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TO NOV. 30
If a ’bot falls in the forest, does it create an aesthetic experience? Of course not—that’s what is so flattering about “interactive” art: It doesn’t exist unless someone is there to press a button, click a mouse, or trigger a motion detector. To paraphrase Jerry Maguire: You complete them. But what’s completed isn’t always so impressive in this selection of mechanized and cybernetic artworks, sponsored by the Maryland Institute College of Art’s Interactive Media Department. There are some modest amusements, including Pamela Council’s Bathroom Beats, whose attached drumsticks set off recorded sounds of plumbing-based percussion; Samuel N. Ortiz’s Environment, which amplifies the ambient sounds near a headphones-equipped chair; and Benjamin Domanico and Jake Mauer’s Fields, which reacts to human presence and projects abstract visual results on a nearby screen. But a lot of this work is not so much art as industrial design, which is problematic: Once an artist starts engineering such things as a “guinea piggy bot”—as Yoon Oh did for Barcoding Navigation (pictured)—he’s in competition not with the futurists and other machine-inspired artists but with Sony and Disney, whose resources are considerably greater. And such successful ventures as Mark Brown’s Phenomenal Separation aren’t really gallery pieces: An automated program (or “self-publishing virus”) that harvests images from Web sites, Brown’s invention is of, by, and for computer screens. Still, its fast-cutting parade of images is livelier than the mechanical projects in this show, whose movements seem more steam-age than silicon-chip-era. The show is on view from noon to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, to Wednesday, Nov. 30, at the Gallery at Flashpoint, 916 G St. NW. Free. (202) 315-1310. (Mark Jenkins)