Events

Art meets Science meets Education

June 26, 2015 Arts

 

 

Ars Electronica-style festivals to artists in residence programmes at scientific organisations, “art meets science” is a term that just keeps on trending. ATLAS visiting artist Agnes Chavez has taken a fresh look at the merging of the disciplines, adding a new one to the mix: “Art meets Science meets Education”. “..agnes chavez CERN ATLAS projecting particles by Katarina Anthony in the CERN Bulletin.

Thanks to ATLAS at CERN for sponsorship of Dr. Luis Flores Castillo as physics instructor in the Projecting Particles workshop at the Havana Biennial 2015. Special thanks to Dr. Steve Goldfarb and Kate Shaw for facilitating the residency and the sponsorship that made it all possible.

Timelapse clip of Origination Point

June 26, 2015 Arts
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Origination Point, the interactive projection installation, was part of the collective exhibit “Entre, Dentro, Fuera/Between, Inside, Outside” at the 12th Havana Biennial in Havana Cuba.

Artists: Agnes Chavez (artist/concept), Marcel Schwittlick
(visual artist/coder), Robert Schirmer (intercative sound)
UNM Art Graduate Student assistants: Abbey Hepner,
Christine Posner, Julianne Aguilar, Adrian Pijoan

Interactive projection installation
Written in OpenFrameworks and Max MSP

A projection of self-generating “rocks” (a visual metaphor
for the particle nature of matter) are transformed through
mesmerizing movements in rhythm with an interactive
soundtrack (representing the wave nature of matter).
Audio was created with sounds recorded by NASA from
outer space and with real nature sounds. To interact with
the piece, move the three “rocks” in and out of the circle
on the floor, adding layers of sound designed to shift
your perception of and emotional response to the
visuals.

“In this piece I contemplate both my origins as a Cuban
American and humanity’s shared ‘subatomic’ origins to
express that we are more than the physical bodies and
socio-cultural identities we construct.”

Origination Point

June 13, 2015 Arts
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Origination Point, the interactive projection installation, was part of the collective exhibit “Entre, Dentro, Fuera/Between, Inside, Outside” at the 12th Havana Biennial in Havana Cuba. The concept began to brew in December after I received the invitation from curator, Dannys Montes de Oca. I decided on the series I was currently exploring called Projecting Particles that involved doing a 2-week research stay at CERN in Geneva Switzerland. The question I was exploring in the residency was how can these understandings of space and the origins of matter transform the way we perceive the world around us and more specifically, as artists how we visualize and create. As the concept evolved so did the collaboration of individuals that came together to design and realize the installation for the inauguration on May 22, 2015 at the Pabellon Cuba. Visual artist and coder, Marcel Schwittlick, who designed the generative code, sound designer, Robert Schirmer who engineered fantastical sounds for the interactive rocks, and my graduate student assistants from the University of New Mexico Fine Arts Department, Abbey Hepner, Julianne Aguilar and Adrian Pijoan, with Cristine Posner taking the lead. They were magicians when it came to installing the piece on site in Cuba. Thanks to all of you!

The piece is a projection of self-generating “rocks” (a visual metaphor for the particle nature of matter)  transformed through
mesmerizing movements in rhythm with an interactive soundtrack (representing the wave nature of matter). Audio was created with sounds recorded by NASA from outer space and with real nature sounds. To interact with the piece, participants move the three “rocks” in and out of the circle on the floor, adding layers of sound designed to shift your perception of and emotional response to the visuals.

In response to the theme of the exhibit, Entre, Dentro, Fuera/Between, Inside, Outside”,  I contemplate both my origins as a Cuban American and humanity’s shared ‘subatomic’ origins to express that we are more than the physical bodies and socio-cultural identities we construct.

Impressions of Havana

June 12, 2015 Arts
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Lorraine Monteagut, contributing blogger

It’s been a couple weeks since we’ve returned from Havana, and still we are processing all the rich interactions in our short time there. I had the opportunity to take a broad perspective of the Biennial, as I observed the pARTicles team set up and inaugurate their installation, and I also spent much time walking the streets of Havana on my own.

As a Cuban American, I felt both like an insider and an outsider. I had easy conversations with the many strangers who approached me and made a few friends who showed me around. We talked about our shared culture and our hopes for the future of U.S.-Cuba relations. We shared photos of our families. And still, it was clear that there was much we could never share, that I was outside their experience and always would be, as their political and economic situation is like none other in the world.

To keep with the spirit of the exhibit’s theme–“Between, Inside, Outside”–I’ll share three of the many interactions I had in my ten days in Havana that illustrate the shifting nature of place and identity I felt as I “returned” to a homeland I’d never physically known.

An Impromptu Guide

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Many Cubans take to the streets in hopes of meeting tourists to escort around town. They are sometimes tipped by establishments for bringing in tourist business. I didn’t know any of this when I ran into this man while making my way toward Old Havana on the Malecon. He asked me where I was from (the typical first line to getting a tourist’s attention), and when I started speaking spanish, he asked me where I was “really” from. This would become the model of questioning over the following week. My place of birth marked me as an American, yet my language linked me to this country that was at once alien and familiar.

My impromptu guide redirected me to interior streets that would take me through Centro Havana, where I could find nice cigars, and ultimately to my destination in Old Havana. As we walked, he showed me a faded photo of his daughter and told me about the ration cards (the “libretas”) that provided each Cuban with items such as rice, beans and bread for the month (I’d later see these ration cards in person, people lining city blocks for their daily bread).

My guide said it wasn’t enough, that they could get more ration cards if they brought business in, and he asked me if I’d go with him to one such establishment where cigar “cooperatives” were selling top cigars at half price, for just this one day. At this point, my spidey sense went off, as I’d heard of such schemes when preparing for my trip. I felt conflicted, because this man was both sincere and wiley–one of the many paradoxes I found in Havana. I realized that as friendly as he was, as much as we connected with the language, I was still a tourist to him. I declined and excused myself, opting to take my chances on my own.

A Forthcoming Taxi Driver

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As a Floridian, I’m no stranger to beautiful coastlines, so I almost passed on the beach trip. I’m glad I didn’t, as I met a lovely cab driver named Usmael, who dropped me off at Santa Maria del Mar, one of the closest beaches to Havana. On the way there, he talked freely about the changes happening and his hopes for the future of his family. He said he would like to see his sister and father again one day, who escaped to Florida years ago. He helped me distinguish between police and military, pointed out the propaganda on the streets, and showed me the spot on the beach where his friends attempted to escape, most of whom drowned or were caught. He was nice enough to schedule a time to pick me up, since I’d probably have to wait long for a ride back, but he made me promise I wouldn’t leave him stranded. When I got back into his backseat, rosy and sandy, he glanced at the bottle of Anejo in the crook of my arm. “Make sure you hide that when you get back out. You have the face of a child.”

A Hospitable Family

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One of the highlights of my trip was my stint as a translator for a German-American architect who was interested in a recent renovation in Old Havana. We met with the Cuban man who acted as an informal project manager, the go-between for Swiss investors and the Office of the City Historian, run by Eusebio Leal, who is in charge of historical preservation. We were invited into the apartment homes of one of the families impacted by this renovation. The matriarch of the family was supremely hospitable, ushering us in to sit and chat. Her daughters were home and equally friendly. One, a 27-year-old and a new mother, told me how grateful she was for their new home, which now housed three generations of her family.

The renovation took decades to complete (our guide said he often had to take things into his own hands in order to get them done, as the government would have had them wait even longer). When the renovation began, the daughters were young girls. They were relocated to mass housing outside the city center in the meantime, and their future was uncertain. Now, their own children can enjoy a stable home all their lives. I asked the daughter if she ever thought about leaving Havana, and she said she would never dream of it. She heard that people in the United States worked too much and weren’t as inclined to come together and help each other.

I couldn’t argue with her there.

Indeed, I felt an immediate contradiction between the joy and drive of the Cuban people and the hard conditions of their lives. At any given time, I couldn’t tell if I was in heaven or in hell. Some parts of town look like living ruins, people living en masse in crumbling homes. Yet the Cuban people are welcoming and full of life, making the best of everything. I did not feel a hint of despair. I couldn’t help comparing Havana to my home in Florida, where I know many people who feel stuck in their jobs, who struggle to keep a level of material wealth they aren’t sure they want or need, who rely on prescription medication to fight back depression and stagnation every day.

As I look to the future of Cuba-U.S. relations, I wonder just how Cuba will change, and I wonder which way is better. I think the answer rests somewhere in between our worlds…

Lorraine Monteagut is a Ph.D. candidate in Communication at the University of South Florida in Tampa. Follow her summer travels: roguegeographer.wordpress.com

Projecting Particles Youth Workshop in Havana

June 3, 2015 Arts
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The Projecting Particles youth workshop combines particle physics concepts and projection art to inform students on the latest particle physics concepts while encouraging them to visualize and express their understandings through a Tagtool iPad app designed to create projection art.

For the Havana workshop students sat in on a presentation at La Escuela Secundaria de Havana, by Mexican physicist, Dr. Luis Flores Castillo whose visit was sponsored by ATLAS Experiment at CERN. Students explored the question, What is space?” which, following the interests of the participants, related to the big bang theory, spacetime and other symmetries, the Higgs field, the discovery of the Higgs boson, the search for Dark Matter and Supersymmetry, and the idea of Dark Energy.

Then, in an open air workshop at the Parque Trillo in Centro Habana, students continued a physics chat with Luis followed by Tagtool  instruction from Markus Dorninger, Austrian artist and developer of the Tagtool app. Students learned how to paint and animate their ideas in real time as the images projected on to the side of a building. The public was encouraged to listen in and ask questions and try out the app.

Malu Tavares, Abbey Hepner and Adrian Pijoan documented the workshop and event which will be available this year as part of a short documentary video.

Touring the Biennial with Senator Udall and Jill Udall

June 1, 2015 Arts
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One of the highlights of my journey to the Havana Biennial was getting to visit with Senator Udall and Jill Udall who came to show their support, along with congressmen, Grijalva, Franken and Larson. They came to the Pabellon Cuba exhibit hall for a preview of our exhibit, Between, Inside, Outside, and gave a little talk to the public. Then the electricity went out in the entire hall and they were not able to see my installation and other electronic pieces. In the Cuban spirit that we came to know after just a week in Havana, the curators continued unwavering with the tour. Each artist gave a lively talk about the work as best we could and the Udall’s will have the opportunity to see my installation when it comes back to New Mexico.

That evening, the curators Royce Smith and Dannys Montes De Oca, held a wonderful dinner in old Havana for the artists and congressional delegation. The food was excellent and it was a wonderful celebration of our successful inauguration. The next morning Senator Udall and Jill invited us to see some art with them and we had the pleasure of joining them for a tour of the Zona Franca exhibit at the Morro-Cabaña, one of my favorites site at the Biennial. If anyone is planning a trip to the Havana Biennial this is not to be missed, along with our exhibit, of course, Between, Inside, Outside in the Pabellon Cuba.

Thanks again to the Udall’s for always being there to support local artists and in particular for this unique cultural exchange between US and Cuba at such a pivotal time in our history.