Thoughtworks Arts


The Spider Robot: Joaquin Fargas' Mars Residency

Newsletter sent on Thursday, 23 February 2023
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Artist and engineer Joaquin Fargas is at the midpoint of his Thoughtworks Arts Residency at Mars College in the Southern California desert. He traveled from his home in Argentina in early January to work on robotics and sustainability in harsh environments.

A man using a drill to assemble solar panels to an angled wall in a desert lanscape
Joaquin Fargas constructing a solar wall which powers Mars

Joaquin began his residency aiding with the construction of the temporary building housing the nomadic Mars community. The team constructed a wall of solar panels to help power the structure, which will only be in use during the first three months of the year due to the intense desert heat and will be disassembled afterwards.

Video link for solar panel construction video

Next, Joaquin built a lab in the desert from which to work and ideate about his 2023 project. He is focusing on multipe projects including a water-traversing spider robot that scans for specific environmental sensor readings in the Salton Sea.

To aid his development of the spider robot Joaquin is collaborating remotely with Thoughtworkers in Pune and Chennai, including Amit Patel, Harish Kumar Balaji, Atul Chaudhari and Ketan Sangle.

A spider-like robot on a small sand hill, made of laser cut wooden shapes with wires and circuits exposed
A spider robot prototype under development by Joaquin Fargas

Core to Mars College’s mission is the participants practice the art of self-reliance, living a hybrid off-grid existence in a difficult desert environment while co-collaboratiing. We are excited to partner with Mars.College to support Fargas in developing his projects on eco-technology, sustainability and robotics.

Follow us on Instagram for regular updates on Joaquin’s Mars College residency.

Smithsonian Presents World Premiere of Catie Cuan’s ‘In Her Prime’

The first human-robot performance in the history of the Smithsonian Institute was created as part of Catie Cuan’s Futurist-in-Residence at the Smithsonian Arts and Industries Building.

Full-length, world premiere performance of ‘In Her Prime’

‘In Her Prime’ had it’s world premiere inside the Smithsonian Arts and Industries Building on July 6th, 2022. The presentation featured three human dancers and two Boston Dynamics “Spot” robots as well as original music, choreography, and video.

I was inspired by the vast history of humans and our tools and how the objects and environments we create demand our submission. This choreorobotics dance is part atavistic ceremony, part celestial conjuring, and part ecstatic romping.
— Catie Cuan

During Cuan’s residency at Thoughtworks Arts she explored the importance of movement in robots, especially as they become more ubiquitous and incorporated into our everyday existence. The work developed out of her ‘liminal’ project that captured the power of nuanced and transitional movements between a human and a 16-foot industrial robot.

To learn more about Cuan’s Smithsonian performance, read our recent blog highlighting In Her Prime.

Director Ellen Pearlman Attends President Biden’s Historic Speech in Poland

As part of her Fulbright Scholar appointment at the University of Warsaw, Thoughtworks Arts Director Ellen Pearlman was invited to be present in the VIP section of President Biden’s historic speech on February 21st.

President Biden on a stage waving at the audience
President Biden in Warsaw for his historic speech

Dr. Pearlman was selected for the Fulbright Scholar Grant Award to further develop her research in Artificial Intelligence and Computer Vision in the Department of Mathematics, Informatics and Mechanics at her host institution, the University of Warsaw, Poland.

As part of the program’s initiation, she also attended a Fulbright Scholars’ orientation at the house of the American Ambassador to Poland, Mark Brzezinski.

Around 45 people posing in front of a large conservatory in a garden
Dr Pearlman (3rd from the right in front) attending a Fulbright Scholars’ orientation at the house of the American Ambassador to Poland, Mark Brzezinski

Beginning in March 2023, Dr. Pearlman will run a colab on AI, computer vision, memory, and trauma in a time of war. In addition to running the colab, she will utilize her research and departmental collaboration to continue her new project on epigenetics and AI “Language is Leaving Me”, which she began while a Research Fellow at MIT.


Ellen Pearlman presented DANCEDEMIC IN A PANDEMIC on November 6th at NowNet Arts Conference 2022 in conjunction with Advanced Computational Science (IACS), Stony Brook University, NY, and the Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA), Stanford University. On October 8th Ellen presented in Riga, Latvia at the RIXC Open Fields Conference “Splintered Realities” – sharing her preliminary research on “Language Is Leaving Me” concerning AI and epigenetics. Ellen took part on a panel at MetaLabHarvard at Harvard University on October 3rd. She joined a diverse group of opera practitioners and scholars discussing the transmedia flow of opera, and how it pivoted the presentation of performance mediums during the pandemic.

News from Past Thoughtworks Arts Residents

Heather Dewey-Hagborg’s recently premiered video installation Hybrid will be adapted as a live operatic performance, made possible by a collaboration with the Exploratorium in San Francisco, a Hewlett 50 Media Arts commission, and a grant from Science Sandbox, an initiative of the Simons Foundation. The performance will premiere March 7th and 8th, 2024 at the Exploratorium in San Francisco. Heather currently has work in Shift: AI and a Future Community, Feb 4 - May 21, 2023 Kunstmuseum Stuttgart, Stuttgart, Germany, and Expect the Unexpected: Current Concepts in Photography, Feb 16 - April 30, 2023 Kunstmuseum Bonn, Bonn, Germany.

Nouf Aljowaysir has developed a short film and visual diary, Ana Min Wein, with the support of Somerset House and PATH-AI. Nouf’s film launched on Thursday, Dec 8th, on Somerset House’s curated online platform for art, ideas, and the artistic process. Nouf will also be featured on Somerset House’s podcast series, The Process, where she will speak more about her work.

Gloria Damijan performed in a concert demonstration at NowNet Arts Conference 2022: Network Arts Stage: Artistic, Technological, and Social Strategies, on November 6th.

Olivia Ting was accepted as the fall ‘22 artist-in-residence at UC Berkeley Center for New Music and Audio Technologies. Olivia will continue developing sound design and spatial/haptic translations of her audiovisual installation work.

Updates from Art-A-Hack™ Alumni

Sofy Yuditskaya highlights Ars Electronica in an article for CDM, tackling topics from climate to microscopic microcosms, and insights on developing more corp tech art wings similar to Thoughtworks Arts.

Tyler Parker has been cast in the Blue Hill Troup for the April 2023 performance of The Pirates of Penzance, or The Slave of Duty.

Kate Sicchio’s paper, Towards A Framework For Dancing Beyond Demonstration, was published by ACM Digital Library. The paper is about human/robot performance and presents a prototype framework for developing real-time human-robot performances and applications.

Sadah (Espii) Proctor is starting a new position as Projections Instructor, at Apollo Theater Academy.

Heidi Boisvert gave a virtual talk for BioArt Talks at CBIS, on April 1st, 2022, at her alma mater, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s Center for Biotechnology, the ARTS department & the School of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences, and The Sanctuary for Independent Media’s NATURE Lab. She detailed her current research methods and emerging insights from the Limbic Lab and discussed how these findings have informed her works in bio-adaptive, networked dance, and mixed reality theatre performances.


Ellen Pearlman: Uploading into Eternity - focuses on Upload an opera about the dilemma of uploading one’s consciousness to the computing cloud & the complexities of maintaining a digitized rebirth after death. Published by Performance Arts Journal(PAJ), MIT Press. Is There a Place Where Human Consciousness Cannot Go? - HumanTies and Artificial Intelligence, European Commission, NoemaLab. “DANCEDEMIC” in a Pandemic: A New Networked Reality - Journal of Network Music and Arts, Stony Brook University. 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.

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