Multimedia art brought to life in new software game

If a passerby were to glance upon two ordinary double doors of an auditorium in the Science Complex, he or she would have never guessed that a presentation of pure innovation was taking place behind them.

In a packed hall on Oct. 19, Tana Hargest shared with students the overlooked world of multimedia art.

Hargest is a Web designer and visual artist whose work has been included in numerous exhibitions such as Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s List Visual Art Center, “Race in Digital Space,” “Only Skin Deep” at the International Center of Photography in New York City and “Freestyle” at The Studio Museum in Harlem. Hargest has also been an Artist in Residence at Harvestworks in New York and the Studio Program at Smack Mellon. Hargest has received many awards recognizing her artistic achievements, such as grants from Creative Capital and the Jerome Foundation.

Hargest told students about her latest venture, a multimedia software game, “New Negrotopia.” Consisting of a promotional video for investors, a Web site and actual trade show booths, “New Negrotopia” is a virtual island resort and amusement park in which the participant becomes a tourist traveling through his or her own racial history and assumptions.

“New Negrotopia” includes various interactive environments, including “Atlantic Adventure,” a 3-D interactive experience of the Middle Passage; the “Cotton Bales on the Mississippi” water ride; and “The Institute of Thinking,” a mock-academic think tank located in paradise.

The characters in Hargest’s program are unique, complex and highly developed. Her main character is a comical monkey who was inspired by a sock puppet.

“Since the whole thing is fictitious, I’m using fantasy as a language to talk about something that is a fantasy, – namely these overwhelming constructions of race,” Hargest said. “I am interested to see the response this program receives in Europe.”

“The vibrant colors and humor that (Hargest) incorporated into her multimedia creations were so impressive,” Lainey King, sophomore nursing major, said. “She’s unlike any other artist I’ve seen on this campus.”

“It’s so fascinating to learn about a whole different side of art that I’ve never been exposed to before,” Sara Mawhinney, sophomore open options major in the School of Business, said.

“(Hargest’s) past work explores issues of race and gender as they intersect in digital culture,” Anita Allyn, associate professor of Art and Digital Arts and Photography coordinator, said.