Bobby Arellano

About the Installation

Site Location: ScienceWorks Hands-on Museum
Title: Freedom Submarine

On the 4th of July, 1979, I was nine years old when I had my first big idea: it began as something that I thought would make me happy during a difficult time, when my home life had some conspicuous similarities to the current state of Covid lockdown: I was not able to easily leave home, both for my youth and the logistical challenges of navigating my parents’ deteriorating relationship, and I was isolated because the last of my four siblings had left for college the previous fall. I decided to take the family’s “portable” TV set outside to my happiest place (beneath the mimosa tree), plug it in with a string of extension cords, and watch a special showing of the Beatles’ animated feature Yellow Submarine scheduled for that afternoon on Channel 5 — WNEW — in the NYC-metro area. It was bold, it was risky, and it remains my earliest memory of attempting something unusual that I associate with my current creative interests in conceptual art.

About the Artist

I have been teaching and practicing narrative design and interactive writing for 30 years, since I became the first student at Brown University to pursue a digital-media degree through the Literary Arts program. My pioneering work in online storytelling includes the internet’s first hyperzine, “Albert Hoffman’s Strange Mistake” (1993) and the web’s first interactive novel, “Sunshine ’69” (1996). I went on to experiment with nonlinear storytelling in real space, through a string of successful commissions for public art installations with grants from the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts (RISCA) in 2000 and the Cambridge (Massachusetts) Arts Council in 2001.

I participated in the Schneider Museum faculty showcase exhibitions in 2015, 2017, and 2019. The last was a nonlinear-narrative project in virtual reality titled “Hypertext Hotel.” I would like to thank Miles Inada, who not only made that fun portrait of me at the top of this page, but whose attitude towards art and friendship affects everything I’ve worked on since moving to Ashland eleven years ago this summer. I tucked a bit of his animation artistry into the video remix. Can you guess what shot it is?

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Artist Statement

When I was hired to open the Center for Emerging Media & Digital Arts (EMDA) in 2010, we held our first open house (in 500 square feet of CS-East with some nifty windows) within 30 days of my arrival in Ashland. Besides an interdepartmental center serving the entire university, EMDA became a place for students faculty and staff to connect with intercollegiate consortiums as well as a resource center open to everyone in the community: With the mission of addressing real-world challenges using the power of digital media, in a few months EMDA had partnerships with essential business and nonprofits like the Ashland Chamber, the Ashland Independent Film Festival, Britt Festivals, and Southern Oregon Film & Media. In other words, EMDA has always been about getting out beyond the walls of the university, and that’s why I am so excited about Art Beyond.

On the opening day of the Hypertext Hotel exhibition at the Schneider Museum in 2019, we learned that the PC we planned to run the VR installation on during the show did not have a powerful enough CPU. We scrambled to find an alternative, but there was not a powerful enough rig at the university that could be dedicated to the museum for the required length of time. I reached out to the owner of Medford’s Cyber Center, Anthony Kaiserman, and he stepped in and kindly donated a computer for the show’s entire six-week run. After that, he became a mentor to our students and more involved with the SOU Alumni Association. I have always believed in the credo “make virtue of necessity” — in fact, sometimes a solution yields even greater rewards than addressing the original need. In the case of Freedom Submarine, the TV was donated for free by a stranger in our community who responded to an inquiry on a local, online marketplace.

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