• In a 3-D simulation of the Manzanar internment camp the sky is filled with headlines of the events that led to the internment of Japanese-American families during World War II.

    Image courtesy / CAVS

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Viewers interact with new exhibit on U.S. internment camps

"Beyond Manzanar: An American Internment Camp: Between Fears and Realities," an interactive 3-D virtual reality art installation by Center for Advanced Visual Studies Fellow Tamiko Thiel and Zara Houshmand, is on view in Room N52-390 through Sunday, May 2.

"Beyond Manzanar" uses navigable 3-D game technology, projected life-size, to immerse viewers in an historical and cultural space and engage them as participants in history.

"The piece explores media scapegoating of immigrant groups in times of crisis," said Thiel, who compared the internment of Japanese Americans at Manzanar, Calif., during World War II to the threatened internment of Iranian-Americans during the 1979-80 hostage crisis. "The installation also finds echoes in post-9/11 discrimination against people of Middle Eastern extraction today," Thiel added, calling her project "a poetic, surreal reconstruction of the historic Manzanar."

In conjunction with the installation, Thiel will present a talk titled "Caught in the Loop: Media Hysteria in Times of Crisis" today (April 28) at 6:30 p.m. in Room N52-390. She will examine post-9/11 infringements of civil rights and demonstrate its use of computer games technology to convey the experience of internment. The exhibit, normally on view daily from 12-5 p.m., will be open until 8 p.m. today.

Tamiko Thiel is an internationally known media artist who uses the capabilities of interactive 3-D virtual reality as a medium for addressing social and cultural issues. Past projects include the "Totem Project," a series of video works influenced by Butoh dance, and "Starbright World," an online virtual play space for seriously ill children done with Steven Spielberg.

Zara Houshmand is a writer, theater director and multimedia artist whose work focuses on cross-cultural issues. She was a founder of Chaksam-Pa, a Tibetan performing arts company, has studied Balinese shadow puppetry, and translates classical Persian poetry and modern drama.

For more information, call 253-4410, e-mail cavs@mit.edu or see http://web.mit.edu/cavs/people/thiel/manzanar.html.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on April 28, 2004.

Topics: History, Media Lab


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