The Unforseen

Sirovich Family Resident – Pamela Breda
STEAMplant Faculty Members – Agnes Mocsy and Ira Livingston

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During my residency at Pratt Institute, I will develop my on-going research project “The Unforeseen.” This project focuses on the interconnections between science, creative thinking, and imagination with the goal of generating an artistic discourse on our role as human beings wondering about the origins of our world and the universe at large.

I will in particular explore the so-called “Simulation Theory,” i.e. the idea that the entire universe is a simulation, a software inside some gigantic computer operating machine, or a program generated by an external civilization, or A.I. system.

I am interested in considering this theory from an artistic perspective, through a parallel to our daily interactions with simulations and virtual realities. What are the ethical and philosophical implications of Simulation Theory? How does it relate to our approach to reality, which is highly mediated by technology and simulation softwares? And ultimately, how can we know for sure where the boundaries are between the real world and the mediated one?

In order to answer these questions, I will produce a series of video works combining documentary footage and CGI animations that will be presented as large projections in a final exhibition, creating an immersive installation that will engage the viewers and make them question their own reality principles.

Contesting Space: Envisioning Urban Futures Through Data and Virtual Reality

Sirovich Family Residents – Ayodamola Okunseinde, Salome Asega, Mala Kumar, and Mariama Jalloh
STEAMplant Faculty Members – Caitlin Cahill and Daniel Wright
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Iyapo Repository, in partnership with Pratt faculty members Caitlin Cahill and Dan Wright, is developing and curating a speculative lab and resource library called Contesting Space. With a focus on envisioning emancipatory urban futures, this project will initiate a series of interventions around the ideas of reclaiming space and reimagining a more inclusive city for the next generation. Contesting Space will take place in three stages: the creation of an archive of qualitative and quantitative data, conducting workshops with long-time community, activist, and youth groups focused on imagining urban futures “beyond gentrification,” and an exhibition including a VR environment that will visualize the results from our data collection.

To The Core of Me: A Hike Play

Sirovich Family Resident – Jeremy Pickard
STEAMplant Faculty Members – Christopher X. J. Jensen and Jennifer Telesca

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To The Core of Me: A Hike Play is a literal journey through trees, in which an audience experiences a performance while guided on a hike through the woods. Inspired by ecological and anthropological perspectives on climate change, To The Core of Me explores a moment in the short life of an anxious human and the long life of a tree, both facing uncertainty in a time of environmental shifts.

Breath Consciousness

Sirovich Family Resident – Jasmine Grace
STEAMplant Faculty Members – Charles Rubenstein and Che-Wei Wang
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Artist Jasmine Grace’s residency collaboration with designer/architect/artist Che-Wei Wang and electrical engineer and Professor, Dr. Charles Rubenstein is an interactive, public art installation that will translate peoples breath into a multi-sensory experience using light, sound and movement. As participants blow into a sensor, a visual and musical symphony will be created through a large scale luminous pin wheel, enabling people to not only feel, but also see and hear the effects of their breath in the moment. Breath Consciousness, explores how particular breathing rhythms can impact ones emotional state, in a novel and engaging way. We each have a collection of neutrons in the brain stem that allow our breathing to impact and regulate our alertness, attention and stress levels, alongside higher-order behaviour and thinking functions in our brains. This experiential work encourages participants to look both outwards and inwards to encounter the effect of their breath in an enlightening mind body experience. As each breath brings the pin wheel to life, with it comes an invitation for participants to consider the importance of mindful deep breathing in our daily lives and how it can help one to recalibrate their mind and body, to a more calm and peaceful state.

Light, Color, and Science: Licio Isolani Sculptures from the 1960s

Sirovich Family Resident – Renato Miracco
STEAMplant Faculty Members – Cindie Kehlet and Lisa A. Banner
STEAMplant Professional Collaborators – Sarah Nunberg 

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Collaborating with Dr. Renato Miracco, an international expert on 20th century Italian art, Pratt Institute art historian and curator Dr. Lisa Banner, conservation scientist Dr. Cindie Kehlet, and conservator Ms. Sarah Nunberg, will analyze the contents of Isolani’s notebooks, journals, and sketchbooks to explore his philosophical and artistic process in making sculpture from new 20 th century materials. We will analyze the contents of Isolani’s notebooks, journals, and sketchbooks as well as identifying his use of various materials with analytical instrumentation such as x-ray fluorescence and infrared spectroscopy. The artist specifically described his thinking about new materials (plastics and polymers) developed by technology in the 20th century. Like Lucio Fontana, Burri, Scarpitta, and other European artists working on the international scene, Isolani realized that painting and sculpture alone were not enough to express a modern concept. Isolani and his European contemporaries noted that rebirth was a theme for the art of the 60s and early 70s, where culture was being redefined daily. The composition of his materials (fiberglas imbedded in resin), the use of familiar materials in new ways (sandpaper and window screens as mats), the creation of kinetic sculptures, and the creation of technology that could make art “happen,” were among the preoccupations for the artist to express this rebirth. Light and space and time had to also be part of his work, and performance added the human element. Using light as a medium, for example, is often not documented in the physical study of works. But Isolani’s use of this material evolved from the ambiance in which he worked, with the E.A.T. movement in New York.

Song Searching

Sirovich Family Student Fellow – Ami Cai
STEAMplant Faculty Members – Christopher X. J. Jensen, Basem Aly, Jennifer Telesca

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Humpback whales are some of nature’s most majestic creatures. These immense marine mammals undertake epic annual migrations, feed cooperatively, form local cultures, and interact socially using songs transmitted over thousands of kilometers. What would it feel like to be a humpback whale experiencing today’s increasingly human-dominated world? Song Searching is a video game designed to give players the experience of being a humpback whale. To succeed in the game, players must successfully migrate through an environment filled with large ships emitting noise to arrive at their feeding and breeding grounds. Players will navigate the environment using both visual and audio cues, with stereo audio perception being a key guide to play. Ami Cai, a Pratt undergraduate Communications Design major, first developed the concept for Song Searching in her elective ecology course (taken with Professor Chris Jensen) and began the process of turning the concept into a game in the Collaboration Studio course (taken with Professor Basem Aly). Now a STEAMplant fellowship, Cai is collaborating with Aly, Jensen, and Social Science and Cultural Studies Professor Jennifer Telesca to develop a version of Song Searching that is grounded in both scientific and sociocultural realities. By engaging biological and social science literature that has explored the plight of humpback whales, this STEAMplant project enables the development of both a complete design plan for Song Searching and the release of a playable beta version of the game.

Higgins Hall Thermal Comfort Study

Sirovich Family Student Fellow – Nathan Bataille
STEAMplant Faculty Members – Gabrielle Brainard, Cristobal Correa, Jessie Braden, and Daniel Wright

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How are you feeling right now? Are you too hot? Too cold? How does the environment and your physiology affect your experience of a building? To answer these questions, Architecture Professors Gabrielle Brainard and Cristobal Correa installed a network of temperature and humidity sensors in a studio in Pratt’s Higgins Hall. As the sensors gathered data about the space, the professors surveyed the studio occupants – sixty architecture graduate students – about their thermal comfort.
Working with Mathematics Professor Dan Wright and SAVI Lab Director Jessie Braden, Correa and Brainard will analyze and visualize the results, generating insights by combining data about people and buildings, and seeking novel ways to represent non-visual phenomena like comfort. The project also has a pedagogical aim, engaging students in hands-on learning about building science by using the school as a living laboratory to make abstract scientific concepts more real.

Metric Units for the Solar System

Sirovich Family Resident – Sara Morawetz
STEAMplant Faculty Members – Vincent Tedeschi and Joseph Morris
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Metric Units for the Solar System is an exploration of our relationship with the systems of ‘standardised units’ we have created to order society; examining the various tensions implicit in the function, perception and ultimately arbitrary construction of such formalisms. Extrapolating the original rationale for our own system of metric units, a new set of ‘natural measures’ will be constructed for each planetary body in our solar system – deriving a local ‘metre’, ‘second’, ‘kilogram’, ‘joule’, and so on for each that is reflective of the physicality of its environment. Metric Units for the Solar System is an investigation of the contextual biases embedded in our ‘standardised’ frameworks; asking the audience to consider that when we leave our planet and travel elsewhere, how then should we measure? Should we not offer other worlds agency in the construction and regulation of their own systems of standards? Is the application of Earth-bound measures to other worlds merely a colonial gesture?

A Space Between Spaces

Sirovich Family Resident – Joseph Morris
STEAMplant Faculty Members – Agnes Mocsy and Che-Wei Wang

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Joseph Morris’s STEAMplant residency collaboration with theoretical nuclear physicist Professor Ágnes Mócsy and designer/architect/artist Che-Wei Wang is an outdoor, public art installation that will interact with incoming stellar rays. Using muon particle detectors, which sense the effect of interstellar cosmic rays, the sensors will be mounted on the rooftop of Pratt Institute’s Juliana Terian Curran Design Center detecting stellar rays. The piece will then connect to a computer to process the incoming data and, with custom software and hardware, control a series of outdoor, hanging string lights suspended in the courtyard below. Based on the particle information gathered, a custom coded algorithm will articulate and abstract the data, creating a generative pattern choreographed with the fading and flickering of light bulbs hanging on string lights in the courtyard as stellar rays move around us in real time.

As a piece of contemporary art, the work engages concepts of space and place. It invites the viewer to consider some of the smallest interior spaces, the emptiness between atoms in our bodies as passing cosmic rays move through it, nearly all without touching a single bit of matter, and the huge scale of time and distance of their origin, exploding stars. The work’s physical objects and installation occupy space, but its sense of place is both negative and positive, voids and expanses with magnitudes of dimensionality.

Licio Isolani Study Archive

STEAMplant Faculty Members – Cindie Kehlet and Lisa A. Banner
Sirovich Family Graduate Fellow – Miriam Clayton
STEAMplant Professional Collaborator – Sarah Nunberg

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Italian artist and former Pratt Professor Licio Isolani (1931-2015) donated a collection of his work to the Department of Mathematics and Science before he passed away in 2015. This bequest was celebrated with the exhibition “A Strange Road of Materials” showcasing Isolani’s early sculptures and paintings. The Licio Isolani Study Archive at Pratt Institute was founded by Chair of the Math and Science Department Dr. Carole Sirovich and faculty member Dr. Cindie Kehlet, along with Dr. Lisa A. Banner, of the History of Art & Design Department, and Pratt’s Stockman Fellow Conservator Sarah Nunberg. Graduate student Miriam Clayton has was of the project as a Sirovich Family Graduate Fellow. She researched Licio Isolani’s career as an artist, and also assisted in organizing the collection and preparing condition reports, which are concise summaries of the overall physical condition of the works of art, including but not limited to their material descriptions and attributes, and an accounts of any repairs or treatments that are known. We performed X-ray fluorescence analysis on the sculptures demonstrating that Isolani primarily used dyes, rather than pigments in his fiberglass polyester resin sculptures. Further analysis using Raman spectroscopy will be performed to gain insight about Isolani’s choice of dyes.

Poetics of Our Universe

STEAMplant Faculty Members – Ariel Goldberg, Daniel Wright, and Chris Jensen
Sirovich Family Graduate Fellow – Adriana Green

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In 2015, Adriana Green began developing a poetic manuscript excavating her personal history alongside institutional archival information about America’s reliance on the Atlantic slave trade. Her work asked the questions: As Black Americans, how can we engage with our history when that history is obscured or lost? What are the elements of an hauntological pedagogy? Can silence act as a language? As a writer, Green is interested in how knowledge is translated into language. Specifically, how do we talk about the unknown? Through epistemological conversations with physicist, Dan Wright, she further explored what it means to put language around dense, astronomical concepts, such as black holes. By examining the parallels in how we wrestle dense concepts into language, Green explores how language holds complex and traumatic histories. Her project also interrogated he realm of photography and she worked with artist and scholar, Ariel Goldberg, in discussing the role of photography in archival representations of the Black community. Asking, How does photography works as both a static and dynamic record of the past? What would it mean to trouble the notions of objectivity and subjectivity in an image? Green’s manuscript is scheduled for completion in early 2018 at which point she will submit it for publication.