Topic 2 ideas

1. Research for tactile and sonic art that changes over time. 

This would be good for my thesis.

I'm working on a collection of entities (sonic sculptures) that behave in not always predictable ways (sonically) but generally stick to their personalities.

Overall goal: tactile meditative sonic object/toy collection that allows users to create sonic landscapes together or collectively, to observe behavior changes and adapt to them, to be present and focused, reflect on their relationship with things and people. 


The interactions of a sometimes unpredictable set of instruments (a capricious band) is a way to remind ourselves about our lack of control over things in our environment and our desire to control them. It tried to call out human centrality as a faulty way of seeing. And ultimately it's good for people to learn that they have to respect these instruments and that they will behave as they want sometimes and that it takes patience and effort. In that way it's also a meditation on collaboration. Sort of like our relationship with nature, actually. Trying to conquer and control nature and people is proving disastrous.

This can manifest itself in this way:
You can't just shake one of these objects to make it louder and louder. The object may choose to actually slow down and get quieter in response. so it's sort of taking our desire to control things and use tech to do our bidding and turning in on it's head. These objects are saying "slow down, you have to listen". it's like dialogic relationship vs monologic. these things will let you create interesting things with them but you have to be ready to adapt if they change, to collaborate not dominate. It also is kind of funny to have the instruments sometimes change the course of the composition as though they were members of a band.

i'd like the objects to also have influence on one another too. so if you put object a next to object b it may modulate the sound of one of them using proximity sensors. I'm not very good at phys comp but i'd like to explore these types of interactions. 

The sounds that the objects make - the way they behave - can be affected by the environment. They sometimes absorb sounds or they change the rhythm in their algorithm in response to being shaken too vigorously or to being not having movement on the x axis as much as the z axis. If you pick up these "instruments" next week, they may sound somewhat different.

I think also my intuition to make these objects out of paper that deteriorates makes sense now after reading what you wrote about the philosophers who call for a shift of the center of power and for living alongside species with more equity.

In this case these objects are showing their aliveness through the fact that they look sort of organic and have their own behavior and that they physically change like we do. These are entities but they don't represent other species necessarily. they can be interpreted even as other humans in certain power structures. It's asking people to reflect on how they see themselves in relation to things that they see as subordinate to them.  These things really stand for anything that is asking to be listened to and respected. One can even be prompted to think about how they treat themselves, not just others. I want to leave it as open ended as possible. It would be a work that allows people to reflect on the relationship between themselves and their environment but the environment can be other people other species or themselves even.

It's about awareness of power and control.


They will look like oversized abstract blobs, cylinders with interesting texture to differentiate by touch. Exploring the idea of control (creative or otherwise) and lack thereof. Translating that idea to the predictability and variability of other entities, like other people for example, but this would be not overt.

The idea is to make the objects feel as though they are not quite living but also not quite objects. They won't be made of wood but more fleshy and ambiguous textures - paper mush (recycled), maybe some will be fabric (plush) and a few concrete and foam resin. They will change over time (sonically) just like living things.

I'm interested in paper in particular because it ages with use and physical changes to the objects will be very visible. It’s also cheap and green :) . However that may require upkeep and giving the sculptures new shells too often. That can also play in the favor of the project. Animals shed and rejuvenate. There may be a better way to do this. One of my friends has a project called dustbowl. These are bowls that collect dust and they are made of dust. I'm thinking of something along those lines but maybe not dust? If I use dust I will ask him if it's ok and give him credit for the original idea or even offer to have him make the enclosure if he'd like to collaborate.

I'm thinking of using materials that oxadize over time too. Not sure how to make it intentional because all sculptures eventually fall apart if not regularly fixed since they are subject to all the elements we are. The solution might be to make something that intentionally falls apart or oxadize very quickly to magnify this day-to-day change. I'm not going the ephemeral art route though. These things will remain more or less intact for at least a week and live indoors. sand would be too cliche. maybe salt…

Ideas explored: focus, meditation, sound making, collective making, creative control, control in general, change over time, adapting to change, touch (or should I say tactile objects?), play and its importance in human development and maintenance, control over nature, control over people, collaboration

So I just need to find out more about this type of work in various forms. What materials do artists use for this work? Such ones can withstand a lot of handling? What types of corrective sound art had been made to date and what concepts did it explore if any?


2. How might we change the public narrative of homelessness?

With my Design for America (they have an NYU chapter) team, we've been talking to homeless women and institutions that deal with homelessness for the past year - ethnographic research. we've learned about how complicated and political the system of affordable housing and shelters is. We also learned about how the homeless feel invisible and dehumanized. The lack of social acceptance and the sense of belonging is a paint point. Before money or food, they would like to just be seen. 

There are some interesting dichotomies that can be found in how they live - they are seen all day but are also invisible, they have their things on them but they also have very little, they don't have a home but they are often tied to a certain spot they found and can't leave their things alone for long. Could be a way to show people who are in the gallery for only a few minutes what we found after interacting with them (once a week for an hour) for about a year. 


While we don't have the time and resources to start our own NGO to help homeless people we think that as a team that spends about 4-6 hours a week on this project we can help change the public perception of homelessness and give these people s voice and in that way return a bit of dignity back to them.

The fist part of the project will be a pop-up exhibit. It will probably be public. We are looking at projection mapping on to buildings or doing a public art work like Once Upon a Place or maybe even a soundscape of their stories in the areas where they sit sort of like Janet Cardiff's Her long black hair. The exhibit will tell their stories (not a Salgado-like photo exhibit. We need to be careful to not exploit them or make it superficial or a cheap tear jerker) and will create more empathy. Even if a few more people realize they can smile and say hi to homeless people, that's already pretty good. Also if NYU does this, it will draw attention to the topic quite a bit since NYU has visibility that these women don’t have and a lot of credibility in the community. Perhaps influential people affiliated with NYU - like people on the board - would pay more attention to housing policy etc as they take the queue that this is what people find to be important these days. 


We also want to have a panel of speakers who have done work in this space and invite stakeholders (politicians who have some influence on housing reform). This would allow for important conversations to get started and who knows what partnerships and initiatives could come about when you put so many influential people into the same room and ask them to consider this topic. The policy-makers would feel some pressure to hold one another accountable after speaking to so many other influential people on this topic and also hopefully honored to be there because they are seen as people who can make things happen.

We know that there is a lot of corruption in how shelters are run, and more importantly, how housing is distributed and how developers basically bribe people in office to make commercial buildings or luxury building the priority. If the story is told more and the focus on this is amplified, it will be hard for politicians to continue the socially irresponsible cooperation with housing developers. This could, alongside other similar projects being done in NY, help create enough pressure on politicians to make better choices if they want to get re-elected.

The topics I would research are: 

socially engaged art with the homeless - successes and failures, public housing, public art, art as a social practice, art as activism and how to not make it exploitative but also not too preachy and yet impactful. As we asked some of the women to take photos of the things they see every day, we may even think about using them in the exhibit part of the project. This may get into the territory of cocreation and I'd want to research that  as well.

3. Socially engaged art practice. 

I could also pare it down and just focus on learning more about socially engaged art practice or art as social practice. What are they really beyond what i googled. What can they achieve and what do fail to achieve. 

4. Effects of tactile art on cognition, sound on cognition

I could also simplify the first topic by choosing to only focus on how certain things effect cognition but it's only a part of my thesis and i'd like to explore art that changes over time (in the case of sound - how to use Max MSP, Chuck, and programming to create compositions that change themselves through user input and according to their own algorithms - ex Brian Eno stuff but my own). I also would want to focus on materials that change over time that can be handled. There are so many things i need to learn in order to make my project that I may have to do three or four mini-research projects to fit it all into this class.

The future of community making/civic engagement

Oh and another idea i was thinking to research would be just on what creates good communities and what creates isolation. I've been reading recently about collective agency and how people work together and how atomization is rampant in western culture and can be dangerous for democratic processes. Some books I've been reading have been Thinking in an Emergency by Elaine Scary (ppl designing emergency systems and how that can prevent unchecked actions from authorities), Richard Sennet's Together (it's about cooperation and how important it is also to keep it in a time when how we work is deskilling us in cooperation, it's sociopolitical implications), Ezio Manzini's Design When Everyone Designs (about how people have been coming together to form collectives - ex. community hardens and food coops - as a resistance to certain forces that have depleted the sociocultural diversity and biodiversity, and these islands are forming and we may see this become the new mainstream and have a more democratic society. the book is so hopeful but also seems like he’s right). I think the future is about creating more local collectives in order to have a healthier, livlier participatory society that is also more nurturing and supportive. They seem to be doing it in some parts of the world but no one has it figured out, but i think the trend is that it has to start from a practice of local engagement with community for everyone’s mutual benefit. I'm curious to learn about them. Like, what makes some better than others? How do people organize themselves? How do groups interface with others groups? How do you stay hyperconnected and local but not insular? I'm currently writing an adjacent article on this so i've had to become a temp expert on this but i feel like i still have a long way to go and would like to dig deeper.