The School for Poetic Computation is an artist run school in New York offering two full-time, ten-week sessions per year as well as classes, workshops, and events in the interim. During the ten-week sessions, a small group of students and faculty work closely to explore the intersections of code, design, hardware, and theory, focusing specifically on artistic intervention. In addition to daily classes, there are student-led skill sharing sessions, visiting artist lectures, field trips, weekly family dinners, and more. They emphasize learning and creating with the intention of making SFPC a hybrid environment somewhere between school, artist residency, and research group.
At the end of every ten-week session, the students present their works-in-progress at the Student Showcase, an open studio where they celebrate the journey taken as a community. The Student Showcase is a culmination of what the students have learned over the course of their residency. It is also an opportunity for students and faculty to share new knowledge and experiences with friends, family, SFPC alumni, and any curious members of the public who walks through the doors. In addition to individual student projects, the Fall 2019 Student Showcase featured class projects from Recreating the Past, Code Poetry, and Dark Matters.
The Fall 2019 session teachers were American Artist, Che-Wei Wang, Fernando Ramallo, Lauren Gardner, Melanie Hoff, Taeyoon Choi, Taylor Levy, Todd Anderson, and Zach Lieberman. The teachers were assisted by Alexander Miller, Celine Wong Katzman, Galen Macdonald, Sebastian Morales, Stefan Pelikan, Tiriree Kananuruk, and Tsige Tafesse. Guest lecturers included BUFU, David Reinfurt, Edel Rodriguez, Legacy Russell, and Rashida Richardson. The student showcase was organized by Lauren Gardner with help from Galen Macdonald. Students wrote their artist statements under the guidance of Celine Wong Katzman. Documentation photos were taken by Filip Wolak.
If you are interested in attending, the application for the Spring 2020 ten-week session (March 30 — June 5) is now open. More information can be found here.
Zai Aliyu – Death as a Moment of Radical Continuity
Death as a Moment of Radical Continuity is a counter-narrative that leverages memory as a form of resistance to interrogate the cultural value systems encoded into the objects that we build. The eight-shelled Opele (Yorùbá — Nigeria) is an apparatus for divination through collective memory. It has a binary implementation not unlike the computer byte: a single unit of machine memory that contains 8-bits and can store 256 different values (0-255). While computer memory has a finite capacity through manufactured scarcity, the divination chain has boundless potential. It extends itself from a physical mechanism into a field of ritualized practice that has the ability to be recast to unearth an unlimited number of interpretations depending on the context.
Materials: Cowrie shells, ferrite rings, magnet wire, glass, openFrameworks, arduino, LED strip, Hall Effect sensors
Artist Statement: Zainab Aliyu (b. 1995, Lagos, Nigeria) draws upon her body as a corporeal archive and site of ancestral memory to craft mnemonic counter-narratives. Although one cultural model may dominate society at any given time, there are, and have always been, alternate ways of being. Her practice, which spans installations, virtual environments, archives, writings, and community-participatory (de)programming, seeks to remind us of that. By interrogating the cybernetic and temporal entanglement embedded within societal dynamics, her interventions reveal that not only are all socio-technological systems of hegemony interconnected, but that we are all implicated through time. Tracing the lineage of these mechanisms and their embodied affect is an act of relational map-making; in doing so, she exposes their designed infrastructures and vulnerabilities. It is in these liminal moments of fracture that a portal towards subversion and transformative healing emerges, informing her imagining of contemporary infrastructures of care that catalyze resilience, resistance and radical hope for her communities.
Max Bittker – Anxious Computer
A personal computer occupies itself with repetitive tasks to to pass time and soothe its anxieties.The inner workings of the computer are made audible via a digital stethoscope.
Materials: 2006 iMac, Python, DTrace, ChucK
Artist Statement: I am an artist and educator working with computers, media, and systems. I program toys, tools, and miniature worlds. My goal is to create places for people to express themselves through play.
For me, building is an intimate dialogue where I can structure and express my thoughts. The first step is extending care towards my materials and towards my audience. I am concerned not only with building, but also with maintenance and adaptation as a part of an ongoing conversation with my work. My programs are self-conscious and aware of their limitations.
Computers are only useful and interesting to the extent they can be connected to people and their lives. I see both education and artwork as the processes of forming connections. Teaching is important to my practice because computational tools are inherently communication tools. Sharing knowledge through speaking, writing, and collaboration is a way to form new understandings.
Esther Bouquet – EMHA
EMHA, Extraction and Monetization of Human Assets, is a performance about demystifying the collection of data and questioning the trust we develop towards the websites we visit. What kind of human labor would it be if there was a regulated administration in charge of collecting and selling data? By meeting EMHA’s Administrative Support Specialist, you agree to their Terms of Service.
Materials: 24-year old data specialist, administrative supplies, personal data
Artist Statement: I am an artist whose work exists between two worlds: book making and installations. I question how narratives are being built by creating tangible experiences ranging from the size of a sheet of paper to the volume of a space; somewhere between writing, archiving, drawing, designing, and programming.
My practice addresses surveillance, tracking, and control on the web. These phenomena, designed to abstract themselves, reveal the stakes of networked technologies and their related political issues. I seek to uncover their schemes in order to highlight their dysfunction, both visually and critically, by probing the soil and structural layers of obfuscation.
Gia Castello – Touch me
Touch Me is an interactive installation in search of fearless connection. By experimenting with tiny but intimate moments between two people, the piece invites its users to play, collaborate, touch, listen and connect, breaking the barriers of language.
Materials: Servomotor, switches, LEDs, Arduino.
Artist Statement: Gia Castello is a creative technologist and activist from Ecuador, based in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She explores different mediums and platforms to tell stories through painting, immersive storytelling and interactive installations.
Yuzhu Chai – I(ntelligent) V(erity) A(rtificial) R(arity)?
What is the goal of a chair, if it has the ability to perceive its environment and take actions that maximize its chance of success? What if it tells you that it’s alive and intelligent? Would you take its word for it? Or would you believe it more if its components are hidden like Alexa?
Materials: IKEA IVAR chair, seventy feet black wire, servo motor, mega Arduino, 3 time of flight micro-LIDAR distance sensor, 20X4 LCD screen
Artist Statement: I am interested in the materiality of text. Bilingual in English and Chinese, I often look at languages’ phonetic and visual patterns; each character and symbol becomes the physical building blocks for my piece. In my work, original text is fractured, recombined, and repositioned in virtual space with interactions to create texture, architectural forms, and multiple viewpoints. The meaning and the narrative of the original story is embedded in its changing form. The text is not meant to be read, but instead to be seen and performed.
Revision is embedded in the process of coding, which is at the root of my practice. As a maker, I am interested in the variations and iterations that my work can create when engaged by different bodies and in different physical environments. I use sensors and cameras to connect the physical body with the virtual world. Viewers that interact with my work are performing their own version of the work by fragmenting and reassembling the text with their movement, seeking multiple vantage points to produce alternative narratives, and becoming the writers of the text itself.
Allison Chan – Time Portraitures
Time Portraitures features a pair of slow clocks: one that stops when unveiled, another submerged in oil. Two precarious pulses embody the trauma and erosion of life that emerges from their consumption. Static and silent at first glance, each cadence can only be discerned if you give it time and listen closely—a quiet call for patience and intimacy in order to be known.
Materials: analog clocks, arduino, photoresistor, mineral oil, birch wood, glass, black velvet
Artist Statement: I am an artist based in Oakland, CA. Born in Hawai’i but native to nowhere, my sense of self has always felt obscured by the contours of empire, labor, and diaspora. I’ve become grievously familiar with the technologies they imbue, their urge to swallow contemporary life, and the traumas they leave behind. But even so, I still believe in bending our imagination beyond our horizons.
I see my practice as a way to make my learning public. I aim to foreground words, images, and new media in a deep sensitivity to care—the racialized and feminized work often rendered unskilled and invisible, yet ultimately indispensable to our survival. Few things to me are more urgent, more intimate, and more capacious in their possibilities for community than the practice of care. With this conviction held close, I hope to ask: How do we remember each other? How do we tend to our wounds? How can we unlearn what ruptures us?
Lia Coleman – Held
Held is a deployable space that uses a reactive inflatable to invoke feelings of safety, comfort, and security. The piece invites the participant to “Come in!” and have a seat. They find themselves in a quiet corner— a refuge from the social anxiety and expected networking of a gallery opening. When a participant presses their hand to the window, their touch is sensed. The space responds without hesitation— meeting the participant in a large inflatable hug. Like a mother’s urgent embrace, Held is a space meant to provide immediate comfort, safety, and protection.
Materials: Plastic sheet, Fan, Arduino, Capacitive Sensor, Craft Iron, Headphones, Chocolate.
Artist Statement: I am an artist, computer scientist, and teacher based in Seattle. I began making two-dimensional work using pencil, ink, collage, and digital manipulation. Now I am working on large fabricated play structures, murals, and new media installations. My aesthetic is influenced by my education in computer science and my current research on novel art generation using GANs.
I think about what happens when two things meet. “With whom is my art co-habitating?” I ask, whether I am working on a mural for a living space, or conceiving a tattoo that will sit on a friend’s shoulder. I consider art in conversation with the space in which it lives—its home—and the people with whom it lives—its friends and family.
I aim to give my work an unmistakable backbone and a gentle hand. My work is characterized by clear-cut solid lines, but also pirouettes, and colors that tickle. It reaches out and invites you to play, tap, handle, press, and unfold.
I often give away my art and consider teaching a part of my practice. I value increased access, community ownership, and public art. Educators, community leaders, and parents are my role models.
Katherine Rae Diemert – Light as a Gift
Light as a Gift consists of three pieces, each part of an ongoing exploration using light as a medium. In one, petri dish samples of reflective plastics create organic-looking forms when light hits them. In another, a folded vessel captures light when it’s closed. The central piece is an acrylic box of water with a mirror underneath, reflecting the video projected onto its surface onto the nearby wall. A mechanism slowly dips into the water, creating ripples that distort the reflected image. The videos are of bodies of water I’ve visited at different times and places. In each case, light from the sun bounced off of the surface of the waves and into my phone’s lens, where it was encoded in video. In the gallery setting, a projector now sends that compressed light back onto a fabricated copy of its original source, the surface of the water. Just as the light from the environment was copied and reproduced on the gallery wall, the mood I felt when capturing the footage– one of quiet and contemplation– appears in the recreation, as well. If light is our main source of information about the visual world around us, how does our perception of the world change when light is manipulated?
Materials: water, light, mirror, plastic, paper, video footage, mechanical parts
Artist Statement: Katherine Rae Diemert is an artist based in Toronto, Canada making visual and interactive mixed media work inspired by natural forms and artificial processes. She often begins with drawing or collage, developing her work through a process of translation and iteration in between mediums. Oscillating between digital and physical media leaves trace marks on the work in imperfections, warps, and glitches. Katherine’s interest is in how the process of transformation makes room for modified meaning. She wants to create alternate ways of seeing, and thus understanding, our world.
Danny Garfield – Living My Best Life in Hudson Yards
The story of a fool in a smart city. Living My Best Life in Hudson Yards depicts true events of the artist visiting New York’s newest, most expensive, smartest neighborhood – from the QR code unlocking shower in the mall, to the mediocre view from atop the Vessel. Captured entirely on a cellphone, the film is a project of self-surveillance, a glimpse into our glorious future where no scrap of data is wasted. By reading this description you agree to the posted terms and conditions.
Materials (for installation): cellphone, counter, paper, clay
Artist Statement: Danny Garfield is a filmmaker and media artist whose practice maps the gestation, accumulation and cycling of meaning. His work examines the contexts in which a subject or space becomes blessed, cursed, broken, or redeemed. Garfield employs loops, repeated acts, and multiple cameras so that a static subject may transmute; a narrative strategy modeled after the non-linear consumption of digital media. His past films have focused on people’s communion with digital technology and the psychology sculpted from that relationship.
Mark Anthony Hernandez Motaghy – They Bring the Future of Life
Three videos consisting of smart city initiatives selling and implementing technological systems, heavily branded co-working spaces for the innovators who want fresh juice blends, and DIY community spaces that are built from the bottom-up. Seen together as a whole, through the use of photogrammetry and automated text generators, the scenes might explore how language and imageability can be leveraged as a way of placemaking. The videos have been described as something between dystopian infomercials and a love letter.
Materials: Videos produced with a mix of photogrammetry software, Markov chain text generators, Rhinoceros 3D, Unity, and Premiere Pro
Artist Statement: Mark Anthony Hernandez Motaghy operates between architecture, urbanism, art, and new media. His practice concerns itself with issues around technology, cultural production, and powers embedded in image-making. Under the ethos of “fake it ‘till we die,” Mark runs a collaborative design practice If So Then. The strategy of faking it often takes the form of method acting, using fiction to explore alternative futures in a whimsical and playful manner. He also recently co-launched the monthly event Labor Party, where he is exploring alternative models of spatial production focused on ways of working and playing together. Through this, he hopes to learn together new ideas for collective authorship, forms of interrelated stewardship, and care.
Mathilde Mouw-Rao – Trash Island Real Estate Development-bot
I imagine this machine, “Arthur,” scooping, gathering and processing garbage while floating in the Pacific Trash Vortex, a swirling mass of waste that has floated into the ocean and now has the same area as the state of Texas. The machine’s prospective aim is to build a foundation for a neighborhood of luxury townhouses on top of the floating garbage island. To sign up to reserve your place in the neighborhood visit: cutt.ly/sfpc-tired
Materials: Cardboard, plastic, bamboo skewers, rubber hair bands, bolts, nuts & washers, DC motor
Artist Statement: Mathilde Mouw-Rao is an artist, singer-songwriter, and technologist based in San Francisco. Her work interrogates harm in tech culture, innovation’s relationship to intellectual property, and human relationships to nature. She explores absurdities that are both funny and menacing such as seemingly innocuous parts of tech culture: the lie of meritocracy, the drama of workaholism under the guise of mission-driven business visions, defeatist politics, and men everywhere. She is interested in exposing how they cause harm and would like to envision alternative futures.
Mouw-Rao grounds her artistic practice in collaboration and performance drawing from her musical practice. Her work engages collaboration both conceptually, through its construction, and its function: her works can be performed and invite jamming. She highlights the physical sensation of sound, exploring the idea that sound waves are touch at a distance, compressed air that literally moves and collides with the body. Her works play with quietness, visualize noise, and produce music.
Iain Nash – Data Shift: Sensations
Data Shift: Sensations is a reflection on how data exists and is transferred in systems and devices. Experience computational data through tactile interaction. Load the interface on your device, disconnect from the internet, and plug into the installation. See, feel, and follow your message through the system. See the physical change and space your “virtual” interactions take up in the world.
Materials: apple laptop, 4 channel audio interface, 3.5mm headphone connectors and adapters, receipt printer, plastic tubing, LED matrix display, raspberry pi, LCD display, bass actuator, bass amplifier
Artist Statement: My artistic practice is manifested through technology and education, focusing on the idea of communication as a human experience. I share discoveries and tools with others as a teacher. I started teaching physical computing informally and continue to work with both university and high school students teaching programming. I aim to demystify computers and make them feel less imposing.
My work breaks down preconceptions of communication by creating an intimate and inviting space. By reframing communication as a new experience, I spark conversations about our relationship to computers. I employ custom hardware and software to create real-time, profound experiences between people as well as using digital communication platforms as a framework to examine intimate relationships between people over time.
I wish to build upon these concepts through multidisciplinary collaboration. As communication requires multiple people, collaboration extends and diversifies the experiences and ideas within my work. In order to be transparent, I build clear interfaces and technical documentation, giving participants a sense of ownership of their journey which encourages further curious exploration.
Maxwell Neely-Cohen – Hannah Weiner’s Code Poem “RJ Romeo & Juliet”
In 1968, poet Hannah Weiner collaborated with the Coast Guard to use nautical signal flags, signal lamps, and Morse code to transmit works of found “Code Poems” across Central Park. No known surviving images of these performances currently exist, so on November 25th, 2019, I attempted to make some. Here’s a small sense of what it might have looked and felt like.
Materials: Human bodies, semaphore signal flags, Hannah Weiner’s Code Poems, The International Code of Maritime Signals, video
Artist Statement: I am a novelist based in New York City. I am obsessed with books, as both format for content and art objects in their own right. My non-writing work uses technology and art to explore new forms of performing, collecting, and experiencing literature.
Francisco Rojo – What do you wish you could say?
An experiment in vulnerability. Reality is messy and complicated. We are messy and complicated. What happens when we choose to sit with our immediate experience and devote attention to the reality within and without?
A closet in the exhibit space was appropriated to create a cozy, alternate space that people could hang out in to momentarily escape the exhibition. Participants were let in one a time and were invited to take as much time as they wanted in the room, and to write down a secret on a piece of paper before leaving. By the end of the showcase, the room was full of secrets.
Materials: red light bulb, wood shelving, bean bag, bluetooth portable speakers, Arduino, LEDs, paper
Artist Statement: I am an artist who makes interactive experiences, environments, and narratives that are grounded in my lived experience. My work celebrates the detail and aesthetics of everyday existence by creating spaces to explore and play that enkindle an appreciation for our shared reality.
I recently moved to Brooklyn from Pittsburgh, PA. My training as an electrical and computer engineer has predisposed me to work with technologically complex material. In our current moment, technology has been used to propagate and amplify neoliberal ideals through exponentially increasing levels of abstraction and disassociation. After spending time in institutions that wield the immense power of technology without examining its effects critically, I have become intimate with the individual and societal loneliness and cynicism that this causes.
To combat this trend, my practice values immediate, visceral human experience. In engaging with the complexity and discomfort of my own emotions, I make with technology, not to try to “solve” the harshness of our existence, but to pay closer attention and recognize the beauty in it.
Olivia Ross – Body Resolution
A lip-synced music video cover of Kate Bush’s 1979 video of her hit single Wuthering Heights using openFrameworks and GLSL, performed by me. How can two teenagers, separated by 50 years of sociopolitical context, technological advancement and the Atlantic Ocean, perform tenderness? What is my body’s resolution?
Materials: My body and face, Kate Bush’s voice, Canon DSLR camera, GLSL, openFrameworks and iMovie
Artist Statement: Olivia McKayla Ross is an eighteen-year-old video artist and programmer from Queens, New York. She works with computational video/photography and poetry to probe, evaluate, and indict the politics of the screen, manipulating video and image files programmatically. By choosing to interact with raw data primarily through code, rather than using editing software, Ross directly engages with embodied computation in real time.
Ross hopes to help others explode the conventional dichotomies of user vs. programmer and noise vs. signal, while also building a framework for interrogating the faith economies that underlay electronics and communications technologies. How is faith and trust distributed between users and programmers? How is faith monopolized, accumulated, recycled, exchanged, embodied, assigned, and weaponized between people, systems, ideals, and materials?
Emboldened by her perspective as a so-called digital native, she hopes to encourage her peers to nurture a critical relationship with technology. Ross is inspired by hobbies outside of her visual practice. She performs tarot card readings, reads fan fiction, teaches workshops at POWRPLNT, and supports anti-surveillance work in New York.
Natalie Rothfels – Go on, little one.
It takes three to five generations for Monarch butterflies to complete their annual migration. The process of generational healing is no different for us: we inherit what comes before us and journey towards restoration and completion. Take a paper and share: what migration journey are you on?
Materials: Q-tips, motors, wood, rice paper
Artist Statement: Natalie Rothfels is a leadership coach and social anthropologist whose work focuses on the relationship between often competing forces: the individual and collective, the body and the mind, the internal and external.
Her interest in artistic expression stemmed largely from going to therapy, where she learned how the physical body contains and stores memories, traumas, and narratives that massively influence our behaviors and actions in the world. She views art as a practice of intentional healing and reconnection.
Natalie approaches the nuances of these entangled relationships from a variety of angles: designing social spaces and interactions that help people question and verbalize their stories, using elemental materials like mud and clay to build structures from undefined shapes, developing tools that help people introspect and learn about their value systems, and building large appreciation walls where people can publicly express affection while still giving physical and emotional agency to their recipient.
Though the world is obsessed with fixed principles and binary truths, Natalie prefers getting intimate with nuances and paradoxes. Her dream is to create work that shifts competing forces— and the powerful systems that enforce them—into a realm of more spacious and loving connection.
Shelby Wilson – 1010
1010 is a representation of decimal time. Two incandescent lightbulbs cycle up and down at different rates behind heat-sensitive pigment, leaving temporary trails of white. The objects on the lower altar are a nod to the decimalized French Republican calendar, which designated a name from the rural economy for each day. The SFPC showcase took place on December 1 and 2, or Frimaire 11 and 12 — Wax and Horseradish.
Materials: incandescent lightbulbs, thermochromic pigment, acrylic medium, stepper motors, arduino, candles, horseradish root
Artist Statement: I use code to recreate systems of the past, which I resurrect from historical documents and datasets. My goal is to archive as well as reinterpret methods of computation. I attempt to reveal patterns in the consumption and production of information, and the ways in which we distort data. I examine encoding schemes, such as language and weaving patterns for textiles. These systems of symbols represent and transmit raw data as information, but this transmission is imperfect. The act of encoding inevitably forms a texture of deviations and gaps. I am interested in how personal and communal histories persist and how these meanings can be translated or communicated across generations.
“My favorite thing about the last two weeks has been seeing everyone problem solving and watching their projects change over time. We struggled together and celebrated together.”Yuzhu Chai
“It is a very therapeutic and raffre experience to find a place where you’re able to re-examine your technical knowledge and how it relates to your place in the world and the future you want to make.”Danny Garfield
“The showcase gave us a tremendous amount of freedom to explore, to venture out of comfort zones, to fling ourselves at an idea which moved us even if it didn’t fit in a traditional box. And I loved how we all leaned into that, took that opportunity seriously.”Maxwell Neely-Cohen
“The whole SFPC experience was surreal. It felt unlike anything I’ve ever done. It was a magical space that let me explore concepts that I otherwise would not have had the time to think about. It makes a strong case for a more radically community-oriented model of pedagogy and living life that feels more complete, enriching, sustainable, and ultimately more hopeful.”Francisco Rojo
“Long nights and a lot of work, but I was always doing it with a smile on my face– and 16 other smiles supporting me! Gifts, acts of service, and collaborating and creating together– I am so blessed to have my SFPC classmates as my artistic contemporaries.”Lia Coleman
“After SFPC, I now have a stronger art practice with new technologies and tools to continue experimenting with. I’m a part of a greater community of folks working with art and technology who I can collaborate with, get inspired by, and meet across the world and for years to come.”Mathilde Mouw-Rao