Eyebeam Art and Technology Center
|Location||34 35th Street, 5th Floor Brooklyn, New York, USA|
Eyebeam is a not-for-profit art and technology center in New York City. The organization's stated purpose is to promote the creative use of new technologies by providing a collaborative environment for research and experimentation at the intersection of art, technology, and culture. Eyebeam was founded by John S. Johnson III with co-founders David S. Johnson and Roderic R. Richardson.
Originally conceived as a digital effects and coding atelier and center for youth education, Eyebeam has become a center for the research, development, and curation of new media works of art and open source technology. Eyebeam annually hosts 20 resident artists and research fellows, co-produces youth educational programs, and presents exhibitions, performances, symposia, workshops, hackathons and other events. Projects developed at Eyebeam have received awards and recognition including Webby Awards, Guggenheim Fellowships, and the Prix Ars Electronica.
Eyebeam, originally called Eyebeam Atelier, was first conceived as a collaboration between David S. Johnson, a digital artist, and John S. Johnson III, a filmmaker and philanthropist who also conceived and founded the Filmmakers Collaborative film fund, the Screenwriters Colony, and May68. The two were introduced by Roderic R. Richardson, a mutual friend who recognized their shared interests and helped establish the new venture in its early stages. The inspiration to name the project Eyebeam Atelier came partly from the sculpture atelier of John Johnson's father, John Seward Johnson II and the Experiments in Art and Technology collective. After observing new media as a growing genre, the co-founders were motivated to create a similar studio. They recognized a need to provide artists and digital film artists access to new technology and a shared workspace. The name "Eyebeam" was borrowed from David Johnson's 3D modeling studio, Eyebeam Simulations. Like a supporting I-beam, the name serves as a metaphor for the support of artistic visions offered by the organization.
In addition to offering resources for new media artists, Johnson saw a need to provide middle and high school students with educational and artistic opportunities. Digital Day Camp, the first youth program which catered to new media education, was founded in 1998; in the pilot program, New York-based high school students learned web development and design. Future sessions included project-based learning around themes of bioart, urban interventionism, game design, and wearable technology.
Eyebeam’s first forum, “Interaction,” took place online in the summer of 1998 and was curated by UCSD professor Jordan Crandall. The forum, an email list called <eyebeam><blast>, was hosted by Brian Holmes, Olu Oguibe, and Gregory Ulmer, and included Lev Manovich, N. Katherine Hayles, Saskia Sassen, Matthew Slotover, Ken Goldberg, Geert Lovink, Knowbotic Research, Hans-Ulrich Obrist, Bracha Lichtenberg Ettinger, Mark Tribe, and Critical Art Ensemble among the participating artists, educators, new media and internet theorists, and technologists (cite). The discussions spurred by <eyebeam><blast> were compiled into a book titled “Interaction: Artistic Practice on the Network” and published in 2001.
In addition to funding artistic research, Johnson hoped to develop Eyebeam as a space that would also function as a museum devoted to new media works. In 2000, Eyebeam announced an international architectural competition to construct a space devoted to the dialog between art and technology, with the design firm Diller + Scofidio’s “Olympic class” design named the winner of the competition. Ultimately, plans to build a new museum were shelved in favor of supporting individual programming and development.
In 2001, Eyebeam developed two lab programs for the research and production of new media projects in film and programming. The Moving Image Studio, originally located in DUMBO functioned as an atelier workshop where post-grad production artists, emerging artists in residence, and mid-career commissioned and research artists collaborated. The studio commissioned new work and provided a range of resources, including hardware, software and technical expertise, to support artists’ projects, including work by Christian Marclay, Fred Wilson, and Mariko Mori. Visiting artists including Gregory Crewdson, Tommy Pallotta, Pierre Huyghe, Paul Pfeiffer, and Mike Figgis gave lectures in conjunction with the studio.
Eyebeam also launched the Research & Development (R&D) Lab for the exploration and creation of open source, open content, and open networked technologies. Courses, apprenticeships, and special events gave students, professionals, and the general public direct access to the R&D process. R&D Lab members covered topics including social network theory and viral media, rapid prototyping, the history and future of art production environments, and new models for learning. Specific projects and collaborations produced at the Lab included surveillance technology, electronic music production, physical/virtual interfaces, responsive video, wireless networks, displays, biological art, miniaturization, and telepresence.
Eyebeam held its first open studios for artists in residence and fellows in 2002. Alex Galloway, G. H. Hovagimyan, Tony Martin, Yael Kanarek, MTAA, John Klima, Jem Cohen, Cory Arcangel, and Michael Bell-Smith were among the inaugural exhibitors. Among the projects on display was Galloway’s Carnivore, a Processing library that allowed for the creative misuse of data surveillance created in tandem with other members of Radical Software Group. Carnivore takes its name and function from DCS1000, a surveillance system used by the United States Federal Bureau of Investigations. Carnivore was awarded the Prix Ars Electronica Golden Nica the same year.
The fellows and artists in residence associated with the Eyebeam R&D Lab produced many significant works in art and technology. Yury Gitman and Carlos Gomez de Llarena's Noderunner, a scavenger hunt based on wifi sharing, received the 2003 Prix Ars Electronica Golden Nica. Fundrace.org, a site which allows visitors to track campaign contributions through geocoding, was developed by Jonah Peretti, then-director of Research and Development at Eyebeam, and later adapted into a permanent feature on the Huffington Post. Peretti, together with Alexander Galloway, collaborated on ReBlog, one of the first blogging platform which allows users to filter and publish content from many RSS feeds. Beginning in 2005, the Eyebeam ReBlog began to feature the Eyebeam Journal, a series of in-depth writings and interviews with resident artists, research fellows, and guest contributors. During their R&D Fellowships, Theo Watson and Zachary Lieberman continued to develop openFrameworks, a C/C++ library originally created at Parsons. Together with Processing, openFrameworks became one of the most popular platforms for creative coding.
In addition to producing innovative programs and web platforms, the Eyebeam OpenLab, a successor to the R&D Lab, served as the birthplace of the Graffiti Research Lab. Founded by James Powderly and Evan Roth during their OpenLab fellowships in 2005, the GRL was envisioned as a nonprofit design studio for creating experimental technologies with street art applications. While at Eyebeam, Powderly and Roth developed a method for creating graffiti messages in individual LED lights and a system for projecting shapes drawn with a handheld laser in real time. Powderly and Roth later founded the F.A.T. (Free Art and Technology) Lab, a collective dedicated to the merging of open source technology and popular culture, with Theo Watson, Chris Sugrue, and others.
Eyebeam expanded its programmatic lineup of exhibitions and workshops with MIXER, a series dedicated to showcasing leading performance artists in the field of live video and audio, in late 2007. The inaugural event, “Brother Islands (Places to Lose People),” was focused around an immersive experimental documentary of North Brother Island and Wards Island by media artist Benton C Bainbridge. MIXER events were organized around themes as disparate as the World's Fair, the 2010 Winter Olympics, and New York City’s underground and featured interactive installations alongside performances by musicians and performance artists including DāM-FunK, Extreme Animals, CHERYL, and D-Fuse AV. That same year, fellows and resident artists began organizing mobile workshops and talks as a way to bring creative technology to venues outside of New York. The Eyebeam Roadshow has since visited colleges, universities, and other academic spaces in the United States, United Kingdom, and South Korea, in addition to participating in the 2010 01SJ Biennial in San Jose, California.
In 2011, several Eyebeam residents, fellows, and alumni participated in Talk to Me: Design and the Communication between People and Objects at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Eyebeam Fellow Ayah Bdeir’s littleBits, a DIY kit of open source pre-assembled circuits, was among the projects displayed and was acquired by the MoMA as part of their permanent collection.
In February 2014 the first ever Art + Feminism Wikipedia Edit-A-Thon was hosted at Eyebeam in conjunction with more than 30 satellite edit-a-thons internationally across the United States, Canada, Australia, Italy, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom.
- John S. Johnson III: 1997 – 2004
- Steven Tremble: 2004 – 2005
- Amanda McDonald Crowley: 2005 – 2011
- Patricia C. Jones: 2011 – 2015
- Roddy Schrock: 2015 - present
Active research groups
Sustainability (2006–Present): The Sustainability Research Group aims to create sustainability-related projects at and beyond Eyebeam. Main areas of focus have included energy and urban sustainability issues related to transportation and pollution, green spaces, and agriculture.
Urbanism (2006–Present): The Urban Research Group examines relations between art, technology and urban life. Current topics include contemporary conditions of public space, mobile and nomadic urban architectures, alternative platforms for communication and expression, urban agriculture, open sensor networks and new forms of civic participation, and urban interventions that identify and exploit public systems and infrastructures.
Open Culture (2008–Present): A descendent of Eyebeam’s earlier R&D Lab and OpenLab, The Open Culture Research Group explores craft traditions, free software, copyleft, and other models of shared, open culture. The Open Culture Research Group organizes skill-shares on topics such as shared distribution, open licensing among artists, and design methodologies toward social change and critical intervention.
Game Design (2010–Present): The Game Design Research Group explores the intersection between games, technology and art. Members of the group include independent game designers in and outside of Eyebeam, academics, and game enthusiasts. The group hosts monthly meetups in which members prototype and play-test games in development, particularly casual games and games incorporating physical computing.
Archived research groups and labs
The Moving Image Lab (2001–2005) was a lab group dedicated to supporting creative innovation through sound, moving image and software tools. Also known as the Moving Image Division, its design as a laterally structured studio allowed collaboration between production artists, artists in residence and research fellows, and commissioned artists.
- Production Lab (2005–2008): A successor to the Moving Image Studio, Eyebeam’s Production Lab focused on projects that employed non-traditional methods of making work, such as process art and community-based input. Members of the Lab created open source software tools and public projects and presented screenings, talks and exhibitions.
Research & Development (R&D) Lab (2001–2005): Eyebeam R&D Lab developed emerging technologies with the goal of maximizing the expressive potential of new media. This interdisciplinary work was sustained through partnerships with academic institutions, corporate labs, start up companies, and artist-inventors.
- OpenLab (2005–2008): The Eyebeam OpenLab was a successor to the R&D Lab, and shared the mission of incubating experimental technologies and media for the public domain. OpenLab fellows created original projects that were distributed under GNU GPL and Creative Commons licenses in order to allow other artists, hackers, and engineers to remix work, contribute to projects, and build on top of their efforts.
Middle East Research Group (2006–2010): The Middle East Research Group was founded in 2006 by artists, engineers and designers from Eyebeam and beyond to examine the influence of media and technology on the Middle East as a means of rediscovering bottom-up agency.
- Ars Electronica Center
- Center for Art and Media
- Free Art and Technology Lab (aka "FAT Lab")
- Graffiti Research Lab
- Kitchen Budapest
- V2 Institute for the Unstable Media
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