Student presenters celebrate another Quest

Despite the day off from classes, Quest brought student researchers and creators together to share their work in one big symposium.

Art and Poetry Mix Together

Art students and poetry students combined forces on a project dedicated to ekphrasis. Photo by: Gabbi Trippi

“We thought there would be a quarter of the people here,” Laura Donnelly, director of the creative writing program, said, referring to a joint presentation from poetry and painting students.

In fact, there were no empty seats.

“Poetry and abstraction both have a playfulness and vulnerability,” Mario Romano, art professor and co-mentor with Donnelly for the project, said. “They both communicate something.”

The project focused on ekphrasis, or creative writing based on visual art pieces. Students from an advanced painting class created abstract, geometrical paintings that students from an advanced poetry class interpreted through vivid imagery.

Paramount Executive Declares “AI Renaissance”

Aunrée Houston dedicated his keynote speech to defending “the AI renaissance,” while also cautioning against its abuse. Photo by: Matthew Rivenburgh

Aunrée Houston, keynote speaker for Quest 2024, spoke on the “renaissance” sparked by the growing influence of artificial intelligence (AI) across a wide array of industries.

“AI can be supportive in helping us move forward with building systems that are efficient and that have global reach that’s vital in the work that I do,” Houston said. “So the fact that we can lean into that using AI, top notch. I am so excited about that.”

Houston, a SUNY Oswego graduate from 2000, is vice president of account services and production operations for Paramount Global.

He cautioned against the abuses of AI, such as with exploitative deepfake technology or to infringe on intellectual property. The lack of diversity in what data enters an AI program’s pool of information, for example, could also perpetuate biases and stereotypes.

“DEI [Diversity, equity and inclusion] is a very important space for AI,” Houston said. “It’s important that we feed it stories that are accurate, so we can see more representation in the experience.”

Still, he thought AI could “better humanity” as a tool to progress technologically and produce content more efficiently.

Houston’s speech provoked responses from audience members, some inquisitive over the legal implications of AI, others wary over whether AI could perform the democratizing Houston mentioned in his presentation.

“My experience as a Black woman, as a Caribbean woman, cannot be replicated through AI,” Darby Faublas, a 2022 graduate, told Houston. “I don’t think, no matter how much information you put into it, I don’t think that the true experience of a human being can ever truly be replicated within the system.”

Student Filmmakers Pay Homage to Thrillers

Student filmmakers shared snippets of their short thrillers. From left to right: Christopher Ascher, Brady Murphy, Bianca Cortazar, and Kieran McCormack. Photo by: Leila LaJoie

When the title card popped up in a short film by Kieran McCormack, a cinema and screen studies major, the screen had the effect of blood pouring over the dark red letters of the title, “Paranoid.”

“I took inspiration from the rock band Metallica’s logo for the font and style, with how the
beginning and ending of the word drops down,” said McCormack.

McCormack and several other cinema and screen studies students showed snippets of their short films and elaborated on what inspired them. The general theme for the hour featuring McCormack and three other filmmakers: thriller.

“One of the people I was influenced by was Ti West who wrote ‘X,’ ‘Pearl,’ and the upcoming
film, ‘MaXXXine,’” Brady Murphy, who presented his screenplay, “The Overlook,” said.

Bianca Cortazar also showed a few minutes of her short film, “Meltdown.” The small portion shown followed shots of a woman being nervous and then winding down for the night, while also seeing small clues of the killer in the corner of the scene.

The Cinema and Screen Studies Department plans to screen those films and all other films students presented during Quest on May 8 at the Oswego 7 movie theater.

Gabbi Trippi, Matthew Rivenburgh and Leila LaJoie contributed to this reporting.