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Art that uses the airwaves

The Contemporary Art Museum (CAM) dedicated Friday night to the opening of its new exhibition “Broadcast” – which employs radio and television for other forms of artistic expression.

The installations of “Broadcast” vary from flat-screen televisions showing documentary videos to nontraditional sculptures. Art and non-art majors alike can meander throughout the gallery and contemplate the exhibition’s meaning.

The multimedia art show surroundings of “Broadcast” promote visitor interaction.

The exhibition includes “WCBS Radio Caroline, The Voice of the New Free State of Caroline.” This work of art is a fully functional, legal pirate radio station – legal since it is located on USF’s property and its reach is limited to the campus.

Gregory Green, a USF art professor and the artist of “WCBS Radio Caroline,” said that his piece “challenges the power of established broadcasting channels by turning over content control to individuals.”

Visitors can become radio DJs on 99.1 FM and broadcast a free range of content.

“Anything goes,” Green said.

Anyone can sign up to broadcast. There is no fee to participate, and the only requirement is the ability to operate the turntable, tape decks and other equipment without damaging it.

Kelsey Smith, a senior majoring in international studies and a student of Green’s, took advantage of the interactive opportunity by hooking up her iPod to the piece of art.

She said playing her hip-hop music over the airwaves was empowering – and not something she would expect to do at an art museum.

Another interactive feature within “Broadcast” is “Guide by Cell,” a phone-activated tour narration voiced by Irene Hofmann, the exhibition’s curator and Baltimore Contemporary Museum’s executive director.

Visitors can call 813-282-1126 to listen to information on featured works and artists – using displays with corresponding prompt numbers.

“You’re able to walk through and listen at your leisure,” USF Institute for Research in Art associate director Alexa Favata said.

CAM has been using “Guide by Cell” for about two years on different exhibitions, and there is no charge aside from using cell phone minutes.

Don Fuller, CAM’s new media curator, said that exhibition pieces are chosen based on their relevance to students and social issues.

“It’s more than pretty pictures on a wall,” Fuller said.

“Broadcast” explores the theme of mass media’s power. Fuller said some of the featured artwork undermines the authority that television and radio have within society.

Nam June Paik, one of the first artists to use video camera material as art, challenges the authority of late-’60s presidential news conferences in “Video Tape Study No. 3.”

Siebren Versteeg’s piece “CC” mocks the self-importance of evening news broadcasts by using Internet chat room dialogue as closed-captioned text beneath a muted Anderson Cooper.

Versteeg and Green were both present at Friday’s opening to talk about their work.

“We embrace the fact that we can have access to living artists,” Favata said. “It is fine to read about art, but the opportunity to question an artist about what he or she does – and find out what motivates them and what issues are important to them – is an invaluable opportunity.”

Favata said that CAM hopes to increase its prominence on campus. She said she wants students other than art majors to be aware of the museum’s exhibitions and events.

“Many students do not even know where CAM is located,” Favata said.

Yet Favata also said that participating in the Week of Welcome, along with using sites like Facebook and Twitter, has proven successful in spreading the word across campus.

“Broadcast” is a traveling collection from Independent Curators International (iCI), who work with practicing artists all around the world.

It will be on display at CAM until Aug. 7, and the museum’s hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday.

CAM is located near the Marshall Student Center, between the Fine Arts and Dance buildings.

For more information on the exhibition, call CAM at 813-974-4133 or visit ira.usf.edu.