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SkySong public art is technological tapestry

February 18, 2009

Enter Scottsdale’s SkySong lobby and experience a public art piece comprised of two rows of floor-to-ceiling flat-screen video columns that is an homage to technology. 

Visitors are greeted by colorful, mesmerizing, black and white, clear and opaque binary numbers of different sizes, which slowly descend from the top monitor – while eventually being overcome by a paisley-like color tapestry – as they cascade to the bottom. Its creator, Muriel Magenta, an intermedia professor in the ASU Herberger College School of Art, hopes that viewers take away a Zen-like feeling.

“I wanted it to look like a work of art that has a soul, is poetic and transcends commercial graphic images,” she says. “I’m very happy with it – it looks just like I imagined it.”

Magenta designed all of the hardware specs while she was creating the 18-minute video loop on horizontal monitors, which she had to mathematically “flip” to work in the vertical application. Magenta was assisted by Robert Berg, and M. Jenea Sanchez, two research assistants who helped troubleshoot program glitches during the nine-month design phase. The artwork is displayed at the highest resolution possible with help from the Fulton High Performance Computing facility on the ASU Tempe campus. The installation was completed in fall 2008.

Also instrumental in the project’s success was Joe Baker, director for community engagement in the ASU Herberger College of the Arts. Project funding was made possible from a grant bestowed by the ASU Foundation.

The grant from the ASU Foundation is an example of the benefits a research university like ASU brings to the state. Each year, Arizona universities pump almost $1 billion into the Arizona economy through grants funded by the U.S. government and other entities. Research funding is legally restricted and cannot be used for instructional purposes.