User:JessicaParrisWestbrook

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Assistant Professor, Contemporary Practices and Art and Technology Studies, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL.

Bio[edit]

Born Pittsburgh, PA (1974), grew up Orlando, FL. BFA, 1996, University of Central Florida, Orlando; MFA, 1998, Tyler School of Fine Art, Temple University, Philadelphia. Exhibitions: SPACES, Cleveland; Studio XX, Montreal; Contemporary Art Museum, Raleigh; Block Museum, Evanston; Pace Digital Gallery, New York; Gallery 400, Chicago; Carnegie Museum, Pittsburgh; Hirshhorn Museum, Washington DC; The Lab, San Francisco; Axiom Center for New and Experimental Media, Boston; Eyedrum, Atlanta. New Media Awards: Rhizome; Turbulence; Terminal. Design Commissions: Frist Center for the Visual Arts, Nashville; Creative Discovery Museum, Chattanooga; Hunter Museum of American Art, Chattanooga. Collections: Goldsen Archive, Cornell University, NY; The Kinsey Institute, Indiana University, Bloomington; Newark Public Library; JavaMuseum. Collaborating Contributor: Furtherfield.org. Group Work: Channel TWo (CH2), ARRAY [ ], Basekamp.

Current Research Interests[edit]

My research involves systems, desire, visual cues, language, and contradictory sensations that often vacillate between great fortune and impending catastrophe. I am most influenced and informed by everyday cultural landscapes, the mundane, observations, conversations, rules, routines, and habits of lived experience filtered through timing, probability, and an awareness of gender and class constructs. I am attracted to the impossibilities of binary reasoning (real and virtual, fact and fiction, data and narrative). I use the complexity of mixed.up(realities) as mechanisms for coping and/or forgetting and design [legitimacy] to negotiate and organize the joys and struggles of information and understanding. Collaboration is important because ideas, material, and motivations are inherently networked and social, and I appreciate what happens when togetherness transgresses the obvious and produces something beyond the scope and limits of individual expression/will.

Art/Design Statement[edit]

Channel TWo (CH2), is focused on mixed.up(realities), media production, design, development, and distribution—authorized formats + unauthorized ideas, systems of control + radical togetherness. Channel TWo is loosely aligned with the concept of over-identification, Slavoj Žižek's description of a tactic intended to reveal the hidden nature of dominant ideologies—not by pointing to them but by becoming extreme forms of them.

CH2 is a collaborative combination of perspectives, motivations, research, and public/private lifestyle. CH2 studio productions intersect joyful aesthetic experiences and user interfaces with critical undercurrents. Working together, we intentionally collapse hierarchies, authorship, and ownership while blurring the boundaries between events, behaviors, and production. Current CH2 projects take the form of installations intersecting themes of luck, levels, and trespassing. Recent exhibitions include: a solo at SPACES (Cleveland, OH); a 6-channel video and alternate reality game at Digital Arts Entertainment Lab, (Atlanta, GA); an augmented reality intervention at "Cyber In Securities" (Washington, DC); a networked game environment installation in "Born Digital" at the Contemporary Art Museum (Raleigh, NC); and a downloadable collection of computer virus code in "Designated Drivers" at the Block Museum of Art (Evanston, IL).

CH2 collaborators Adam Trowbridge and Jessica Westbrook received a 2012 Rhizome Commission, 2011 Turbulence Commission and a 2009 Terminal Commission. Trowbridge and Westbrook are full-time faculty at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL, where they teach studio and research courses in the Department of Contemporary Practices (CP), and the Department of Art and Technology Studies (ATS).

Teaching Philosophy[edit]

Our classrooms/labs/studios are incubators for interaction, with each other, with language, ideas, media, tools, processes, resources, materials, and surprises. I am increasingly invested in facilitating a co-authored experience, working and learning along with students. I bring the material/thematic framework, experience, structure, and expectations. Students bring their individual backstories, learning styles, personalities and quirks, ambitions and vulnerabilities. Together we practice our craft, research and discover, identify relevant resources and flows, ask questions, respond and speak our minds. I am especially interested in creating safe learning environments, drawing from a feminist perspective, that enable underrepresented populations to engage in technical complexity and approach materials/ideas without feeling threatened or alienated. I do this by supporting open and free dialogue based in honesty and lived experience and encouraging students to draw from the resources and matters that genuinely interest and excite them.

The project scenarios I design for my classes are modular and involve a mix of example/context, demo, constraints, process, supplementary experience (excursions, guests, exercises), studio time/activity, and an array of feedback loops in the forms of conversation, evaluation or critique. I invite students to use projects as starting points, make the material their own, push boundaries, poke holes, and go above and beyond (or around) expectations. Projects generally intersect and blend digital and analog perspectives, experiences, and formations. Project components tend to build and evolve, growing in scope and complexity, informing the next phase, over the course of the semester or school year. If I notice another kind of flow is necessary for a specific group dynamic it is my job to alter the course as needed. With beginning students I emphasize experimentation through modification, focus and follow through, ways of being and finding courage by example, honesty and criticality. I communicate that proficiency/agency is gained through every kind of experience (problems, errors, failures, unknowns, accidents, frustrations, mistakes, awkwardness - all important and valuable). When I am in contact with intermediate and more advanced students I emphasize craft and quality, intention and focus, direction, articulation; and for the students who can benefit from more pressure, prompt them to begin to invent a place for their ideas in the world by distributing their work and/or getting involved in something bigger than themselves. Collaboration is always an option.

Almost every semester I experiment with new structures for teaching and new forms of sharing/communications. In past years this involved early adoption of integrated social media using Flickr/tags (2005), a blended learning scenario experiment with O’Reilly Media books online for web edu (2006), teaching a “lecture” history of graphic design course through a workshop format using hands-on studio practices/projects (2008), mixing gaming themes with collaboration and social practice (2010/11), designing and piloting a digital media oriented Core Studio sequence and piloting a co-listed Research 1 (methods) and Wired (web media) course pairing with CP colleague Adam Trowbridge (2011/12), using real-time studio practice/philosophy conversations with guests via Google Hangout (2013), and recently a flipped classroom using available institutional resources like Lynda.com in an effort to put studio life back into a very software-heavy course that meets for 6 hours once a week. This semester my goal is to experiment with different critique/evaluation constructs including eye tracking measurements of 2d visuals, formal student case study-like presentations with Q & A, and hands-on usability/integrity observation tests of designed objects in my Research Studio course.

My pedagogy since arriving at SAIC has been geared towards the first year student and I find joy in working with beginners because they are so open to new experiences. I teach Core Studio 1 and 2, Research 2: Forms, Formats, Platforms, and Wired in Contemporary Practices (CP), Multimedia Digital Imaging and 3D Graphics in Art and Technology Studies (ATS, 2000 level courses), and in the Fall of 2014 I am co-teaching with an ATS colleague, the Data Vis Collaborative with Northwestern University (HIP). Currently I am working with colleagues Adam Trowbridge and Jesus Duran on the backend of a Rhizome commissioned publication/platform called, “ARRAY [ ], new media foundations for art and design,” a curriculum and discourse repository which will include a number of expert contributors and collaborators. These SAIC courses, the upcoming Data Vis Collaboration, and my ongoing external academic/pedagogy projects are in a nice alignment with my own studio/research art and design practices which always start with curiosity and learning as a primary motivation and use collaboration as an integral part of an evolving process/outcome.