Brooklyn, NY, May 14, 2020—Eyebeam announced today vital investments in a new, ambitious artist led initiative, “Rapid Response for a Better Digital Future.” The grants include $150,000 from the Henry Luce Foundation and $150,000 from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Eyebeam recently launched an open call to unlock artists’ potential at a moment when their voices are needed more than ever to build a better digital world. A “power station” in New York City known for generating visionary work by artists and technologists together with the community, Eyebeam is now able to increase the number of artists who may participate and can provide an enhanced, robust level of direct support, opportunity, and exposure for more artists to contribute responsive, potentially groundbreaking ideas. The organization also announced that the deadline to apply has been extended to May 30. The chosen artists will be announced in June, and their ideas will be presented in a dynamic convening in New York City in 2021.
The announcement was made as an urgent conversation unfolds around how big data may obscure or misrepresent complex social realities and is intended to create space for imagination of more human technologies.
In a nod to Shoshana Zuboff’s masterwork The Age of Surveillance Capitalism (2019), which examines the new frontier of power that commodifies personal information at the expense of democracy, freedom, and our human future, the call asks, “How do we begin to exit surveillance capitalism as the dominating form of digital life and what can replace it?”
In the first phase, June 22 to September 1, 27 artists will be provided with grants of $5,000, along with expert consultation, skill sharing, group critique, and conversation. In the second phase, September 4 to early 2021, a focused number of those recipients will be awarded up to $25,000 to take their research to action. A diverse jury representing the fields of art and technology will select projects that demonstrate a purposeful relationship to technology, social urgency, and impact. The call aims to support a cohort of diverse artists across race, ethnicity, disability status, gender, immigration status, sexual orientation, age, and geography.
“We want to wedge loose the best ideas of our artist communities that imagine how we can extend the horizon of more humane digital futures,” said Roderick Schrock, executive director and a curator. “Eyebeam is committed to values of openness, invention, and justice, and we will fund radical, visionary projects that can be distributed publicly and be available for anyone to use. We would like to acknowledge the generosity of the Henry Luce Foundation and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and are grateful for their support.”
“This is a time of profound loss, but it must also be one of invention,” said Mariko Silver, President and CEO of the Henry Luce Foundation. “Artists work at the edge of what is possible, what has yet to be imagined, and Eyebeam’s new initiative will cultivate new points of view, new discourse, and new solutions.”
A highly engaged advisory committee
The program arose from conversations with artists and advisors at the outbreak of the global pandemic, and Eyebeam has brought together a committee that is critically engaged with art and technology.
Advisors include Ute Meta Bauer, Founding Director, Centre for Contemporary Art, Singapore; Suhaly Bautista-Carolina, Senior Managing Educator, Audience Development and Engagement at The Metropolitan Museum of Art; Stephanie Dinkins, artist; Brian Droitcour, Associate Editor, Art In America; Kathleen Forde, Senior Curator, PaceX (working name); Jerron Herman, disabled artist; Ladi’Sasha Jones, Artist Engagement Manager, The Laundromat Project; Nora N. Khan, writer; Prem Krishnamurthy, Partner and Director, Wkshps; Joanne McNeil, writer; Luc Meier, Director, La Becque; Hito Steyerl, artist; and Tara Aisha Willis, Associate Curator of Performance & Public Practice, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago.
A public storefront, idea space, and experimental platform that is “constantly becoming,” Eyebeam is distinguished for providing space and support for diverse, justice-driven artists. The organization provided Torkwase Dyson (b. 1973) with the time and freedom to research and create Unkeeping (2016) at Eyebeam, a body of work spanning modular architecture, data visualization, and black spatial matters. More recently, Shannon Finnegan (b. 1989), an artist and 2019 resident who makes work about disability culture and access, was provided with a setting to investigate alt-text as a poetic form. Artists selected to participate in Rapid Response for a Better Digital Future will have the opportunity to interact with Eyebeam’s alumni and its engaged network. Together with the Eyebeam Center for the Future of Journalism, they will form a new cohort of visionary practitioners redefining the roles art plays in society.
The program has also been made possible by generous funding from Jerome Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. Eyebeam is grateful for the long-standing, visionary support of the Atlantic Foundation and New York State Council on the Arts.
Added Schrock: “This is a fast-moving response in a changing landscape. We encourage artists far and wide to provide us their ideas and proposals and stretch what they think is possible, long into the future.”
Eyebeam during Covid-19
For the first time in its history, Eyebeam paused its flagship residency, a prestigious award for artists creating work that engages technology and society, and closed its physical space in order to support New York City’s effort to contain the spread of COVID-19. Eyebeam is actively developing new ways to uplift artists and engage with the public, despite suspending its programming. On Fridays, Eyebeam hosts open hours in order to gather together virtually with its community, friends, and the general public.
Eyebeam provides both space and support for a community of diverse, impact-driven artists. The residency program brings artists’ work to life and into the world by providing access to advanced tools and resources and launching dynamic public events, assisted by an engaged community of former participating artists.
About the Henry Luce Foundation
The Henry Luce Foundation seeks to enrich public discourse by promoting innovative scholarship, cultivating new leaders, and fostering international understanding. The Foundation advances its mission through grantmaking and leadership programs in the fields of Asia, higher education, religion and theology, art, and public policy.
Brent Foster Jones