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Nouf Aljowaysir and James Coupe Awarded Synthetic Media Residency

Posted by the ThoughtWorks Arts Team
Thursday, 23 April 2020

We are pleased to announce that the Simulacra & Similitude: Synthetic Media residency has been jointly awarded to two artists, Nouf Aljowaysir and James Coupe. Due to COVID-19, these residencies have been restructured to take place fully online.

Our external partners for this residency are MIT Open Doc Lab, an academic center for innovative documentary research, and WITNESS, a non-profit organization dealing with human rights and emerging technologies.

Nouf and James’ innovative art practices possess different approaches to critical issues within synthetic media models, as they both challenge human-machine relationships in socially active ways.

Nouf Aljowaysir

Nouf is a Saudi-born, New York-based artist, creative coder and lead AI researcher at Havas New York. Her work focuses on the impact of current and emerging technologies on society, ranging from interactive physical installations to political Twitter bots. With a light sense of humor and irony, Nouf’s projects criticize how rapid technological advances have become a means of domination, control, and exploitation.

From Nouf Aljowaysir’s 2019 “Alexa, Call Mom” - an installation to contact the Beyond through Alexa
From Nouf Aljowaysir’s 2019 “Alexa, Call Mom” - an installation to contact the Beyond through Alexa

Nouf has shown in galleries and festivals in the US and Europe, including the International Documentary Festival Amsterdam (IDFA), SXSW in 2019, and was selected for a Sundance New Frontier Story Lab Residency.

At Havas, she researches and develops artificially intelligent prototypes as tools for design. She has an MPS degree from NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program and a background that spans 3D dimensional design and architecture.

During her residency, Nouf will examine how belief systems are formed through constrained machine datasets and how these datasets impact character development. She will investigate the influence of recycled content and hidden messages in generative, machine-learning algorithms.

James Coupe

James is a Seattle-based artist who works with video, installation, internet, and emerging media forms. His work includes real-time public surveillance systems, interactive deepfake installations, and collaborations with Amazon Mechanical Turk micro-laborers. Reflecting on the impact of Big Data, immaterial labor and AI, Coupe’s works explore the aesthetic value of searches, queries, automation, classification systems, the use of algorithmic narratives, surplus information and human affect. He is on the faculty at the Center for Digital Art and Experimental Media (DXARTS) at the University of Washington since 2004, where he teaches classes in Video, Internet and Data-Driven Art.

A scene from James Coupe’s “Warriors: Generative Adversarial Network”, where viewers are superimposed as characters in the cult film
A scene from James Coupe’s “Warriors: Generative Adversarial Network”, where viewers are superimposed as characters in the cult film

Notable projects include “Sanctum” (2013), an interactive public artwork exhibited for two years on the facade of the Henry Art Gallery; his Creative Capital project, “Swarm” (2013), which was exhibited at both ZKM and The Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art / Toronto International Film Festival, and received an Honorable Mention for Interactive Art at the Prix Ars Electronica; “General Intellect” (2015), exhibited at Aktionsart, and which received the HeK Award for net-based art; “Watchtower”, exhibited at FACT, and recipient of the Surveillance Studies Network Arts Fund Award; and “Warriors”, currently the inaugural exhibition at the new International Center of Photography (ICP) museum in New York City. Forthcoming exhibitions include From Social Sculpture to Platform Capitalism, at Kunstraum Kreuzberg in Berlin.

During James’ residency, he will investigate deliberately misaligned, multi-resolution deepfakes, and how they reveal themselves as synthetic. He’s interested in exploring themes of gentrification, algorithmic bias, and demographic categorization, and examines facial appropriation from a wide variety of datasets.

Nouf and James’ 16-week residencies begin simultaneously in late May.

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