Thoughtworks Arts


Dancedemic World Premiere at Battery Dance Festival

Newsletter sent on Thursday, 12 November 2020
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Art-A-Hack’s Special Edition COVID-19 2020 “Dancedemic” had its world premiere as part of The 39th Annual Battery Dance Festival.

The live-streamed event was a two-part performance featuring world-renowned dancers from Battery Dance’s immigrant fellowship program, Hussein Smko (Iraq/Kurdistan/US) and Razvan Stoian (Romania/US).

Behind each dance performance was the work of a selected team of international creative technologists, with members from the US, Brazil, London, Ukraine, Estonia, India - all collaborating remotely.

For six weeks the Art-A-Hack participants explored how live-biometrics and audience input could re-conceptualize choreography and dance production. They used EmotiBits to measure the biometrics of the dancers, which triggered interactive visual and sonic environments. Both the augmented performance and raw footage of the dancers in their studios were displayed on eˉlektron’s custom-built, multi-channel streaming platform.

Vote Now to See This Project at SXSW 2021

The voting process is now open for you to help select which panels appear at South By SouthWest 2021.

Our panel proposal, Take Back the Net(Work): Lockdown = Innovation, is available for voting now through November 20th. The proposed panel will be a conversation on how Dancedemic came together during lockdown restraints to produce the first-ever live-biometric networked virtual performance as part of the 39th annual Battery Dance Festival.

Flyer for SXSW Panel Picker
Vote now for our Panel Picker proposal

To support our panel application, please vote now. Every vote counts. This is your chance to help make sure these incredible stories of innovation and immigration are told as widely as possible. Voting ends November 20th!

To support us even further, please share this page with your friends and ask them to vote too!

The New York Times Spotlights Robotics Resident Catie Cuan and Art-A-Hack alum Kate Sicchio

A new article by The New York Times, Dances With Robots, and Other Tales From the Outer Limits, highlights work developed at Thoughtworks Arts by former robotics resident Catie Cuan, and also spotlights Art-A-Hack alum Kate Sicchio.

Catie Cuan with Rethink Robotics Baxter (big robot) and SoftBank Robotics NAO (small robot)
Catie Cuan with Rethink Robotics Baxter (big robot) and SoftBank Robotics NAO (small robot) in “Time to Compile” Credit: Sam Berube

The article focuses on how Cuan’s residency project Output expands the possibilities of dance and our relationship to robots through movement.

The dancer and choreographer Catie Cuan is the human star of this show, “Output,” which is part of a collaboration with Thoughtworks Arts and the Pratt Institute. And while dancing with robots may sound a bit like science fiction, to Ms. Cuan, who is completing her Ph.D. in mechanical engineering at Stanford University, it “feels like an extension of my body — and of possibility.”

The working assumption for most of history has been that dance is a thing done by and for humans. Yet it does not seem beyond the pale that robots will one day perform for us mortals, particularly when choreographers like Ms. Cuan are using technology to explore the outer limits of the art form. - The New York Times, November 7th, 2020

The article also illustrated how Art-A-Hack alum Kate Sicchio’s work “Live Coding Jams” (a visual dance score created by a machine) is an example of how the dance world is navigating performances while lockdown restrictions are in place.

Leonardo/ISAST Receives $500K Grant for CripTech Incubator - Thoughtworks Arts As Partner

California Arts Council has awarded Leonardo/ISAST the Innovations + Intersections Grant to support CripTech Incubator - a new art-and-technology program that fosters disability innovation with Thoughtworks Arts as one of the grantee partners.

Logo for Leonardo
Logo for California Arts Council

Thoughtworks Arts is one of a total of seven partners included in CripTech. Other partners include Beall Center for Art and Technology; Santa Barbara Center for Art, Science and Technology; Berkeley Disability Lab; Nokia Bell Labs; Gray Area Foundation for the Arts; and Arizona State University’s Herald Examiner Building.

We are thrilled that CripTech has received such immense recognition and now has the financial backing to see it grow beyond initial visions.

CripTech Incubator will collaborate with Leonardo/ISAST’s large network to conduct residencies, workshops, work-in-progress presentations, exhibitions, and education initiatives.

Life During (and After) Covid-19 - Artistic Strategies and Breakthrough Responses - Ars Electronica

Program director Ellen Pearlman moderated The Grid panel in conjunction with Ars Electronica’s ‘In Kepler’s Garden’ - Life During (and After) Covid-19 - Artistic Strategies and Breakthrough Responses.

The live panel discussion focused on how the current global pandemic has impacted art institutions, collaborative work, and audience involvement, especially in relation to innovative indy-led network solutions.

Panelists Kristina Maurer (Senior Producer European Cooperation, Ars Electronica), Mattie Barber-Bockelman (Programs & Projects Manager, CultureHub/LaMaMa) Sarah Weaver (Director, NowNet Arts), and Michael De Cock (Artistic Head, Royal Flemish Theatre) shared how their respective organizations responded and adapted to the vexing constraints of the lockdown - highlighting how technology was initially a form of crisis management but quickly evolved into opportunities developing unique collaborative remote platforms and solutions.


Andrew McWilliams and Synthetic Media resident Nouf Aljowaysir presented at the virtual Rethink Italy Service Design Festival in June.

ReThink live-streamed discussion

The live-streamed discussion addressed a Service Design audience with ideas on how art-based technology research informs designers examining a changing social landscape over time. The event showcased cross-collaborative programs by Thoughtworks Arts involving artists and technologists, and how those interactions drive questions about society, and harness technological innovation.

To illustrate the power of this type of research, arts resident Nouf Aljowaysir shared her work investigating the social impacts of artificial intelligence, as well as her work as a creative technologist at Havas, in New York.

To learn more about the live-streamed event and ReThink, read our latest blog.

Andrew McWilliams presented Incubating Art & Technology Collaborations at Thoughtworks Berlin in early March, where Rachel Uwa, founder of the School of Machines, Making and Make-Believe also spoke.

In London, Andrew gave a talk on The origin of - an initiative he helped build to support and engage the entire tech sector in addressing the climate crisis.

Andrew will be speaking with former AI resident Karen Palmer on Arts & Tech: Can Companies Innovate Together With The Arts? for a Bozar Lab webinar series, as part of the STARTS prize ‘20 Exhibition. This event will take place on Saturday, November 28th, starting at 16:00 (GMT+1).

Register here to join the webinar.

Ellen Pearlman is scheduled to give the lecture, Imagining the Unimaginable and Performing the Unthinkable, on November 24th, at the Baltan Laboratories event ICT meets the Arts: Douglas Rushkoff and Ellen Pearlman.

Ellen is also is holding a Master Class with ThoughtWorker Julien Deswaef, Deep Fakes: Synthetic Media and Synthesis, on November 13th-28th, as part of the Baltan Laboratories event Online Master Class.

Ellen presented her paper “Running a Remote AI Livetime in the Cloud for an AI Brainwave Opera” at the NowNetArts conference. The event took place in early November and was co-hosted by the Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA) at Stanford University and the Institute for Advanced Computational Science at Stony Brook University.

Ellen gave the keynote at NordiCHI in Tallinn, Estonia on October 29th. She spoke about how she built a “Sicko AI” and the implications of her discoveries.

She also presented virtually at ISEA 2020 Montreal - Why Sentience?, speaking on her work “AIBO: An Emotionally Intelligent Artificial Intelligent Brainwave Opera: Part 2 -The Making Of A “Sicko” AI.

News from Past Thoughtworks Arts Residents

Karen Palmer was awarded an honorable mention for the Starts 2020 Prize of the European Commission honoring Innovation in Technology, Industry and Society stimulated by the Arts for Perception iO, an immersive, AI video installation developed at Thoughtworks Arts. Perception iO was also a part of the Expo Starts Prize exhibition at Bozar in Brussels, where art and science joined forces to think about the future.

Catie Cuan was featured in the article, Why Robots Need Choreographers by Dance Magazine.

James Coupe received an honorable mention from the prestigious Prix Ars Electronica 2020 Awards for his interactive, deepfake installation, Warriors.

Heather Dewey-Hagborg presented virtually on November 2nd as part of The Unconference Episodes at the Microwave International New Media Arts Festival 2020. Heather recently became a visiting assistant professor at New York University - Abu Dhabi.

Updates from Art-A-Hack™ Alumni

Sean Montgomery, head of EmotiBit, presented Introspection and Biofeedback Art at the ISEA Montreal 2020 conference.

Heidi J. Boisvert, (Art-A-Hack ‘18 City Tech partner) is measuring our unconscious response to media and gave a recent TEDTalk: How I’m using biological data to tell better stories - and spark social change. The Denver Center For The Performing Arts announced Heidi as part of the creative team behind the new immersive production Theater of the Mind. As the technology designer, she will be collaborating with co-creator David Byrne.

Zach Krall and Jason Levine were featured in a New York Times article about their live-coding performances.


Ellen Pearlman: AI Comes of Age - Performance Arts Journal(PAJ), MIT Press. Dance for Transformation: “DANCEDEMIC” AlumniTies, Medium. Cyborg Arts Co-Lab: Interdisciplinary Collaboration Enriched Through Art-A-Hack™ Practices -Art Hack Practice: Critical Intersections of Art, Innovation and the Maker Movement, 1st Edition, Edited by Victoria Bradbury and Suzy O’Hara, Routledge Publication. The Resurgence of Russian Cosmism - Performance Arts Journal(PAJ), MIT Press.

Catie Cuan, Ellen Pearlman, and Andrew McWilliams: Output: Translating Robot and Human Movers Across Platforms in a Sequentially Improvised Performance - From the 2019 AISB (The Society for the Study of Artificial Intelligence and Simulation of Behaviour) Machine Movement Lab at Falmouth University, UK.

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