explain their own actions.
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