The art-tech tide is rising in Balboa Park with San Diego Art Institute’s ‘Rising Tide’ exhibit


There’s a new art-and-technology alliance in town, a partnership between Qualcomm Institute (QI) at UC San Diego and San Diego Art Institute (SDAI) in Balboa Park . This means new opportunities for collaborations between artists and researchers, as evidenced in SDAI’s latest exhibition “Rising Tide.”

The show actually features three artists whose pieces encompass the full expanse of a rising tide, from no-tech to low-tech to high-tech.

There’s Jana Brike’s “Sea of Change,” a series of paintings representing female figures, ranging in age from very young to very old, all frolicking by the seashore. The site-specific installation here was inspired by Mark Rothko ‘s chapel, “where meditation and modern art meet.”

Then there’s Francisco Eme’s multimedia “Parallel Planes,” a set of sculptures, photographic projections, English and Spanish audio recordings and works on paper that deal with language and identity on both sides of the border. Visitors are invited to interact with the projections by adding their own tweets in Spanglish.

Finally there’s Jacob Sundstrom, a UCSD grad student in computer music whose room-size coral reef installation “Erasure” is the first example of the QI/SDAI collaboration.

The piece originated in a seminar called “Hearing Seascapes” that Sundstrom took with QI composer-in-residence Lei Liang and a diverse group of students — composers, performers, writers and techies. “Erasure” — a sound-and-video loop in which a reef degrades and then regenerates — was originally shown as an end-of-class demo, conceived by Sundstrom and executed with the help of three other Ph.D.-track stars: Anthony Vine and Fiona Digney (music) and Vid Petrovic (computer science/engineering).

Sundstrom used the coral reef as a metaphor for the grieving process. “There was a personal experience I needed to work through,” he explained. “My mind was writhing, trying to deal with a difficult new reality, breaking down in different ways; it was like a cloud of polyps exploding a reef from the inside, until it collapses. As I got myself together, the piece came together. Gradually, the reef recreates itself.”

Sundstrom is headed for a Ph.D. in music, but he calls his website “”

“I don’t want to pigeonhole myself into being a composer,” he said. “I just like to make things. I make things you can listen to, look at, and walk into.” Another of his makings — “Thoughts on Rorschach,” sounds and visuals he created from recordings of his brainwaves while looking at inkblots — has a small alcove to itself in “Rising Tide.”

SDAI executive director Jacqueline Silverman said she first saw “Erasure” on a visit to the QI Labs in January. For some time, SDAI had been interested in using technology to enhance the museum-going experience, and she was impressed with the work going on at QI, that she described as “gorgeous original music and images, with big ideas behind them.” Shortly after, the partnership began taking shape.

At the opening reception for “Rising Tide,” she explained: “My work has always been about forging partnerships, and our collaboration with QI will not only lead to the creation of cutting-edge pieces that viewers can access through technology but also to the creation of a new generation of artists.”

And Pete Garcia, a member of SDAI’s board of directors, added: “It’s Art and Science: A Love Story ... like ‘Romeo and Juliet,’ but with a happy ending.”

For the happiest experience of “Rising Tide,” read the detailed wall labels that accompany each installation; they’ll increase your appreciation of both the science and the art. And take your time. Each piece, in its own way, is a meditation.

IF YOU GO: “Rising Tide” is up through through Sunday, Jan. 6, 2019 at San Diego Art Institute, 1439 El Prado in Balboa Park, San Diego. Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday-Friday; noon to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Closed Mondays and major holidays. (619) 236-0011.