Cary art exhibit visualizes wind, music

aspecht@newsobserver.comJanuary 3, 2014 

  • If you go

    “Coded Responses” by Mark Nystrom, artwork made from data collected from nature and music, will be on display until Sunday, Jan. 26, at the Cary Arts Center, 101 Dry Ave. For details, call 919-469-4061 or go to www.marknystrom.com.

— Art can sometimes be inspired by intangible things such as music or the weather.

Those invisible forces were not only the inspiration for Mark Nystrom’s exhibit at the Cary Arts Center, but acted as his paintbrush.

The “Coded Responses” exhibit is a collection of drawings, prints and screen-based presentations that are visual interpretations of wind and music.

For example, one of the installations is a large projection screen that shows black and white shapes on the wall. The shapes shift and change based on the wind at the top of the Cary Arts Center, where Nystrom installed a weather instrument and a computer.

“The tiny computer ... transmits readings to a wireless radio that projects the image into the arts center,” he explained.

The projection is flanked by prints and drawings created by using wind as their power source and guiding hand.

Nystrom, who teaches graphic design at Appalachian State University in Boone, said he’s always been interested in exploring the relationship between “man-made forces and natural forces.”

Two of Nystrom’s other featured artworks in the exhibit were created using man-made forces.

Five “music drawings” hang on the back wall. Nystrom set up a computer that interpreted Ludwig van Beethoven’s fifth through ninth symphonies.

“The music drawings are a bunch of invisible circles, which are sorted into different frequency bands,” he said.

Different frequencies are represented by different colors: Red shows lower tones, while gold highlight higher tones.

Beethoven’s ninth symphony is his favorite.

“It looks like how I felt when I was listening to it,” Nystrom said.

The other computer-generated artwork is what Nystrom calls “The Political Reporter.”

He programmed the computer to collect news stories from conservative media outlets and liberal media outlets. The technology lifts nouns, verbs and adjectives and reconfigures them to make random statements.

“In a way, it’s a reflection of the current political climate. Somebody said this stuff. Somebody wrote this stuff,” Nystrom said.

Sometimes the statements make no sense: “Social glasses are the largest,” one statement recently read.

Sometimes they’re profound: “Public children are elected.”

Sometimes they could be considered offensive: “Undesirable conservatives are rural.”

Nystrom was commissioned to project statements from “The Political Reporter” onto the side of a 12-story building during the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte in 2012.

But the art – like a good political reporter – is meant to be unbiased, he said.

Specht: 919-460-2608; Twitter: @AndySpecht

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