Artist and educator John
Craig Freeman uses digital technologies to produce place-based virtual reality
and site-specific public art. The virtual reality work is made up of projected
interactive environments that lead the audience from global satellite images to
immersive, user navigated scenes on the ground. As one explores these virtual
spaces, the story of the place unfolds in a montage of nonlinear media. Working
with monumental, sequential, computer generated imagery and text Freeman also
constructs public roadside installations, which can span miles of highway. In
some projects, individual images have been as large as 400 square feet. Freeman
appropriates the strategies and forms of media culture in order to explore what
happens when emerging technologies are used for artistic expression. He has set
out to invent new forms of visual art that address the transition from industrial
culture to an information technological paradigm. Recognizing the need to integrate
the work of a variety of experts, Freeman has adopted strategies of project based
interdisciplinary collaboration. The most recent work titled "Imaging Place"
draws on the expertise of cultural theorists, architects, historians, scientist
and community leaders.
Freeman's work has been exhibited internationally
including at the Kaliningrad Branch of the National Centre For Contemporary Arts
in Russia, Art Basel Miami, Ciberart Bilbao and Girona Video and Digital Arts
Festival, in Spain, the Westside Gallery in New York, La Biblioteca National in
Havana, Cuba The Contemporary Art Center in Atlanta, the Nickle Arts Museum in
Calgary, Canada, the Centro de la Imagen in Mexico City, the Photographers Gallery
in London, the Center for Experimental and Perceptual Art (CEPA) in Buffalo, Mobius
in Boston, and the Friends of Photography's Ansel Adams Center in San Francisco.
In 1992 he was awarded an Individual Artist Fellowship from the National Endowment
for the Arts. His writing has been published in Leonardo, the Journal of Visual
Culture, and Exposure. His work has been reviewed in Wired News, Artforum, Ten-8,
Z Magazine, Afterimage, Photo Metro, New Art Examiner, Time, Harper's and Der
Spiegel. Lucy Lippard cites Freeman's work in her book "The Lure of the Local,"
as does Margot Lovejoy in her book "Postmodern Currents."
received a Bachelor of Art degree from the University of California, San Diego
in 1986 and a Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Colorado, Boulder
in 1990. He began his academic career in the early 1990s in San Diego where he
lectured at the University of California San Diego for three and a half years.
Freeman was an Assistant Professor at the University of Florida from 1994 to 1999,
where he coordinated the Photography Area. From 1999 to 2002 he ran the digital
media art curriculum as an Associate Professor in the Art Department at the University
of Massachusetts, Lowell. He is currently an Associate Professor of New Media
at Emerson College in Boston. The focus of his academic activities throughout
the last decade has been to integrate computer technology and theory of electronic
culture into visual art curriculum and to explore interdisciplinary approaches
to education and technology. Freeman is active in the College Art Association
and he served on the national board of directors of the Society for Photographic
Imaging Place: Imaging Place is a documentary virtual
reality method, which uses a combination of panoramic photography, digital video,
and three-dimensional environments to investigate and document place. Although
the method borrows freely from the traditions of documentary still photography
and filmmaking, the Imaging Place method departs from those traditions by using
the emerging nonlinear narrative structures made possible by interactive technologies
and the apparatus of telecommunications. The project also seeks to expand the
notion of documentary by exploring how place is internalized, thus a location
is mapped as a state of mind. The work is projected up to nine by twelve feet
in a darkened space with a podium and a mouse placed in the center of the space,
which allows the audience to navigate throughout the project. When it is activated
by the click of a mouse button, the project leads the user from global satellite
images to virtual reality scenes on the ground. The user can then navigate throughout
an immersive virtual space. Rather than the linear structures of the novel or
cinema, this new form allows the story to unfold in a meandering labyrinth of
discovery and associations. The goal of Imaging Place is to document sites of
cultural significance, which for political, social, economic, or environmental
reasons are contested, undergoing substantial changes, or at risk of destruction.
This includes historic sites as well as sites of living culture which are being
displaced by globalization and the collapse of industrial modernism.
Imaging Place is designed to accommodate interdisciplinary collaboration conducted
across institutions and over distances. It uses new technology to bring disparate
bodies of knowledge together through the investigation and documentation of place.
The method attempts to bridge the gaps in understanding that exist between esoteric
disciplines that have developed as a result of academic and industrial specialization.
The technological tools are now available for bringing the work of experts together
without sacrificing the depth and dimension of specialized knowledge and to connect
the abstraction of highly specialized thinking with the visceral experiences of
people on the ground. In addition to providing a form for the generation, dissemination
and accumulation of interdisciplinary research and artistic production, the Imaging
Place method provides a model strategy for collaboration.