People walk through 'Data Flow', a blacklight sculpture by artists Erick Glissman, Scott Horn, and Nicole Cullum Horn which was installed in the middle of Flora St. for Aurora 2013 in the Dallas Arts District, Friday, October 18, 2013. 

People walk through 'Data Flow', a blacklight sculpture by artists Erick Glissman, Scott Horn, and Nicole Cullum Horn which was installed in the middle of Flora St. for Aurora 2013 in the Dallas Arts District, Friday, October 18, 2013. 

Tom Fox/Staff Photographer

Aurora promises to be an immersive public art event with interactive exhibits that feature light, video and sound. What type of art is that really though? How are viewers supposed to understand the work? 

Wyly Theatre plays a prime role in Aurora 2015

Everyone, no matter their gender, race or socio-economic status is capable of appreciating art. Every person who approaches a piece, whether it be visual art or a performance, with their own lifetime of experiences. All of those experiences will lead to innumerable explanations of what that piece of art means. 

When you see a painting, you understand and conceptualize the act of painting. Most people at some point in their life have applied paint to some surface. However, when presented with a 3-D projection mapping installation on a sculpture or a building, the familiarity found in classic visual arts becomes a bit more complex. 

Aurora is entirely made up of these technology-based interactive and immersive exhibits. Eighty artists from around the world are converging on the Arts District to present to the public their pieces of work which are generally classified as media art. 

Technically, academics define "media art" as any piece of work that is digital either aesthetically or in choice of materials.

"The term encompasses a range of works and could include art as diverse as electronic literature, digital painting, online video, social media performance, and 3-D printed sculpture," said Kim Knight, an assistant professor of emerging media and communication at the University of Texas at Dallas. 

Some may call this "new media art," but as Charissa Terranova, an associate professor of aesthetic studies at UTD explained, art has always involved the new or unconventional. Think of when photography was developed in the 1800s, it was new then, as projecting computer generated images and video is a relatively new form of expression.

"One of the reasons why media art has come so much in the forefront is because of the normalcy of technology," she said.

Viewers and participants are in many ways already familiar with the medium in a way one may not be when looking at a marble sculpture or an oil painting.

Capturing life experiences digitally with phones and computers and then sharing them to a wider audience on the Internet is a practically expected part of life in 2015. The real change brought to the art world by technology, Knight said, is not the visuals created but rather how quickly and how far they are shared. 

Artists have noticed the ubiquitous nature of these technologies and many working in media art use the medium as a way to comment on it.

"The art may speak to their hopes or anxieties about digital technology, or it may invite [viewers] in through an interface that they use every day," Knight said. "The best new media art works on this familiarity by defamiliarizing in some way and leaving the viewer thinking about her relationship to technology as well as the content of the work."

A quick guide to Aurora 2015: What to bring, what to wear, and what to see

The majority of media artists are working beyond creating a physical object to be purchased or displayed in a museum. They are creating an experience. 

Every time a projection piece, for example, is displayed in a different location or on a different structure, it becomes a separate piece of artwork. Most are intended to be temporary pieces. The exhibits at Aurora will be displayed for one night only. However, the location, the medium and the message all matter to the integrity of the work.

"This kind of art, for lots of artists, is the most cutting edge, the most up to date, most relevant way to express their ideas in the 21st Century," Terranova said.

Art on the cutting edge sounds a bit intimidating, but the exhibits at Aurora are designed to be far from it. It is an event for the public. The exhibition is taking the barriers of physical gallery spaces away and making the entire 19-block Arts District the community's personal exhibition space.

Visitors are encouraged to interact with the art and to share their experiences on social media using #DallasAurora. 

"You don't need anything to understand this art," Terranova said. "It is beautiful, it is fun and it is free."

What's Happening on GuideLive