The ACT Studio Course, co-taught by Judith Barry, Nida Sinnokrot, and Catarina Burin, 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 2021

Chucho (Jesús) Ocampo Aguilar
Po-Hao Chi
Faruk Sabanovic
Aarti Sunder
Emma (Yimeng) Zhu


Chucho (Jesús) Ocampo Aguilar (SMACT ’21)

Interfaz 001

Current geopolitical control systems are challenging the elemental conception of movement as freedom; our bodies are subject to examinations, background checks, and ethnic categorizations. Passports are issued, stamped, and marked in order to grant access to spaces delineated by nation state laws. What is at stake is not only a sense of freedom but citizens’ rights to the city; even when one decides to move from one nation to another, or to put it in other terms, from one system to another.

Walking, in this sense, is an essential expression for the exercise of citizenship; dependent on nationality, passport, or permit; going through is a crucial part of every city and its public life.

Delineation of private property and state owned land create invisible boundaries that constrain the agency of citizens; the whole city is read as a negative space where people feel restricted and trapped. Interfaz 001 is the first of a series of interface machines that aim to reproduce and reveal civic agency.

Interfaz 001 is a duplicator that works as a communication device in the public realm. Because of its scale, Interfaz 001 must reclaim public space in order to be activated. By doing so, the vehicle acts as an interface between our bodies and the city.


Po-Hao Chi (SMACT ’21)


RECEITER(s) imagines a machine version of recitation practice. It is a system that consists of mobile devices, voice assistant, and Web application. It generates and reconstructs sentences from Web-related texts, searching trends and netizen comments. The connected devices repeat all the words afterward with built-in voice assistants. The viewer’s mobile device can join the recitation practice by opening a webpage. Making connections between the functionality and performativity of networked entities provides clues to the promise, circumstance, success, and failures, and the adaptive capacity of the Internet.

Cisco company had introduced a commercial series “Empowering the Internet Generation” with images of conventional transportation and multiracial students prancing around to ask the viewer: “Are you ready?” in 2000, prompting the Internet desirable before the dot-com bubble burst. Today, we have numerous accents designed to represent races and citizenships in the voice assistant. These synthesized voices were byproducts when the Web expanded the territory.

They embed in our lives and move from the new to the habitual at the edge of obsolescence. Our machines intend to become more like us, and vice versa. But what do we miss in this constant push to the future?


Faruk Šabanovic (SMACT ’21)

Breath Fiction

A story of a city losing breath.

Faruk Šabanovic is an artist, animator, and filmmaker from Bosnia Herzegovina who combines generative art, software development, traditional and computer animation with live-action film, installation, and theatre. His work embodies a rare combination of technical proficiency and artistic vision that made him a valuable member in many international productions.

Aarti Sunder (SMACT ’21)

We Owe Each Other Everything

(a-mai-thi) in Tamil means calm or peaceful or silent. It pushes us to work harder, better, faster. It also helps us cope with the obsession to be functional. Being functional is the response of a system straining to work amicably over and over again, while the excessive noise of fatigue, anxiety and neurosis is laid to rest until its next uncontainable outburst in the form of protest, collapse, a tear, or fatality depending on the capacity to keep adjusting. If capacity to adjust is finite, how can this excess noise help us, the neurotics? This work is an attempt to craft a counterneurosis, using the very material of the excess. The work draws from a chance encounter with anxiety ridden fish and conversations with people I met who work in Dubai. Dubai is a prototype for a self-fulfilling prophecy, where an exploding sun prompts more working hours, where suspended exhaustion ensures repetitive inertia, where the fatigued are already artificial.


Emma (Yimeng) Zhu (SMACT ’21)

‘De-optimizing’ Body in Space

Do you ever feel lost in space? One moment you are here, and the next moment you realize you are suddenly somewhere else? What happened in between these points of moment? Is the body still there in the space? Are we still aware of the presence of the body? If the body is not there, is it still meaningful to talk about space?

These questions perplex me.

The body is so ‘flimsy and light’ that it needs constant anchoring and accentuation to be ‘here’. And I want to explore extreme scenarios in which the body is always present. To achieve this, the body needs to be de-optimized, unlearned, and obstructed. Once the body is anchored, then space emerges.

Through these garment-scale interventions, I attempt to trigger deoptimization at maximum proximity to the body, while introducing unfamiliar mobility and vision impaired situations. The question here is whether this attempt effectively brings the awareness of the body back into the space?