“These artists will carve out a path towards a more humane vision for the future.”
Amidst a global pandemic and international protests, an ambitious, radical, fast moving initiative to unlock artists’ potential
Projects shine a spotlight on a digital future free of surveillance
Brooklyn, NY, July 15, 2020—Eyebeam, recognized for generating visionary work by artists and technologists together with the community, announced today that 30 artists in nearly a dozen countries and on nearly every continent have been selected as recipients of “Rapid Response for a Better Digital Future,” a new, artist-led initiative to build a better digital world free, as Shoshana Zuboff warns, “of a ubiquitous digital architecture, a ‘big other.’” A diversity of recipients across race, ethnicity, disability status, gender, immigration status, sexual orientation, age, and geography have been awarded with a fast moving, transdisciplinary platform to develop and contribute responsive, potentially groundbreaking ideas in approximately 90 days. By October, a select number will be awarded up to $25,000 to take their research to action. Each of the 30 artists and collectives will receive $5,000, expert consultation, skill sharing, and group critique in a supportive, radical community of like- minded, adventurous, and radical artists, makers, thinkers, and technologists, and their proposals will be presented in a dynamic convening in New York City in 2021. The recipients have been selected by Eyebeam and a distinguished panel based on projects that demonstrate purpose, action, and societal impact.
“Reclaiming virtual space”
The participating international artists are active and engaged in variety of milieu, movements, and contexts and their proposals range in focus from free and widely available artificial intelligence that supports Black health and healing, to addressing the devasting financial consequences of the surveillance of safe and consensual online sex workers during Covid-19.
Dylan Gauthier (b. 1979), for example, is a Brooklyn-based artist and curator who, in the aftermath of personal losses to Covid-19, believes surveillance capitalism “may never fully relinquish its control over us in our lifetimes, but it should be a human right that we be permitted to escape its grasp when we die.” He proposes to explore inverting terms of service agreements and expanding right to be forgotten policies for those of us who do not want our data to outlive us online. Niko Flux (b. 1993) is a New York City artist and works as a dominatrix. In an act of protest against a controversial law that has made the survival of sex workers who want to do their work safely and consensually impossible during Covid-19, with collaborators Sybil Fury (b. 1993), a fantasy born from the imagination of a PhD student, sex worker, curator, and community organizer, and MJ Tom, also known as Empress Wu (b. 1997), an explorer of alternative modes of kinship made possible via digital landscapes, queer sadomasochism, and sex work, they will will create a 24-hour, self-destructing, ‘hub’ for sex workers, artists, clients, and allies that “defiantly reclaims virtual space.” Rashaad Newsome (b. 1979) is a New York City and Oakland, CA-based artist who asserts that social justice within the Black community, which suffers from disproportionate rates of anxiety and depression, exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis and the constant threat of police violence, is incomplete until mental health disparities are addressed. He proposes an expansion of his Being1.0 (2019), a social humanoid artificial intelligence. A therapist, historian, performer, and free app, Being1.5 will respond to the effects of white supremacy, a collective trauma African Americans experience and pass from one individual to another by genetics and reinforced through everyday life. Thomas Tajo (b. 1984), is a blind researcher and disability activist, and president of a newly founded international non-profit organization Vision Inclusive, which seeks to bring people with and without disabilities together to build and promote a culture of openness. Born into an aboriginal/tribal family in Northeast India and today lives and works in Belgium, he proposes to encourage the establishment of more inclusive and multisensory digital dating platforms, particularly for those who are more reliant on the use of non-visual senses, such as blind and partially sighted people and those with varying visual abilities due to age for those who come from oral cultures and people with lower levels of literacy.
A complete list of the artists and jury is available here.
“We are thrilled to announce these daring challengers and transformers, and they will carve out a path towards a more humane vision for the future,” enthused Roddy Schrock, executive director. “The time to hear from artists is now. As the global coronavirus crisis persists, along with protests against deep-seated systemic racism, the deeply knotted relationships between surveillance, capitalism, and horrific acts of violence by police need to be addressed and re-imagined.”
Said Ute Meta Bauer, a member of the Rapid Response advisory committee and founding director, Centre for Contemporary Art, Singapore: “To provide support to far distant and diverse proposals that share critical agency is crucial in this unprecedented time where the shared experience of a global pandemic keeps us physically apart.”
Created out of an overwhelming desire to lift the voices of artists in a time of crisis and systemic collapse, the initiative arose quickly from conversations at the outbreak of the global pandemic, as Eyebeam paused its highly distinguished flagship residency for the first time in its history and closed its physical space in order to support New York City’s effort to contain Covid-19. In April, Schrock announced @eyebeamanyc an open, international call to fund “radical, visionary projects” that can be distributed publicly and be available for anyone to use. By May, a greatly expanded initiative was announced 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, a record. The initiative creates an instant nexus of disciplines, strategies, networks, tools, and relationships to support a highly accelerated period of artistic activity, and together with the Eyebeam Center for the Future of Journalism forms a new cohort of practitioners redefining the roles art plays in society.
Eyebeam and La Becque
Eyebeam and La Becque, headquartered in La Tour-de-Peilz, Switzerland, are like-minded organizations in support of visionary artistic practices who came together this year to bring three talented alumni of their respective organizations into the Rapid Response working group, through the generous support of swissnex Boston / New York. The two organizations share an ethos to use digital tools for the creation and distribution of art and support the production of physically distanced work that questions who controls dialogue and discussion in the 21st century.
Said Luc Meier, director of La Becque, “Both Eyebeam and La Becque trust artists to take technology to task, in particular in its social and ecological resonance. While physical presence accounts for a lot in the residency programs at both institutions, when the current crisis hit it became clear to us and our partners at swissnex Boston/New York that we also needed to actively and sustainably push for alternatives to how art is made and shared when remote/distanced action is the order of the day.”
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.
Brent Jones, (917) 280-6217, [email protected]