Patty Harris’ Maya-rendered landscapes literally flow through the dream-nightmare realm, situating familiar architectural renderings in surreal, flooding landscapes. Her Modern Disasters series places famous examples of modern architecture, such as Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater, in the midst of fictitious natural disasters that question the untouchable status of cultural icons.
Maura Jasper also calls upon icons of the cultural familiar – in this case, the technological paraphernalia of weather reports and daily news broadcasts – but situates her videos in the context of anecdote and family. These uproariously funny investigations feature her mother, a self-professed technophobe, using various technologies to deliver her own annotated daily weather report.
Inspired by her mother’s frequent voicemail weather updates, the ongoing video collaboration In Like a Lion explores the intersections and foibles of observation, documentation, and technology. Jasper turned her mother’s kitchen into an ad-hoc television studio for a month, asking her to document evidence of seasonal change through photographs and video of her day-to-day experiences. Her mother displays selected material, keyed to a picture board for the viewer, as she tells stories to accompany the weather reports. These daily observations reveal intimate and humorous personal narratives coloring the sometimes troubling (and often dry) data produced by weather tracking.
In Like A Lion: Summer 2012, 2014, Maura Jasper, digital video, © Maura Jasper. (Used with permission.)
Humor can be effective in interrogating our relationship with technology, but it can also encourage discourse about deeply uncomfortable subjects. Jim Jeffers’ interactive performances reference the fundamental societal changes in security procedures that have taken place since the events of September 11, 2001.
…And Awe (Superhero Intercourse), 2007, Jim Jeffers with Adam Norton & Julia Pelosi, performance, University of Massachusetts Lowell, © Jim Jeffers. (Used with permission.)
His 2006 performance Salutation Increasing Collective Kindness (Superhero Intercourse) (or S.I.C.K.) invited participants to get frisked and have an item from their person “tagged and bagged” in exchange. Another iteration, his 2007 …And Awe (Superhero Intercourse), asked frisked participants to submit to having a Polaroid photograph taken of their open mouth, which was then sealed in a bag as payment for their interaction. Strategic Admission Procedure (Superhero Intercourse), (or STR.A.P) (2008), extended this performance to unsuspecting faculty, staff, and administration at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell. With the help of a trained crew, Jeffers invited everyone entering a university security symposium to have their bags inspected; some were additionally ‘tagged’ with a silver helium balloon tied to their wrists.
Frisk, Hug or Abstain, 2013, Jim Jeffers with Dioni Cruz, Brittany Ghaderi, Nick Poles, Madison Schneider, Esteban Servin, and Brianna Stowe, performance, the College of the Holy Cross, © Jim Jeffers. (Used with permission.)
His latest iteration, Frisk, Hug or Abstain (2013), evolved into a portable, spontaneous performance where participants are asked, “Frisk, Hug, or Abstain?” Depending on their response they are frisked, hugged, or left alone, and given a card referencing their choice.
Cards distributed for Frisk, Hug, and Abstain, 2013, Jim Jeffers, digital image offset print, © Jim Jeffers. (Used with permission.)
Jessye McDowell’s photo-realistic prints also use humor, but in the context of the sublime. The series Make it Real (2014) derives its title from the 1987 pop ballad by The Jets, fitting the synthetic, pop-inspired landscapes McDowell constructs with the open-source 3D modeling program Blender 3D.
The Sugar Camp, 2014, Jessye McDowell, digital print of 3D modeled image and collage, © Jessye McDowell. (Used with permission.)
These scenes combine natural landforms and climates with synthetic textures commenting upon the notion of the romantic sublime and its relationship to landscape. Scenes such as The Sugar Camp (2014) and Twist Tree (2014) question what constitutes ‘nature.’ McDowell explains, “There is a nostalgia for an idealized, simpler, more real way of life we imagine we’ve left behind, and a distrust of the technology we see as to pushing that life ever further out of reach. This conflicting set of impulses results in what I see as simultaneous pleasure in the excesses of today, longing for an intangible authenticity of yesterday, and hope for a future perfected by technology.”
Twist Tree, 2014, Jessye McDowell, digital print of 3D modeled image, © Jessye McDowell. (Used with permission.)
Jaimes Mayhew engages in performative radical discourse by queering landscapes. His work attempts to deconstruct the habit of assigning identities to both bodies and landscapes, while also imagining ways to create space, both literally and metaphorically, for queer bodies.
The Autonomous Energy Mobile Research Lab (Iceland), 2012, Jaimes Mayhew, mobile sculpture, © Jaimes Mayhew, photo by Jessica Harvey. (Used with permission.)
The Autonomous Energy Research Lab (2012) began while on a Fulbright grant in Iceland, where Mayhew researched the country’s production of hydroelectric and geothermal power. Mayhew built a mobile research lab to generate electricity using a bicycle, thereby engaging visitors in conversation about electricity usage.
Post Landscape: Hoover Dam #3, 2014, Jaimes Mayhew and The Autonomous Energy Research Lab, digital C-Print, © Jaimes Mayhew. (Used with permission.)
The series Post-Landscapes (2014) extends these projects, through research on assigning identity, investigating how queer theorists describe identity assignment for human bodies in regards to gender, use-value, and production. These images describe what it means to be differently-bodied, or as Mayhew describes, “stitched together in a way that suits progress, taking territory anywhere it’s possible to take it, without regard to reality.”
Samesies Island, 2014, Cartographer: Jaimes Mayhew, Surveyors: Bones, Mickey Dehn, Asa Keiswetter and Jack Pinder, colored pencil, marker, and pen on paper, © Jaimes Mayhew. (Used with permission.)
Samesies Island (2014) exists as a collaborative map of an imaginary place, where transmen who date other transmen live in a separatist community, enjoying access to amenities that are so often denied them. He explains, “While none of us have any intention of building this community, we designed this map as an exercise to re-imagine a world built for us, by us.”
Cluster of Filing Cabinets, 2015, Ellen Mueller, 3D printed in matte bronze steel, © Ellen Mueller. (Used with permission.)
Ellen Mueller’s Synergism series (2015) demonstrates how subversive, radical discourse can take the form of small-scale interventions. The series consists of 3D modeled bronze-steel sculptures, ranging from three to eight inches, of office paraphernalia installed in a variety of institutional spaces, including office buildings, city halls, DMVs, post offices, and schools.
Cluster of Clipboards, 2015, Ellen Mueller, 3D printed in matte bronze steel, © Ellen Mueller. (Used with permission.)
Though Synergism takes its inspiration from street art, it disrupts institutional architecture through corporate camouflage; by mimicking the bronze, classical sculptures often gracing entrances and lobbies, while drastically reducing their scale, these absurd interventions signify larger issues of the effects of workplace monetization, namely the objectification of individuals.
METRO Re/De-construction, 2013, Chris Coleman, HD animation, © Chris Coleman. (Used with permission.)
Chris Coleman’s experiments with 3D scanning constitute another kind of intervention, but his visualizations fracture the concepts of time and space as captured by scanning technologies. Using a portable 3D scanning device and laptop, he visualizes journeys as static models interrogating our concepts of time, perspective, and perception in turn.
METRO Re/De-construction, 2013, Chris Coleman, HD animation and VR experience, © Chris Coleman. (Used with permission.)
Originally commissioned as a ‘subHD’ animation for a large digital billboard in downtown Denver, METRO Re/De-construction (2013) documents Coleman’s commute on the Denver Light Rail: as he traverses train cars and urban pathways, his scanner logs data to generate the geometric abstractions he can later visualize. The kinds of abstraction thus generated are defined both by the nature of the scanning device, but also the artist’s route, speed, and his physical jostling of the device. In this way, each journey renders an entirely different virtual immersive environment, unique in its rendering of the symbiotic technological and biological experience.
Encounter(s), 2007, Bonnie Mitchell & Elainie Lillios, immersive installation, © Bonnie Mitchell, Elainie Lillios. (Used with permission.)
Bonny Mitchell and collaborator Elainie Lillios also experiment with immersive environments, having collaborated in developing interactive immersive installation art and visual music animations since 2000. Exploring the intersections of perception, experience, audio spatialization, and particle systems, the duo use time-based media to induce alternating states of tension and release to provoke an emotive response. The interactive immersion environment Encounter(s) (2007) promotes introspection, tranquility and transformation through confrontation. Once participants enter the installation, an ethereal animated figure approaches and asks an introspective question. After providing a moment for contemplation, it retreats and transforms into a tree-like form, representing self-actualization and growth.
Emergent Submergence, 2015, Bonnie Mitchell & Elainie Lillios, immersive installation, © Bonnie Mitchell, Elainie Lillios. (Used with permission.)
Their most recent installation, Emergent Submergence (2015), immerses the participant in the particle world, meditating on climate change and water shortage. Mitchell explains, “This piece provokes a sense of connectedness to water, the unifying element essential to life. Water is sacred to many indigenous peoples including the Maori of New Zealand. Their saying for who are you, Ko wai au literally means ‘of whose water are you from?’ As humans, we are made up of water and depend on it for life, yet we take it for granted.”
Installation view and screenshots of Evacuate Istanbul!, 2009, Atif Akin, public screen-based installation, © Atif Akin. (Used with permission.)
Atif Akin approaches art as an act of research, design, production and presentation.
His work engages social-political issues, traversing artistic genres in order to effectively visualize the interplay between natural and man-made catastrophes.
Mutant Space: Horizontal Section, 2015, Atif Akin, digital image, © Atif Akin. (Used with permission.)
Evacuate Istanbul! (2009) resulted from a collaborative project between Akin, Gokce Taskan, Ali M. Demirel for the Marmara Pera Screen, Yama, Istanbul. The real-time data, complying with conventional data aesthetics of urban visualizations, is parsed from Kandilli Observatory and Earthquake Research Institute web site, translated for a low-resolution, 240 x 180 pixel display. As Istanbul sits near the North Anatolian fault line, the nearby collision of the African and Eurasian tectonic plates has disrupted the city with deadly earthquakes throughout its history. Akin compares this collision with the social, cultural and political tug-of-war that has likewise wracked the region of Turkey: “This dead-locked stalemate inevitably reminds us of the dichotomies experienced by the Turkish Republic . . . the prospective earthquake is an earthly activity which can be coped with in human terms like all the others, rather than being a natural disaster.”
Mutant Space, Metsamor, 2014, Atif Akin, digital image, © Atif Akin. (Used with permission.)
Mutant Space, with both online and installation components, contemplates nuclear power and the ravages of radioactivity. The visualizations and ongoing research consist of surveys around nuclear sites and the effects of radioactive mobility. Akin explores the idea of nuclear material as a ‘hyperobject,’ an object that, while massively distributed in time and space, is nevertheless largely invisible.
UW Whitewater Motion Capture Studio, 2014, © A. Bill Miller. (Used with permission.)
A. Bill Miller, described his experiences developing a motion capture (MOCAP) studio with The Department of Art and Design and the Media Arts and Game Development program at the University of Wisconsin, Whitewater. Because the studio system requires no special setup or skillset, all students can participate as both actors and technicians. Miller thus describes UW Whitewater’s MOCAP studio as predominantly pedagogical while also experimental, encouraging creative motion capture in art, design, theater, and game development by both faculty and students.
Omniopticon (screenshot, work-in-progress), 2015, A. Bill Miller, custom software with motion capture data, © A. Bill Miller. (Used with permission.)
Miller is currently experimenting with animated videos mapping MOCAP data onto non-figurative elements. In Omniopticon, Miller attaches 3D typographic characters to random parts of the MOCAP skeleton, allowing the type to operate like puppets. However, because of the smoothness of the MOCAP data, the type takes on more human-like attributes in the smoothness of its actions and gestures.
The Rake’s Progress, 2012, Peter DiPietro, HD projection set design for University of Cincinnati production, © Peter DiPietro. (Used with permission.)
Peter DiPietro’s set design for Igor Stravinsky’s 1951 opera The Rake’s Progress also emphasized the importance of integrating new media with the performing arts. This University of Cincinnati production re-interpreted the opera as taking place in 1974 New York City, taking on the psychedelic aesthetics popularized by artists such as Andy Warhol and Peter Max. The addition of quickly morphing video projections of high-definition landscapes not only created a dynamic backdrop to the musical performances, but also described urbanity in the midst of ecstatic, as well as destructive, metamorphosis.
The Rake’s Progress, 2012, Peter DiPietro, HD projection set design for University of Cincinnati production, © Peter DiPietro. (Used with permission.)
The Rake’s Progress, 2012, Peter DiPietro, production documentation of HD projection set design for University of Cincinnati production, © Peter DiPietro. (Used with permission.)
- “Marcel Duchamp, The Large Glass (The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even), La mariée mise à nu par ses célibataires, meme), 1915-1923,” Philadelphia Museum of Art, accessed May 28, 2015,
- Dieter Daniels, “Duchamp: Interface: Turing,” in MediaArtHistories, ed. Oliver Grau (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2007).
Tiffany Funk (Ph.D. ABD) is an artist and art historian living in Chicago, Illinois. She develops work that explores technological intervention in biology though traditional and digital practices, alternately taking the form of critical and conceptual writing, drawing, software, video, and installation. Funk’s current work explores our present and historical relationship with software in order to make visible the disruptions and distortions inherent in our technologically-mediated ‘human’ interactions and critically analyze our preconceived notions of autonomy. She received her MFA in 2012 from the University of Illinois at Chicago in New Media Arts, and she has shown in galleries and media festivals in the U.S. and abroad. Currently she is researching and writing her dissertation focusing on John Cage and Lejaren Hiller’s HPSCHD (1967-1969) and its legacy in generative software art.