Design Professors’ Museum Commission Melds Play, Art and Learning

plink

Glenda Drew and Jiayi Young

July 2017 - Two UC Davis design professors have been busy transforming galleries at Sacramento’s Crocker Art Museum into a combination art installation and playground that stimulates learning called “PL!NK.”

The installation is made up of 100 colorful and mirrored tetrahedron clusters, with embedded cameras, lights and recording devices for real time interactivity. It encourages early childhood development through color and pattern; solitary, parallel and cooperative play; and spatial learning.

The work that sprawls across the floor and climbs the walls is the creation of professors Glenda Drew and Jiayi Young.

“Our intent is to essentially soak children in a beautiful experience of light, color and shapes, and as they engage, we give them an opportunity to share their experience with others,” Drew said. “PL!NK” will be at the museum July 23 through late fall.

Lights, reflections, sound, feedback

The panels that make up the tetrahedrons are six colors with three different mirrored surfaces. Integrated into the work are cameras that stream manipulated video of visitors for live viewing within the space, a live audio feedback element, and a station where children can record stories that are played back in the environment. Stories can also be submitted for playback within the space. There’s also an area where children can build structures using miniature interlocking triangles.

“The audience can see themselves as active participants and have play be amplified into art and something much bigger,” Drew said.

plink

Jiayi Young installing

Turning Tweets Into Art

In the year leading up to the 2016 election, assistant professor of design Jiayi Young began collecting Twitter data that she turned in to an artwork she describes as “social media as cyborg.” "Presently Untitled” was made of IV bags filled with a glowing green solution, lights and speakers that respond to tweets and retweets until the system goes into a “seizure” and shuts down.

“It also challenges the notion of art by inviting a conversation about what it means to make art for young children, the meaning of user-generated content, art and prestige and the museum beyond walls,” Young added. Both professors have children and brought that experience to the project.

“We felt we had a good understanding of children that age,” Young said. In fact, Young’s daughter Sophie, 12, came up with the title as an expression of the sounds of an “exploded kaleidoscope.”

Balancing many elements, functions

“The museum was really asking us to make something that is a balance of design, artwork and playground, so it is a bit tricky,” Young said. “It went well beyond what I originally imagined it would be.”

They plan to install “PL!NK” at other venues.

Young and Drew, along with their students Darin E. Reyes and Michelle Lee, responded to the call for proposals from the Crocker Museum last summer while at the International Symposium on Electronic Art in Hong Kong.

Reyes and Lee, who have graduated, received a separate commission. Their work, “Gato,” includes a 20-foot stuffed cat with and motion-reactive projected visuals and music. It is at the museum until Oct 29.

- Jeffrey Day is a content strategist for the College of Letters and Science. jaaday@ucdavis.edu