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Virtual embrace 

The current exhibition at the Atlanta College of Art Gallery is a must-do. Where else in town can you experience a live seismic data stream from the Hayward Fault line in California? Or see the world through the eyes of Tillie, the telerobotic doll? When it comes to artful play with new media, Telematic Connections: The Virtual Embrace is off the hook.

ACA Gallery director Lisa Fischman, who orchestrated the arrival of this quirky show, admits that the 40 projects on view and online have a will of their own. "They're not like finished paintings," she says. "And they aren't interactive like exhibits in a science museum; they depend on the artists on the other side." The other side is that invisible zone in cyberspace where the 25 international artists in Telematic Connections link up to the exhibition.

The best buzz comes from "Mori," a rumbling and trembling room-sized environment created by Ken Goldberg, Randall Packer, Gregory Kuhn and Wojciech Matusik. A walkway leads to the center of a dark chamber where a live feed direct from the West Coast projects an image of the fault line that appears like a continual flash of lightning. Viewer-participants may find it both unsettling and exhilarating to be physically caught up in this earthwork.

Steve Dietz, the show's organizer and curator of new media initiatives at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, is well aware of the utopian desires that edge art and technology. Besides all the artist-wrought gizmos, the exhibition presents the history of the tele-movement, illustrating how artmakers have reached into virtual space for almost three decades.

The show is as much about failure as about success; not every project works as promised. Innovative ideas require patient exploration and a certain acceptance of flaws. It's a limitless new world, and Telematic Connections only hints at the possibility of what will come next.

Telematic Connections: The Virtual Embrace continues through Nov. 25 at Atlanta College of Art Gallery, Woodruff Arts Center, 1280 Peachtree St. Tues.-Wed., Sat. 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Thurs.-Fri. 10 a.m.-9:30 p.m., Sun. noon-5 p.m. 404-733-5050.

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