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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Abrams encourages students to explore technology in art

Published: September 6, 2013
Section: Arts, Etc.

Having cast aside his original intention to major in physics decades ago, Christopher Abrams, artist-in-residence and professor in Fine Arts at Brandeis, gravitated away from pop culture, fantasy film and the collaborative potential of digital media as sources of inspiration in order to create work that was more innovative in style and form.

After attaining a bachelor of arts degree from Harvard University, Abrams went on to earn a master’s degree from the Massachusetts College of Arts. Having been exposed to courses in architecture and currently instructing classes on the application of digital media within the arts, Abrams represents the potential for the culmination of creativity across a wide range of disciplinary fields.

Noting the transformative power of technology, Abrams stresses the newfound importance of incorporating respect for digital media, Photoshop and other artistic tools alongside respect for traditional art forms.

Abrams often tells his students, “The arts are a way to indulge a way of thinking that is a little bit indeterminate, of indulging in open-ended experimentation. It’s rigor without a set destination.”

His current work draws on inspiration from science fiction and fantasy films, focusing on spaceships in particular. His sculptures, however, are according to him, “not succinctly spaceships […] they could be biological forms or microbes,” embodying his deep fascination with attempting to emulate life processes and forms through his work.

Although art is traditionally created by one individual who holds sole authorship of the piece, Abrams is also intrigued by the potential of collaborative art. Using postal drawings collected from across the country, Abrams produced a series of works focused on this approach. He states, “In the end, I’m making it, but it’s also the postman, the guy at the loading facility, the man shipping it overseas.”

Abrams explains the notion of straying away from the concept of the elevated individual, pointing to the compelling idea of combined efforts. Emphasizing “your ideas are not just yours to own.” Abrams points to the trend of collaboration emerging from technological advancements, such as the Internet, not only within the realm of art, but also in science as well.

Abrams chose to become a member of our community, originally drawn here for its well-established program in the arts. As a professor of sculpture and media art, he teaches about the development of the media lab and the incorporation of tools such as 3D-modeling and Photoshop within the curriculum. Unlike teaching a course in sculpture, however, Abrams states that serving as a professor in digital media classes creates a unique relationship with his students who are often already equipped with tech-savvy skills.

As a recipient of numerous accolades for his work, such as being a finalist for the Massachusetts Cultural Council Artist’s Fellowship, Abrams nevertheless stresses the importance of combining artistic creativity with feasible applications. Originally a physics major, he confesses that pursuing a career in the arts still feels like a risk. He applies his creative and technical skills to design practical architectural models in addition to his own artwork.

Addressing the risks of pursuing a career as an artist, Abrams maintains a deeply instilled sense of appreciation for the arts but believes that an active engagement in other disciplines and a knowledge of technological advancements are crucial. Whether or not it is engineering surgical prosthetics or designing innovative architectural models, he explains that the freedom of exploration and creative expression found in the arts is comparable to the task of accomplishing something never before achieved or imagined.

Abrams urges his students “to think like the artist without necessarily working as artists,” explaining that an artist’s training can be valuable even in other fields.