Interactive art illustrates climate change

Vancie Fu with “artifact from the future.” / Marc Studer photo

By Douglas Esser
Vancie Fu graduated from the University of Washington Bothell in fall 2018 with a senior project for her Interdisciplinary Arts degree that still has her teachers talking.

It began as a group project in an Introduction to Interactive Media class taught by Mark Chen, a lecturer in the School of Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences (IAS). He challenged students to imagine 50 years of climate change and then make something from that world that is discovered 500 years from now. It’s an artifact from the future.

Fu thought it would be fun to create a box with a surprise inside. Chen received more than he perhaps expected.

Artwork as education

“When really good craftsmanship occurs, it’s always a good surprise,” said Chen, who hopes to arrange for Fu to display her work at a Pacific Science Center event in May. Chen also hopes the piece will be added to the UW Libraries Book Arts collection.

It could be seen as a physical-digital game or book that comes in the elaborate cardboard box. A smaller box inside is a time capsule. That’s a visual pun, because it contains capsules (pills not intended to be swallowed) with different dates in the past or future.

Take a capsule to see what the climate was or may become. Interact with illustrated pop-ups and picture pullouts. Scan QR codes to link to a timeline of changes. Discover games within the game.

“You interact through this creative and imaginative format. Every time you turn a corner, you come across this new angle of being drawn in,” said Jennifer Atkinson, senior lecturer in IAS who was the instructor for Fu’s capstone course. “It’s a really powerful way for her to stitch together different ways of talking about climate change.”

A multi-disciplinary approach

Teaching the senior portfolio course over the years, Atkinson has seen how more students on campus are thinking about climate change.

“It moved from environmental studies to art, media, cultural studies, social justice and law,” Atkinson said. “We can’t tackle climate change through science or policy alone.”

With elements of art, environmental studies, digital media and creative storytelling, Fu’s work exemplifies what interdisciplinary education is all about, Atkinson said.

An international student from China, Fu started taking design classes at North Seattle College. At UW Bothell, Fu said she found life-changing knowledge and inspiration from Chen, Atkinson and Barbara Noah, an IAS lecturer who teaches art classes.

Planning for the future

Fu is now working as a freelance designer in the Seattle area as she applies to graduate art schools in Vancouver and Toronto. Eventually she hopes to work in digital graphic design or to teach art.

Protecting the environment continues as a theme.

“In my country pollution is very serious,” Fu said. “I feel art can inspire people to notice the environment and protect it.”

Vancie Fu

Vancie Fu / Marc Studer photo

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