A Tiny Digital Arts Revolution, Encased In Glass Artist Tim Tate makes bulb-shaped glass cases containing a miniature video screen and player. When he couldn't find technology that worked with his art, he collaborated with scientists to invent it.
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A Tiny Digital Arts Revolution, Encased In Glass

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A Tiny Digital Arts Revolution, Encased In Glass

A Tiny Digital Arts Revolution, Encased In Glass

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MADELEINE BRAND, host:

Now to the opposite coast and artist Tim Tate, he creates art that occupies a strange place between old world art and new world technology. He creates ornate reliquaries. And those are gorgeous glass cases, shaped like a bulb and inside those perfect curves, a tiny video screen and player. On the screen loops a short movie of a girl walking down the sidewalk or of an old woman baking a pie. We caught up with Tim Tate at the Washington Glass School, which he co-founded, and asked him to describe the moment his art first turned high tech.

Mr. TIM TATE (Artist): I love video. Grew up, like many kids in the country, with my chin in my hand, lying on my stomach, watching endless movies. Sneaking at 4 a.m., turning on the TV with a ear phone so my mother wouldn't hear. And at 4 a.m. one night I thought - my aunt had had one of those little miniature TVs, you know, that they had in the '60s, you know? They're just terrible, but they, you know. So at 4 a.m. I thought: Why not put that inside this thing and see what we can do with different helium, which is actually from that. Two -the first two pieces which were very low-tech - and I basically got a DVD player and an amplifier and put them underneath a big, metal box with a little pipe. And I realized I could not sell these to a museum because there was a big, old DVD player. And with moving parts, it would die.

And so I realized that all I would really be doing is selling a lot of work and then repairing it for the next 10 years. And I just couldn't go through that. So, we spent a year working with the senior scientist at the Firon(ph) Corporation, which is an electronic optics company in California. And we finally came up with the first design for the electronics. Now there's moving parts whatsoever. There's just a switch on the bottom that, you know, turns on and off, and they plug in the wall and they're very easy. But it took a year of designing those.

Right now, best time to be an artist you can possibly be. And the Internet -why? I mean you can't do it better. And also museums now are much more interested in the new movements that are coming. Again, video, digital art, glass — these are all brand-new movements. So they've opened their doors, and say, we don't even know what's going on. We are going to have to look everywhere. So, if museums are finding videos on YouTube, then the door is thrown open for everybody.

BRAND: Artist Tim Tate. To see one of video reliquaries, go to the All Tech Considered blog at npr.org/alltech.

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