Department Dossier: Bruce Wands

April 23, 2010

The latest in a series of one-on-one conversations with SVA department chairs.

For more than 20 years, the MFA Computer Art Department has been providing graduate students with access to the latest tools, technologies and expertise in the many realms of digital artwork, including 3D animation, motion graphics and video, digital fine art, Web design, programming and interactive media. Bruce Wands is a digital artist, musician, writer and educator who joined the program’s faculty in 1988 and has chaired the department since 1998. He recently spoke to the Briefs about the department and the challenges of staying on the leading edge of technology-based creation:

What are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen in your department over time?
The most dramatic change was the growth of the Internet in the mid-1990s. When we first connected to the Internet, they had to dig up 21st Street in order to install the cable. Now we are using wireless networking more and are seeing a dramatic increase in mobile computing. The capabilities of today’s software and hardware far exceed what we had even five years ago.

The technology of computer-driven artwork must be difficult to keep up with, moment to moment.
We have a dynamic curriculum model, where new courses are added and the old ones updated every year. We also enhance the curriculum through an active guest lecture program, visiting artists and workshops on a variety of topics. I spend a lot of time researching the field for new developments and future trends. For example, we started a Stereoscopic 3D class several years ago, and now Hollywood is producing a lot of 3D films, which provides opportunities for our graduates.

What’s in store for the next academic year?
We’re starting a course in creating apps for the iPhone and iPad. Our 3D stereoscopic HDTV and motion-capture capabilities will be enhanced, along with our multi-channel sound facilities. This will give our students even more ways to express their ideas and creativity.

What most impresses you about your students and their work?
We have seen a dramatic increase in the digital literacy of our incoming students over the past few years. They have grown up with computers, and this gives us the ability to focus more on creativity, critique and theory, rather than teaching them software. They are also not afraid to combine digital techniques with traditional media. For me, creativity is the most valuable commodity, and the students clearly understand that.

Image: Photo by Harry Zernike.

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