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Canada's university for the 21st century
 Catherine Richards
Catherine Richards


Faculty of Arts

Art, Emotion and Data

Artists have been representing human emotions for hundreds of years - the oil-on-canvas portrait is a veritable stereotype of artistic endeavour. In our contemporary world, information and new technologies are now involved in this enduring practice of representation. Data-gathering or profiling are new ways to describe people and, as such, can be viewed as new forms of portraiture. "This kind of interdisciplinary territory," asserts Catherine Richards, "is not well studied yet has far reaching implications."

A pioneer at the crossroads of art and science, Richards is the latest recipient of a University Research Chair. A visual artist, whose innovative work has been internationally recognized, Richards expects that her current work will play a significant role in expanding the issues of art, emotions, and new technologies.

These art works are at the cutting edge of issues in new media art. Part of her research investigates web-integrated art that has created a new kind of relationship with spectators and affects their participation with the artwork itself.

One of her best known works called Charged Hearts, commissioned by the National Gallery of Canada, was an interactive display of glass hearts that began beating in the spectator's hands. Richards is fascinated by what she believes is a growing desire in our culture to be immersed in the "representational environment." Consider television viewing as an example; simply watching the set is no longer enough. Larger screens along with louder and more complex sound systems, all suggest that we want our senses to be bathed in the experience of viewing. Now with interactive computer technologies our other senses can be plugged in, drawing us deeper into a virtual reality that appears increasingly convincing.

Richard is the first artist in Canada, and amongst the first artists in the world, to work with virtual reality technology. This has earned her the highest award in Canada for new media artists and she has been awarded several National Gallery of Canada Fellowships. She is an associate professor of visual arts at the University of Ottawa and one of the first two recipients of a two-year Artist-in-Residence for Research (AIRes) fellowship, jointly established by the National Research Council and the Canada Council for the Arts.

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