The School for Poetic Computation is an artist run school in New York. We offer 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. We emphasize learning and creating inside as well as outside of the classroom, with the intention to make 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 we celebrate the journey we’ve 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 our doors. In addition to individual student projects, the Spring 2019 Student Showcase featured class projects from Recreating the Past, Scrapism, and Dark Matters.
The Spring 2019 session teachers were Lauren Gardner, Taeyoon Choi, American Artist, CW&T, Sam Lavigne, and Zach Lieberman. They were assisted by TAs Celine Wong Katzman, Nabil Hassein, April Soetarman, Galen Macdonald, Tiri Kananuruk, Sebastian Morales, and Fernando Ramallo. The student showcase was curated by Lauren Gardner with help from Galen Macdonald and April Soetarman. Students wrote their project descriptions and artist statements under the guidance of Taeyoon Choi and Celine Wong Katzman.
Alexander Miller – The Emergence and Decay of Computation
The Emergence and Decay of Computation consists of receipt printers that hang from their own receipts above a basin of water and slowly print themselves to death over the course of three days. The printers output rows of a cellular automaton — a mathematical simulation that generates emergent patterns from simple rules. Entering the water short circuits the printer, permanently killing it. The output of the cellular automaton simulation is directly responsible for the destruction of the device computing the simulation.
Materials: Receipt printers, electronics, raspberry pis, cellular automata
Artist Statement:I am an artist, teacher and programmer living in Seattle, WA. I’m interested in systems that exhibit spontaneous emergence of order and structure (for example: crystal growth, bird flocking, human consciousness). These are local pockets of structure that resist the global tide of entropy, and they inspire my creation of algorithmically simulated models of natural systems. spacefiller.space
Ariel Uzal – por si seguís ahí (in case you’re still there)
Por si seguís ahí is a wearable device intended to find a missing family member. It’s designed around a family portrait with an empty space. The device uses a small camera to search its surroundings for people, isolating any faces that it finds and placing them within the portrait. The found faces are compared to known family members, and the similarity between them is translated into a vibrating heartbeat-like signal that the wearer feels on their chest. The higher the similarity, the faster heartbeat. The piece is intended to be an emotional and speculative piece of hardware, easing the wearer’s work of constantly looking for someone.
Materials: Raspberry Pi, digital camera, e-ink display, acrylic, hope
Artist Statement: I am a media artist artist and teacher from Patagonia, Argentina. Through my work, both as an educator and an artist, I hope to create critical and constructive dialogue with and within my community, to discover my place within it, and to contribute to its care and wellbeing. Alternating between collective and personal perspectives, I reflect on privacy, social justice, death, memory and human relationships, and explore these concerns in my work. I create installations and visual art combining custom software, electronics and audiovisual materials. I’m interested in collaboration, and in the aesthetics of computation and its intersection with analog media. auzal.net
Bomani Oseni McClendon – Informed Consent
Informed Consent is a projection mapping installation placing the viewer into the uncomfortable position of signing a consent form for a clinical trial. The desperate hands – which attempt to break out of the pages of the consent form – represent the suffering of the many people who have been exploited by medical experiments, medical practitioners, and even by the ‘informed consent’ process itself. The piece is complemented by a book called “Black Health”, which contains a collection of references to Black people scraped from WebMD.
Materials: Printed paper consent form, projector, acrylic, MadMapper.
Artist Statement: I am an artist and engineer based in Brooklyn, NY. I am interested in the way that Black health outcomes are influenced by a history of scientific racism. By exploring the shortcomings of scientific practice, I hope to highlight the validity of other ways of knowing. My practice begins with research – engaging spoken knowledge, historical texts, scientific papers, and Black scholarship to orient my work. I create light installations and electro-mechanical sculptures that use scale, diffusion, and interactivity to invoke self-reflection and thoughtful observation. I aspire to make work that honors articulations of pain while simultaneously instilling hope that we have the power and goodness to create a more positive future. Bomani.xyz
Greg Sadetsky – Anticipation
Anticipation is a comedic interactive piece exploring unforeseen uses of the human voice as a musical instrument. As visitors approach the piece, set in a dystopian karaoke environment of badly hung glittery decoration, the artist / MC invites them to sing, whistle or make any sound into a microphone. Many elements seem off: the microphone is disconnected, while a crudely attached webcam whose lens is covered with tape appears to intermittently glow blue. What is going on? The sounds provided by the visitors are transformed into small notes which are embedded into various MIDI jazz song standards, following the musical parts of the piano, bass or drums. The unintended and distorted results tend to approach both limits of the best/worse spectrum of appreciation — the resulting music is both unbearably wrong and unmusical, while being satisfying in its silliness and unnecessary complexity.
Artist Statement: I’m an improviser and jester, interested in naive expressions and perplexing arrangements of algorithms, sound and interactivity. I’m excited about the web as an opportunity to multiply delight, and a medium to subvert institutional constructs and language. My most recent work focuses on procedural videoclips, speech interfaces, and collaborative urban history. greg.technology
Javier de Azkue – The more you connect the less you connect
This piece is about memory’s fragmented nature. Two separated 4:3 monitors on the wall are linked by 5 interchangeable banana plugs. The screen on the left shows raw footage from a VHS family video from 1992, and on one side of the monitor’s frame 5 color sockets stand as sources, where each source is a member of the family in the video. The screen on the right is a mirror of the left screen, where each socket stands as an input for these family members, and each input represents a memory mechanism, or a memory ‘process’. The user is in charge of connecting each member of the family on the left with a different process on the right and creating a collage of modified memories on the right screen, by filtering the content, reordering the frames, and erasing faces in real time. The screen on the left represents the unaltered past, and the screen on the right represents the way we tend to remember things. The more you connect the less you connect is an interactive meditation on childhood and memory mechanisms, distorted by computer vision scripts, colored cables and sorting algorithms.
Materials: 4:3 computer screens, aluminium angles, banana plugs, banana sockets, arduino, wires, macbook pro, custom software
Artist statement: I’m an Argentinian audiovisual artist from Patagonia based in Buenos Aires. I’m inspired by remix culture, particularly in found footage. I make experimental short films that re-contextualize existing media, ranging from archival films to youtube videos to music. I use animation, custom software and 3D modeling to manipulate this footage in order to meditate on decay, time, and life. My fascination with technological obsolescence has led me to work with other mediums as well, like sound, code and electronics. I design installations, video games and interfaces that explore different sets of rules and the possibility of viewer participation, which is unique to these mediums. vimeo.com/javierdeazkue
Joseph Wilk – How to be seen
As a remote student to SFPC, Joseph experiences the people and space of the school through cameras, screens and software. How to be seen attempts to bring the artist into the physical space that he has never physically experienced through an interactive, streamed live coding performance.
The performance consists of a tablet which displays a live stream of the artist. Throughout the exhibition, he writes programming code live to control a second screen — a digitally transformed version of the video stream. The produced graphics use depth and dimension to suggest that the artist’s image is being projected out of the screen and into the gallery space itself.
Initially, viewers of the piece might not understand that the artist is present through the live stream. But this is revealed when viewers pick up the headphones and engage with Joseph directly, interrupting and becoming a part of the performance. Visitors are invited to take “Joseph” in their hands and show him around the gallery, becoming his voice and avatar. Through this interaction, How to be seen explores themes of visibility, control and dependency.
Materials: Webcams, computer, screen, tablet, OBS & OpenFrameworks.
Artist Statement: I am an artist working with programming code, realtime media & audio. In particular, I am interested in live programming as performance art. My experience of disability —living with pain, physical limitations, disillusionment and disconnection— strongly impacts my practice. I deconstruct, misuse and repurpose software to challenge notions of ownership, narrative and visibility. I think of programming as a means of facilitating and augmenting human communication rather than replacing it, facilitating new forms of expression that put humans at the centre of control. repl-electric.com
Juan Miguel Marin – Drawing Under the Influence of SFPC
An absolute orientation sensor turns a marker into a controller. As it grows, the drawing reveals a meditative environmental soundscape in real-time. The sonic palette is a collection of site-specific field-recordings captured around The School for Poetic Computation, throughout the spring session. From rain on the courtyard outside, to motors from hardware class, to the sounds of people typing away on their computers. The performance is an exploration of the relationship between memory, sound, and emotion.
Materials: Acrylic Marker, built-in Absolute Orientation Sensor, Arduino Software, Max 8, and Paper.
Artist Statement: I am an Ecuadorian multi-disciplinary artist based in Brooklyn, NY. I discover the work as I make it. In my pieces, the unconscious plays a crucial role. Like a guide that reveals a road that can only be seen once it has been traveled in its entirety. I believe in the idea of drawing with people, not for people. My work is about trusting the process, about not being in full-control, and through it, I hope to create a space for self-reflection. A space to reconnect with our humanity. juanmarin.me
Luisa Fabrizi – We were given
We were given is a sculptural electronic circuit. The interactive installation is composed of three main parts: a microcontroller (which is the centre and brain of the circuit), a combination of infrared emitter and receiver on one side, and a matrix of UV LEDS controlled by a multiplexer on the other side. When somebody interrupts the communication between the infrared emitter and the receiver, the UV LED matrix shines light on a text written with invisible ink, making it readable. This circuit is the physical manifestation of an emotional and psychological process I recently experienced. It narrates the powerful healing force derived from the severing of deep, yet harmful relationships. In the making of this work I discovered an exciting expressive medium and I plan to make a whole new series of sculptural circuits during the next few months. Project website
Materials: Brass rods, UV LEDs, resistors, SN74HC595N multiplexer, micro-controller, 2,159 bytes of code, infra-red emitter and receiver, invisible ink, paper, mirrors.
Artist Statement: I am a new media artist with a background in Interaction Design and Architecture. I use screens, sensors, skins and faces to understand the relationship between my emotional landscape and the outside world. My choice of media permits me to explore virtually infinite ways to communicate and its novelty opens up the challenge to explore a new system of symbols, grammars and meanings. luisa-fabrizi.com
Mar G. Mcmahon – Homopolar Cicadas
Seven simple homopolar motor bugs—battery, wire, nail, magnet—are singing into three tubes. It’s mating season! A microphone amplifies their horny song for us to hear. The sound of bugs reminds everybody of somewhere.
Materials: 7 homopolar motors attached to 3 polycarbonate tubes
Artist Statement: I am a visual and video artist. I make instructional self-defense videos which cast the viewer as the person whose ass I am kicking, because I think many people miss comical, consensual violence and secretly long for a recess from their own autonomy. I also create weird little creatures in drawing and electrical sculpture. I don’t like complexity so I make creatures who are as simple as possible. My creatures articulate selfhood’s minimum body-based and context-based requirements; these have gone unexamined in service of today’s orthodox—but false—centering of “personal identity” as the foundation of selfhood. I am from Texas and I have a Deluxe Gender. instagram.com/femmewad
Melissa Holmes – I’ll show you when I’m finished
“The pen plotter is creating a drawing today. Let it work in peace. Artists need to focus.” I’ll Show You When I’m Finished is a performance by a computer and a robotic drawing machine. Lines are drawn in real time while the computer randomly executes rules for splitting a page of triangles into smaller and smaller shapes. Thousands of triangles eventually form a unique composition.
Materials: openFrameworks, AxiDraw v3, pens, paper
Artist Statement: I’m a visual artist based in Atlanta, Georgia. I create portraits, both realistic likenesses and more abstract representations, using observation and meticulous craftsmanship. I work in a variety of media including drawing, painting, printmaking, and generative art, and I’m interested in using more computation-based tools to observe and record encounters in digital and physical spaces. meltar.art
Sara Khan – Yee-Haw
What does an electronic painting look like? Electronic hardware is often obscured by sleek aluminum shells, what does it mean to expose the hardware and let it speak for itself? Electronic components are not meant to be looked at, touched, or studied at length. From an engineering perspective, hardware shells protect the circuitry from dust and daily wear and tear. In the context of an electronic painting hanging on a clean gallery wall, a different set of rules apply. This sterile environment gives a platform for exposed hardware, and allows us to indulge our curiosity. Drawing on iconography from the American west, and traditional oil painting, the focal point of this piece is a double exposed image of a bucking bronco. Oscillating blue and red lights trick the eye into perceiving motion in a double exposed image of a bucking bronco. An exposed circuit board reveals the simplicity of the mechanism.
Materials: Acrylic, Plywood, Electronic components.
Artist Statement: I paint with second hand materials and use computers to extend the abilities of my body and mind. I am influenced by my work as a tailor and strive for a high level of craft in everything I make. I consider clothing a powerful tool for making statements both personal and political. The message I received growing up was that to be a woman and to have a body was shameful. Today I make clothing to assert control over my image in public and domestic settings. I am a gleaner in the sense that I use rejected materials. I work with discarded or second hand materials because they each have a unique voice that becomes part of the final piece. I like to combine the histories of used textiles, finding intersections and common threads. I experiment with waste mitigation techniques and technology to maximize material use. The joy of my work comes from transforming a used or tattered material at the end of a journey and sending it on a new one. sarakhan.xyz/
Sheldon Chang – 2^7
A binary counter uses a neural network to learn to count. Blank clay forms represent binary digits, with a raised flag indicating one and lowered indicating zero. The learning is conducted in real time, dramatically stretching out a process that ordinarily takes hours to one that could run for months. This piece is a performance that is meant to interrogate the anxiety and wonder provoked by seeing machines get better at an elemental act of human cognition.
Materials: PyTorch, openFrameworks, Model Magic clay, servo motors, Rockite, Arduino, Macbook Pro, PBS Kids videos
Artist Statement: I’m a product designer and software engineer based in New York City. Most of my professional career was spent shaping the way people capture and disseminate the world through their phones. So much of our technology encapsulates and abstracts for functional and aesthetic reasons. I’m interested in creating software pieces that shed light on the inner workings of so-called black boxes that wield power, because these man-made systems now help mediate almost every aspect of the human experience. instagram.com/sheldoan
Stefan Pelikan – Over
What happens when we send digital information via 50 year old walkie-talkie? The results may surprise you.
Materials: 2x General Electric 3-5954A handheld transceiver, 2x Arduino
Stefanie Schirmer – Reality®
Reality® is an immersive installation for a single person at a time. It creates a space that lets the viewer experience the collective reaction to the 2016 election in the US. It is a meditation on the feelings of anxiety surrounding it. An audio reading of a fictional anti-anxiety medication is accompanied by video composed of photos that I took during the time of the election when people put up post-its with their grievances and fears in New York’s Union Square station. People opened up about their vulnerabilities in this transient emergent space. With this piece, I wish to create a dialogue about these collective feelings.
Materials: Election, Union Square Station, ImageMagick, gif, voice recording
Artist Statement: I’m a German engineer, artist, teacher and community builder based in Berlin who wants to rewire the future. In my work creating both art and communities, I strive for surprise, serendipity and vulnerability. I take a critical stance against surveillance and data retention, although I do not think we can fight technology with technology. Computational models can only connect us to people who are the same as us, and leave power in the hands of the people already in power. That sounds like a boring future to me! I would like to ask the question: How would you like to build your future? linse.me
Vivienne La – 21st Century Ghost
As I broadcast and transmit through different channels online, I contribute to the fabrication of an alien or machinic entity of my lived experiences, materialising and updating within virtual space. In the event of my death, my virtual body becomes “memorialised” by default, prolonging interaction with other users, contributing more data to be analysed to the social network’s profit. This is an altar to offer my virtual body anything it might want in the afterlife. Please place a stick of incense in the corresponding cup to make your offering.
Materials: Cement, incense, rice, arduino, raspberry pi, piezo sensors, tablet
Artist Statement: I am interested in how through our own personal experiences and upbringing, we each cultivate our own perspective and ecosystem of interests. I interrogate this through virtual interactions that I have with myself online, which manifest to and from tangible objects and experiences. My work synthesises handmade and virtual disciplines through ceramic objects, documentation, and a parallel research into digital and social culture. instagram.com/vivienne.la
Yehwan Song – Anti User-friendly
The concept of ‘user friendliness’ focuses on ease of use above all else. It asks as little of the user as possible. In order to achieve this, most websites use standardized design and interface conventions that don’t require the user to learn how to use a new interface — instead, users repeat the behavior they’ve been trained to do. This automatic repetition of action causes people to lose their content awareness. In Anti User-friendly, I construct hard-to-use devices and interfaces in order to challenge the notion of user friendliness and bring back content awareness. The piece creates a situation in which users need to explore and learn before they can use the interfaces. Through this process, users are given an opportunity to become conscious again — in a way, a form of self care.
Materials: Desktop, iPhone, website
Artist Statement: I grew up in South Korea. My interest is not in chasing the latest and fastest technologies. Rather, I’m interested in scavenging technologies, creating new assemblage from them. Through my practice I attempt to place constraints on devices and interfaces. I consider the technology as a tool that people should learn and understand so they can control their own direction and risk. I seek diversity. I seek to regain a more meaningful connection between form and content. I believe form should primarily reflect its content, and by doing so it creates its own natural shapes and regains its ability to invite mindful interaction. Yhsong.com
“One of the most rewarding things for me was to be able to see each person’s work develop over time into a project that was so distinctly theirs. The ten weeks ended up being a really rigorous creative journey and research period that led me to make a project that I felt very strongly about and can interrogate further in the future.” – Vivienne
“The week leading up to the showcase was incredibly intense. Long days, some late nights, but more importantly, and immense amount of camaraderie and support from everyone involved in the spring cohort.To see the space transform into a gallery was powerful.” – Juan
“The emotionally deep, irreverently funny, and affectingly beautiful work my classmates produced in this context will serve as continuing inspiration as I engage the internet in my own creative practice.” – Stefan
“In my past work, I’ve approached things from the “bottom up”: finding a cool technical trick, and then building an installation up from that. For my showcase piece, I knew I had to take a different “top down” approach: start with a concept, and then let the implementation flow from that. I wanted to create a piece that represented the inevitable decay of computation. After brainstorming with students and teachers, I eventually landed on a piece that communicates some of that idea. I found changing my artistic process to be very rewarding and think of my showcase piece as the foundation for my future work!” – Alexander
“I had the opportunity to talk about the concept behind my piece with a variety of attendees. These conversations allowed me to practice communicating my work and also led to helpful discussions and feedback.” – Bomani
SFPC Fall 2019 Open Call is live now. Find out more at https://sfpc.io/fall2019
Celine Wong Katzman is a Singaporean-American writer, curator, and educator based in New York. Her research is concerned with time-based media, performance, and other forms critically engaged with new technologies. Celine is committed to supporting historically overlooked practitioners in these areas. Currently, she works as a teaching assistant at the School for Poetic Computation and is completing a year-long curatorial fellowship at the Queens Museum.
Taeyoon Choi is an artist, writer and organizer. He’s a co-founder of School for Poetic Computation in New York City. In 2019, Taeyoon is working on Distributed Web of Care with a critical perspective towards technology, ethics, justice and sensitivity to the concept of personhood.
All photos by FIlip Wolak