Thoughtworks Arts


Welcoming Our New Residents to Thoughtworks Arts Residency

Newsletter sent on Tuesday, 23 June 2020
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New residents Nouf Aljowaysir and James Coupe selected for the residency in early spring, have begun their Synthetic Media Residencies set to span the summer 2020 season.

Icons of James Coupe and Nouf Aljowaysir
James Coupe and Nouf Aljowaysir

Due to COVID-19, James and Nouf will both work remotely on projects from their respective studios in Seattle and Brooklyn.

Nouf Aljowaysir

Nouf, a Saudi-born, New York-based artist, whose work focuses on creative coding has utilized machine learning style transfer techniques to critique the complex interweaving of perceptions and perception management of voice conversational technologies. She will develop her project at Thoughtworks Arts which emulates the cultural transmission of ideas and worldviews across human generations.

A woman in a dark room by candlelight
Installation shot of Alexa: Call Mom!

Nouf will process elements of cultural artifacts from her personal history and research, transforming them into machine learning systems through data chains.

James Coupe

James Coupe, a British artist based in Seattle works with video, installation, internet, and emerging media forms. He will investigate historical archives in order to expose lineages of social and economic divisions in the UK during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Simultaneously, he will highlight the parallel trajectories throughout the world that were occurring under the scope of British colonialism.

A vimeo link to James project
Warriors by James Coupe

Technically this includes working with generative adversarial networks such as StyleGAN, ATTNGan and others, and potentially using generative linguistic modeling such as GPT-2 and GPT-3. These will be rolled together into architectural plans for a Brexit-inspired theme park potentially using ArchiGAN.

We look forward to assisting both Nouf and James on developing their respective projects and having them join our Thoughtworks Arts community. You can learn more about them and their work in our latest blog.

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.

Ellen Pearlman Leads first-ever Remote Exchange Program with AAI - Ukraine

Ellen Pearlman was the lead American artist for the Zero1, American Arts Incubator - Ukraine exchange program hosted by Izolytsia - Platform For Cultural Initiatives in Kyiv, and the US Embassy in Ukraine. The month-long exchange program was reimagined and restructured as a remote, bilingual collaboration across timezones after Covid-19 spread across the globe.

The flyer for the talk
Ellen Pearlman’s program talk on April 24th, by IZOLYATSIA

Ellen led twenty-four artists scattered throughout Ukraine in a virtual incubator program involving a series of workshops that explored art and artificial intelligence. Participants created four prototypes that investigated the experience of isolation and connectedness; environmental degradation and moral responsibility; conspirology; and Mudra a machine learning implementation of sign language for hearing impaired Ukrainians.

A vimeo link to “I Stand Up Here”
I stand up here. AAI Ukraine 2020, Curated by Ellen Pearlman. By Vartan

The exchange concluded with a virtual presentation of participants’ work on May 14th and included an extensive Q&A with special guests from the art and technology community.

The American Arts Incubator program pivots on a global network based on these kinds of exchanges - between American artists and international participants. Support and funding are received from US Embassies, as well as artistic, cultural and educational organizations. This network aims to show how foreign partnerships and creative participation drive dialogue on pressing social problems. The exchange promotes intercultural understanding through art to help build and support communities.

Open Call: Art-A-Hack Special Edition 2020 - “Dancedemic”

We’re excited to announce that Art-A-Hack is partnering with Battery Dance Festival, Elektron Art, Emotibit, and U.S. State Department Alumni TIES / World Learning for a remote and interactive live project that reimagines performance, with lockdown and isolation as catalysts during this time of Covid-19.

Hussein Smko dancing
Hussein Smko dancing on a Manhattan rooftop

We will be working with two incredible dancers from Battery Dance Company, Hussein Smko, and Razvan Stoian. During the performances, they will be wearing Emotibits, special wearable sensors that transmit biometric data in real-time. The dancers will perform in separate studio spaces while Art-A-Hackers create with them over a network in virtual spaces, or in ways yet to be imagined.

An EmotiBit device
An EmotiBit device broadcasting data

We are calling upon artists, coders, sound designers, thinkers, and others to join us in this unique performance project, which will be the first-ever entirely remote edition of Art-A-Hack. The deadline for applications is Wednesday, June 24th. To learn more and apply, visit Art-A-Hack’s project page.


Ellen Pearlman will be on Future Everything’s virtual panel, Future Focus: Art Hack Practice - Then and Then, on Wednesday, June 24th. The panel will look at curatorial practices, and art making, which reflects upon pandemic and post-pandemic times. The event is part of a new virtual platform of critical conversations, talks and debates, and a space that encourages cross-sector exchange, networking and collaboration.

Ellen presented her residency project AIBO at the Starts Residencies Days in Paris, France, February 29th - March 1st. Ellen was the keynote at World Usability Day in Estonia this past November. Her address was on Creative Collaborations Between Art and Tech: Thoughtworks Arts.

Youtube link to Ellen Pearlman’s AIBO Residency interview
Ellen Pearlman’s AIBO Residency interview from STARTS Residencies Days in Paris

Ellen also presented a paper at the New Media Caucus (part of CAA - The College Art Association) Symposium “Border Control” at the Penny Stamps School of Art and Design at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, from September 19th to 22nd.

Andrew McWilliams and Nouf Aljowaysir spoke virtually at ReThink Festival - Italy on Saturday, June 20th. In their talk, Confronting the Unknown — Art as Technology, Andrew included insights into cross-collaborative programs he helped develop at Thoughtworks Arts, and Nouf highlighted her work as an artist and creative technologist investigating AI’s social impacts.

Youtibe link to Andrew McWilliams and Nouf Alowaysir’s virtual talk
Andrew McWilliams and Nouf Alowaysir’s virtual talk at ReThink Festival

Andrew McWilliams also presented Incubating Art & Technology Collaborations at Thoughtworks Berlin in early March, where Rachel Uma, 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.

In October, Andrew presented at All Tech Is Human in San Francisco, where he illustrated how artist and technologist collaborations at Thoughtworks Arts helped build social impact projects.

Andrew also gave a lightning talk on the emotional detection and open source project EmoPy at Creative Tech Week NY. This video provides a good look at how the team focused their research and the many considerations that went into EmoPy’s development.

News from Past Thoughtworks Arts Residents

Karen Palmer was awarded an honorable mention for Starts 2020 Prize of the European Commission honoring Innovation in Technology, Industry and Society stimulated by the Arts for Perception iO, an immersive, bias detecting, AI video installation developed at Thoughtworks Arts. She recently delivered the keynote at the St. Francis College Women’s Film Festival: “How Storytelling can get us through this Sh*t!” on Wednesday, April 15th. The festival was entirely free and fully online.

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

Rashin Fahandej was selected as a lead American artist for the American Arts Incubator Exchange Program - Austria. Her month-long virtual project will focus on “Future of Inclusion Lab” - a series of co-creation workshops and incubations, hosted by Ars Electronica, who will provide technology and resource access to the participants. The exchange program begins in July.

hannes bend was accepted into NEW INC with a Science Sandbox fellowship by The Simons Foundation.

Updates from Art-A-Hack™ Alumni

Maria Mishurenko shared her game design process and creative tools for AR audio wearables, on Friday, May 29 at Awe. Maria also has a new project called Impromptu Jam currently in Kaleidoscope’s Creative Challenge Grant.

Rachel Uma, who spoke at Thoughtworks Berlin with Andrew McWilliams in February on Incubating Art & Technology Collaborations, was just awarded an honorable mention from Prix Ars Electronica Prize for her School of Machines, Making and Make-Believe, under the category, Digital Communities. The School of Machines, Making and Make-Believe, provides hands-on learning experiences in art, technology, design, and human connection, and has collaborated with Volumetric Society on past meet-ups.

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: 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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