At the end of May, I completed my ZERO1 American Arts Incubator exchange in Pachuca, hosted by CITNOVA. I arrived in Mexico City a few days prior to the beginning of my exchange, where I spent five days exploring museums, historical and cultural sites, and learning as much as I could about Mexico’s largest city before departing to Pachuca which is situated approximately 2 hours north in the state of Hidalgo.
After the opening ceremony, the participants and I hit the ground running with four workshops. The workshops explored technical skills such as 3D printing, 3D scanning, laser cutting, and wearable electronics. All technical skills were framed within the context of considering how these technologies and processes could be used to create works and experiences that were rooted in narratives surrounding cultural identity. Through spending in-depth time together at the beginning of the program, I learned about the personal histories of each participant and the rich diversity of the group.
Upon arrival in Pachuca, I was greeted by CITNOVA with a fantastic opening ceremony for our program. In attendance were representatives from the U.S. Department of State Education and Cultural Affairs, as well as local government officials and other community members. It was a great way to start our experience and the first day for me to meet the participants and learn more about Pachuca.
As part of our creative research, we visited several sites in the greater areas surrounding Pachuca including Las Prismas, Atlantes de Tula, local mines, and magic towns such as Huasca and Real Del Monte. Participants used this time to gather 3D data, take video and images for their final prototypes, and gain deeper knowledge to share as part of their final pieces. We also had the pleasure of meeting with art and technology residents visiting from all over the world as part of the local Fronda Arte residency program.
The resulting prototypes were exhibited at CITNOVA where participants shared their ideas with guests panelists and visitors through an Open House. I was incredibly proud of the ideas and projects that each team executed given the brief period of time to learn and absorb a large number of new processes, tools, and technologies.
Personally and professionally, I was blown away by these participants who had a deep knowledge and appreciation for their cultural heritage, home cities, and personal histories. Being able to visit many ancient sites was a true gift, as was spending time with this incredible group of people. Our visit to Atlantes de Tula was incredibly transformative for me personally.
The participants came up with incredible ways to utilize the technical skills that we had covered, including 3D-printing bordado embroidery patterns onto fabric, which blended traditional crafts with new technological approaches. One group explored the rich historical languages present in the Pachuca area by creating prototypes that highlighted indigenous languages through AR magazines and light installations, while another created projects that were visual representations of the history of mining culture through wearable bioplastics. The final group used RFID-embedded objects to create interactive videos of the cultural sites we visited.
This experience was incredibly meaningful, and professionally shifted my approach to considering how new technologies can be used in conjunction with traditional craft in the future. Utilizing new technologies allowed complex issues like cultural identity to become more accessible to a broader public. I am fully confident that the participants from this exchange will continue to develop their prototypes. I look forward to continuing the discussion of these projects online and hope to visit Pachuca again in the future.
I awoke my first morning to the sound of bells ringing and birds singing. Somehow, my driver had found my little apartment the night before, though this part of Kathmandu, Old Patan, is so ancient that it has no street signs, no street names, and there are no numbers for houses. Places here are referenced by family names or the nearest temples. Streets were developed as footpaths, and only a few are wide enough for a single car to pass through. Dhumbahal House is where I lived, named after the nearest Hindu temple, though there is a Buddhist Stupa outside my kitchen balcony and a Hindu shrine below my living room. They are visited continuously, both day and night.
By day three I’d recovered my lost luggage, met with the Embassy, and walked the mile through the old city to Nepal Communitere: an innovation hub, entrepreneurship incubator, and makerspace that supports a progressive vision for Kathmandu and greater Nepal. The team at NC is a vibrant community of Nepali people, many of whom have spent time in the U.S. or Britain, and I felt at home almost immediately with the delicious snacks and lively conversations.
For my residency, I taught a digital fabrication workshop to 16 people, aged 18 to 34, on the topic of women’s empowerment. All of the participants had laptops, some were practicing artists and others were from leadership roles in their work and community, and very few had digital design experience.
l led each day of the workshop in roundtable discussions with the question: “What does empowerment mean to you?” Some stories were difficult, others inspiring, and I deliberately (and transparently) fostered a safe and inclusive space so the participants and I could co-create a supportive community together. Though everyone had different perspectives, the consensus was that women want more choice when it comes to their bodies, access to education and employment, and who they form intimate relationships with and why. Each day ended with an introduction to 2D and 3D design software and tools to fabricate the components to make art.
Four teams emerged around themes within women’s empowerment: home, career, culture, and personal. When it was time for teams to start planning their projects, my workshop assistant and I tasked teams with describing how a visitor would explain their project to a friend, and to create the work starting with that description. Then we set to enhancing the artistic skills that participants brought with them by adding skills in digital design and fabrication.
In the photo above, the participants and I are visiting a digital foundry to see CNC machines, laser cutters, and vinyl sign making machines.
We had ten days to develop prototypes that would invite the public to add to the conversation around what it means to be empowered for women in Nepal.
There was such exuberant energy from participants that came from the project development! All around me, women were speaking their minds, supporting one another, and the feeling was contagious as others in entrepreneurship and artistic communities starting dropping in to see the work and telling others.
What surprised me most was that these projects were able to extend the safe and inclusive community we’d created so that visitors were now participating in the conversation we’d started during the workshop. Each team developed a project that was participatory in nature. Spectators became participants when the projects were unveiled at the Open House, and it seemed like all of Kathmandu was buzzing with the conversation about women’s empowerment.
Last month wrapped up the ZERO1 American Arts Incubator in Gwangju, South Korea in partnership with the Gwangju Cultural Foundation. Gwangju is widely known as the site of the Gwangju Uprising (or May 18 Democratic Uprising), when the public responded to martial law instituted by the government, the closing of schools, and the banning of political activities with a large-scale civil uprising. The uprising began at Chonnam University with students protesting, and quickly spread with tens of thousands of protesters, hundreds of deaths, and thousands of injuries. This uprising paved the way for the democratization of South Korea in the late 1980s, and the event is a major part of South Korea’s history and is still extremely present for many in the country. Working in this very politically and socially engaged city, it was interesting to learn about the current issues of social inclusion that the participants were experiencing, that ranged from issues like processing trauma in the body to dealing with the complex relationship between younger and older members of society.
We began with a one week workshop, where we got to know one another, talk through the themes, and learn some new skills. My approach to the workshop was to use the concept of “home” as an entry point to the issue of social inclusion. “Home” is an idea we can all relate to—we have all felt at home at some point, whether it is a physical place, a group of people, or a mode of being, But what makes someone feel “at home” and what does it mean to belong in a space, community, or city? What might a future home look like, if we imagine one that is more inclusive?
Artist Joo Hong visited to talk about her social performances and interventions in Gwangju, around Korea, and in New York Times Square.
We tried to learn through action and our bodies. Participants brought objects that captured their feeling of home and improvised with them. Through these activities, we got used to the idea of creating space together, negotiating, and imagining. We were building a framework for ourselves.
We also visited Yangnim-Dong and thought about the meaning of doing this work in Gwangju today. We toured the beautiful Chinese Holy Tree (Horang Gasinaumu) Guest House and learned about the missionaries and religious and spiritual roots of the city that put a priority on caring for family, city, and justice. This felt very relevant to our themes of home and social inclusion.
We also spent time learning technical skills to make the projects. We learned coding to create interactive drawings using p5.js. We used machine learning to train simple systems to recognize things like facial expressions, body positions, or basic objects. Then we thought about how to create interactive installations combining elements of camera input, projected content, and audience interaction.
After that busy week, we formed four teams and began developing team projects that would make up one bigger installation. The “Smarter Home” project reimagines smart homes of the future, trying to bring technology into personal space on our own terms. Each team selected an issue within the broader scope of social inclusion to address through a conversation room they created within the larger structure. They then developed one mode of interaction to use as the mechanic for their piece. This meant incorporating machine learning, audio processing, and computer vision techniques to track and respond to the presence of participants.
Nawon Paek, Taeguen Lim, Gaeyang Park, and Inhwa Yeom’s project III-iteracy raised awareness about illiteracy and the difficulty some people face in navigating the city. Creating an installation that reacted to eye blinks, they used coding techniques and visual effects as metaphors for understanding different experiences of seeing and reading.
Do Won Kim, Jung Suk Noh, Yun Jeong Kim, Ho Jong Jeong, and So Jeong Yun’s project took on imagined roles of family members to create their project I LOVE YOUt. Expanding on the traditional Korean pastime yutnori, they envisioned it as a means to communicate with family members and understand the history and spirit of Gwangju. It used machine learning to introduce a new game format that combines the past and the future by digitally linking analog games, and presenting the audience with image or text questions to share experiences from different moments in time. The experience drew on a shared sense of sorrow to form a community of hope.
Changwan Moon, Hyewon Kim, and JeongNang Choi’s project Feel-Fill investigated the way emotional pain is experienced in the body. After surveying local community members about their embodied pain, they created an interactive visualization that reacted to voice. When someone screamed in their room, a large portrait of the body would illuminate with mapped projections at the pain points.
Kitae Park, Minju Do, and Yonghyun Lim’s project How to Understand Your Daughter took on the smaller society known as the “family.” As they put it, “Home is a place where two different social roles collide: between what parents want their children to act like (as a member of the family) and what the children want to act and live like (as a member of a society).” In the middle of the installation is a diary by Minju, one of the team members, onto which a pre-recorded video of her day and her artworks are projected. The audience was invited to react to Minju’s day, experiencing it from her mother’s viewpoint, and respond using their bodies to two options: 1) I am worried about her future, 2) I am not worried about her future. The installation detected the bodily responses and visualized the broader community’s outlook on Minju’s future.
Together, the four works came together into one larger installation that offered our own “Smarter Home / 더 똑똑한 집.” A panel review and open house involving the public wrapped up everything up.
Earlier this month, we had the opportunity to stage a new iteration of this work as part of the International Symposium on Electronic Art (ISEA) exhibition that will be held at the Asia Culture Center. The installation was developed significantly to adapt to a new site, audience, and ongoing goals of the participants.
This exchange taught me a lot about communication, which I think is at the core of feeling like you are home. As we navigated language differences, I found my definition of “understanding” expanding. I realized that though we may have different interpretations of what was being said, we could still find places to connect and build together. In some ways, it offered a wider, more forgiving and creative way of collaborating. Each of us were able to bring our individual realities into a loose framework that created something bigger.
I must say many thanks to Inhwa Yeom, our amazing production assistant, interpreter, and team member, the whole team at Gwangju Cultural Foundation, including Yong Soon, JinKyung Jeong, and Jinsil Choi, Shamsher Virk and Maya Holm who provided so much support from afar at ZERO1, the US Department of State for supporting this work, and all the participants who were so creative, committed, and generous with their energy.
What an exhilarating and whirlwind of a month in Istanbul! 16 participants (across a wide range of disciplines) and I explored gender equity and women’s empowerment through participatory design, movement, writing, drawing, skill-building workshops employing different technologies, professional development, and group project development. The month culminated in a spectacular open house and panel review to showcase prototypes we developed together in under ten days. Below, I capture some of the colorful details of the experience…
When I first arrived to Istanbul, it was a rainy day, and the traffic was intense. It took nearly two hours to get over the Bosphorus, passing many billboards with candidates’ faces along the highway. When we finally arrived to Ataşehir, the driver was completely lost amidst the futuristic construction sites of the up-and-coming area where the DasDas Theater and InogarArt is located. It might have been my sleep-deprived state, but the high-rise where I was eventually deposited reminded me of Soylent Green, and was a puzzle to get in.
I woke at dawn to the sound of a loudspeaker calling people to prayer. Starving, I peered out my window to see if any store lights were on before I ventured out bleary-eyed to grab a proper Turkish breakfast. I found one restaurant open with a colorful polka-dot décor, mirrors placed every which way, serving spicy sausage, eggs, and bread.
Restored, I popped into DasDas Theater to meet with my host organization, InogarArt. I was greeted warmly by my amazing team, Esra, Dila, Ayca, and Dodo. We shared some pizza (I didn’t mention I had just ate) and chatted about digital art, materials I needed for the workshops, and they gave me a tour of their beautiful new space. What a gift to be the inaugural project in this incredible facility!
The next day, Senay (my point of contact at the U.S. Consulate) picked me up in a taxi bright and early, and we headed over to the consulate, which was a foreboding building with a mausoleum vibe. We had a lovely talk about the power of pop culture to transform hearts and minds, her time living in New York City, and she introduced me to my first Turkish tea.
We then discussed the logistics for the upcoming artist talk and the program run-down with the founders of InogarArt as well as Keavy and Stephanie from the consulate team, while nibbling on some delicious sweets, and of course, more tea. I also met Ezgi, my amazing translator. We went over my presentation (which I discovered might be slightly controversial given my views on immigration), but freedom of expression was encouraged.
The following day, I gave the artist talk in call-and-response style. I shared some of my past social justice work along with my current networked theatre and dance projects, which was followed by a reception with some delicious tapas prepared by an organization that supports refugee resettlement. I also met many of the participants, who appeared very shy, yet excited about the program.
The next morning, we kicked off the workshops after sharing breakfast (Menemen) together informally.
During the first workshop, I started with some ice-breakers and the “5 Whys” to create an intimate and safe space, and I took the participants through a participatory design practice I invented called “play as process” which allowed us to map the social challenge to an art, technology and performance project, to better balance message with engagement.
The process moved participants from the rational to the emotional, then onward to the visual, spatial, and temporal unpacking of the social challenge through systems thinking. In the final stage, participants applied all the accrued knowledge and documentation from the first three stages to the design of a paper and physical prototype.
During the process, participants identified and humanized their target audiences, defined the core values, problems, solutions, and actions associated with gender equity & women’s empowerment, then translated it into a simple narrative with characters and a clear message frame.
Next, through four discrete “imprinting sessions” drawn from French psychologist Clotaire Rapaille, they deconstructed the “culture code” of their issue, which allowed them to see the inherent resistance and challenges in communicating their issue.
Then, they explored mapping, diagramming, and cataloging their issue to begin visualizing the causal systems at play in their issues. With these three prismatic ways of looking at the social challenge, participants possessed all the ingredients for designing an experience using art, technology, and performance.
In addition, I also gave them an overview of the history of art, technology, and performance, and we examined case studies of contemporary projects to build a toolbox of technologies, UX/UI mechanics, and narrative strategies we could use for our concepts.
During the second workshop, I took the group through a multi-modal movement exercise, which involved a series of movement prompts, starting with reconnecting with our own bodies, then doing paired work, and eventually examining the whole ecosystem. The movement exercises were interspersed with drawing and writing exercises, which were intended to locate where our personal relationship to gender equity and women’s empowerment lives in our bodies, and to transform the script. At the end of the day, each participant gave a micro-performance based on their individual relationship to the social challenge.
During the third and fourth workshops, participants were asked to bring personal objects that connected to the issue. We then used these as a starting point for stories, which were recorded and edited. We took 360° photographs of the objects, and brought them into a photogrammetry software to generate a digital 3D model for printing. Next, we moved onto building custom electronics with microcontrollers and sensors to create a “storied object” which triggered the narrative through touch.
During the fifth workshop, I provided the participants with professional development training. I guided them through the process of writing a design document (a standard in the field) and developing a pitch deck. We used these to formulate a proposal and budget. At the end of the session, participants practiced pitching their projects in preparation for the public panel review.
The following day, I met with each of the four teams for 45-60 minutes to map out their technology spec and implementation plan for the remaining 10-day prototyping phase, and assigned tasks to group members. This is when I discovered there were significant skills gaps.
To address this, I met again with each team at SALT (following our field trip to learn about the archive) and elsewhere to enable participants to fully realize their projects by doing individual demos on specific technology.
For example, Group 4 needed to use Unity, a game engine and Microsoft Kinect, so I went over these tools. Group 3 needed a system for generating augmented reality, so I taught them how to create markers and targets using Vuforia. Group 1 wanted to use motion capture technology, so we had a night where we captured movements inside Notch and went over the pipeline for re-targeting to a 3D model, and Group 2 wanted to use IMU data to trigger sound and visuals, so we revisited how to solder and connect various sensors, firmware and deconstructed examples of Arduino & Processing sketches.
And then they were off. During the weekend and following week, I held office hours to tackle specific areas in which each group was stuck, and we went full-force into developing, troubleshooting tech, and installing physical structures in the DasDas Theater. I played a larger role in supporting the development process than I envisioned. And we stayed up until 3 a.m. many nights for the final push. But we pulled it off — the open house and panel review were a huge success!
I was incredibly proud of how much the participants accomplished in a short period of time, considering they possessed little to no technology skills coming in, and they learned in the process of doing. Each night as I walked down the dark steps towards my apartment, I had that positive-productive exhausted sensation.
I was equally surprised that while I had consciously shaped the workshop process around performance, none of the projects evolved into a performance, though I would argue that each work positioned the audience as the performer, and their body as essential to the experience. I also found it fascinating to see how each project was uniquely informed by the interdisciplinary mix of the group.
More information about each of the projects can be found on the AAI Turkey exchange page.
After the opening, where both the public and panelists were able to experience each of the four prototypes, we ushered everyone into the large theater at DasDas for a panel review where the participants pitched the full vision of their projects to an esteemed cross-sector panel of judges: Ahmet Kenan Bilgiç: musician, composer & producer; Melih Akdoğan: GM of D-Park, a tech incubator; Sanem Oktar: serial entrepreneur; Sertaç Taşdelen: founder of tech startup; Şengül Akçar: founder of KEDV (Foundation for the Support of Women's Work); and Duygu Şengünler: co-curator of the Istanbul Biennial. The feedback was generous and incisive.
During the final day, I met again with each group to go over their next steps and a sustainability plan. I recommended that each team bring a programmer and/or creative technologist on board in my absence and created a task list for their development sprints. There were plans to refine the prototypes to participate in a Street Festival when I left. We also discussed having some additional mentorship opportunities for grant writing and pitch training facilitated by InogarArt.
Then I had a lovely lunch (and a chicken dessert!) with Senay on Bagdat Street, and received a beautiful gift from the U.S. Consulate, which is now hanging on the door to my apartment in New York City as protection. And I shared a final meal with my new family to close out our time together where much excitement emerged around certificates of completion.
While I did not see much of Istanbul because our work schedule was intense, and the participants required extra assistance, I did manage to try a wide variety of foods (I fell in love with Tatuni), experience some art, and several of the participants took me on small tours of different neighborhoods.
I witnessed the grandeur of Sophia Hagia, visited the Museum of Innocence followed by a serendipitous tea and wonderful performance in the Beyoğlu neighborhood, enjoyed a midnight hamburger and stroll up to Taksim Square and through the transgender red light district, took the ferry to Kadıköy where I had shared a tea and a lovely conversation via Google Translate with an air traffic controller before giving a talk for the UNHCR, and even managed to get on Turkish TV and squeeze in Hamam after an evening of parkour (I will spare you the video of my Webster!).
I feel as though I was not simply a cultural envoy imparting new knowledge, but a nurturer who quietly cultivated a new family. It was one of the most fulfilling and positive experiences I’ve encountered in my life, and we created a very special bond. The participants even plan to meet monthly as a full group, and have ideas for other collaborative projects.
I left Istanbul with a full heart, appreciative for the experience and all the hidden labor that goes on behind the scenes by Shamsher and Maya to make American Arts Incubator such a unique experience. Teşekkürler!
Source: Jeonnam Daily (“Citizens have a direct say through 'New Media Art',” by Jin-sil Choi, May 29, 2019. Translated from Korean.)
It was a spring day in which the flowers were gradually beginning to fade after blooming. I had been tirelessly pursuing the expression of my story through a medium called new media art. The 2019 American Arts Incubator workshop, although brief, was an inspirational and exciting time. As a project coordinator, I know that the feeling was shared amongst all of the participants.
The workshop was organized by the US Department of State and ZERO1, leaders in Silicon Valley’s art and technology scene. The organizations have collaborated since 2015 to send US artists around the world and conduct workshops.
The Gwangju Cultural Foundation was chosen as the intermediary to help locals with diverse backgrounds access workshops. The program enabled participants to receive guidance from an experienced new media artist and professor at UCLA. Fifteen participants consisting of students, those new to artistic practices, and artists had the pleasure of expressing their ideas through the medium of new media art.
Even for participants with experience in the arts, the workshop posed the new challenge of expressing themselves in a third language, coding. However, the lead artist Lauren McCarthy, developed the p5.js software so that anyone could easily understand code. Thanks to the support allocated to each group, the participants became accustomed to the basic ideas, bit-by-bit. Despite the short amount of time and technological challenges, each group created their own artworks. With determination and a strong desire to learn, each team of participants was able to produce a meaningful piece that inspired audience members.
Because these artworks were produced by regular citizens, the pieces were relatable and accessible to the audience. One piece showed a family enjoying their national holiday together by playing Yut Nori, a traditional game. This work reminded viewers about the importance of cherishing family memories.
Another artwork that received praise depicted the tensions between a concerned mother and her 20-year-old daughter. Members of the audience were particularly drawn to, and impressed by, the interactive elements of this work. By incorporating projection mapping technology, the audience could make gestures that influenced the screen. This contributed to a meaningful experience, as each guest shared in the experience of expressing themselves through new media art.
This program demonstrated that new media art is able to express significant stories and ideas. More importantly, it illustrated that the creation of such content isn’t exclusive to experts and established artists, but to anyone who has feelings and opinions to express. This is in line with UNESCO Creative Network's educational values, aims, and objectives. Now there are ways in which people can create evocative and well produced works to express their stories. As a program, it illustrated a lot of possibilities in a short period of time, all while suggesting the direction of future media art.
If these local projects continue to develop and become established into our educational programs, it would be a great resource for citizens. I will do my best to support that development.
Source: Gwangju Daily News (“Do you think of 'media art' as a fresh concept?,” by Jeong Nang Choi, May 23, 2019. Translated from Korean.)
I recently had a special experience involving emerging media art. It was through the American Arts Incubator program, hosted by ZERO1 and the US Department of State. They collaborated with the US Embassy and Gwangju Cultural Foundation to carry out this unique month-long event. It was a workshop in which we discussed matters of societal impact such as social inclusion. As a group, we sought to express our thoughts on these issues through media art techniques.
Many people who have little-to-no experience in the arts, like myself, participated in this workshop because it welcomed ordinary people and artists alike. The artist who lead the workshop was Lauren McCarthy, a professor and researcher at UCLA. She began by delivering a presentation on a coding program that she designed called p5js. By entering data into this program, it enables the recognition of facial expressions, body positions, and objects.
After completing the basic coding course, the participants were divided into teams. Then the teams began to develop their projects in line with the social inclusion theme. They asked one another: “Is there a moment when I was marginalized or excluded?” They proceeded to dig into what the experience was, when it happened, and why. Following, they began a conversation about when they had a sense of belonging or being welcomed.
It was from these discussions that they reached a general consensus and began drawing up their team projects. Due to the diverse range of ages and life experiences among participants, ideas were in a lengthy state of back-and-forth debate. Lauren facilitated and helped to guide participants during the process.
After much intensive effort from the members, the four teams completed their art works. The first team created “Ill-Iteracy”: a system where analog and digital devices could successfully coexist. Team two made “I LOVE YOUt” which focused on restoring mutual understanding and respect between community members through the traditional Korean game, Yut Nori. The third team used surveys to ascertain how people felt and then created digital environments to overcome anxiety and emptiness in their piece “Feel-Fill”. The fourth team “How to Understand Your Daughter”, took on the task of finding unique perspectives on parent-child conflicts.
The four works were displayed for exhibition at Artspace 338 for about 10 days. The opening began with a briefing on each piece, presentations on the works, a panel review, and finally, audience questions that led to intense and in-depth discussions.
Through this workshop, I had the opportunity to meet emerging media artists who live in Gwangju and abroad. I felt pride and contentment in the fact that I was given the chance to collaborate with world-class artists and researchers. I also felt pride in being a part of Gwangju city, 'the pillar of innovative media art'.
The finished works will be displayed and presented again at a special exhibition in the 2019 International Symposium on Electronic Art (ISEA) that will be held for a week at the Asian Culture Center. I hope that researchers, viewers, and artists alike will come to see what kind of emerging media art was produced.
Durban has one of the most vibrant street art scenes in South Africa, and at the center of it is KZNSA Gallery located in Glenwood. The district has an eclectic mix of cultures and economic diversity, as well as dynamic youth culture. The gallery has become the artistic hub for the community with an ethos of “transformation, incubation, and activation.”
Street artist Iain EWOK Robinson at KZNSA Gallery. Photo by Niamh Walsh-Vorster.
On the Culture Trip website, Angela Shaw, the curator of the gallery, guides us through some of the emerging South African street artists in the city. What is clear from the article is that KZNSA’s ethos is all over the city. The artists reflect the community in their murals, and in turn the community supports public art. KZNSA Gallery dedicates their outdoor wall space to street artists, and new work is created on a regular basis. I am excited to experiment with their “activation” ethos and play around with augmented reality and street art, and work with local artists to make their murals come to life.
Priya on a Tiger mural in Mumbai. Photo by Tushar Prakash.
When I was creating the comic book series, “Priya’s Shakti” featuring India’s first female superhero who is a rape survivor, I was trying to figure out how to make the work popular and accessible. I discovered the power of public art through the work of Diego Rivera. He created massive murals in public spaces that showed regular people enduring and transforming history. His work was both a powerful artistic and political statement. Using his philosophy, I decided to take the iconic image of “Priya on a Tiger” and put it in public spaces in India. I think those murals have been seen by over 3 million people.
Throughout Durban, there are dozens of murals consciously (or subconsciously) influenced by Diego Rivera. The artists are painting regular people from their community on enormous walls or bridge columns, thus transforming the mundane into something beautiful and sublime.
Priya on a Tiger mural in Mumbai. Photo by Tushar Prakash.
Later, I discovered how to activate these murals and make them come to life through augmented reality. This emerging technology has the potential to change how we perceive and engage with the real world through a digital layer. Artists can create a monologue or physical version of their art and then re-imagine it through a digital transparency over the original without altering it. AR is a new toolkit for artists and for groups of artists to collaborate on new ideas. Even though the painting or mural remains consistent -- the digital layer can change instantly and react to the viewer’s perception of it. I am looking forward to exploring Durban’s street art scene with local artists and instill a spirit of adventure and play into the artwork.
Source: Bloomberg Media Group (“Amy Karle Visualizes Internal Experiences through Bioart – Brought to you by Hyundai,” posted on YouTube by Art and Technology, July 10, 2018)
Source: Art Ukraine ("Tiare Ribeaux: ‘New Media as a practice is a way to work without boundaries,’" by Anita Kovalevska, April 04, 2018)
On March 29, the exhibition “Emergent Tributaries” has opened in the space of the creative community IZONE (Kyiv), which summarizes the American Arts Incubator in Ukraine project, which lasted during March under the leadership of the American media artist Tiare Ribeaux. The exhibition presents five projects from 32 Ukrainian artists who use speculative design, imagining the future of architecture, social institutions and ecosystems in Ukraine and along the Dnipro River. ArtUkraine spoke with Tiare about working in the Ukrainian context, the practice of new media and radical inclusivity.
How did your cooperation with American Arts Incubator and IZOLYATSIA start?
My colleagues who manage the American Arts Incubator program made a trip to Ukraine last fall to meet with arts organizations and galleries around Kyiv, and they found that IZOLYATSIA was the best fit for this international exchange, and I couldn’t agree more! IZOLYATSIA’s mission is very much in alignment with our own, and I feel this has been the perfect combination of organizations to create something bigger than ourselves, with socially engaged art works and community engagement.
What is the concept behind the American Arts Incubator project?
American Arts Incubator (AAI) is an international creative exchange program that utilizes community-driven digital and new media art projects to instigate dialogue, build communities, bolster local economies, and further social innovation.
American Arts Incubator is a hybrid training lab, production workshop, and tool for public engagement. AAI, at its core, is a cross-cultural exchange of ideas that showcases artists as engaged and innovative partners in addressing social and environmental challenges.
Which mediums do you prefer to work with as an artist and why?
I am a hybrid and new media artist, and have worked with a lot of different mediums — most recently I’ve been working with digital textile design, 3D modelling (digital sculpting), 3D printing, Augmented Reality, and browser-based art. I have a background in bio-technology and have been recently the most interested in combining my background in biology with the arts.
What can you tell about the project you’re currently working on? What is the subject of your research here in Ukraine?
Here in Ukraine I’ve been interested in the relationship between the Dnipro River, what role it plays in the lives of the people in the city, the economy, energy, as well as the pollution in the river. In my research I found that there are blue-green algal blooms that happen in the Dnipro when the weather gets hot. This type of pollution is something I studied in Puget Sound when I was working in biotechnology, as it was also happening there and is a worldwide phenomenon caused by industrial runoff and global warming. My project uses laser-cutting technologies to create intimate portraits of the river, and integrates a microbial fuel cell and a speculative algae bioreactor, to convert this specific type of algae/cyanobacteria into energy to light the river portraits. For this exhibition I also asked the participating artists to consider speculative future architectures along the Dnipro river and objects that consider the problem of the pollution in the river while using new media technologies - so you will see that there are works using 3D printing, digital textile design, projection, and more that explore this topic in ways that also relate to the cultural heritage and identity.
What were your requirements for the participants in the workshops you lead?
To have some familiarity with media art or interest in using new media or digital technologies to expand their current work. And definitely, a positive attitude and a willingness to engage in collaborative works was important!
What purpose does the art surve in the modern world (if it does at all)?
It reframes how we view the world and helps us to envision alternate realities and futures.
How did the new media become the subject of your interest as an artist and why?
New Media as a practice is a way to work without boundaries, — it’s really a way to work without limitations using digital tools to expand any medium. As a hybrid media artist this is really appealing to me as it expands the ways I can express myself as an artist, as well as the means in which to create my work.
What topics does your gallery B4BEL4B work with?
We are a new media gallery that works with underrepresented artists, who discuss social issues important to them and the communities in Oakland and the surrounding areas, as well as our relationships to technology and how technology affects us as humans, and is changing the landscape of both our physical and digital lives.
What is ‘radical inclusivity’ and how is it different from simply the ‘inclusivity’?
Radical inclusivity looks beyond to include people from all genders and races and making sure to provide a safe space for them to showcase works and also speak about their work in whatever shape or form they wish, without limitations.
What is your take on technologies and their rapid development?
I think it’s an extension of nature and rapid evolution, like a rapid outgrowth of our limbs. We are increasingly becoming more hybridized with our technologies and the lines between the physical and the digital will continue to be blurred. For me, coming from Hawaii and growing up very close to nature, I feel I have to always remember to go back to it — which is why I’m interested in incorporating living things in my future works.
Considering the physical distance between our countries, looking at America from here and judging through the local Ukrainian experience, your country seems undoubtedly quite a liberal one, despite the rise of the right wing movement all over the globe. With your aim to encourage ‘critical dialogue’ within your art institution, have you ever faced social disapproval or misunderstanding and (if you did) what was it about?
I would say yes, there is a lot of freedom for radical, experimental and liberal expression in the Bay Area, San Francisco, and other big cities in America, but there are small towns that still face this difficulty. In Oakland there are some restrictions around what we can do as a space and needing certain permits to hold events which we have to pay for, so things aren’t are free as it seems they can be here in Ukraine - there is still this raw nature to the arts scene here that is very fresh and inspiring. Although I heard that there was a feminist art show, talking about the female orgasm here in Kyiv, and some conservative men tried to shut it down. I can’t imagine that ever happening in America. But after the recent elections, there were some other galleries in San Francisco that had right-wing extremists throw toxic gas into the gallery just because it was a left-leaning political exhibition. So things are changing in America too. Hopefully things will shift for both countries to allow for more freedom of expression in the arts.
Would you say that artists and galleries in America feel free to talk on provocative topics nowadays? And what topics can be considered provocative in modern America?
Yes, but increasingly it’s hard for something to be provocative now! I would say it’s important to show more women and african american artists in general as they make up such a small percentage in the art world, when they are making really important work and their voices often go unheard.
What are the phenomena in the Ukrainian art world that you find the most interesting? Especially comparing to your experience as an American-based artist and curator?
I’m surprised by the richness of the culture here and the passion and work ethic of artists here. All of the artists I’ve been working with were tireless and worked very hard over this intensive short period to create well thought out and well executed projects.
I think also because of the newness of the independence of this country (just 26 years) artists are eager to express themselves in ways they couldn’t or ways that were frowned upon until recently, which is an exciting space to be in.
Source: UATV (“Сучасне мистецтво,” posted on YouTube by UATV Channel, March 31, 2018)
Source: The New Indian Express ("Voicing gender equality," by Express News Service, March 19, 2018)
The ‘Amplified Voice Programme’ workshop by American Arts Incubator displayed prototypes on gender issues
KOCHI: The three-week sound workshop Amplified Voice Programme held at Pepper House witnessed a wide range of prototypes that boldly spoke on gender bias issues and became a visual treat to the spectators.The focus of the sound workshop, which commenced on February 22, was ‘Gender Equality.’ The educational series of workshops was organised by American Arts Incubator, an initiative of the US Department of State and ZERO1. It was held in partnership with Kochi Biennale Foundation (KBF) and Sacred Heart College, Thevara.
Four teams, comprising 16 members, came up with their interesting prototypes which gave prime importance to audio to tackle gender-related issues.US-based sound artist Laura Wright, who led the workshops, said that she decided to take Gender Equality as the theme after participating in the Women’s Day march at Seattle.
‘Axia’, an interesting prototype developed by one of the teams, emphasised the art of listening and conversation through a revolving globe placed in a flat triangle, with three microphones at its corners.
The team members said it can be set up at public places, offering opportunities to males, females and gender minorities alike to speak out their woes which usually go unheard as they lack enough listeners for their queries.
‘Bindu’, another prototype, underscored on breaking the stereotypes by recording the daily lives of three women who chose to smash the barriers by venturing into those uncharted fields confined to men. Selin, one of them, works at a crematorium in Kochi while Rekha is a fisher-woman and Jyothsana Padmanabhan is undergoing training to become a Hindu priestess. The team also intends to take it to the schools to tell children how to break the stereotypes.
Yet another team travelled with their 'secret bag’ with microphones attached, which will record the issues of transgenders. This will convey those issues which they shy away from communicating to the world and makes the society aware of it. On the valedictory function of the workshop held on Friday, American Consul General Robert G Burgess said “In arts, we raise fundamental questions and challenge the way we think and they enable us to look at issues from a different perspective.” Manju Sara Rajan, CEO, KBF also attended.
Source: UTV Televisora Universitaria (“Beatrice Glow and Ana Cachimuel appear on La U en Casa on UTV in Ibarra Ecuador,” posted on YouTube by alecz1k, March 19, 2018)
Source: The Hindu ("An amalgamation of artistic sensibilities in Kochi, says U.S. envoy," by Special Correspondent, March 17, 2018)
Consul General of the United States in Chennai, Robert G. Burgess, said here on Friday that Kochi witnessed an amalgamation of artistic sensibilities with artists approaching their medium as agents of social change by raising fundamental questions and challenging conventional thinking.
He was speaking at the closing of the ‘Amplified Voice Programme’, an educational series of workshops organised by American Arts Incubator, an initiative of the U.S. Department of State and ZERO1 in partnership with the Kochi Biennale Foundation (KBF) and Sacred Heart College, Thevara, at Pepper House in Fort Kochi.
The focus of the three-week sound workshop, which began on February 22, was ‘gender equality’.
“In arts, we raise fundamental questions and challenge the way we think and they enable us to look at issues from a different perspective. Besides, an endeavour of this sort also helps forge ties between the United States and India,” said Mr. Burgess.
Four teams comprising 17 members came up with their interesting prototypes which gave prime importance to audios to tackle gender-related issues. The U.S.-based sound artist Laura Wright, who led the workshops, said she decided to take gender equality as the theme after participating in the Women’s Day march at Seattle.
Separately, during an interaction with the media, Mr. Burgess said there had been a rise in the number of Indian students studying in the U.S. While there could be fluctuations in the year-on-year figures, looking at a five-year period, there had been a steep increase in the number of Indian students in the U.S. “The latest available figures, pertaining to the year 2016, suggest there were 1,86,000 Indian students, most of them pursuing masters-level programmes,” he said.
Most students were doing science, technology, mathematics, engineering and business. Mr. Burgess was in town in connection with the visit of a 14-member Fulbright-Nehru U.S. university delegation to the city. In Kochi, they visited the Cochin University of Science and Technology, Kerala University of Fisheries and Ocean Studies, Sacred Heart College, and the Centre for Public Policy Research primarily to examine areas for “potential partnership and collaboration in academic research and studies”.
Source: El Norte (“Artista neoyorquina dará taller a gestores culturales de Otavalo,” by Tupac Lema, March 17, 2018)
Conocimientos. El taller es organizado por American Art Incubator Ecuador, Zero 1 en asociación con la oficina de asuntos educativos y culturales de la embajada de los Estados Unidos y Yarina Casa de artes. “El objetivo del taller es relacionar el arte con la comunidad y la tecnología Beatrice será la facilitadora para desarrollar y mantener cada uno de los proyectos presentados”, explicó Ana Cachimuel, coordinadora de Yarina, Casa de artes.
Invitada. “Estar en Otavalo es una gran inspiración, he visto que la Casa de artes y el museo Otavalango tienen un compromiso muy serio con la comunidad.
Los habitantes de estas comunidades nos han dado un ejemplo de resistencia. Los norteamericanos tenemos mucho que aprender de lo que están haciendo aquí”, dijo la artista norteamericana que dictará los talleres por cuatro fines de semana consecutivos desde este día.
La capacitación estará relacionada al uso de tecnologías como internet, realidad virtual, realidad aumentada, entre otros.
Teaching is no less a work of art than the creation of artwork itself. For the past ten years my artwork has evolved into platforms and objects that aspire to give people a place to find their voice, express their individual and collective beauty, and learn more about the empowering effects of creativity. I have done this through projects such as collaborative textile-making processes, creating and running a neighborhood Super 8 film festival, and designing radio sculptures for non-traditional communication. Recently, I have been fusing my two primary interests, textile objects and traditions plus communication practices to express ideas of voice, identity, and place.
I am extremely grateful to be able to bring my art practice to Kochi, India and continue exploring communication and empowerment through a partnership with the Kochi Biennale Foundation, addressing the topic of gender equality. Inspired by Gandhi’s khadi (Indian hand-woven cloth) campaign, which “was a result of decades of experimentation with cloth as a means for communication,” I am preparing for a project to embed speakers into textiles exploring micro-amplification to amplify stories from the Kerala region.
The workshop I am offering will explore amplification, sculpture and sound (including e-textiles), narrowcasting, and podcasting as a method for exploring gender equality, communication, and creativity. Inspiration for this project has come from India’s rising access to radio through mobile phones and Vinod Pavarala and Kanchan K. Malik’s Other Voices: The Struggle for Community Radio in India, which credits radio with the “capacity to consolidate participatory communication into a thread that weaves through the development process and endows it with avenues to strengthen and give voice to all stakeholders.”
I begin this exciting journey in mid-February and look forward to sharing my experiences there.
 Gordon, Beverly. Textiles: the whole story: uses, meanings, significance. Thames & Hudson, 2014. pg. 104
 Pavarala, Vinod, and Kanchan K. Malik, Other Voices: the struggle for community radio in India. Sage Publications, 2007. pg. 182.
Source: Voice TV (Tonight Thailand on Facebook Live, June 23, 2017, Mention at 1:24:00)
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