The art of fusing science with music and performance
A section in Douglas Repetto's website is simply labelled "Strange Things". It's full of bits of ongoing and past artworks - a quirky conveyor belt, a picture of bird's nests made out of forgotten machine parts, a flyer for a workshop in which participants made "vicious foals" - a herd of small walking tables that were set loose in the rotunda of the University of Pennsylvania Museum.
All of Repetto's work is full of wonderfully strange things, from unexpected robots participating in a talent show (an exhibit that came to Dublin in 2008), to "parallel processing" using "distributed" copper squirrel cages (see iti.ms/11K4jlC), to bioart installation "How to Annoy a Plant".
He fuses technology and science with art, music and performance. All of that makes Repetto, the director of research at Columbia University's Computer Music Center, a perfect fit for Trinity College's Science Gallery, where he is co-curating its new exhibition, Oscilator, opening tomorrow.
Repetto is no stranger to Ireland. He's worked with the Science Gallery in the past, and with the Ark children's art centre in Temple Bar. The idea for Oscillator emerged from a proposal he sent to the Science Gallery over a year ago. The thematic ideas suggested by the title - of sound, music, machines, movement - mirror his own passions.
"My background originally was in music, but I'm kind of self-taught at what I do. I get interested in things and just want to pursue them." He says he is not so much a technologist as he is an artist and musician. But technology often plays a significant part in his projects and installations.
These can be serious, playful, or both. They can incorporate science and biology, producing "bio-art"; they might include music, dance, recycled materials, bits of technology, even his old double bed, for a recent work in Philadelphia.
It might all seem far away from his undergraduate music degree, but he says even then he was pushing boundaries and saw his degree "less in terms of making a beautiful piece of music, and more about making an interesting experiment". That involved playing around with computers, thinking about the physics of sound - he says he was fortunate to have a couple of music professors who were very supportive of these explorations.
He went on to graduate school at CalArts - the California Institute of the Arts, in Los Angeles county. "That was really wonderful; the whole idea was really to explore." He was in their integrated media programme and says that though he went in with a music focus, he quickly got interested in sculpture and installations.