The Mad, Mad World of Max

If you like art, technology, and quirkiness, come meet your match in Max, who immerses himself and his students in the quirky world where art and technology intersect. Add pop culture to the mix and you've taken quirkiness to the next level.

Max Kazemzadeh's love for blending art and technology is evident in his classes and other venues. An assistant professor in the Department of Art, Communication, and Theatre, Kazemzadeh teaches beginning-to- advanced courses in digital media. He also team teaches a course on "Robotics and Interactivity" with Dr. Henry Snyder, a professor in the Department of Science, Technology, and Math. Students taking the class learn to build a prototype robot that collects data as it moves through space.

Outside the classroom, Kazemzadeh has made quirkiness an art form. Take the "Jabbertalkey!!! The Automated Celeb Gossip Generator," an interactive exhibit created by Kazemzadeh that was part of the fall Faculty Art Show, "Ripple Effects." The name of the show originates from the gradual spreading effect or influence of art, photography, design, and digital media on society. Kazemzadeh's exhibit takes its name from "Jabberwocky," a nonsense verse poem written by Lewis Carroll in his 1871 novel Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There, a sequel to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

Patrons who approach Jabbertalkey suddenly see themselves on a video screen with a larger-than-life-sized head of one of eight celebrities imposed on their bodies. There, they are thrust under the public microscope where their most mundane everyday tasks are scrutinized and dissected.

The exhibit has been popular with students and other visitors because it is interactive, which gives them a feeling of connection to the art. Their input on the accompanying Twitter feeds allows them to contribute to an evolving, kinetic work.

"Whether you have been assigned to be the vehicle for Tom Cruise, Angelina Jolie, Ryan Gossling, Kim Kardashian, Kanye West, Gwyneth Paltrow, Lindsay Lohan, or another celebrity, you will enable and perpetuate the gossip engine," said Kazemzadeh,

"More specifically, when you enter the screen you are assigned a celebrity. When you are alone, that celebrity makes comments about himself or herself regarding content collected from online gossip articles or publications in a speech-bubble above their head, and is simultaneously posted to a Twitter account to be read by others," he explained.

Then, when another visitor enters the exhibit, they take on the persona of another celebrity, and the previous comment becomes a gossip attack on the other celebrity in the room, said Kazemzadeh. In addition to the gossip, there is a live real-time feed from one of the celebrity's official Twitter accounts, displaying one word at a time.

"When people have stayed in the screen too long, birds, stars, and other icons circle around their heads reflecting that they have become dizzy with gossip," he said.

Jabbertalkey also makes a social statement. "People make fun of celebrity gossip as a waste of time, and that it's ridiculous how the media make celebrities bigger than life. But the fact is it creates such an intimacy between them and the public that we almost treat these people like family, and the most trivial incidents in their life fascinate us," said Kazemzadeh.

The Jabbertalkey project was also exhibited at the DC subMerge art fair, and has led to an invitation to exhibit work at the world renowned Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

Blending technology and art may seem incongruous, but Kazemzadeh's creativity opens the door to a world of mad, mad possibilities of what we can do when we think outside the box, and he's taking students along for the ride.

Max Kazemzadeh's work focuses on how electronic and emergent media influence human interaction. He has worked in the field of visual and interaction design for more than 15 years in Texas and New York City designing and developing print, branding, websites, kiosks, DVD's, CD's and more for Nike, AOL Time Warner, HBO, IBM, Sprint, Estee Lauder, Purina, and more. He is presently pursuing a Ph.D. within the Planetary Collegium at the University of Plymouth in England.