Grotto: An Alternative Reality

From Minnesota Artists Exhibition Program

Artist: Bill Klaila
February 28 – May 4, 2003
Minnesota Artists Gallery

The magical mind and art of Bill Klaila are fueled by a passion for the landscape and an uncommon appreciation for alternative realities. His latest virtual installation, titled Grotto, was an interactive environment that not only immersed viewers but responded to their passage through it. The interactivity of Klaila's 21st century landscape paid homage to the intelligence of the living landscape and reflected Klaila's dynamic experience with the world.

To create his installation, Klaila employed three different computers, pressure-sensitive flooring, and a video-game software that he modified to synchronize layered scenes and graphic displays. Using a 3-D computer program. Klaila laid imagery like stalactites, stalagmites, and water over a digital mesh. By shifting the points of the mesh, he built and shaped the walls of his grotto. On the flat floor mesh he programmed layers of shifting imagery that changed when it was walked on. As the viewer stepped into his grotto, the floor grid sent a signal to the computers, telling them where the viewer was and how much pressure was being exerted. Each step made the water splash and ripple and reflect light off the walls of the cave.

Just as caves have done since prehistory, Klaila's Grotto removed the viewer from real time and space and enhanced the potential for having an altered (possibly spiritual) experience.

But in the world inhabited by the artists who drew on the cave walls at Lascaux 20,000 years ago, a shaman mediated the landscape. In Klaila's world, he himself was the mediator. His tool was not a spear but a computer, and the negotiating energy was not prayer or chants but software and the intentions of the artist.

Since Paleolithic times, humans have designated or created containers for particular meanings. Caves, temples, church, books, paintings, TV sets, and computers have all served as important vehicles for discovery, transformation, and entertainment. The student was meant to receive instruction or inspiration. In Klaila's dynamic world, the “viewer” is more than a witness: she or he is an activator, even participator.

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Related Events

  • Opening Reception: Thursday, February 27, 2003 at 7:00 p.m. in the Minnesota Artists Gallery.
  • Artists Talk: Thursday, March 6, 2003 at 7:00 p.m. in the Minnesota Artists Gallery.
  • Critics' Trialogue: Thursday, March 20, 2003 at 7:00 p.m. in the Minnesota Artists Gallery. Featuring critic Patricia Briggs.

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