Winter Open Studios: Experimental Media
Queered Technology and Speculative Design
Instructor: Lark Alder (they/them)
What does it mean to ‘queer’ something? Expanding this term's meaning beyond gender and sexuality, ‘to queer’ is to question, challenge, subvert, and reimagine social norms and structures of power. In this course, we will build from queer theory to consider invisibilized assumptions and biases in everyday objects, then design technologies that propose new ways of being.
For example: What would a clock look like if it were designed for a world without capitalist notions of productivity? Students will create three electronic artworks using Arduino microcontrollers, sensors, light, motors, and sound. Equipment kits will be mailed to each student and tutorials will provide fundamental instruction in electronics and programming. This is an introductory art course with no prerequisites.
As a studio Art & Technology class, this course prompts students to engage *critically and queerly* with technology as an artistic medium. The term “queer technology” asks us to reconsider the ways we think about technology itself. Instead of ascribing to the notion that technology continuously advances and improves our quality of life, we will look at ways technology perpetuates and often augments systems of oppression. Rather than prioritizing productivity, efficiency, and convenience, we will explore spaces where technology fails, slows, subverts, critiques, and is used for unexpected purposes.
This course regards artistic vision as an *indispensable* tool for social change. Through the lens of Xenofeminism, students will invent new/speculative technologies that empower targeted groups across race, gender, sexuality, class, ability, etc. Taking inspiration from Afrofuturism and queer utopian practice, students will create speculative art projects that imagine the future(s) they want to see.
Tita Kanjanapas (she/her)
Between Worlds is a hybrid bird feeder and instrument intended to attract Kinnaree, a queer, mythical, half bird, half woman creature from Thai folklore who is known for her beautiful dancing and singing. Traditionally, Kinnaree is a messenger between the human world and the spirit world. In my modern reimagination of her, Kinnaree is an international mutual aid messenger in a future where she helps people receive what they need from whoever in the world has something to give. In my imagination I see her playing with the instrument’s distance, light, and temperature sensors to create a beautiful sound then flying across oceans to pass on my resources to my chosen families in Thailand.
Between Worlds is designed to call to Kinnaree. Visually, the design is half glitter, mirror-reflective computer screen and half golden leaf, temple inspired design. This duality reflects Kinnaree’s half bird, half woman nature. It also contrasts tradition and technology, spiritual practice and nightlife, here and there. Between worlds encourages us to embody the spirit of Kinnaree with better uses of our technology. The QR code motif on the golden side leads to a mutual aid website that encourages the viewer to create and contribute to mutual aid networks that redistribute resources through cyberspace. Learn more
Lien Nguyen (she/her)
There are no books about how to play a queer piano. All musical instruction available is for “real” pianos. And all queer people are learning to play the queer piano over the course of our lives. We are reading the songs without sheet music, playing melodies in between the lines, and learning how to become musicians without any formal instruction.
I have built a queer piano that inverts the key striking mechanism of a traditional piano — all tones play simultaneously by default and pressing one of the buttons will silence that tone. This piano is queer in functionality and serves as a reflection of queer existence.
Functionally, the playing mechanism is the direct opposite of a traditional piano, where the player must strike a single key for it to play a note. Both the queer and traditional pianos can both accomplish the same things—they can play the same melodies. The difference is that the queer piano takes a different route to producing music and “thinks about” it in a different way. While simple, single line melodies are typically beginner-friendly pieces on a traditional piano because they require the player to strike fewer keys, chordal pieces are in fact much simpler on the queer piano because several notes are playing without intervention. However, the need to hold down multiple buttons at once poses somewhat of a challenge. In order to play “Mary Had A Little Lamb,” the player must always hold down four buttons, but change which button is the “free” button, which requires more coordination than striking single keys on a traditional piano. The buttons dig into the fingertips, and more force is needed overall to keep notes muted for long durations.
All of these things are a reflection of what it means to be queer (as a human, not a piano). To me, queerness is a different way of existence compared to the heteronormative narrative we are all fed as children through society and media. However, queer or not, we all live in the same world and navigate the same basic human experience. Just as both pianos can play the same music, all people exist and carve out lives together on Earth. These existences are not all identical when it comes to the minutiae, though. Being queer is more work because society does not offer queer people the same easy paths, example stories, or role models that it offers cis-het folks. As a result, being queer provides a different, richer experience of the world, as one cannot blindly follow predetermined narratives. It is more effort to hold down the buttons of the queer piano to keep the notes muted, and it is more effort to accept one’s queerness when it is explicitly labeled an abomination, or to know how to interact with other queer people, or to have relationship experiences when there are so few queer stories in media. So, while a queer person may hit all the same life milestones as a non-queer person (owning property, having a long-term partner, holding down a fourty-year career), the difficulty of doing so is higher for queer people, much the same as I can play “Ode to Joy” on both a traditional and queer piano, but with varying degrees of difficulty.
Yousif Mohsen (he/him)
In our capitalistic way of living, we’re taught early on that humans are selfish, motivated by their own success, and are competitive. Yet, at our most natural state we are “a social species that relies on cooperation to survive and thrive” (The Cooperative Human). Collaboration and community values are innate, with studies finding that, “children as young as six years old can spontaneously find ways to collaborate to maintain a shared, limited resource” (The Cooperative Human). In our most natural state, we aren’t selfish, but a species that is “social” and “collaborative.” I think that to a certain degree, we don’t even truly believe the selfish myth perpetuated by capitalistic values. Popular media constantly emphasizes that in times of need, we band together into a group. When a zombie apocalypse happens, or we’re launched into a deserted planet, or even when a weird entity that makes it so you can’t open your eyes outdoors takes over, popular media tells us that it's communities that survive. Why is it that we only emphasize the value of community in the most dire circumstances? I wanted to design a project centered around community emphasis beyond dire times. This app uses speculative design to imagine a utopic future where we reimagine what is possible for our way of living in a distant, yet very plausible future. What would the world look like if we stopped believing the capitalistic myths of selfishness and became one with our community? What if the individual was no longer an individual, but a piece of the whole? Learn more
Watch and Learn
Michael Pascal (he/him)
Technology has always been viewed as a tool to aid an individual in one way or another; yet such narrative often falls prey to one simple challenge: the accessibility of technology. In our time’s climate emergency, access to these assistive tools are needed more than ever. Just as the storms and the floods do not discriminate between who they harm, why should technology discriminate between who it helps? In this project, the future’s new digital assistant is born, providing users from all demographics with information essential to survival. This device does not aim to be efficient, nor uniform. It doesn’t aim to be pretty, nor demand constant updates. It serves to be there, to be accessible, and to be freed from any notions of profit or gain.
Readings on the ambient conditions, like temperature and humidity, provide the user with the information they need to prepare their day and stay safe from harm. With this information in mind, storage at the rear of the device can then be stocked with essential survival items, like sunscreen, gauze, and medication. This will be the future’s new multi-tool, aiding the user in not only the physical resources to complete a task, but the data necessary to make educated decisions in a newer, more dangerous world. Learn more
Alana Mermin-Bunnell (she/her)
By retelling fairytales, queer people can reclaim the power of storytelling, imagination, invention, and control narratives that run deep through cultures and history. My “alterable book” queers a book by making it not only malleable, but also 3-dimensional, sculptural, and made from its own pages. I also incorporated an arduino motor, photocell, blue led and it connects to a computer that you can interact with so that the project could engage multiple senses. It represents a future of what books could be as multimedia and interactive, where the words of a book take on another form and are visually represented as a sculpture. The project engages with the concept of reclaiming fairytale narratives/writing your own narrative because the story itself can be altered. The sculpture is like a doll house: you can add your own characters and text to it and format it as you want. I chose Cinderella, perhaps the most famous fairytale, because of the parallels I see between Cinderella and queerness. Learn more
Saudades da Simbiose
Ulo Freitas (he/him)
Over the past few centuries, indigenous cultures and languages have been lost over time due to the long-lasting effects of colonization. Within all of these lost cultures and languages is so much lost knowledge, specifically about the way of life. Many of these cultures lived in symbiosis with the Earth, rather than stripping the Earth of its precious materials and resources for capitalistic gains.
When talking to my parents about their childhood in Angola, they emphasized how being able to hang on to small pieces of pre-colonial Angolan culture allowed them to live alongside the Earth. Take the example of medicine; my mother and other relatives have always questioned the constant use of pharmaceuticals in the United States and around the world because they grew up relying on the plants that grew in the Earth. Because of this, my mother expressed how she could easily identify which plants could be used for medicinal purposes and which couldn’t. Growing up in this way where you’re living off of the Earth allows you to have a deeper connection and greater knowledge of the Earth, however, this isn’t the current way of life in today’s tech-dominated world.
My project explores a future where these cultures that lived in symbiosis with the Earth and have been lost can be combined with today’s ever-advancing technology, but in a way where neither one has to be lessened. In this future, these cultures and technology can not only coexist but thrive off of each other to be the best they can be. For this project, I focused specifically on Angolan/ pre-colonial Angolan culture which is why there are some Portuguese words involved. The title itself, “Saudades da simbiose”, describes the longing for this symbiotic lifestyle with the Earth and these cultures. Learn more
Cristina de la Cruz (she/her)
The Heterosexual-Homosexual Rating Scale, more popularly known as The Kinsey Scale, is a method to help define a person’s sexual orientation (Zambon). First published in 1948, the Kinsey Scale suggested that people are not simply either 100% straight or 100% gay, but can feel varying degrees of sexual attraction towards those of the opposite or same sex.
Although the Kinsey scale has its limitations (most notably, reducing gender to a binary), it was revolutionary for queer visiblity, revealing just how many people experienced a range of same-sex attraction. Since then, it has served as a useful tool for countless people exploring and defining their sexualities.
With my project, I wanted to imagine a device that could also be a tool in exploring sexuality— perhaps setting off another revolution of queer visibility, and ultimately, acceptance. Learn more
Erin McCoy (she/her)
Only fans has played an interesting role in sex work’s transition to ecommerce. Namely, Only fans serves as “a form of empowerment, entrepreneurialism, and an aesthetic mode of influence”  for its users, while also forcing one’s sexual identity and gender to conform to tropes and methodology that best fits the necessities of late stage capitalism. Sex work, at its truest, is an exchange of energies between two consenting parties, and online platforms have made this exchange much safer for sex workers. Online sex work platforms have also created an unrealistic expecation of intimacy and authenticity, wtih strict gender and sexuality stereotypes. In the past year, we’ve also seen Only Fans commandeered by influencers looking to make quick money off of the platform, disrupting the system cultivated and cared for by sex workers who popularized the platform.
I wanted to imagine plants had a sexual identity, and to create a “sex work” network for plants. Plants have been given gender by humans, but that gender identity isn’t easily derived from a plant's physical presentation. While some plants have been tied to human sexuality and gender expression (for example, the Pansy Craze), there are no preconceived stereotypes or tropes given to sexual interaction between plants. Only plants explores what a sex work platform would feel like, outside of capitalist notions and expectations of sexuality and gender. Learn more
Art and Electronics
Instructor: Anja Ulfeldt
TA: Liz Maelane
A studio course in contemporary art production that incorporates electronic media. Students work with basic circuits for creating mobile, illuminated, and responsive works of art. Some of the topics covered are: soldering; construction of basic circuits; elementary electronics theory; and contemporary electronic art.
Josh Kelly, TRACE; Materials: Glow Paint, Lasers, Custom Electronics Dimensions: 4 ft x 6 ft x 4 ft.
A small nondescript black box shines a laser at a wall covered in glow paint. The laser leaves a trail that can stay visible for several minutes. These trails twist and twirl as they overlap, randomly creating mesmerizing convolutions that can begin to take a familiar shape, despite being arbitrary and unique. A subtle drone and intermittent burrs gives the black box character as it traces its undirected drawings with the use of two motors. Ultraviolet flashlights and handheld lasers around the room allow for interaction with the sculpture as the glowing wall art can enable cooperation between human and machine. Watching, listening, cooperating, and coexisting with the lifelike machine can create an eerie feeling of connection with what may have previously seemed lifeless.
Maya Dodson, Shoe Memories; Shoe rack, personal shoes, plaster, custom electronics
One art piece incorporated into a shoe rack. Animated mechanical plaster of real shoes, lights, and sound encapsulate the lived experiences of shoes throughout their lifetime. Each "memory" emphasizes the tie between our footwear and a person's journey.
Connor Janowiak, Spiders in the Night; Materials: cardboard, printed PLA structures/figures, 2A NEMA 17 bipolar stepper motor, L298N dual H-bridge controller, 22 AWG solid core wire, Arduino (x2), universal AC DC power adapter (x2), 10K ohm potentiometer (x2), WS2812B LED, 330Ω resistor Dimensions: 10” x 10” x 9 ½”
This zoetrope-esque piece depicts the tenebrous nature of spiders to be hidden in the shadows rather than in broad daylight. A rotating circular disk with eight spider figures atop a motor along with a precisely timed strobe light casts a stop-motion projection onto any object. The illusion of motion produced by the strobe light is akin to the natural behavior of nocturnal spiders to, when spooked by the presence of light, scurry off into unknown places, only to reappear the next day.
Patrick Liu, Flight Hat; assorted Arduino electronics; golf cap; aluminum foil and paper clips
A wearable hat with aircraft-like, motorized wings. When the hat is brought away from its initial location by a wall, as indicated by its distance sensor, it beeps painfully loudly in the wearer’s ear until it is brought back to the wall or the buzzer is otherwise deactivated. Even further away from the wall, the wings retract. Through the interactions between the wearer and the hat, this piece explores the relationship between potential users and uncooperative or even antagonistic technologies, in contrast with the common association of technological innovation with liberation.
Roy Nehoran, Zoo(m); Paper, aluminum foil, glass, cardboard, Arduino Uno
When communicating exclusively over zoom, we struggle to connect. Even though we may be on zoom calls every hour of the day, are we really seeing or hearing each other? In this piece, two figures interact through a glass "zoom screen", on mute, often trying to talk over one another, unable to get a point across or connect on a basic level. Each person sees select parts of the other's life through a glass window, as we see animals at the zoo.
Jenny Shi, Plastic Life; Bamboo sticks, cardboard, plastic, clay, wire, LEDs, stepper motor
This sculpture depicts bioluminescent sea creatures made of waste - plastic bottles, egg cartons, and other wrappings, giving them new life.
David Browne, Untitled; This wearable project used an Arduino hooked up to an accelerometer and an individually-addressable strip of LEDs, all attached to my sleeve.
This project was an attempt to make visible the physical forces at work on the body, specifically the arm where the wearable is worn. The lit LED moves up and down my arm in response to the forces detected by the accelerometer -- mainly gravity. Its motion is modeled as an object sliding on a frictionless inclined plane. For an added twist the simulation uses the moon's constant of gravity instead of the Earth's.
Devrath Iyer, Decision Tree; Materials: Aluminum, wire, tape, custom electronics; Dimensions: 20cm x 20cm x 25cm
16 RGB LEDs are mounted onto an aluminum tree. Their colors are pseudorandomly generated by hashing the GPS coordinates of the tree's current location, accurate to within a few meters. Given the number of GPS locations on Earth, it is impossible for any one person to see every possible configuration of the colors, but the tree encourages exploration by allowing for a rediscovery of seemingly ordinary spaces. Adding novelty to places already experienced is especially important in a time defined by confinement and isolation.
Evelyn Binoya, Still Movement; Cardboard, fake flower, miscellaneous electronics
Growth and change tend to take immense amounts of time operating on time scales that humans are not used to observing. Often, if we can not perceive movement we presume something to be static or stuck--unchanging. This piece features a flower growing out of a sundial constantly and steadily moving while appearing to the human eye at any given moment as if it is frozen and an unmoving piece forcing any observer who attempts to watch it live to give up and return creating instantaneous snapshots in their mind and forcing them to infer the movement from the differences between the two unmoving instants.
AJ Rossman, A Sunny Day at the Pool ; Cardboard, aluminum foil, stepper motor
Sunlight is filtered through a skylight such that only a small amount is let through. Then, aluminum foil (moving by stepper motor) reflects this light onto the wall across from it, creating a pattern of light alike to the patterns formed on the bottom of a pool on a sunny day. This installation symbolizes the difference between perception and reality, while also creating a feeling of awe and wonder in the audience.
Introduction to Animation
Instructor: Masako Miyazaki
This course is designed to introduce basic methods and practices in animation. We will be covering a range of techniques from frame-by-frame drawn animation to animating with objects. Projects include flipbooks, cut-outs, and stop motion animation. We will be watching short films from independent artists working in the field as an overview of the many ways animation is used. Students are strongly encouraged to work with both experimental techniques and conceptual creativity. Instruction of concepts and the means to create the moving image will be provided through lectures, guest speakers, demos, and active work time.
Featuring works by Ayoade Balogun, Angela He, Tasha Johnson, Brenden Bonsuk Koo, Kao Hmong Lee, Katrina Liou, Madeleine Yip, and Suah Cho.
Drawing with Code
Instructor: Camille Utterback
TA: Oleg Savunov
In Drawing with Code, students learn to use software coding as both a technical and conceptual means to making artwork. What are the differences and similarities between drawing with traditional methods and “drawing” with code? How do artists compose a set of software instructions to create visually appealing and conceptually meaningful works? Some issues we explored were the role of abstraction, time, and interactivity in our works. We also asked how we might explore issues of power and agency through code based systems. This page includes video output of artworks from the class. For interactive works, a link to download and run the applications is included.
Pedro Civita, Galton Board; dynamically generated software animation with audio.
Shirley Mulumbi, Bubbles and Straws; dynamically generated software animation.
Tibor Thompson, More Than A Memory; dynamically generated software animation.
Art Book Object
Instructor: Gail Wight
TA: Tina Kashiwagi
This mixed introductory and upper level studio course explores contemporary aesthetic interpretations of the book as an art object. Students learn to use both traditional and digital tools and techniques for creating artists' books, and integrate those into final works of art. The course familiarizes students with basic bookbinding processes and forms, as well as various modes of printing and production that facilitate limited artist editions. In addition to making books, we view numerous artists' books in the Bowes Art & Architecture Library collection as well as the collection of the instructor, and meet with practicing artists and book makers. Students create a number of small books, each focused on a particular process but using content of their choice. Upper level students propose and create a more fully evolved final project involving at least one bookbinding process independently researched in consultation with the instructor.
Diana Lea Baszucki, Moss
D.B., Neural Network Learning to Generate Letters
Joaquin Peraza, The Seed
Ima Grullon, Skies
Luca Messarra, Ideas defining a free society
Sarah Mackenzie Ondak, Walking with Star Fish
Kaylee Nok, Package 1 & Package 2
Kaylee Nok, Recipes to cure homesickness
Leonardo Lujan Orsini, Untitled
Michele Wells, les chaînés
Elsa Constance Schweizer, You Are Here
Elsa Constance Schweizer, Untitled