The twelfth annual PULSE Art + Technology Festival features an exhibition of SCAD student VR work for the first time. The festival opens tonight, January 17, at the Jepson Center for the Arts, and runs through January 21.

The SCAD VR exhibition will be open for the duration of the festival, and will remain in the Jepson Center until the end of winter quarter. Alvin Martinez, a senior Motion Media Design major from San Juan, Puerto Rico, is one of four SCAD students whose virtual reality art pieces are included.

Martinez’s work, “Vanitas,” is a live-action virtual reality video looking into the effects that social media has on culture.

“I chose to comment on social media culture and how the younger generation is exposed to a lot more than we [millennials] were and how a lot of people, who are essentially public figures, are using this to their advantage,” Martinez said. “These kids are impressionable, so it’s looking into, in a way, the dark side of social media.”

The project came up at the last minute, so Martinez took a simple approach to the topic and used the VR medium to his advantage.

“[“Vanitas”] deals in this dystopic world where people are faceless, into their phones,” Martinez said. “So it’s very bright and in a way very overwhelming. I chose to highlight that especially in VR, because VR is such a personal medium. And it’s new, and it’s very in your face, and that’s exactly what I wanted.”

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Martinez’s “Vanitas” uses white masks to represent the facelessness of social media. Courtesy of Alvin Martinez.

Harry DeLorme, senior curator of education at the Jepson Center and curator of the PULSE Festival, visited Martinez’s Motion VR class to watch the student’s final presentations and selected works to be entered into the student showcase. “He was very kind to consider us,” Martinez said.

Martinez was not familiar with the PULSE festival before meeting DeLorme, but is now eager to attend and to see viewers’ reactions to his piece.

“I hope I get mixed reactions,” Martinez said. “I want people to at least feel something with my work. I want to have various opinions so that [viewers] are forming their own perspectives. That’s what’s most exciting. I want to see people put it on and react.”

There are four other exhibitions featuring art exploring new mediums, many including virtual reality and alternate reality elements, as well as lectures and workshops throughout the weekend.

All festival events are free with a valid student ID; otherwise regular museum admission fees are required to view the exhibitions. Learn more and find the PULSE schedule of events at the Telfair website.

Written by Shelby Loebker.