New Media Art Showcase: Installations and Works-In-Progress

Alphabetical by artist. Locations will be listed with each abstract.

A Lover, Inverted

Our conversation begins with a new media art installation that reverse engineers a poem by Amy Lowell to create a participatory, imagined (or reimagined) world: “If I could catch the green lantern of the firefly I could see to write you a letter” (“A Lover,” Lowell). We invite participants to several conversations: First, we suggest participants type a letter to their past or future selves on our mid-twentieth century green Remington typewriter. In this creative exchange, everything old is new again. Participants experience the smell of grass (infused into our roll of typewriter paper) and the flash of green fireflies, hanging from a mobile above the Remington. Using the typewriter prompts a microcontroller to actuate the “green lanterns” we created by folding LED lights into origami fireflies, strung in flight on a mobile. Research shows that nostalgia can be triggered by the senses. Given this, the two authors have positioned the installation so participants touch of the keys of the typewriter, hear the “click clack” of the keys, smell the summertime grass, and see the green glow of the fireflies. Nostalgia is a “sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past.” In a sense, nostalgia invites a conversation with one’s past self. The second conversation happens outside of the installation, where participants reflect on the letter they typed (or, if they did not participate, consider the person to whom they may have addressed a letter) in a 90-second survey. During this activity, Dr. Drogos will talk with visitors about their experience with the installation to investigate how new media art can provoke nostalgia, and if that nostalgia is related to an increased sense of social-connectedness (Cheung et al., 2013). The third and ongoing conversation is between the two authors, one a media artist, the other a social scientist. The authors’ conversation meets at the intersection of psychology and participatory media art to explore the possible worlds, past, present, and future, that their own sensory input can trigger.

xtine burrough (University of Texas at Dallas)
Kristin Drogos (University of Michigan)


This interactive media installation centers on the tensions between the discourses of viruses and viral media. Robert Payne (2014) explores these contrasting understandings of virality, highlighting how this shift to media encourages promiscuity in sharing, while historically, promiscuity and viruses were coded as deviant and monstrous, negatively representing vulnerable communities, especially during the HIV/AIDS crisis. This project draws on the work of Felix Gonzalez-Torres, a gay cuban, responding to HIV/AIDS in his interactive artwork. In Untitled (1991) Torres stacked 161 sheets of screen printed different moments and figures from gay history on pages within the pile which museum visitors could take. The instillation links collective memory/mourning of gay history with transmission and how HIV/AIDS causes rapid weight loss on the body. Gonzalez-Torres’s work arguably plays with physical and ideological boundaries: safety/danger, viewer/participant, looking/touching, visibility/invisibility. Elaborating on this piece, #UntitledTransmission incorporates craft activities and social media. The stack of paper I create has notable figures, dates, places, and words that each relate to gay history (both positive and negative). Participants are encourage to take the page and interpret it through crafting with it, drawing or writing on it, or engaging with it in any way they deem necessary for dealing with the content of that page. They then take a picture of it and post to social media using #UntitledTransmission. I explore two concepts by inserting the crafting and social media components to the original piece. The first is the tension between the stigma attached to living with and transmitting HIV and viral media, putting the works of Payne and Gonzalez-Torres in conversation with each other. Specifically, how does the transmission of sheets from the deteriorating pile contrast how people offer these creations for others to share online? The second is an argument that we are each complicit in the meaning-making process of transmission. By taking a sheet from the pile and interpreting it through craft activities, then sharing online, each participant becomes an active author in the interpretation of the transmission and collective memory, highlighting how meaning-making is always an active process that activates the past. Furthermore, by tagging each post with the specified hashtag, the online corpus grows as the body of papers diminishes.

Michael DeAnda (DePaul University)

A Work-in-Progress: Behind the “Silenced” Gun Violence Series

“Do You Know Where Your Guns Are?” was a one-off installation created for the Contain It! exhibit at the Dunedin Fine Art Center in Florida; a storage pod filled with “Missing Gun” posters based on reports of guns stolen from private homes and vehicles—usually by family, neighbors, and friends; known to be in easily accessible locations; and used later to commit crimes. The public response was eye-opening; visitors shied away at the sight of gun images and didn't enter. Others were immediately defensive, their hackles raised as they prepared for a fight. Most were shocked at how many news reports were gathered in the few months leading up to the exhibition. That was 2013. I moved on for a time, but the headlines kept coming. “Community members shocked over rare murder-suicide.” “What we know and don’t from Thursday’s domestic shooting in Wilmington.” The headlines led to statistical research, to understand the issue at the macro and micro levels. The CDCP reports one set of statistics and groups promoting or opposing gun control measures offer different sets, but few offer a comprehensive look beyond numbers. The non-profit Gun Violence Archive attempts to fill this void, collecting news and police reports in real time for free online public access. While the spreadsheets, charts, and maps are useful, it is the incident reports that provide the most detail with locations, participants, notes, and source links. For the “Silenced: Records Series,” I use the GVA information to create temporal data portraits in a series of mixed-media drawings: Silenced: Daily Records 2017; Silenced: Monthly Records 2018; and Silenced: Yearly Records, 2014-2018. In 2019 I returned to the headlines, focusing on how news media and government agencies are telling the stories of gun-related domestic violence incidents. “Silenced: Domestic Report (this is an isolated incident with no threat to the public),” is a new mixed-media series that pairs the data of domestic gun violence incidents with a critical eye toward the images and language used in such reports. Much of the language is either clinical, naïve and/or irresponsible, and reinforces social, racial, and economic inequalities even though domestic violence crosses all demographics. How are these reports helping or hindering our understanding of the statistics, such as: more than two-thirds of intimate partner and family murder victims are committed with guns, and domestic violence assaults involving a gun are twelve times more likely to result in death. The “Silenced” series is evolving to utilize digital as well as historical print formats in the spirit of a “cultural jamming” artistic practice. The proposed installation will show the work behind this series-in-progress, with examples in print media (reproductions of drawings and documentation of interventions utilizing marketing materials) and digital media, along with resources (such as the National Domestic Violence Hotline, Austin).

Jennie Fleming (Simon Peay State University)

phonelovesyoutoo: database

The interface is a means for shaping or extending the body; it becomes incredibly powerful when adopted at scale, by millions of users. As an artist, my work addresses the tensions of interface design, data collection, and new sensing technologies. What happens as computers learn and remember more about human bodies? What freedoms and privacies are jeopardized or lost altogether? How do human bodies change under the pressures of a merged virtual and physical reality? Using phonelovesyoutoo—custom software I developed for the Android operating system for mobile devices—I recorded one month of my phone activity as seen through the device’s two cameras. The videos in this work were recorded using custom video capture software developed for the Android operating system. phonelovesyoutoo: database is a 24-hour durational video piece in which all recorded clips are displayed at the time of day they were originally recorded, providing a glimpse of the relationship between human, device, time, and physical space. Certain times of day reveal a flurry of activity—such as getting ready to go to work in the morning—while other times are silent, revealing that the user’s attention is elsewhere. The frame of the video contains 31 cells arranged like a calendar; one column for each day of the week and one row for each week in the month. Each cell contains a diptych of front and back camera videos from the corresponding days. The clips play during the time of day they were recorded. When a clip finishes playing, its brightness fades and the last frame remains, frozen. The video restarts at 6am every day, starting from a black frame and illuminating when the first clip of the day appears. There are times in the 24-hour cycle where no clips are playing; instead, each frame is faded and frozen in time. The frozen frames are left behind to give a sense of presence of other clips even when they are not playing. A sense of anxiety comes from wondering when the next clip will pop up. phonelovesyoutoo: database makes visible what is at stake as more cameras and sensing methods are added to personal devices in service of new interface design paradigms. It is an intervention that inherently asks the viewer what a video of their own might look like, provoking an examination of their relationship to their own mobile device.

Kate Hollenbach (DePaul University)

Syntonic Refuge

In community, people find and offer refuge by coming together in common practices such as hugging and holding hands. The space between our bodies co-regulates our embodied reactions, thus cultivating a sense of peace amid stress or fear. People are syntonic, harmoniously responsive to the changing needs of the situation. Through close human interaction, Syntonic Refuge discloses the heartbeats of two people who wrap themselves in the embrace of a shawl, which represents both care of the individual, and a shelter for shared experiences. Syntonic Refuge is a social engagement that explores the importance of refuge for survivors and the act of surviving. Syntonic Refuge discloses ways that bodies harmonize with the environment and coregulate heartbeats. While we are ideologically aligned with the insurrectionary language of the call our project is a quiet meditation on connections between survivors and the refuge we can create between our bodies in the aftermath of division or trauma. As barriers divide people, this project requires collaboration. The shawl is a bridge for bodies negotiating space. Syntonic Refuge asks participants to come closer. Consider our common experience of survivorship, especially when we are remembering, and continue to witness, the enormity of human suffering through global atrocities, and share refuge in the heart.


Coding Apollo

Imagine: Margaret Hamilton stands in a room; beside her, a pile of bound papers that is nearly as tall as she. The tower of code is the Apollo Guidance System, software for the control of the Command and Lunar Modules (CM and LM). The image is evocative on several levels: bringing to the forefront, the woman who wrote the code; a very real data visualization of the volume of code that brought Apollo to the moon manifest as a stack of paper. This project continues in tradition of producing legibility by connecting the code and planning documents that animated the Apollo mission to the audio and video of the event, creating a unique time-based public interactive installation. Nearby the life-sized photograph of Margaret Hamilton and the tower of loose code (contained within a plexiglass frame) is a simple document camera, a bank of three vintage transistor-era televisions, and a pair of speakers. A single piece of paper is lifted from the stack; printed on it, code for an element of the Apollo Guidance System. When the paper is presented to the document camera, the installation comes to life. On one of the screens, the code that was on the page. On another of the televisions, images from the Apollo Mission Manual, showing where in the mission timeline we are; showing pages that indicate what is happening, and how it should happen through diagrams, paragraphs of text, fragments of calculations. On the speakers, actual communication amongst Mission Control in Houston, Texas and the personnel aboard the CM. Mission Control prompts the CM to prepare a roll; the Commander acknowledges, and prepares the program. On the third screen, motion picture footage of the Command Module and Lunar Module. As the roll is executed, it is announced on the speakers; the code illuminates, lighting up line by line as it executes. The thrusters fire. We are shown where we are on the mission timeline; we are shown a diagram of the telemetry at this portion of the mission. The interactor has an opportunity to experience a truly multimedia demonstration of the centrality of code to the Moon Landing. The tremendous demands this code placed on 1960s era digital technology stands in stark contrast to the sophistication of the relatively affordable, disposable technology that runs this installation – a handful of computers, each costing less than $35. These materials – mission briefings, audio recordings, motion picture material -- were meant to be unified; all these materials are extensively indexed. Each command must be spoken aloud in preparation, and again in execution. All commands performed are logged, all audio was recorded, transcribed and indexed. This owes to the infrastructure of military-industrial systems thinking that structured the Apollo missions, which were a combination of scientific endeavor, nationalist propaganda, and military positioning in the cold war era. The materials not only assist in the level of production; they lend themselves to this endeavor in infrastructural intelligibility.

Sean Landers (University of Texas at Dallas)
Leticia Ferreira (University of Texas at Dallas)
Murillo Paiva Homsi (University of Texas at Dallas)