Spring 2019 ACT Studio Finals | Class of 2019

Erin Genia, Spring 2019 Studio Final, 2019. Performance. Photo: Chelsea Polk
ACT at MIT

The ACT Studio Course, co-taught by Judith Barry and Nida Sinnokrot, opens the possibility of examininwhat can be meant by the terms art, culture, and technology by considering what an art-culture-technology nexus can generate—imaginatively, historically, and in relation to the present—via examining forms, production, placement, and diffusion/distribution, in an effort to analyze these interrelationships and to experiment with what can be generated. Throughout the course, students probed the contemporary conditions of artists and cultural practitioners who position themselves as thinkers and as ethical beings.

ACT Studio is a meeting place allowing the sharing and presentation of ideas and projects that are being developed. This engaged study includes a variety of readings; exploring questions of theory and criticism; and examining works and practices. Students considered methods of investigation, display, and documentation, as well as explored modes and challenges of communication across disciplines. Students developed projects in which they organized research methods and goals, engaged in production, cultivated a context for their practice, and explored how to compellingly communicate, display, and document their work. Regular presentation and peer-critique sessions, as well as reviews involving ACT faculty and fellows and external guest reviewers, provided students with ample feedback as their projects developed.

ACT Class of 2019

Erin Genia
Zach Jama
Rikas Xiaoyan Shen
Ringo Runzhou Ye
Gary Zhexi Zhang

Erin Genia (SMACT ’19)
Erin Genia (Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate) is a multidisciplinary artist whose practice follows various strands: merging cultural imperatives, pure expression, and exploration of materiality. She responds to past, present, and future matters. Erin pursues work that creates a powerful presence of Indigeneity, with a goal of fostering evolution of thought and practice in societal instruments that are aligned with the cycles of the natural world and the potential of humanity. As an artist, she can contribute to this process through the act of creative inquiry and expression, based upon Dakota ways. Learning to apply and pass along Wodakota, as well as Dakota language, stories, and other cultural elements is central to her work. She is also interested in addressing questions that test the boundaries of what art is, from her perspective as an Indigenous person. Erin seeks to connect the transformational possibilities of art and the creative process to community-based work, and as a student and practitioner of Wodakota, she is led by yuhapi c’ante waste – with a good heart.

Zacharia Jama (SMACT ’19)
Xasuuqii means Massacre is a film reconstructed in fragments. The film is a current work-in-progress about mass graves in Northern Somalia (Somaliland), the search for unanswerable questions, and navigating the trauma involved in the cinematic process.

During the ACT studio course, Zach experimented with a more temporally-fragmented editing style. The resulting cuts aim to create a more appropriate experience that resembles the filmmaker’s reality, his confrontations with past ancestral trauma, and the struggle to contextualize what still does not make sense to the artist.

Rikas Xiaoyan Shen (SMACT ’19)
People spend almost one-third of their lives sleeping, and 15% – 20% of the sleeping time dreaming. Dreaming has always been a fascinating topic for both artists and scientists for centuries, yet it is still a mystery of human cognition. Psychologists have come up with multiple theories of dreams without a concrete agreement, as Sigmund Freud described: “the theory of dreams has remained what is most characteristic and peculiar about the young science, something to which there is no counterpart in the rest of our knowledge, a stretch of new country, which has been reclaimed from popular beliefs and mysticism.” Dream is a source of inspiration, a flee from rationale, and a place for exploring desire and spirit. Vanishing Dream is displaying a set of sculptures that collectively evoke the experience of the artist’s dreams, an abstracted representation of the artist’s inside world. The sculptures were made with polypropylene, polyurethane, and clear acrylics placed in a glass container filled with a mixture of methyl salicylate and ethanol. The solution mixture has the same refractive index (RI) as clear acrylics, so the acrylics will become invisible in the solution. The other solid materials are visible, but they are slowly, continuously decomposed by the solution. Thus, the project is dynamic. It keeps decomposing, it is vanishing, like most of our dreams when we awaken.

Ringo Runzhou Ye (SMACT ’19)
Behind the Screen is an AR artwork developed from a tiny Gallium Nitride semicon-ductor material through “beautiful mistakes and glitches.” An accidental, imperfect scientific experiment created this particular semiconductor material and the glitch caused its unclean, but aesthetic, surface image. I translated these images into 3D objects and created more “glitches,” which led to an AR glitch artwork.With the microscope, we are able to transcend the limits of natural perception and see infor-mation previously invisible to the naked eye. This information is hidden behind yet another screen – augmented reality. Ringo used the AR interface to create an exhibition based on a virtual and digital world. He aims to showcase a generation of artwork and make the act of viewing art a game of learning and exploration.

Gary Zhexi Zhang (SMACT ’19)
When Edwin Ross Papin was born in 1933 in Seattle, Washington, his father, Roscoe, was 38 and his mother, Ida, was 25. He married Mary D Hopkins on August 14, 1964. He had one sister.

Papin studied English, then physics at the University of Washington, finding the physics department too limiting. In the works presented here, Papin develops his Unified Theory of Nature, a mixture of science, poetry, and biology — the influences of Einstein and Wilhelm Reich are apparent. Throughout the years 1962-1963, Papin sought out Norbert Wiener, mathematician and founder of Cybernetics, believing him to be the only person who could understand his theories. He hoped that Wiener would acknowledge them as a branch of cybernetics and to bring him to MIT. Wiener died in 1964; it is not clear if Wiener ever returned the correspondence. Papin died in 2001, in Marysville, WA. This monument marks his endeavor.