Art preview: BioPresence at Hopkins Hall

Jim Fischer
"SexxxxyFish" by Jessica Ann

BioPresence surely isn't the first exhibition to be inspired by animals.

But it is the first to feature a video installation edited by spiders - and likely the first to feature fish-generated webcam art that gets banned on Chatroulette.

Spearheaded by Ohio State University Department of Art professor Amy Youngs,BioPresence is about sensing, acknowledging and celebrating animal life, primarily where it intersects with the Ohio State campus. The project began with a significant amount of data-gathering about the animal life on campus, via social media, webcam and observational record-keeping.

"It did evolve, as we examined how to make sense of all this data, to explore it in terms of art-making," Youngs said.

Participating artists are students in the Art & Technology program within the art department, as well as faculty and other artists "we knew had done work related to the theme," she said.

"My work has always been inspired by biological systems," said Ken Rinaldo, a professor in the Art & Technology program. His piece is a video installation by and about spiders, screening a movie about spiders until a software program senses movement by one of the live spiders in the installation, at which time the feed switches to live footage of the spider as food is released.

Master of fine arts student Jessica Ann's work also involves the movement of live animals. "SexxxyFish" features live drawings generated by the tracking of the movement of fish, which are then broadcast and shared on a web chat platform that randomly pairs users around the world.

"Chatroulette is one of the stranger and seedier places on the Internet, so while I thought people would be curious, I guess there are a lot who are disappointed it's fish," Ann said. "The array of different responses becomes part of the art. The audience is sort of curating the piece."

Recent master of fine arts graduate Allison Blair is working on a piece inspired by the large number of birds killed after colliding with windows in Hopkins Hall. Her three-story-tall etching is a screened printing on acetate of a bird that was killed after colliding with a window; the bird is petrified and stored in the university's Museum of Biodiversity.

"It's the biggest thing I've ever made," Blair said, adding, "The idea is simple, to get people to notice animals, especially the everyday ones."

BioPresence will remain on view at Hopkins Hall through Dec. 16. Select pieces will also be on display in the Mote galleries ( on North High Street.

Hopkins Hall

Opening reception 6 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 9

128 N. Oval Mall, Campus