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Hidden Within Exhibit, funded by Commonwealth Cyber Initiative grant

Opening reception May 7, 2024; exhibit May 7 to May 11, 2024

Hidden Within, an immersive installation sponsored by a Commonwealth Cyber Initiative (CCI) grant and Virginia Tech’s Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology (ICAT), will open with a public reception on May 7, then be on display through May 11 at The Cube at ICAT.

Hidden Within exhibit poster

The CCI CyberArts Program, created to encourage the arts community to reimagine and depict the results of cybersecurity research, funded the Hidden Within project.

The installation was created by artist Janet Biggs (spatial sound), Agnieszka Międlar and Paul Cazeaux (Virginia Tech mathematic professors), Daniel Tapia Takaki (high energy nuclear physicist at the University of Kansas), Tanner Upthegrove (immersive audio engineer for ICAT), and MFA candidate and artist Sarah Hammer.

Dancer Davian Robinson and Virginia Tech’s elite Gregory Guard are featured in the installation.

This research-based project, inspired by NextG Wireless Security, led to the production of a video and spatial sound installation exploring aspects of quantum communication and steganography by experimenting with ways sensitive data can be encrypted and sent via light sources, such as fiber-optic cables, while incorporating video projections and sound.

The overt line of inquiry is exploring how information can be hidden, detected, and extracted. The subtext is introspection, and the various ways hidden information functions, from giving voice to individuals and ideas silenced by oppressive regimes to the spread of conspiracy theories, from cyber technologies’ impact on the natural world to its infiltration into human consciousness. 

This project will part the curtain, revealing the science and the subjective viewpoints behind detection and extraction.

The installation unfolds in three interconnected segments focusing on:

  • Davian Robinson, a vision-impaired dancer who uses echolocation to understand and navigate unknown spaces. 
  • The Amazon headwaters of Peru. 
  • Virginia Tech’s elite Gregory Guard silent drill team.

Viewers will bring their own experiences and histories, building narratives and meanings that could be hidden to others, and each segment presents imagery that can be interpreted in multiple ways. 

For example, in the Amazon segment, imagery of light filters down through the dense, otherworldly vegetation of the rainforest. The camera slowly pans up a massive kapok tree, wrapped by the roots of a strangler fig. The kapok branches act as a metaphor for multiscale analysis, while strangler fig roots contain layers or ranks of information.

Hidden Within also presents a unique immersive sonic experience, with a soundtrack created specifically for the Cube’s world-leading audio system, complete with more than 140 loudspeakers, and hidden transducers.

A series of long reflecting pools are positioned in the center of the space, acting as water vibration encoders. Audio from the installation creates interference patterns that ripple through the pools. Light sources and project imagery create moiré patterns, revealing another layer of information.

The interdisciplinary group of collaborators work collectively to produce work that is generative of each other and has relevance in each of their disciplines. 

Through experimentation and innovation, they create new knowledge, including tools and perspectives to advance their respective fields and elicit the audience’s engagement and curiosity.