A.R.T.C.O.M.

Artists in Residence at Technology Companies of Massachusetts

HISTORY OF ART AND TECHNOLOGY RESIDENCIES

There is a wonderful forty-year history of artist-in-residence programs organized within American companies. In the 1960s, Bell Laboratories started an informal artist-in-residence program that evolved into the greatest art/technology programs in the country; Experiments in Art and Technology, (E.A.T.) Creativity and innovation are often as rewarding for the technologists as they are for the artists. For the history of artists residencies read "Artist In Residence Programs", an informative essay by Boston Cyberarts Director George Fifield.

BOSTON CYBERARTS’ A.R.T.C.O.M. RESIDENCIES

Funded by a generous grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Boston Cyberarts “Artist in Residence at Technology Companies of Massachusetts" (A.R.T.C.O.M.) program matches new media artists with high technology companies for mutually beneficial exchange of technical and creative resources. Artists are given access to companies’ cutting edge technology, technical assistance from researchers and technologists, and a venue for collaboration and dialog. During the residency period, artists and company employees are encouraged to discuss their ideas, investigate new ways of seeing and thinking about the art and technology, and possibly explore new contexts for applying these ideas. The anticipated outcome is interesting art; scientific innovations may follow.

Depending on the needs of the artists and the companies, results from the residency are exhibited in corporate and public venues. Work from the 2004 residency will be exhibited at the DeCordova Museum and Sculpture Park in March 2005 in conjunction with the Cyberarts Festival.

PAST A.R.T.C.O.M. PROJECTS

In the summer of 2004 Boston Cyberarts, Inc. launched its innovative corporate artist-in-residence program placing new media artists Carrie Bodle and John Klima with partners IBM’s Collaborative User Experience (CUE) Laboratories and Plum Voice Portals. The two pilot projects were tailored to meet the needs of the companies as well as the needs of the artists. While IBM was interested in finding an artist whose process was purposely open-ended and exploratory, Plum was attracted to the prospect of working with an artist on a more defined project that would fit the company’s human and technological resources.

Carrie and John were selected from a pool of 25 applicants who submitted proposals seeking admission to the program. The artists were selected by a jury that included Mr. Fifield and Mr. Roh; Helen Thorington of Turbulence.org; Bill Seaman, Head of the Digital Media Graduate Program at Rhode Island School of Design; and Martin Wattenberg of IBM.

The IBM Residency

IBM - The Collaborative User Experience (CUE) laboratory at IBM Research in Cambridge is part of the IBM Watson Research Center. The CUE Research group conducts Computer-Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW) research with emphasis on the interaction between people and computer systems in support of collaboration. The CUE team uses a variety of techniques in their research, including research studies, surveys, ethnographic explorations, strategic design, prototype development, and pilot development. As IBM’s artist in residence, Carrie Bodle had access to computer equipment, development tools and large-screen plasma displays, and worked alongside some of the world's leading experts in collaborative technologies.
www.research.ibm.com/cambridge

Carrie Bodle - Carrie Bodle is an artist who works in the realm of installation art, focusing on creating environments that, in comparison to the more traditional art media, allow for the audience to be immersed into the piece as it utilizes stimulation of all the senses - visual, audio, tactile. Viewers become participants as they become involved and interact with the art piece. Her work has been exhibited in numerous places, most recently in conjunction with the Visual Arts Program at MIT. In addition to her work as an artist, she has held positions in information technology and worked in sales for Apple Computer. She holds a BFA in art and technology from The Ohio State University and is working towards a Masters of Science at MIT. She currently resides in Cambridge, MA.

The Project – Carrie Bodle spent about three months working at IBM’s CUE laboratories. Rather than reacting to physical environments, as she has done in previous work, Bodle moved her work to the virtual realm during her residency at IBM. Working with CUE researchers, she became fascinated with the group’s experiments with “wikis”- online web pages that can be continuously updated at any time by any user with access to the Internet. Bodle became intrigued with the idea of multiple users interfacing with the same page simultaneously, and decided to create a system of sonic representations of activity on the wiki sites that would give web visitors aural cues as to the evolution of the site in real time.

Because Bodle’s proposal consisted of an open-ended investigation of the laboratories’ technology, she spent the first month attending reading groups and meetings, brainstorming with employees, and gathering data on the group’s latest projects to find a fit. Bodle’s process, particularly her visual and aural representation of the group’s interactive technology, provided IBM’s researchers fodder for lively discussions. Bodle’s presence gave them the opportunity to stretch their perception of the technical work that they do. Martin Wattenberg, a researcher at IBM and a renowned new media artist in his own right, notes the value of bringing artists into the corporate realm: “You can go your whole career working on something and only thinking about it in a certain way. Artists have the ability and talent to blow that wide open.” That is exactly the sort of perspective that can lead to creative solutions that can profit both technologists and artists alike.
Click here to view Carrie's weblog.

The Plum Residency

Plum Voice Portals - Plum Voice Portals - Plum Voice Portals is a small, dynamic software company that provides platforms, solutions, and consulting services for interactive voice telephony systems. The Plum Voice VoiceXML Platform server allows rapid development of interactive systems that easily integrate with database and network resources and can take advantage of state of the art speech technologies including automatic speech recognition and text to speech synthesis. Developing voice applications using Plum Voice systems is similar to building dynamic web pages. Many of the same tools and technologies can be used to deploy both.

As Plum’s artist in residence, John Klima had access to development and production servers, hosted at a state of the art managed data center. Network and telecommunications capacity (internet and phone lines) were available for development and for "exhibit" of the final pieces. He had access to a variety of development tools. Limited audio recording facilities were available. The artist worked alongside an application development engineer who assisted in setting up the initial systems and provided technical assistance. He also worked alongside core platform engineers and other application engineers.

Before and after each in-house residency period, the artist had continued access to Plum servers and staff. The company has a strong culture of online collaboration, facilitated by instant messaging, intranet, phone, and email, which allowed the artist to work with them from his home in New York City.
www.plumvoiceportals.com

John Klima - John Klima’s work occupies new territory in media art, drawing upon gaming and the various possibilities of manipulating and transliterating data. By employing a variety of technologies to produce both hardware and software, John's work consistently connects the virtual to the real, addressing issues of remote responsibility, and blurring the distinctions between the simulated and the concrete. He has exhibited extensively, including a solo show at Postmasters Gallery in New York, and was included in BitStreams at the Whitney Museum of American Art, the 2002 Whitney Biennial Net Art Selection, and the Media Z Lounge at the New Museum of Contemporary Art. He has also exhibited in Switzerland, Japan, and at numerous international festivals. He currently lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.

The Project - The Project - For the past two years, Klima has been working on Train, an interactive piece that allows viewers to use their cellular phones to control an HO scale model railroad and the virtual characters riding them. Gaining access to Plum’s cutting edge telephony technology, Klima was able to reshape the back end of his project to allow him to greatly simplify the operation of the piece, and at the same time to expand the number of people interacting with it from two to about 50.

For a small company like Plum, the opportunity to have John in the office offered employees the opportunity to think about how the technology they work with on a daily basis can function in a new context. Plum’s interaction with Klima was both fun and fruitful. According to Klima, brainstorming sessions were less aesthetic in nature and more about the possibilities of the technology at hand. “It’s not so helpful for someone to say ‘why don’t you make this blue?’ but if they say, ‘well, I could make this piece of technology do this,’ then it gives me something to work with. Then I’d ask ‘well can it do this?’ and the answer was either ‘yes’ or ‘no’ or ‘sort of.’ [The latter] was always the most interesting answer because then I could rethink a particular aspect of the project in terms of the technology available and how to stretch it to fit what I needed.” Now that the technical side of the project has been worked out, Klima can truly begin to explore the artistic possibilities of the technology.
Click here to view John's weblog.

BECOME AN A.R.T.C.O.M. HOST

There are many benefits to hosting an artist in your company. Boston Cyberarts’ A.R.T.C.O.M. residency program can:

  • Provide employees with a challenging and fun opportunity to view their work through a creative lens.
  • Affiliate your brand with a well-respected and innovative program.
  • Reach new markets through this rare and exciting public relations opportunity.
  • Develop new applications or processes. (For the history of artists residencies read "Artist In Residence Programs", an informative essay by George Fifield.)

Boston Cyberarts offers a full range of administrative support for the residency, making it simple and enjoyable to host artists. Representatives from partner corporations join contemporary art curators and new media artists on a panel to select artists from an open call to artists. The panel matches each company’s specific needs and resources to specific artists and ensures that the quality of work is high. Staff members of Boston Cyberarts then work to coordinate all related administrative matters including orientation, travel, stipends, lectures, public relations, and exhibitions.

Companies that are interested in participating in future A.R.T.C.O.M. residencies should contact
Boston Cyberarts at
info@bostoncyberarts.org.

BECOME AN A.R.T.C.O.M. ARTIST IN RESIDENCE

A.R.T.C.O.M. residencies offer artists a wealth of opportunity to artists who integrate high technology into their work. The residencies provide:

  • Incredible access to a high tech company’s cutting edge technology and research.
  • Regular interaction and in-person technical support from expert engineers and researchers.
  • Opportunities for dialog, brainstorming, and collaboration with host company’s employees.
  • Administrative support from Boston Cyberarts staff.
  • Exhibition opportunities.

Artists who are interested in participating in future A.R.T.C.O.M. residencies should contact
Boston Cyberarts at
info@bostoncyberarts.org.