2015 Summer Stipend finalists announced

Below are the application submissions from our finalists, currently being reviewed by our Summer Stipend Panelists:

Sasha de Koninck

Project: Garments for Uncomfortable Social Situations

Goal: My work is a presentation of a multisensory experience, through the research and development of smart textile material for the body that is intimate, sensitive and loud. Clothing reveals the details and the subtleties of our personalities and life that can’t always be explained in words. As material, the textile in a garment is something that is the closest thing to our skin, our shield, and security.

Smart textiles have introduced me to responsive materials that express a change of state and talk back. Smart textiles allow me to use touch as a way to activate the artwork. It invites you to participate, touch and react to its response.

I have spent the past year developing pressure-sensitive material knit with a waffle structure and a conductive yarn. This simplifies construction and the sensors can be seamlessly integrated into the cloth. This textile is being used in a series I call, Garments for Uncomfortable Social Situations. When I am uncomfortable, I play with my clothes. The textile will generate sound in response to the manipulation of the garments.

My focus into the field of wearable technology has led me to create my own conductive fabrics and textile sensors. The Garments for Uncomfortable Social Situations will be the first project in a series expanding upon the idea of what it means to be uncomfortable and the role our clothing plays in that situation. In my previous work I have turned the body into an instrument where I invited interaction and participation. Now I want to explore the other side of that — unwanted interaction.

Needs: To finish the project, I need to raise the funds needed to pay for production. Production will be taking place in September at the TextielLab in Tilburg, the Netherlands. The TextielLab is an outsourcing facility for artist and designer led projects. It is attached/affiliated with the TextielMuseum. I am one of a few artists from the United States who has had their project accepted for production at their facilities. For eight days of development and production I need to raise $3,063.00. My goal is to raise half the amount through various grants and the other half in crowdfunding, that way it is a more attainable goal.

Timeline: I intend to finish the project by late fall, which will be shown at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Before September, I need to make final modifications to the garment patterns, and decide on the technology I will be using — specifically, what type of micro-controller and circuit. Production will happen in September, from the 8th-18th. After production, I will be deep into coding and finalizing the sonic response of the garments.

Description: The Garments for Uncomfortable Social Situations is a series of knitwear designed to be manipulated when the wearer is anxious. Knitwear allows for seamless integration of the sensor and seamless transition from conductive yarn to regular yarn. The way a knit is constructed — by building the shape of the garment while simultaneously constructing the textile- – allows the conductive yarn to be kept as a continuous filament within each pattern piece.

The waffle knit structure builds a three-dimensional textile that responds as a pressure sensor. A pressure sensor is a layer of resistive material between two pieces of conductive material. When pressed, the amount of resistance changes. The three-dimensional waffle structure changes resistance when squeezed or pressed. Another activation of the pressure sensor is our skin’s conductivity. When we are uncomfortable, we sweat, and the amount of sweat present in the skin affects its conductivity. Not only is the textile a pressure sensor, but it can also harness galvanic skin response, like a lie detector, and use that as an activator.

When the waffle knit pressure sensor is activated, it will have a sonic response. The sound will be generated by the action. So when uncomfortable, and manipulating the clothing, the wearer becomes a composer. The garment is the cello and uncomfortableness is the bow.

Each garment is designed with a specific action in mind. The different actions focus on different parts of the body — face, arms, chest, waist and hips. The specifics of the action are built in to the shape of the garment. A drawstring tightens a section to reveal or conceal. Too long sleeves need to be pulled up and up and re-adjusted. Seams twist endlessly around the body creating a whirlpool. The shape of each garment corresponds with different degrees of uncomfortableness.

Kathleen Green

Project: Kaleidoscape Pt 1: KaleidoDome

Goal: We’re building the KaleidoDome because we really like math and eye candy. We are currently slated to bring the dome to World Maker Faire in NY this September, where we will give demonstrations on the physics behind kaleidoscopes, and give kids the opportunity to build their own kaleidoscopes.

Needs: We are short about $1,300 of the $8,000 project. The dome is built, materials are being ordered to start construction of the scopes, but our shortfall covers the remainder of the scope materials, lighting, and transportation expenses.

Timeline: We expect to complete construction of the scopes by the beginning of September, and the exterior skin by mid-September. Once the remainder of the materials is ordered, scope construction will begin, and then we will start programming the interior lights and lens displays.

Description: The KaleidoDome is a series of large kaleidoscopes in a semi-spherical array, mounted on the frame of a geodesic dome. In the quiet, mirror-faceted interior, participants sit beneath the scopes and see a mandala-like image. It will use a variety of distorted and surreal visual imagery to reflect the shifts in a viewer’s perception of their environment.

The exterior of the KaleidoDome will be an area that encourages play and experimentation that affects the participants within. The mirror features around the dome will distort the audience’s perspective of the area around them, creating the opportunity to view it’s color and motion from an altered perspective. The scopes mounted on the dome at arm’s reach will have an assortment of lenses and wheels that alter the image being seen inside. And the display end and skin on the container scope will be an eye-catching representation of the ideas displayed inside.

The interior of the KaleidoDome is a reflective skin, with the display ends of twenty kaleidoscopes facing into the dome. The five scopes at the top have fixed ends, some of which incorporate programmed LED displays. The fifteen scopes surrounding will have ends that are controlled by participants outside. The piece encourages the audience to participate in each other’s experience. Shared views and pieces that have both viewers and controllers will have the audience collaborating in the creation of experiences and sharing them with each other.

One of the core goals of the KaleidoDome is to create a sandbox environment that involves the audience as a group. While some scopes will have predetermined curated visual effects, many of the scopes allow the audience to manipulate the visuals. Also, some of the scope and mirror features will interact with the surrounding event by incorporating the surrounding area and landmarks into the scope’s view.

Cornelia McPherson

Project: Dulcinea’s Fall Album debut

Cornelia McPherson

Goal: In 2013 after being awarded a travel/study grant by the Jerome Foundation to study Hip-Hop and Techno Music composition; I was able to spend most of the year studying and working on new music. I honed my craft of music composition, worked with amazing musicians and came away with some great musical sketches, ideas, and recordings. However, immediately after my studies ended, I delved into another research venture and never completed my music project.

I was really interested in finding out about other women Hip-Hop composers; how many were out there; and why they weren’t more visible. After doing a lot of digging I found that there were more women composers than I originally assumed. This led me to create the Women Beatmakers Conference (WBC) with a group of other women I met through internet searches and networking events. Over the past two years we have been working diligently to make the WBC come to fruition and this October 2015 the WBC will finally happen.

Although I am immensely excited about the Conference I am very disappointed that I have never finished my music project from 2013 which was originally intended to be an Extended Play album (EP) comprised of five tracks. It is my dream to be able to present my new music and live show at the Women Beatmakers Conference this October.

Needs: Recording sessions $0 + Mastering $1,000 + Rehearsals ($15/hour x 18) $270 = $1,270

Timeline: All in all, I need to get all five tracks completed with at least four weeks of recording sessions at a studio: re-recording tracks which are still in the “sketch” phase, recording background vocals on the tracks which are in their final draft stage, and lastly sending them off to be professionally mastered. Mastering can take anywhere from one week to four weeks depending on how detailed and meticulous I’d like to get on highlighting and accentuating each sound. In addition, the live show that compliments that album needs to be conceptualized, choreographed, and rehearsed. Typically it takes about three weeks for my dancers and me to refine and perfect our stage shows. I estimate the entire project taking eight to ten weeks to complete.

Description: My Fall EP’s title has not been decided on yet, but it will be comprised of five tracks: Work, Watch What You Say, Before I Do, I’m About and Creep.

This project is full of my most creative work to date. It also showcases the skills I was able to develop while studying in and exploring my hometown, Detroit. Furthermore, it was created during some very rough transitions in my life — leaving my job of five years and then losing my father to lung cancer. The work created on this EP touches on and examines my work relationships, specifically with my former bosses. It discusses perseverance and adversity, while also highlighting my ability to create fun/feel good dance tracks.

Austin Mitchell

Project: Profiles:NYC

Austin MItchell

Goal: Profiles:NYC is a collection of short audio portraits of everyday New Yorkers. I want to initiate and record conversations with strangers across the city, edit these exchanges into minute-long non-narrated audio pieces, and release the resulting profiles through a podcast and on specific social media outlets.

The goal of the project is to capture and share the feelings and stories of “regular” people who are often ignored. The guy sweeping up garbage from tourists in Herald Square; the elderly woman who sits on the same bench every day in Prospect Park; the bodega owner who is watching his Brooklyn neighborhood rapidly gentrify. It’s these people — not celebrities, politicians, or the uber-wealthy — who, to me, truly define New York. I want to give a literal voice to this abundance of overlooked humanity.

Needs: The framework for Profiles:NYC is already in place. I’ve been running an interview-based podcast (http://brokenle.gs) for the past two years so I have all the equipment and production skills needed to create and distribute the content. I’ve gone out and recorded three interviews and have begun testing prototype profiles with a lovely volunteer group of about twenty podcast fans. The core components of the project (format, content, and distribution methods) are defined, but what I desperately need is an appropriate logo and brand identity. Profiles:NYC cannot launch without these specific design elements:

1. A logo for the podcast, which will also be used as a profile picture for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and SoundCloud
2. A banner image for Facebook, Twitter, and SoundCloud
3. A graphic identity for the website (font, color, and image coordination)

I’ve reached out to several graphic designers and all cost estimates have been close to (if not more than) $1,000 for this work. The Macktez stipend would be an immense help in funding this final and essential step.

Timeline: The launch date for Profiles:NYC is September 14th, 2015, approximately seven weeks away from the date of this application submission. Before the launch I must complete these steps:

1. Stockpile content

Profiles:NYC is deliberately designed to publish a high frequency of short profiles (please refer to the final question on this application for more details about my publishing structure) so I want to devote six weeks to recording and editing interviews before the launch. Having a cache of completed profiles will be crucial in feeling comfortable going forward with my intended release schedule.

I’ll be devoting twelve hours a week to recording interviews and twelve hours a week to editing. From my experience so far, it takes me about two hours to edit each profile, which translates to at least five completed profiles each week and at least thirty completed profiles by September 7th, 2015.

I’m setting this content deadline a week before the actual launch to account for possible lags in productivity.

2. Design the website

I have experience with web design and will devote six hours a week for the next five weeks to develop the Profiles:NYC website (http://profiles.nyc). The site will be simple, polished, and built around a basic blog format.

The website completion deadline is five weeks away on August 31st, 2015, allowing two weeks before the project launch to test and debug.

3. Integrate graphic design

This is the singular part of the development process that I can’t carry out myself, and for which the Macktez stipend would be used.

The graphic design work needs to be completed in tandem with the website by August 31st, 2015.

Description: How often do you talk with strangers?

In New York, we’re all so conditioned to live with our heads down, our headphones in, our phones up. It’s presumed that everyone wants to be left alone. We might glance or nod or smile at someone in passing, but rarely do we instigate honest interactions with a person we don’t know.

This accepted isolation ends up perpetuating an attitude of exclusivity in our lives; we assume a contradiction between our own selves and those “others” who may look differently, speak differently, act differently. I want Profiles:NYC to break down this assumption. I want the project to celebrate the diversity of people in this city while fostering a true sense of connection between us all.

I realize that this romantic notion of connectivity is not new, that journalists and artists have for a long time been delving into the lives of others and creating important work around the we-are-different-but-also-the-same motif. But what makes Profiles:NYC unique is that instead of digging deeply into any single life it instead seeks to gather thin slices of many lives. Like a street photographer using still images, Profiles:NYC uses audio to reflect the collection of tiny interactions that combine to define our physical experience in this city.

Format and Distribution:

Profiles:NYC will publish five one-minute profiles per week – one each weekday morning – through the iTunes podcast app, on the Profiles:NYC website, and on social media. Each profile will be constructed using non-narrated editing methods; we will only hear the subject’s voice.

Social media will be the driving force behind building an audience. The short profile form is useful in that a minute is long enough to absorb the truth of a subject, but brief enough to allow for easy social sharing. Unfortunately for me, the big social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram) have embraced and encouraged video content over audio content. After some experimentation I’ve decided to overlay each audio profile onto a Ken Burns-style (slow zoom) image of the subject, transforming each piece into a video that, somewhat remarkably, elevates the audio. The eye contact between audience and subject generates an unmistakably personal and powerful connection. Please see a test profile I created for an example of this: https://youtu.be/Fr4a5fes9scM.

The Future:

I believe that Profiles:NYC has the potential to inspire, delight, and connect a large number of people all over the world. If the project is embraced, I intend to incorporate as a nonprofit and pursue the proper funding that would allow the organization to expand to other cities. Profiles:LA. Profiles:CHI. Profiles:LND. Profiles:PARIS. There’s really no limit to its reach, and though I’m aware that the focus needs to be solely on Profiles:NYC right now, I regard the concept behind the project as universal.

Sarah Outhwaite

Project: The Rendezvous: A mobile surface for memory exchange

Goal: The Rendezvous is a performance of recorded media, an installation which uses audio and video to capture the action of speaking about those we’ve lost to death. It focuses on the experience of its speakers – the experiences of the living. Personal narratives are shared, captured, and visually abstracted by performers (acting as avatars for memory). They are finally projected on life-sized surfaces of translucent Plexiglas, surrounded by a randomized and evolving landscape of audio narratives. As a mobile media installation, we hope to bring this recorded performance to gallery and community spaces in summer 2016.

I was inspired to create this piece when I began noticing that our culture provided few spaces for sharing loss beyond an intimate circle, after the closure of funeral rituals. I was looking for narratives to help me understand a personal loss of my own. As I reached out to more and more people about their experiences, I continually heard the following apology: “I hope I’m not burdening you with this.”

Taking on the personal stories of others can indeed be a burden, yet I believe there is great benefit to hearing and collecting narratives of loss. Rather than burdening, it may support the listener. We have all experienced loss; if we have not experienced it already, then we are in preparation. How do we engage with the intimate details of loss – not only the grief and the absence, but also the day-to-day, the complicated, the unexpected, the human?

In June I began working with a group of five performing artists to develop a collaborative structure for The Rendezvous. We decided to document narratives, and then embody elements of the captured stories using our performance backgrounds. This serves several roles. It provides a layer of privacy for speakers; it highlights the performer as a conduit for shared human experience; it emphasizes the transfer of story and emotion from one body to another. By presenting narratives in this aesthetic frame, we hope to give audiences many points for personal emotional access.

Needs: To date, we have recorded three narratives, produced two batches of test footage, and begun publicity outreach to a wider participant base. We are preparing to explore relationships with community centers that encourage storytelling, as well as institutions that provide spaces to discuss death. I am applying for Macktez funding to complete the shot production setup that will launch us with full creative work this fall. This setup is estimated to cost about $1,000.

The setup will be used to create a connecting shot linking different story segments in The Rendezvous. It uses the same Plexiglas surface on which footage will eventually be projected. We are seeking to mount a Plexiglas sheet in a sturdy frame to create this shot in different locations. In addition to stabilizing the glass, we are purchasing a flexible dolly rigging to bring our camera in a smooth curve. The shot will translate from facing the glass head-on, viewing blurred forms, to moving ninety degrees and confronting the glass from its side. At this point performers are visible in their unique environment, unobstructed by blur. This provides a connection point from world to world, and plays with the tangible qualities of the final installation.

We need build two types of frames for our surface. One frame type is standing – providing a base and side supports strong enough to stabilize as participants press against the surface. The second type is hanging – using a similar framing to suspend and weight the surface. In my studio we’ve had success with hanging surfaces and curved surfaces mounted between tension poles, however to explore more varied outdoor and personal environments we’ll need additional materials that can be adjusted on the go.

An estimated budget for the completion of production setup includes $100 for additional Plexi materials, $300 for flexible camera dolly rigging, $300 for additional framing materials (experimenting with wood, metal, prefab, etc.) and $300 for labor.

Additional expenses to-date have included initial surface fabrication ($200), high strength fishing line for hangs ($100) and the payment of performing artists.

Payment of performing artists is an ongoing expense, at $10/hr for creative sessions. I have the privilege of working with extremely talented professional artists, and plan to continue payment while continuing to seek fundraising support and further grant opportunities this fall.

Other future expenses will largely be based on the transportation of materials, performers, and equipment to different shoot locations.

Timeline: Our end-of-summer goal is completion the physical Plexiglas surface for both standing and hanging framing in a variety of environments.

Once the surface is prepared, it will travel through the months of September and October to capture participants at different shooting locations.

In November, we will present an early rendition of the installed and edited media work at an invited fundraising event.

Based on feedback and support gained in fall 2015, we will resume the creative process in January 2016, with continued capture and experimentation through the spring and a more ambitious production process.

Our goal is to install the work in its final form in summer 2016, and to bring it to different spaces and communities from that point forward.

Description: We were inspired to name this piece The Rendezvous while thinking of a specific, pre-determined space for meeting; a return, a render.

Monuments, memory walls, and memorials are designed as silent spaces where individuals congregate to reflect on solitary memories. The Rendezvous endeavors to be a living surface, subject to audience contribution even in its final format. While visual content will be composed and fixed in an hour-long loop, the piece’s audio element remains fluid – layering the audio of many personal narratives in random patterns over visuals developed for specific stories. In the interface between these isolated yet connected stories, we hope the audience will discover space for their own experiences. If audience members are inspired to participate in the piece, the collection of audio narratives will be ongoing and continually refreshed.

I’ve been asked why this piece focus exclusively on our memories of loss to death, rather than other types of loss. It’s an attempt to reference how the finality of death brings finality to a certain layer of memory. By focusing on death, we isolate subjects who have passed completely into memory, who (in this version of reality) exist purely through the stories that we keep and share of them. By continuing to share these stories and even to create new images, new experiences with them, we develop new memories of our dead, and extend our own lives by re-activating theirs.

We sometimes describe The Rendezvous as a “performance of recorded media” rather than an installation due to the ambiguities afforded by media capture. Are we seeing subject or object, living or virtual presence? These ambiguities reflect complexities of speaking about our dead, and have determined the aesthetic base for the experience.

The translucent Plexiglas interface also offers ambiguities. We see a flat, thin object hanging from invisible wire, bleeding through with projected light from back projection. We can walk around these hanging sheets and admire their flat, insubstantial qualities. Yet we can also stand inches away from what appears to be a life-sized living body, shot through the exact substance that is physically before us.

So much of this project will be determined by people that we’ve yet to speak with, places we’ve yet to visit, and stories that we’ve yet to hear. It’s inspiring to sit with participants in the studio, experience their stories, and hear their feedback on our process. We seem to be creating something that people are looking for, and I’m excited to move our process to new locations in the coming months.

Freya Powell

Project: Active Turn

Freya Powell

Goal: I am building a zoetrope, an interactive sculpture, which will offer the Socrates Sculpture Park visitor an intimate moment of illusion and escape.

Needs: The production of the sculpture is underway and now I am focusing on the photographic imagery that will be inside the drum of the zoetrope. I need to buy, shoot and print film of the site, test materials on which the photographs are printed, and create a proof by August 31st.

Timeline: I have from now until August 31st to test materials and build the sculpture. The installation at Socrates Sculpture Park is from September 1st -20th, and the exhibition runs from September 27th – March 13th, 2016. Receiving the requested Summer Stipend will allow me to comfortably test the materials to ensure that I have the best imagery, that will withstand outdoor weather conditions, for the final sculpture.

Description: A zoetrope is a device that creates the illusion of a moving image from a sequence of still images that are rapidly spinning. Though its origin dates back to approximately 180 AD in China, the zoetrope has made appearances in many cultures. Its name is taken from the Greek zoē, meaning alive or active, and trope, meaning turn. Zoetrope is also understood to mean active turn or wheel of life.

For “Active Turn” I am working with a metal fabricator utilizing 16-gauge weatherized steel. The structure consists of a drum measuring 53.5” in diameter with successive, equally sized and spaced vertical slits cut into the top half of the cylinder. The bottom half will hold fourteen black and white photographs, sealed in a resin so as to be protected from weather conditions. The drum will be placed atop a spindle and will stand approximately 67″ high, with a hand rail to aid in spinning and a step to allow children access. The images, when spinning, will transition from views of the same skyline the viewer can see at Socrates Sculpture Park to that of the horizon line on the Atlantic Ocean, and then back to the skyline. This rapid succession of moving images will transport the viewer away from the city to the vanishing point on the horizon line. The horizon line reoccurs throughout my practice as a symbol of the limit of what we know and a marker of the distance to the unknown.