Ford Foundation invests in effort to unlock artists’ potential
“Incubating creative solutions to a world torn asunder by digital surveillance, racial violence and a pandemic.”
—Zachary Small, The New York Times
Brooklyn, NY, October 10, 2020—Eyebeam, a “power station” known for generating visionary work by artists and technologists together with the community, today announced eight artists selected for the final phase of its ambitious initiative to build a better digital world, “Rapid Response for a Better Digital Future.” The artists and collectives include Juan Pablo García Sossa, Rashaad Newsome, Xin Xin, and the collective projects Solar Protocol (Tega Brain, Alex Nathanson, Benedetta Piantella), Veil Machine (Sybil Fury, Niko Flux, MJ Tom), Apian (Aladin Borioli, Ellen Lapper, Harry Bloch, Joris Landman), Volumetric Performance Toolbox (Valencia James with Thomas Wester, Ben Purdy, Thomas Newlands, Sorob Louie), and Dillon Sung in collaboration with Stop LAPD Spying Coalition. In July, Eyebeam awarded 30 artists hailing from nearly every continent with fellowships and grants of $5,000; now, second phase artists will receive an additional $25,000 to take their proposals to action. Roddy Schrock, Eyebeam’s executive director, made the announcement alongside Tara Aisha Willis, Associate Curator in Performance and Public Practice at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, prior to a special convening of social and civic leaders on the potential of artistic innovation in this moment with cultural, civic, and technology leaders Lisa Kim, Gallery Director, Ford Foundation; Dr. Mariko Silver, President and CEO of the Henry Luce Foundation; Ekene Ijeoma, artist and Founder/Director of Poetic Justice at MIT Media Lab; and Elissa Blount Moorhead, Eyebeam Resident Artist ‘20. The announcement is the capstone of a dynamic, public weeklong showcase of all 30 artists, “What Comes Next: Artist Interventions in Technology” and is available to the public at rapidresponse.eyebeam.org.
Eyebeam also announced today Ford Foundation has invested $150,000 in the initiative, allowing Eyebeam to provide an exceptionally high level of support to Rapid Response artists they endeavor to serve the common good during a time of systemic collapse.
“Artists are transformers and our vision of Rapid Response for A Better Digital Future is an accelerated arena of fresh and radical ideas within a supportive community of adventurous artists, thinkers, and technologists,” said Schrock. “We are now in our second and final phase in which the fellows are supported at an even higher level financially and with world-class expert advice and consultation in order to make their projects available to the public.”
Eyebeam believes artists must be central in the invention and design of our shared future. As such, and created out of an overwhelming desire to lift the voices of artists in a time of crisis and systemic collapse, Rapid Response for a Better Digital Future arose quickly from conversations at the outbreak of the global pandemic, as Eyebeam paused its highly distinguished flagship residency. Following an open call in April to fund “radical, visionary projects” that can be distributed publicly for anyone to use, Eyebeam in May announced a totally expanded initiative as a result of transformational gifts made by the Henry Luce Foundation and Andrew W. Mellon Foundation totaling $300,000 and more than 700 artists submitted proposals. The 30 recipients selected by Eyebeam and a distinguished panel based on projects were chosen based on a demonstrated purpose, action, and societal impact.
“The digital as the real”
The selected artists work across a range of disciplines and contexts, from acknowledging the interdependence between natural artificial and human intelligence and asking what can we learn from overlooked and exoticized regions in a post-COVID-19 world, to Black health and healing, to a museum for safe, consensual sex workers who are constant targets of pervasive surveillance and deplatforming.
Valencia James (b. 1987) and Volumetric Performance Toolbox are reimagining the use of computer vision and machine learning, technologies traditionally used for mass surveillance, and applying them to dance. In the pandemic crisis faced by thousands of theater and dance companies worldwide and the creation of new work hindered, she is realizing a hardware kit that will allow any artist to conduct a live performance from a living space without expensive equipment. Juan Pablo García Sossa (b. 1991) is a Colombian designer, researcher, and new media artist based in Berlin interested in what we can learn from the Tropikós post-COVID-19, and what he muses, is “tropical hacking,” or the “delightful, unexpected ways of reappropriating technology and turning things around” in tropical areas. His Futura Trōpica proposes a low-cost, decentralized network of exchange among territories in the tropical belt, such as Bogotá, Kinshasa, and Bengaluru via an online/off-line platform for sharing local resources. Dillon Sung (b. 1988) is a Los Angeles artist, political organizer, and a collaborator with the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition, which is concerned with the repression and criminalization of Black, Brown, and poor communities. She is in the final stage of realizing an archive of documents and video footage collected and demanded over the years from governmental agencies to be made free and available to the public.
A descriptive summary of the eight artists and collectives is available here.
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.