At SMTD, every senior is encouraged to craft a thesis project, serving as a culmination of their artistic endeavors throughout their university studies. Rileigh Goldsmith (BFA Dance 24’) chose to create a unique experience to observe dance. Goldsmith presented an immersive sensory journey through the layers of creative consciousness through the lens of virtual reality. This was certainly one of the most unique presentations of dance I have ever seen.

The setup was at the Duderstadt Center, in a room nestled in the hallway leading to Pierpont Commons. It was set up like a black box with an unassuming maze. Each “room” contained a VR headset that the viewer would put on to briefly exist in the little world of Goldsmith’s creation.

The experience commenced in three parts. The first: “Question”, offered a thought about how often we notice our often concealed inner tranquility. It presented beautiful 360-degree landscapes with a gentle voice reciting a poem by Goldsmith herself. Act II was entitled “Untether”. Her program note mentioned: “PIVOT is a movement narrative which explores human resilience amidst comforting constraints, choice paralysis and fear of the unknown.”  This act featured Goldsmith’s reposeful frolics in a bright and grassy field while performing choreography of her own. It was ethereal and cherubic, exemplifying freedom and bliss. Act III was called “Pivot”. This act featured a collection of dancers fading between a 1930s-themed number and a stark contemporary piece.  She left the note: “In some realities, you were meant tethered, apathetic, and stagnant. In others, you are unbound, confident, and empowered.” 

A corresponding hanging door matched each act, labeled I, II, and III. Subtle decor lined the outskirts of each room, calling back to motifs of each act—tea candles, dainty white ribbons, and blue lamps.  The design was visually impressive and satisfying. It submerged the viewer into the creative realm of Goldsmith’s consciousness.


Goldsmith challenges the viewer to find freedom within their creative mind. She epitomizes power, maturity, and poignance in her choreography and design. The exhibit is open Tues – Fri, 12 to 6 pm, and Sundays, 12 to 6 pm. (from Jan. 10 through Jan. 21.) 


Order of Acts:




REVIEW: Traces

**featured image a screenshot from the final frame of “Gone” on Virtual Mutations, Camila Magrane

9:00am • Monday, January 30, 2023 • Institute for the Humanities Gallery

Traces captured many emotions and impressions in the small space of the Institute for the Humanities Gallery, and in the even smaller spaces of single Polaroid photos. The exhibition, created by Camila Magrane, involves a series of Polaroids and larger collages which visitors view through the lens of an augmented reality application called Virtual Mutations. It took a little while for the app to download, but the effect was impressive once I held my phone up to Magrane’s works. In some, platforms telescoped out of the scenes while footprints wove their way in and out of the frame; in another, crows appeared to flock out of the frame and surround the viewer. Overall, I was able to use the technology fairly seamlessly to access the whole experience–in some cases the image on my phone fell out of line with the actual frame, or I needed to move around in order to get the animations to begin, but once I began it was easy to navigate the exhibit.

“Gone”, Camila Magrane

One of the themes Magrane promised to explore in the works featured in Traces was the connection between the past and present, and my favorite example of this theme was in “Gone,” one of her larger collage pieces. Once accessed through Virtual Mutations, the viewer moves slowly through the window in the center, through which appears another window in another wall, creating an Escher-esque illusion. Literally tying together the different versions of the scene is a white rope, appearing in different arrangements with the other furniture and the fish that make up the scene. Eventually the window gives way to a shore, with the white rope leading out unendingly into the ocean. I felt that I was tracing the path of whoever had disappeared into the waves, watching the remnants of their life subsumed by successive tides.

“Tension”, Camila Magrane

The Polaroids in the exhibit added a different facet to the overall mood of the gallery. Each Polaroid, or small arrangement of Polaroids, was titled with an emotional or psychic state, like “Angst,” “Rapture,” “Tension,” or “Anticipation.” To me, these titles also served the theme of Magrane’s work by alluding to a Before and After, or the tension of the in-between. Viewed through Virtual Mutations, the animated Polaroids featured the repetitive movement of human forms–I felt like they activated my mirror neurons, nudging me towards a phantom experience of the emotions they portrayed.

Overall, Traces created a powerful and surreal space that nudged me to think more deeply about the relationship of technology with art. The convergence of antique technologies like Polaroid film and cutting-edge ones like virtual reality lent a sense of timelessness to Magrane’s work. I highly recommend the exhibit to anyone passing by the Institute for the Humanities Gallery as a bite-sized look into the future of interactive art.


What: a series of collages and Polaroids accompanied by animations seen through the augmented reality application Virtual Mutations, exploring the relationship between past and present

When: January 11-February 10, Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm

Where: Institute for the Humanities Gallery

Tickets: free and open to the public!

My mind is already bending after watching the trailer for this exhibition, linked below. Traces is a multimedia experience created by Camila Magrane, an artist trained in video game development who has experience working in photography, collage, animation and virtual and augmented reality. This particular exhibition draws from several of those disciplines, with collages and Polaroids in the physical world setting the stage for animations and clips in the virtual world, as experienced by the viewer from their device through the app Virtual Mutations. Each work is interactive, with elements in each piece only discoverable through the lens of augmented reality. The Institute for the Humanities Gallery webpage describes Magrane’s work as an exploration of the connection between past and present. I look forward to experiencing her art for myself so I can share more with you about how this is achieved. Stay tuned!


**featured image is a still from the trailer, 0:28

REVIEW: Ann Arbor Film Festival, The Room Presumed

I attended one of the free performances put on by the 2021 Ann Arbor Film Festival, The Room Presumed by Scott Kiernan. Just from the description on the Ann Arbor Film Festival website, I wasn’t quite sure what I was watching exactly, but I was intrigued by the idea of watching something created with machine learning. 

In this piece, trippy visuals set on the backdrop of a black screen are accompanied by text that appears sentence by sentence. When the performance began, I was unsure of when the “real” performance would start and assumed I was seeing human-written words appear on my screen. My confusion deepened when at random points, the script would suddenly make no sense, or repeat phrases, and then return to a seemingly “normal” cadence.

If you’ve ever played around with artificial intelligence (AI) poem generators or AI meme generators (This Meme Does Not Exist), you might recognize these glitches as trademark giveaways of tech-created text. Or perhaps it’s just an innate disposition to be able to tell when something just doesn’t sound human. Once it fully clicked that this was probably a machine-written script, I couldn’t tell if I was more disturbed or less disturbed by it.

I crashed the day’s afterparty for the Ann Arbor Film Festival on, which I had never been on–a site where participants are avatars, and your proximity to other avatars determines how much you can see or hear them. I accidentally found myself in an AAFF director chat before I found Scott Kiernan’s group and joined the conversation about what that piece really was about. 

The script we experience in The Room Presumed is created by a machine learning algorithm partially trained on an early 1980’s thought experiment at Atari. During this experiment, Kiernan explained, computer scientists at Atari imagined the possibilities of virtual reality, but without the tools to do it, resorted to improvisational acting.  

The end result of this machine learning script, as Kiernan explained, is to make fun of what we call immersion and reveal how non-immersive VR can be. As homage to this original thought experiment, at the end of the performance there flashes a picture of the Atari building today, an unmarked, bland corporate building. 

This piece caused me to truly think about my relationship to reality and to technology, and reminded me of an article I read about AI-”created” art. While an AI can turn out surprisingly humanlike (and disturbingly un-humanlike) pieces, what it creates is always going to be based off of the human-created content it is fed, yet that doesn’t in turn make an AI piece human-created. In a similar way, VR will always be a tech-warped version of our true reality, and therefore, as Kiernan pushes us to see, it cannot be truly immersive.