Artist Bio: J. Meejin Yoon, born in Seoul, Korea, is an architect, designer, and educator who fuses architectural practice with new media. She received a Bachelor of Architecture from Cornell University, and went on to complete a Masters of Architecture in Urban Design from Harvard University Graduate School of Design. She founded MY Studio in 2000, and has now combined forces with the architect, Eric Höweler, whom she founded Höweler + Yoon Architecture with in 2005 (Principals). According to her firm’s profile, “Höweler + Yoon Architecture / MY Studio is a multidisciplinary practice, operating in the space between architecture, art, and landscape. They believe in an embodied experience of architecture, seeing media as material and its effects as palpable elements of architectural speculation” (Firm Profile). Yoon’s individual and collaborative projects have won numerous awards and accolades, and her work has been recognized for, “its innovative and interdisciplinary nature” (MIT Profile). Yoon has been commissioned to create site-specific works in a diverse locations and spaces, but she also devotes her time to education and research. Presently, she is Director of the undergraduate program within the Department of Architecture at MIT, and she has taught at the Graduate Level Architecture Design Studios at MIT for the past 10 years.

Commentary:

In these videos of Meejin Yoon’s piece, Windscreen (2011), we see a public installation that reacts to the weather conditions of its surroundings. In this footage, wind visibly and audibly affects the custom-made wind turbines that comprise the multi-level piece. Yoon is taking wind, an abstract and invisible power, and visualizing its force through LED lighting. This temporary installation was placed on the facade of Building 54 on MIT’s campus during a festival the institute hosted for the 150th anniversary of its founding, and was made in collaboration with a team of MIT students.

Yoon’s piece offers a beautiful spectacle to be sure, but she is also inviting her audience to think about wind as an environmental resource – one that is largely untapped. These small turbines that comprise Windscreen are solely dependent on wind for power, thereby making her piece an artistic display, as well as scientific one. Yoon and her team of collaborators (architecture, visual arts, and mechanical engineering students from MIT) are making a statement about energy consumption and environmental stewardship through Windscreen. Simultaneously, they are presenting a piece that embodies the opportunities alternative energy resources provide. In Windscreen, Yoon gracefully combines high and low technology – her lantern-like turbines combine delicate, simple engineering with LED lighting and scientific principles used to harness natural forces for energy.

Artist Bio: Ayah Bdeir is a Lebanese engineer and interactive artist who seeks to push boundaries established by disciplines and cultures. She was raised between Lebanon, Canada and the U.S., and she received her masters degree from the MIT Media Lab and her undergraduate degrees in Computer Engineering and Sociology from the American University of Beirut. Much of her work addresses stereotypes and common representations of Arab identity, but she is also equally interested in formalistic explorations of electronics and new media. She is the creator of Littlebits, a line comprised of innovative electronics, as well as Karaj, Beirut’s lab for experimental art and architecture. In addition to her own personal artistic practice, Bdeir has received man awards for her work, taught at institutions such as NYU and Parsons, and has lectured widely around the globe. In 2012, she was awarded the highly prestigious TED fellowship as one of the top “25 innovators in 2012 from around the world,” and most recently, she was awarded a senior fellowship with TED. Currently, she continues to live and work in New York City, NY.

Commentary:

In this video, engineer and artist Ayah Bdeir showcases her project, littleBits, which was first conceived in 2008 and is comprised of electronic modules that snap together with tiny magnets. An anonymous creator, most likely Bdeir herself, is seen snapping together various electronic pieces that together create whimsical kinetic sculptures. These small, delicate pieces are akin to LEGOs and other toy-like phenomena. The electronics and circuitry that are displayed in this video seem simple and low-tech, but once these “bits” are connected, they create sophisticated structures and motions. This video is a trailer of sorts, to advertise the easy-to-use and DIY nature of Bdeir’s project. The video is also supplemented with graphics and kinetic typography that animates and embellishes the footage of the modules and circuit boards, and it concludes with a message that encourages viewers and users to share their creative ideas with the world.

Bdeir was inspired by the proliferation of electronics and technology in our contemporary world, as well as the recent upsurge in the DIY and opensource movements. She wanted to create a way in which people from different disciplines and levels of experience could grasp and utilize sophisticated electronics. Her project statement explains that, “Just as LEGO revolutionized playing by allowing complex structures to be created with very little engineering knowledge, littleBits makes prototyping with sophisticated electronics a matter of snapping small magnets together…All logic and circuitry is pre-engineered, so you can play with electronics without knowing electronics” (littleBits Statement). Bdeir intentionally designed this project to be open and collaborative, and the littleBits website was created as a platform where users can download, upload, and suggest new ideas for the project. Bdeir’s littleBits fosters creativity, collaboration, and dissemination of new ideas, and MoMA’s subsequent acquisition of the project has made creative engineering possible for all sorts of people with little or no background in electronics.

http://www.wired.com/video/sachiko-kodama-morpho-towers/1565186325001

Artist Bio: Sachiko Kodama was born and raised in southern Japan, where the natural tropical landscape intrigued her as a young child. Since her childhood, Kodama has had equal interests in both the arts and the sciences (About Artist). She completed an undergraduate degree in Physics at Hokkaido University, but went on to pursue sculpture and new media art in her graduate studies. In her doctoral research, she explored computer and holography art at the University of Tsuboka. Besides being an active new media artist, she is an associate professor at the University of Electro-Communications in Tokyo.

Kodama is mostly known for her pioneering work with electromagnets, nanoscience, and ferrofluids within an artistic context. Her “liquid sculptures” have been displayed in both solo and group exhibitions by institutions such as the Ars Electronica Center (Linz), the National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts, and the Reina Sofia National Museum (Artist Profile). Undoubtedly, her enthralling ferrofluid sculptures continually awe curators, critics, and audiences alike – and she has had a significant impact on the field of new media art.

Commentary:

In this video documentation of Sachiko Kodama’s piece, Morpho Tower (2007), we see dynamic sculptures rise out of a lake of nano-tech ferrofluid liquid. The ferrofluid moves in synchronization with powerful tones, and the spiked forms of the towers ebb and flow as the sculpture fluxes between growing and shrinking. These fluid tower forms are austere, yet beautiful, and their kinetic routine is mesmerizing along with the music. The secret behind these ferrofluid sculptures is an electromagnet and an iron core. In this particular ferrofluid sculpture, Kodama chose helical-shaped towers, which the ferrofluids climb up and down throughout the duration of the piece.

By using a computer to control the electromagnet, Kodama is able to manipulate the nano-tech material. The relative strength of the magnetic field affects the speed, movement, and size of the ferrofluid spirals that wrap about the helical towers. The ferrofluid substance itself is not particularly high-tech (it was developed in the 1960s by NASA), but the technology and science Kodama employs to manipulate the material is highly advanced. Besides using special computer technology to control the electromagnet, Kodama also draws upon digital music metadata in order to create a perfectly synchronized routine between music and her kinetic sculptures (Morpho Tower Info). By analyzing and organizing the musical metadata, which consists of beat position, chord progression, and melody block information, Kodama was able to precisely combine the movement of her sculptures with music – as the sound is amplified, the sculptures move with it in unison, and as the sound dies down, the sculptures recede back into a formless pool of liquid.

Kodama likens the fluid motion of Morpho Tower to human breathing, and she developed these towers to be in dialogue with each other (Morpho Tower Info). During the video of Morpho Tower we see the sculpture seemingly change states – from liquid to solid and back again. As is common among many new media artists, Kodama collaborates with experts in scientific fields, and for this particular piece she worked with Yasushi Miyajima of Sony’s Computer Science Laboratories. In this and her other ferrofluid sculptures, Kodama provides her viewers with new aesthetic experiences. She combines her scientific knowledge (she graduated with an undergraduate degree in physics) with an aesthetic vision, and offers an innovative display that challenges viewers to contemplate motion, physical phenomena, and the components of music.

Artist Bio: Emilia Forstreuter is a motion designer and animator born in Hannover, Germany. She was educated in Communications Design and Time Based Art at the Braunschweig University of Art in Germany and the University of Dundee in Scotland. Now, she works out of Berlin and collaborates with a broad range of clients to create captivating animations and videos that combine advanced computer software with enchanting aesthetics. Since finishing her education in 2009, her work has been exhibited in numerous festivals and exhibitions around the globe, and her work has received over a dozen awards in just the last six years. Currently, she works as a freelance artist, but she has also held teaching positions at her alma mater, Braunschweig University of Art, teaching animation courses on the computer programs After Effects and Flash (Bio). As a freelance artist, she is always looking for new opportunities for collaboration, and almost all of her projects are created in conjunction with other concept artists, animators, and sound designers.

Commentary:

Emilia Forstreuter’s videos and animations are created with contemporary design software (such as Adobe’s © program After Effects), and they provide stimulating imagery accompanied by alluring sound. Berlin-based Transmediale – a festival and continual project that aims to foster connections between art, technology, and culture – commissioned Forstreuter to create a trailer for their 2011 festival. In this video, Forstreuter has collected footage of natural imagery (plant and flower life, etc.) and low-tech objects (wire, string, pipes, and smoke), and has used animation software and layering effects to create a dark yet enticing vignette.

Despite her status as a freelance designer, Forstreuter collaborates with other creative individuals on almost every one of her projects. For this trailer, Forstreuter employed sound designer Sam Spreckley to create audio to accompany her visuals, and she acquired the Morse code-like font from Raban Ruddigkeit. Forstreuter’s Transmediale 2011 Trailer and the remainder of her body of work represent a formalistic approach to new media art – one that is more concerned with design and visuals, and less concerned with the philosophical underpinnings and social implications of new technology. Nevertheless, Forstreuter’s intriguing creations such as this trailer provide wonderful introductions and allow her to align herself with initiatives such as Transmediale, where the intersections between art and technology are continually being explored and expanded.

Artist Bio: Based in New York City, Adrianne Wortzel is an artist and educator who received her initial artistic training under the seminal abstract painters Ad Reinhardt and Mark Rothko (City Tech Bio). However, after completing her Masters of Fine Arts degree in Computer Arts (The School of Visual Arts NYC), she has devoted her career to explorations in new media. Over the past two decades she has produced innovative work in the areas of telerobotic performance, net art, interactive installation, and video. Wortzel is interested in exploring how humans relate to the technology around them, through fictive or factual performances and storylines. Her approach to her art is decidedly interdisciplinary in nature, and she often creates works in collaboration with research scientists and engineers from around the world that work within the area of robotics and artificial intelligence (Adrianne Wortzel bio).

Besides numerous invitations to be a part of international exhibitions, Wortzel has also received support for her research from nearly a dozen prestigious institutions including the National Science Foundation, The Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at the University of Zurich (Rhizome bio). As mentioned above, her work crosses a range of disciplines, and she emphatically embraces the possibilities new media offers. In addition to her personal artistic endeavors, Wortzel currently holds multiple professorships within the City University of New York system and at the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art.

Commentary:

In this video documentation of Adrianne Wortzel’s new media work, Battle of the Pyramids (2009), we see a troop of robots performing a “call to arms” in perfect synchronization. These robots are stripped down Elmo TMXs, a popular children’s toy, and are connected to an advanced electronics system developed by Wortzel’s interdisciplinary team of programmers and designers. As the video progresses, the thirty plus robots go through a series of formal and rigid motions that are intentionally reminiscent of the gestures employed by the 19th century French Army under Napoleon during their campaigns in Egypt (Project Description). Wortzel’s new media performance is described as the following, “Toys (Elmo TMXs) manufactured as companions to children are reconfigured as unsettling faux instruments of war, emulating the idiosyncratic military strategies of a Napoleonic army and the tradition of re-enactment of bloody battles” (Documentation). By referencing historical military gestures during the time of imperialism, Wortzel is drawing connections to an issue of the 21st century: the Iraq War. Essentially, she essentially equates the U.S.’s involvement in Iraq as an imperialist act, akin to Napoleon’s own campaign (Project Description).

As the music climaxes and the “call to arms” nears its end, the robots loose synch and their formation disintegrates into a frenzy – once the robots fall out of formation and drop to the ground, they are unable to recover. Regardless of one’s stance on the controversial issue of the Iraq war, it can be agreed upon that Wortzel’s Battle of the Pyramids provides a powerful metaphor. Wortzel creates an analogy for war and military strategy that successfully employs new media (electronics, robotics, and computer software), and the historical and present-day references she makes gives her piece a place of relevance among a contemporary audience.

Artist Bio: Born in Tampa, Florida, Janet Echelman has established herself as an interdisciplinary artist specializing in public art installations and sculpture. Echelman was originally rejected from all seven art schools she applied to after her undergraduate studies, but she still sought an artistic career and left the U.S. to study art abroad. Echelman started working with traditional artistic media, and learned non-Western artistic practices in Hong Kong, India, and Bali, Indonesia. When her “paints never arrived” to her destination in India for an exhibition, Echelman had to resort to different media (fishing nets), which set her up for future explorations in unconventional materials (TED Talk). Since then, Echelman has adopted high-tech net-like media as replacements for the more delicate craftsman nets of Indian fishermen.

Now, Echelman is most famous for her large public sculptures, which are placed in metropolitan cities around the world and react to various environmental and urban elements. However, Echelman does not accomplish these artistic feats alone – she intentionally works with a studio and team that is comprised, “…of a range of professionals including aeronautical and mechanical engineers, architects, lighting designers, landscape architects, and fabricators” (Artist’s Story). Her flowing, ethereal sculptures bring life to urban environments, and according to her studio’s statement, “These sculpture environments embody local identity and invite residents to form a personal and dynamic relationship with the art and place. Each project becomes intimately tied to its environment through the use of local materials and working methods, thus strengthening neighborhood connections and promoting a distinctive civic character” (Studio Statement).

Commentary:

Janet Echelman’s newest public sculpture, 1.26, mimics her previous larger-than-life works made out of high-tech net-like materials. In this video, we are essentially viewing a time-lapse of the installation of the work, which was eventually completed and placed over the Amstel River in front of the Amsterdam Stopera (the City Hall and Opera House) for its European debut. This work was a part of the 2012-2013 Amsterdam Light Festival, which celebrates the natural phenomena of water and light within an urban context. The sculpture was a total of 230 feet in length, and was constructed out of fluid Spectra® Fiber and other lighting material. The breadth of Echelman’s sculptures requires her to work with a whole team of designers and engineers in order to accomplish her artistic feats, and a collaborative approach is characteristic of almost all of her work.

In this particular sculpture, Echelman invites her audience to meditate on the interconnectedness of the world. She was inspired by the 2010 Chile earthquake, during which the Earth’s day was subsequently shortened by 1.26 seconds. Echelman acquired data on the earthquake from NASA and the NOAA, and used this information as the formalistic basis for her sculpture. By mapping the resulting tsunami waves that spanned across the pacific ocean to other continents, Echelamn was able to construct a three-dimensional sculptural form. In order to preserve the fluidity and delicate nature of her early fishing net creations, Echelman employed a special material called Spectra® Fiber that could also withstand environmental elements and weather changes. 1.26, like Echelman’s other ethereal aerial sculptures, offers passersby moments for quiet aesthetic contemplation, but it also rightfully reminds us of the many ways in which we are inevitably connected to others around the world.

http://nano.arts.ucla.edu/i_inner.php#

Artists Bio: Victoria Vesna, hailing from the former Yugoslavia, is an author, educator, and new media artist. She received diplomas in the fine arts from institutions in New York City and Belgrade, and she completed her doctoral research at the Centre for Advanced Studies in Interactive Arts located at the University of Wales. She is mainly interested in the ways technology and scientific innovation has affected the formation and perception of identity (Vesna Bio). As an artist, Vesna creates interactive and engaging new media installations that draw upon the concepts she explores in her academic work. She takes an interdisciplinary approach to her work, and often collaborates with experts in other fields. According to Momentum, a project designed to give exposure to women new media artists, her main collaborator has been Dr. James Gimzewski, a “nanoscience pioneer” (Momentum Bio).

Vesna is a prolific artist, speaker, writer, and researcher – her art work has been exhibited in nearly ninety exhibitions (both solo and group shows), her research has been published in over twenty papers, and she has been invited to give over one hundred lectures over the course of her career. Additionally, she is a faculty member of the UCLA Department of Design and Media Arts, and acts as the Director of the Art|Sci center at the School of the Arts and California Nanosystems Institute (CNSI). Currently, she is continuing her research at IMéRA (the Mediterranean Institute for Advanced Studies) in Marseille, France (2011-2013).

Commentary:

Victoria Vesna partnered with her long-time collaborator, Dr. James Gimzewski, to create the interactive installation, Nano: Inner Cell (2004). This installation is a part of Vesna’s ongoing series of collaborative nanoscience projects, which she first began with Dr. Gimzewski in 2001. In this video, audience members are seen directly interacting with the digital projections on the screen, floor, and other sculptural forms in the gallery space. Almost every element within the installation is sensory and reacts to human touch: as viewers walk through the space their presence moves the projections on the ground and triggers sound effects. Their bodies and shadows are able to manipulate the cell-like digital projections (called buckyballs) on the mounted screen, and their presence and movements affect the overall appearance of the installation. As they inhabit the gallery space, audience members are essentially residing in a cell (hence the name “inner cell”) and the buckyballs they are interacting with are meant to be enlarged versions of nanoparticles. The buckyballs that viewers are interacting with mimic atomic behavior, and the installation as a whole is meant to be an accurate replication of scientific phenomena.

This installation debuted at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in the Boone Children’s Gallery, and has since been exhibited at the Singapore Science Center (2006-2011) along with Vesna’s other nanoscience works. Vesna’s Nano: Inner Cell is surely an engaging and enjoyable artwork, but its main purpose is not merely entertainment. Vesna and Dr. Gimzewski are not simply offering their audience another interactive artwork; instead, their larger goal is to offer an aesthetic experience where viewers can learn about the rather obscure nature of nanoscience, which works on a scale of a billionth of a meter. By devising a macro-sized version of a cell and its nanoscale-sized elements, Vesna and her team have provided both an artistic and scientific experience for her viewers. Essentially, viewers are taking part in two activities within Nano: Inner Cell – one where they act as artists themselves and manipulate the visuals of the installation, but where they also have the chance to explore nanoscience principles.