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Rashin Fahandej and ClimateAction.tech Receive Prix Ars Electronica Awards

Newsletter sent on Thursday, 8 July 2021
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A project incubated by ThoughtWorks Arts and an initiative originally co-founded by ThoughtWorks Arts Director Andrew McWilliams, have each independently won Prix Ars Electronica awards in 2021.

Rashin Fahandej
Rashin Fahandej

The Prix Ars Electronica is the world’s most time-honored award in electronic and interactive art, with prize ceremonies going back more than 30 years, alongside showcases at the famed Ars Electronica Festival in Linz, Austria.

Rashin Fahandej Award of Distinction

Former volumetric filmmaking resident Rashin Fahandej was awarded the Prix Ars Electronica Award of Distinction in Digital Music and Sound Art for A Father’s Lullaby. The project was incubated as part of Rashin’s residency at ThoughtWorks Arts.

A Father’s Lullaby is a multi-platform, community engaged interactive work that highlights the role of men in raising children and their absence due to the racial disparities in the criminal justice system with its direct impact on children, women and lower income communities.

ClimateAction.tech Award for Digital Humanity

ClimateAction.tech is an international community initiative with thousands of members in the tech sector focused on the climate crisis, co-founded in 2017 by ThoughtWorks Arts Director Andrew McWilliams and co-organized through 2020. ClimateAction.tech was awarded the Prix Ars Electronica Award for Digital Humanity for creating Branch - an online ‘Sustainable Internet For All’ magazine.

Branch covers by Hélène Baum and Gica Tam
Branch covers by Hélène Baum and Gica Tam

The magazine was spearheaded by Michelle Thorne, Chris Adams, Laurence Bascle, Carrie Hou, Tom Jarrett, Jack Lenox, Hannah Smith and others as part of an international community effort.

Branch’s design renders its display output according to energy grid intensity depending on where the reader is accessing the site. The user interface of the magazine, designed by Tom Jarrett, was to be ‘Demand Responsive’, meaning it adapts to the physical infrastructure of the internet and the energy behind the page view.

CounterPulse Partners With ThoughtWorks Arts: Improvising The Net(Work)

We are thrilled to be joining forces with the experimental and interdisciplinary dance and performance space in San Francisco, CounterPulse, for our upcoming artist residency Improvising The Net(Work). Together we will focus on customizable networks on site at CounterPulse’s downtown Tenderloin facility.

CounterPulse’s neon sign lighting, Scott Finn, 2016
CounterPulse’s neon sign lighting, Scott Finn, 2016

This residency invites CounterPulse’s artistic community, rooted in dance and movement practices with a strong legacy of improvisation to collaborate with a ThoughtWorks Arts global network resident by creating new vistas for independent artist built and owned network topologies.

CounterPulse has provided space and resources for emerging artists and cultural innovators, serving as an incubator for the creation of socially relevant, community-based art and culture for 30 years in the San Francisco Bay area and beyond.

Applications are currently being reviewed, and our new resident will be announced on September 7th, 2021. To learn more about CounterPulse and our upcoming residency, visit: Improvising The Net(Work).

Art-A-Hack(TM) 2021: BeFantastic Together Climate Crisis Special Edition

Art-A-Hack and BeFantastic, a tech art platform originating in Banglore, India are organizing a joint fellowship with Singapore, Switzerland, India, Germany, and the United States to explore the issue of climate crisis, with incubation and support from ThoughtWorks Arts. This special edition of Art-A-Hack connects artists, designers, technologists, and others focusing on the climate crisis to collaborate on artworks that amplify the global emergency.

With the generous support of the U.S. Embassy in Singapore, the Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia (New Delhi), Goethe-Institut / Max Muller Bhavan (Bangalore), and from us here at ThoughtWorks Arts, and in partnership with Supernormal (Singapore), In The Wild (Singapore) and Dara.network (USA), Art-A-Hack 2021 Special Edition will organize across multiple hubs and function as an ‘online makers festival’.

Participants will have the opportunity to explore Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML), as well as data and networks, uniting a diverse group of global practitioners driving innovative and impactful artworks. Applications are currently being reviewed for Art-A-Hack 2021 Special Edition.

To learn more about this fellowship, visit: Art-A-Hack Announces Open Call On Climate Action

Adrianne Wortzel Shares How She Became A Robotic Art Pioneer On BUST’s “Poptarts” Podcast

Former robotics resident Adrianne Wortzel was a recent guest on the podcast “Poptarts” (aka Girl Zone) hosted by BUST Magazine editors Emily Rems and Callie Watts - celebrating women in pop culture.

A still from The Sentient Thespian
A still from The Sentient Thespian

In the interview, Adrianne shares how she found her voice as a groundbreaking pioneer in robotic art, and the kind of obstacles she experienced as a woman working in robotics and communicating between art and science.

Adrianne discussed her fascination with sentience when juxtaposed against machines, and her pull to explore humanity through robotics. This passion carried over into her ThoughtWorks Arts residency project, The Sentient Thespian, a film exploring attributions of sentience to robots, by humans, as a feature of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

The podcast episode also highlights her new book project, See No Evil.

To learn more about Adrianne’s work and her ‘Poptarts’ podcast interview, read our recent blog.

Presentations

Ellen Pearlman gave a presentation and demonstrational session on ‘AIBO: Building A Sicko AI’ on June 22 and 23rd at The IMX/ACM International Conference On Interactive Media Experiences 2021. IMX is the leading international conference for the presentation and discussion of research into interactive media experiences. On Sunday June 20th, Ellen was a speaker at the workshop ‘Bridging the Gap Between Subjective and Computational Measurements of MachineCreativity’ for CVPR/IEEE 2021, the premier annual computer vision event. Ellen also presented ‘AIBO: Building A ‘Sicko’ AI at BCI Society’s Workshop & Meeting “Brain Computer Interfaces for Art, Entertainment, and Domestic Applications” on June 9th.

Ellen was a guest speaker at OLAP (Online Live Art Performance) on March 14th. Ellen shared breakthrough network collaborations and experiments in performance, biometrics, and machine learning. The event was hosted by Harvestworks and Experimental Intermedia.

On March 18th, Ellen presented online at the Neurotechnologies Freedom Conference in Moscow, Rusia. The event was organized by the Centre for Cognition & Decision Making, HSE University, and supported by I-Brain Erasmus+ project. The conference focused on the social and economic consequences of the rapidly growing NeuroTech industry.

Andrew McWilliams presented at BeFantastic Together Dialog #1 where he shared past community-based collaborations, how they drive innovation and social impact, and the ethos behind organizing the BeFantastic fellowship.

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

News from Past ThoughtWorks Arts Residents

Nouf Aljowaysir exhibited her residency project Salaf 2020 at Computer Vision Art Gallery -CVPR 2021. Nouf was also the winner of the conference’s juried Computer Vison art competition.

Karen Palmer was featured in the article “I put the participant in the middle of the experience”: Karen Palmer on AI storytelling, by Goethe Institute DE. Karen was awarded an Honorary 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 wrote the recent article Dances With Robots for TDR Cambridge Core, on her work with robotics and movement, “…revealing how dancing with robots may provoke a more interanimate everyday world.” Catie was highlighted in an article by The New York Times, Dances With Robots, and Other Tales From the Outer Limits, which spotlighted work developed at ThoughtWorks Arts. Catie was also featured in the article, Why Robots Need Choreographers by Dance Magazine.

Moon Ribas recently released Seismic Garment, a video of her performing in a soft robotics bodysuit that reacts every time there’s seismic activity - triggering a response. Seismic Garment was made in collaboration with Adriana Cabrera and Montserrat Ciges, and was produced by Worth.

Heather Dewey-Hagborg co-curated for the New York University Abu Dhabi Art gallery “not in, of, along, or relating to a line.” The exhibition, which was designed specifically to be viewed on mobile devices, investigates the mutability of identity through and with new technologies. Heather also has new artwork premiering at Fridman Gallery in NYC in the group show “A stranger’s soul is a deep well.” Her new piece is titled Watson’s Ghost. Heather also presented virtually on November 2nd as part of The Unconference Episodes at the Microwave International New Media Arts Festival 2020. Heather was a visiting assistant professor at New York University - Abu Dhabi.

James Coupe received an Honorary Mention from the prestigious Prix Ars Electronica 2020 Awards for his interactive, deepfake installation at the International Center for Photography (ICP), Warriors.

Neil Harbisson presented at the Impakt Event: Cyborg Futures on March 11th, where he spoke about being the only person in the world with an antenna implanted in his skull.

National Endowment for the Arts: 2021 Report

Tech as Art: Supporting Artists Who Use Technology as a Creative Medium is a field scan report commissioned in 2019 by the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with the Ford Foundation and the Knight Foundation. The purpose of the report was to offer insight into how artists are incorporating digital technologies into creative practices, how to enhance support, identify challenges, and provide recommendations for policymakers and educators. The report is comprised of literature reviews, interviews, and group discussions with artists and practitioners across the United States.

Vanessa Chang, our partner for CripTech/Leonardo ISAST, was a member of the Technical Working Group (p.86). Vanessa also had a commissioned essay in the report. Roundtable artists who participated in the study were (p. 87) were James George (Scatter), Martha Hipley (AAH),  Kate Sicchio (AAH), and Lee Tusman (AAH).

Updates from Art-A-Hack™ Alumni

Hussein Smko performs in ‘Project Tag’ at the Brick Theater June 23 - July 7th. Hussein was instrumental in developing Project Tag which embarks on themes of heritage, hierarchy and inclusivity through dance.

Annie Berman celebrated the world premiere of her new documentary film, The Faithful, on March 19th, with a live-stream event taking place on the new platform, Cinnamon. This project was decades in the making and is about iconography, legacy, and faith. It’s “ruminative, haunting, and strange” raves The Boston Globe.

Kat Mustatea was awarded a literature grant by the Cafe Royal Cultural Foundation for her work, Voidopolis, a retelling of Dante’s Inferno, informed by the grim experience of wandering through NYC during a pandemic.

Kat Sullivan along with American Ballet Theatre Principal Dancer Cassandra Trenary received a Guggenheim Works & Process Artists (WPA) Virtual Commission for their project “Kat & Cassie Make A Ballet” that combines dance, motion capture, and game engine technologies.

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

Gal Nissim and Heidi J. Boisvert, (Art-A-Hack ‘18 City Tech partner) shared new work that they developed at NEW INC. New Museum, for the February 18th event, Radical Evolution - 10 Glimpses Into The Future with New Inc’s Creative Science Track.

Publications

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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