Train Spotting: George Fifield at Green Street T Station

CyberArts director George Fifield.
CyberArts director George Fifield curates a small gallery inside the Green Street T stop until the end of the month. 

Welcome to the inaugural post of our new MyMetro Q&A series, Train Spotting, for which our reporter rides the rails to interview local “personalities” associated with T stations across the city.

If you want to know what modern art will look like in 2050, you’ll have to wait 37 years. But the Boston CyberArts Gallery — located in the same building as the Green Street T station — should tide over eager futurists for now.

A singularity even in culturally rich Jamaica Plain, Boston CyberArts Inc. continues the 15-year tradition formerly managed by the Axiom Group (and the Green Street Gallery staff before them) of hosting cutting-edge art in a room often stumbled upon by confused commuters. Until July 28, techies and art connoisseurs can check out “Collision: 19,” an interactive collection from what CyberArts director George Fifield describes as “artists who are engineers, or engineers who make art.”

To cite a pair of favorites on display, “Dial-A-Style: An Algorithmic Portrait Studio” by Rob Gonsalves allows passersby to instantly download an impressionist, pointillist, cubist or manga-style portrait of themselves. Say hello to your new Facebook or Twitter default? You betcha. A few feet away, a small diorama incorporates holograms to recreate a scene in which King Kong prepares to make a pivotal decision. Meanwhile, Fay Wray eats a banana — that one’s called “Peeping Kong” by Anthony Flackett.

The gallery should make you think the future of art is more intertwined with the next phases of entertainment, fashion and communication than many of us assume. But if you still have doubts, ask Fifield. He’ll convince you. We stopped him to ask a few questions of our own.

Other mediums have fought new technology, but your corner of the art world totally embraced it.
Well, artists are always the first ones on to any new technology. There was an art website at the photography department at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign three months after Marc Andreessen invented Mosaic (the first populist web browser). So there was art on the web before there was porn.

No way! Well, this gallery has hosted a video game art exhibit. What’s your favorite video game?
I go way back, you know? I still like text-based adventure games. I’ll fill an entire plane ride playing one of those on my iPhone.

Like Choose Your Own Adventure-type games?
Oh yeah. It’s one thing to have everybody do everything for you in terms of graphics. But if you’re using your imagination, it’s like reading a novel. Movies made out of novels usually aren’t as good as the novel.

What’s the most mind-boggling piece that’s been here since Boston CyberArts took over?
A piece called “Dandelion Clock” by John Carpenter. There were three projections in a recent show that showcased iPhone app art. One of them was this big, digitally created dandelion head. When you went up to it, it blew away and swirled on the wall. Especially if you didn’t know what was going to happen, it was so wonderfully exciting that it just blew everyone’s mind.

When you spoke at the TEDxBoston, you said that in the near future, we’ll all wake up and download whatever’s going to be on our T-shirt that day. If you could download something to be on your T-shirt right now, what would you pick?
Probably Charles Darwin.

There was a late ‘80s rock club around here called Green Street Station where Nirvana played once. Do people ever confuse it for the actual Green Street station?
That was towards Centre Street. Now it’s a nice set of modern row houses. The old train station was gorgeous. My favorite part of that was how they put the name of the station in the color of the line. So as you pulled in, the first thing you would see was “green” written in orange. It was very disturbing.


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