Say hello to our new students!

ACT Studio Class ACT grad students with director, Gediminas Urbonas and Assistant Professor, Azra Akšamija. Photo by Amanda Moore
ACT at MIT

One cannot deny the predictability of progressive, top-notch academic contexts: perfect students doing perfect things within enclaves of technical infrastructures that allow that to happen. We say ‘perfect’ with complete awareness of the superlative. We’re just excited, and you will be when you take a look at our incoming ACT graduate students this year.

The type of predictability we’re talking about is unlike its boring siblings. It’s more of an aperitivo. We’re onto a great start this year, and we’ll be sharing events, talks, lectures, student and faculty work, and you will love this blog for that. Bookmark it and check it constantly.

Emhm, this is us preparing ourselves to brag about our new students, which this post is mainly about. This year’s group of incoming graduate students aptly illustrates the Art, Culture and Technology program’s incessant craving to create a fertile ground for interdisciplinary artistic experimentation through admitting a diverse group of students that will continue wondering how they fit together as a group, while in the back of their minds rapidly acknowledging that nowhere would have been a better fit for them at this point in each of their journeys.

We’re very excited about this year’s group of graduates joining second year returning grads Alan, Björn, Gedney and Ursula on a trip that would allow them to explore and evolve themselves, each other and the world at large. A rigorous selection process admitted nine bright, playful minds from the US, Taiwan, Lebanon and Estonia with very different cultural backgrounds and multidisciplinary formations in philosophy, computer science, literature, music, sound/media, performance art, linguistics, architecture, sculpture, video and documentary. You’ll get the chance to see them in action and learn more about each in future posts, but scroll down for a quick rundown on who they are and some of their works. Enjoy!

ANGEL CHEN, TAIWAN

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Angel is an artist from Taipei, Taiwan. She investigates forms of social relations in her practice, particularly in the context of digital culture and urbanization. Her other topics of inquiry include globalization, human migration, civic engagement and public life. She holds a BA in Philosophy and Computer Science from McGill University, Canada (2009). Below are some of her works. For more, follow this link http://angelchen.ca/

 

Ping Pong Poll


San Francisco, CA & Winnipeg, MB

2014

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Ping Pong Poll combines the aesthetics of a midway game with the mechanism of polling, in order to explore how public opinion is expressed, collected, and disseminated. The project invites the public in reflection on the mechanism of public opinion polling in today’s political landscape.

 

Dim Sum City


SZ/HK Biennale & Markham, ON

2013

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Dim Sum City invites active audience participation, conflating the experience of ordering at a restaurant with an exercise in participatory urban planning. During the exhibition, tea was served, participants sat around the big round table, collectively deliberated, negotiated, and compromised, and “ordered” a city off a bilingual form of almost one hundred and fifty urban planning options. Participants were asked to reflect on the future of cities, while drawing out instructive parallels between an everyday group activity – ordering a meal – and an important democratic activity.

(Photo by Will Pemulis)

 

Candid Call Center

Toronto, ON

2012

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A telephone-based interactive framework was created, for the general public to engage in anonymous conversations about the 2008 economic crisis and its residual impact. The use of the telephone–which isolates the voices in the present and prevents the formations of assumptions–allowed for honesty and a candid exchange of ideas among participants. The project aimed to challenge existing norms of financial discussions, and encourage open and honest conversation among a broad-based general public.

 

NEIL SANZGIRI, USA

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Neil Sanzgiri is an artist, writer and musician working to understand how systems of oppression are informed by memory and cultural identity. Sanzgiri’s work poetically examines interpretations of historical events and their effect on current, complex networks of interaction, such as globalization and mass media. Graduating from the Maryland Institute College of Art with a degree in Interdisciplinary Sculpture, Sanzgiri continued to work and live in Baltimore and co-ran the artist run gallery and performance space know as Open Space for five years. Sanzgiri also co-ran the Spiral Cinema migrating film series that ranged from screenings and lectures to panels and publications. Since then, his work has charted the Baltimore Uprising and its connection with the larger social justice movements in the US. Check out his projects below.

Last Year at Marienbad (proposal)

2011 – Ongoing

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This research project based on the french new-wave film Last Year at Marienbad is a proposal to travel to the three palaces in Munich where this film was shot to re-create a floorplan based on the cinematography and montage from the film. The discordance between past and present in the film and the estrangement of the characters is supported by the disunited architecture of the chateau. What would it mean to turn something abstract into something concrete; to reorient the viewer in a place purposefully created to be illogical?

 

Spiral Cinema

2011 – ongoing

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Spiral Cinema is an ongoing curatorial project, co-founded by Sanzgiri and his collaborator Max Guy, that bridges theoretical and academic disciplines through a roaming film series where films are paired with specific architectural spaces that re-define the film and create a new context for viewing. Funded by a grant from the National Endowment of the Arts, the series expanded into publications, lecture and panels bringing artists, professors, theorists and conservators in conversation to discuss topics such as archiving, identity branding, new media and neuroscience in relation to cinema.

 

Open Space Gallery

2009 – ongoing

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Open Space is an artist run gallery, library and performance space. Co-founded by Sanzgiri and eleven other artists in 2009, Open Space’s mission is to promote a vibrant, visible and connected contemporary arts community in Baltimore through producing a consistent curated program of exhibitions and annual festivals while maintaining a wide variety of supplemental events such as lectures, performances, screenings and music shows.

JESSIKA LEOBAULDINE KHAZRIK, LEBANON

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Jessika Leobauldine Khazrik (The Society of False Witnesses) was born in Beirut or Baghdad in 1991 and is currently based in Boston. She studied Theatre and Linguistics at the Lebanese University, and was a participant in 2012-13 in “Home Workspace Program” at Ashkal Alwan. Ranging across several disciplines, media and geographies, her work investigates the correlation between truth and testimony in art, science and the law. Her projects include The Influence of Prostitution on Tourism (2013), Flying City in the Aerial Paths of Communication (2013), My Body If Only I Could See You (2014), and the ongoing Blue Barrel Grove (2014-). She also collaborates with artists and collectives as writer, performer and translator as well as organizes political parties. Her work was performed/exhibited in Aley, Aix-en-Provence, Beirut, Bern, Mannheim, Montemor-o-Novo and New York. See her work below and read her some reviews of her work here and here.

 

Two barrels kissing until their water meet(s)

Sculpture, 2014

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Two oil barrels, seawater, stones from the missing mountain of Chnaniir, industrial salt inserted on intervals with the presence of an audience. This sculpture belongs to a series of performances, installations, texts and interventions, “The Blue Barrel Grove: Republiche Libanes 1987” that queries into the bio- and geo-political economy of bare life and trash through re-investigating a toxic waste trade that took place in 1987 between the Italian Mafia and the Lebanese Forces, one of Lebanon’s leading Civil War militias and current ruling parties.

Flying City in the Aerial Paths of Communication

Sound performance

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This sound performance was part of “X-apartments” a tour of private homes in Beirut’s Armenian quarters. Challenging the power relations that this proposal seems to suggest, I have decided to share with the audience the voyeurism insinuated herein by hacking into one homeowner’s radios and transmitting my voice into his home radios via a radio station I set-up on his balcony. By building this ephemeral pirated radio station, I was mediating on the history of pirated radio in this Armenian quarter and its relationship with an aerially constructed city.

 

The influence of prostitution on tourism

Performance

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The title is borrowed from a masters thesis written by Georgette Karam, my mother in 1979 studying the laws and politics governing sex tourism in Lebanon. Her “memoire” included many interviews with sex workers that she has never conducted, but rather secretly invented. Through projecting images of my mother via an ipad and creating a live montage with zooming in and out function, the performance sexualizes the haptic communication introduced by recent smart devices. The influence of prostitution on tourism is an intimate essay performance on the relationship between postmemory, photography and the conditional tense – a love letter to bodies my mother and I have invented.

 

JOSE A. RIVERA, USA

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Jose A. Rivera (aka Proxemia) is a sound/media artist, and designer. Prior to receiving his BS in Architecture and Environmental Design from Kent State University in 2011, he received NASA’s Intern Team of the Year Award in 2008, held a graphic design residency with Building Bridges Arts Collaborative in 2009, and exhibited architectural work in Florence, Italy, in 2010. Exploring the intersections of aural and spatial experience, his current work is primarily expressed through the disciplines of experimental music, sound design, acoustic ecology, cartography, art, and architecture. Along with numerous sound projects, performances and collaborations, his fluid body of work also includes an open-air performance space for a youth dance and drumming group in rural Ghana. Check out his work below, and find more on his website: http://proxemiasound.net/

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Geo-notational site documentation exploring the acoustic ecology of Brady Lake in Kent, Ohio. The duration of walked route determines length of sound piece. Chance operations produce GPS waypoints that correspond to sound-marks and the length of each field recording. The graphic notation and resultant sonic groupings form a framework for music composition. The aural cartographic process then serves as a basis for a conceptual floating architecture. The spatial conjecture reimagines a historic amusement park that was once located on the lakefront now prone to severe flooding.

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Geo-notational site reading exploring the acoustic ecology of the now abandoned Pier in St. Petersburg, FL. The aural cartographic process provides alternative ways to engage with the environment and extend it to a sound piece.

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In 2013, Jose participated in an 8-week, volunteer, art + architecture residency in Abetenim, Ghana. With a team of seven individuals from around the world, the original plan was to design, construct, and perform in a recording studio with local musicians. Due to a myriad of unforeseen occurrences, Jose found himself to be the only participant, visitor, and fluent English speaker in the village. The two months that followed resulted in being completely immersed in daily life of rural Ghana. In addition to documenting this visceral experience with sound recordings, photos, and a journal, he independently shifted the residency project to the design and construction of an exterior theatre for the youth dance and drumming group. The project was built with local materials and used traditional Ghanaian methods of construction. Today, the space also serves as a meeting area where members of the community can gather to celebrate social events. The entirety of the project was personally funded, including compensation for the laborers who assisted in acquiring materials and with the construction.

 

JOSHUAH JEST, USA

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Joshuah is a designer concerned with bringing digital information out of screens and into the tangible environment by perceptually integrating dynamic media systems into the physical world through architecture and sculpture. His current work synthesizes his architectural background (B.Arch. Rice University, Thomas Phifer and Partners) with his research on media facades and digitally augmented objects (Urbanscreen). Below is a sample of his work. More here: http://jahoosawa.com/

 

Start Dome (2015)

Collaborators: Alex Weinheimer

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Star Dome reimagines the iconic translucent stadium roof of the Houston Astrodome as a mediated surface via projection. The proposal would enable event media within the interior, while also electrifying the exterior image of the stadium into a landmark befitting Energy City.

 

The Colony (2013)

Collaborators: Svenja Keune, Lorenz Potthast

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This sculpture combines a three dimensional textile surface with projected media. The organic appearance is supported by a subtle illuminated animation, which blurs the boundaries between the real and virtual.

 

Promythic

Collaborators: Matt Johnson, Ian “Akash” Morrison

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Championing new territory in electric garment design and production with an interdisciplinary approach that balances technology, aesthetics, and wearability from the ground up.

 

Development of a wearable, visually communicative platform builds towards a future where some of our data exists in the common physical world and not sequestered away into private screens.

 

RAAFAT MAJZOUB, LEBANON

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Raafat Majzoub is an architect, author and artist from Lebanon. His work negotiates the territory of reality through literature, visual arts and public interventions, inventing and advocating accessible utopic alternatives and possible scenarios.

He co-founded The Outpost, a quarterly magazine of possibilities in the Arab world and was its Creative Director for its first four issues. He penned two of its literary supplements, including an illustrated children’s book that was later turned into a play.

During 2014, Majzoub was a weekly columnist in Beirut-based Al-Akhbar newspaper’s English edition. His previous installation, ‘The Wishing Fountain,’ turned money into an accessible public asset on the streets of Beirut, and his latest work, ‘Hello, Can You See Me?’ was a mobile, public and interactive installation giving voice to Beirut’s most enigmatic abandoned buildings.

Through experimenting with such projects, and using them as first drafts for an alternative narrative for the Arab world, Majzoub recently finished writing his first novel, ‘The Perfumed Garden: An autobiography of another Arab World.’ See his work below and head to his website www.raafatmajzoub.com for more.

 

Casting for a novel: The Perfumed Garden

Research/Video series

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This is a still from a casting video from Majzoub’s research video series ‘Casting for a novel: The Perfumed Garden’ in Cairo as a process to cast characters for his novel. With the aim of creating a document representing an edited Arab World, the characters and settings of ‘The Perfumed Garden’ cannot be utterly imagined. Instead, they are harvested through research field trips he conducts to video-cast people and places in different Arab cities. These videos inspire the characters and settings of The Perfumed Garden, as well as provide recorded documents of life in the Arab World today that are not bound by institutional definitions of a documentary. All of this footage is available for viewing online, and is used to elaborate the universe of ‘The Perfumed Garden’ through readings, performances and video art.

 

Hello, Can You See Me?

Interactive urban performance

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“Hello, Can You See Me?” is an interactive urban performance that allows the people of Beirut to access the daily conversations of their city’s abandoned buildings. Just because Beirutis can’t hear them doesn’t mean that the abandoned buildings of Beirut aren’t talking. Like the people of their city, they are chatterboxes. They talk to each other, to their city and to people that – most of the time – don’t listen, and every now and then, with every glimpse of hope that someone on the street may have heard, saw or felt them, they ask “Hello, Can You See Me?” and for the duration of the performance, people could reply via social media, Whatsapp and e-mail grounding the buildings in the present, removing them from their eternal melancholia for one day. The buildings replied by hacking in the LED screen of a vegetable truck that would have otherwise been screening vegetable prices as it wandered in the city.

 

The Wishing Fountain

Interactive public installation

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‘The Wishing Fountain’ is a public art installation in Hamra Street (Beirut) that allows people of the city to share money with each other while raising awareness about the escalating street beggars phenomenon and the increasing privatization and self-centeredness in Beirut today.

The sculpture borrows its form from women street beggars sitting on sidewalks, wishing good fortune for passersby in return for minimal amounts of money, and is intended to create a visible and accessible point in this rapidly privatized Beirut for people to share money for public use.

Beggars, people looking for parking meter coins, night owls looking for change to buy a post-clubbing snack and others can pick up the amount they need whenever they need it. It aims to start an active, local conversation about and between people, each other and their city.

While designed to be perceived as a standalone project, ‘The Wishing Fountain’ is part of the extensive research and writing process leading to ‘The Perfumed Garden’.

 

RAINER AASRAND, ESTONIA

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Rainar Aasrand is a video artist and documentary filmmaker from Tallinn, Estonia. He is working across disciplines studying primarily the field of human condition in the digital age. He has studied documentary film in Baltic Film and Media School and cultural theory in Maastricht University and Estonian Institute of Humanities. Rainar has worked with various theatre and film projects and he is part of the SKATKA art collective that in 2014 held its first solo exhibition in Estonia. Check out a sample of his work below.

State of Cloud in collaboration with Mikk Madisson

Tallinn, Estonia 2014

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With this exhibition the artist collective SKATKA examined how the national identity is shaped using the digital and traditional means. Can the creation of national cloud identity, within the framework of e-government and e-democracy, be the voice of people even if it is simultaneously reinforcing neoliberal economic and political structures of inclusion and exclusion?

 

RON MARTIN, USA

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 Ron Martin was born in San Francisco. He grew up in Mexico City and South New Jersey. He asks, why do people/artists forgo personal health and wellbeing in favor of production? Can we accurately visualize this dynamic and change it? His art also re-imagines large and expensive technologies as small affordable devices to be used by wide audiences. Examples include making a mini-wind generator mounted to a bicycle and an inexpensive 3-D printed ultrasonic wristband to help diagnose osteoporosis. Martin harnesses the energy and data produced by these devices to make informative, critical art installations that manifest hidden ideologies in the global urban context. He studied art at the

Cooper Union and the Staedelschule. He’s shown work, published articles and lectured at the Portikus Galerie in Frankfurt and the 2009 Venice Biennale. Below is some of his work. Follow this link for more: http://ronmartin.strikingly.com/ and make sure to click on the images for a larger view with clearer text.

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YUSEF AUDEH, USA

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Yusef Audeh’s practice focuses on techno-politics and exploring how advanced technological knowledge can be made more accessible to the public. His work has resulted in mixed outcomes: an experiment to re-build an ancient irrigation device with a plumber in Cairo, and the production of a solar-powered incense burner with two mechanic-brothers in Palestine.

Audeh’s research has appeared on the Qatar Foundation’s Stars of Science TV program, and his work has been exhibited at Red Bull Studios, Whitebox Art Center and Townhouse Gallery. He was recently a member of NEW INC, an incubator for art, technology and design at the New Museum.

Learn more about all of our grads!