Shawn Brixey

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Shawn Brixey
Shawn brixey.jpg
Shawn Brixey
Photo taken 2006.
Born Shawn Alan Brixey
Springfield, Missouri
Nationality American
Education Kansas City Art Institute
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Known for Digital art, Telematics, Physics, Bioart
Movement Art, Science and Technology, Phenomenological Art

Shawn Alan Brixey (born 1961 Springfield, Missouri) is an artist, educator, researcher, writer, and inventor working primarily at the interface of art, science and technology.[1]

Brixey is the Dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts at York University, in Toronto, Canada. Brixey was a co-founder and former director of the DXARTS Center for Digital Arts and Experimental Media at the University of Washington, Seattle.

Academic career[edit]

Brixey was born in Springfield, Missouri. Brixey received a BFA in Sculpture and Experimental Media from the Kansas City Art Institute in 1985.[1][self-published source]

Brixey received an MSVisS in Media Arts and Sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1988. At MIT he studied at the Media Laboratory and the Center for Advanced Visual Studies.[1][self-published source]

In 1989 Brixey was selected as the inaugural Leonardo Fellow at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and as a Visiting Artist at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills Michigan.[1][self-published source] In 1990 he joined the faculty of the University of Kentucky and founded their New Media Program which grew to include artist Eduardo Kac. In 1994 he joined the faculty at the University of Washington, and Chaired the new Interdisciplinary Visual Arts Program until 1997. In 1997 He received San Francisco State University's first Presidential Distinguished Scholar Award and helped found their New Media Institute.[1] In 1998 he joined the faculty at the University of California, Berkeley, and was the Founding Director of the New Media Program. He rejoined the faculty at the University of Washington in 2002 to Co-Found the new DXARTS program along with composer Richard Karpen.[1][self-published source] In 2009 Brixey was honored with the University of Washington's Floyd and Delores Jones Endowed Chair in Arts and Sciences. Brixey has served as Creative Director for the Center for New Cinema since 2009.[2]

Brixey was Co-Founder and former Director of the University of Washington's Center for Digital Arts and Experimental Media.[3][4] Established in 2002, DXARTS offers both hybrid B.F.A. and Ph.D. degrees.[5]

In 2009 Brixey served as the chair of the New and Virtual Media Directorate for the Canadian Foundation for Innovation. He currently serves on the board of Seattle-based non-profit, The Center for New Cinema (CNC). Brixey was appointed in 2011 to the International Scientific Advisory Council for GRAND, a National Research Council Canada networked research program.[citation needed]

In 2013 Brixey became Dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts at York University.[1][6][7]

In 2017 Virginia Commonwealth University announced that the Toronto educator Shawn Brixey was named new dean of the VCU School of the Arts, following the tenure of former dean Joseph H. Seipel.[8][9]

Experimental media art[edit]

Brixey is best known for pioneering highly complex experimental artworks that synthesize physics,[10] astronomy, cosmology, biology and advanced computing.[citation needed] An example is his 1987 project Photon Voice, which uses (the kinetic momentum of photons) in sunlight to build a micro-gravitational system. The light source developed for the project encoded an intense beam of sunlight with the artist's voice and was the used to levitate tiny galaxies of graphite particles in a vacuum chamber.[11]

Video Still from Alchymeia at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan.

In Brixey's project Alchymeia, designed for the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan, the naturally occurring steroids from the blood and urine of Olympic athletes were used as doping agents to stimulate the growth of unusual snowflakes that would otherwise be impossible to find in nature.[10]

Chimera Obscura, created in collaboration with UC Berkeley Museum curator Richard Rinehart was commissioned for the 2002 premiere of the touring exhibition Genesis | Contemporary Art Explores Human Genomics at the University of Washington’s Henry Art Gallery. Chimera Obscura examined issues of genomic research through the creation of a massive multi-user data driven organism. The project centered on the operation of a precision tele-robot that online visitors piloted through an elaborate real-world maze in a museum created from a human thumbprint. As visitors moved through the maze space they left behind archeological layers of virtual information genes in the form of text, video and audio. The stored data from their electronic “bread crumb trail” evolved into large structural information nodes. Much like cities, the information architecture of the nodes in the maze naturally mutated over time, and the more activity that occurred within the data organism, the more the physical space changed. The continually evolving physical structure of the maze, its dynamic range and mutability, required millions of Internet visitors aligned in loose confederations much like a social organism to generate a fundamental mapping and sequencing of a co-mingled hybrid virtual and real space.

More recent work, such as Eon, develops novel high-energy ultrasound, sonochemistry and plasma physics to explore the creation of “material poetry,” art formed from the discrete interactions of matter and energy. Eon received a 2003 Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship, and focused on harnessing the phenomenon of sonoluminescence, the process by which sound in liquids can be converted directly into light, to construct a tiny brilliant star-like light source. Eon allowed museum and telepresent visitors from the Internet to send short poetic e-mails in five different languages to the exhibition site and have them converted into voice-encoded ultrasound. The high-frequency sound field modulates a 1000ml vessel of ultrapure water creating a series of high and low-pressure nodes. The sounds nodes trap microscopic gas bubbles at the center of the glass vessel, and through the process of sonoluminescence, the voice encoded sound field crush bubbles into infinitesimally small energy emitting points that produce a brilliant star-like light source radiating words as light from a small glass cylinder. Visitors wear specially designed headphones that allow them to listen directly to the starlight and the voices of the Internet-based visitors around the world creating the star. Eon amplifies lingering questions on the nature of belief, beauty and the fidelity of digital experience, and begins to ask whether the nearly unbelievable natural phenomenon at the core of the project is more believable than the sophisticated technology tools used to create and sustain it.


Awards and distinctions[edit]

In 2003 Brixey received a Rockefeller Foundation fellowship for new media.[14] In 2004 Brixey and two DXARTS doctoral students Bret Battey and Ian Ingram received an Editors Choice Award in Popular Science Magazine's "World Design Challenge".[15] The winning entry was awarded for novel use of feedforward ultrasound technology used to produce wide-field active noise cancellation in underwater environments specifically to protect endangered marine mammals.[16]

In 2009 Brixey was awarded the Floyd and Delores Jones Endowed Chair in Arts and Sciences at the University of Washington.[17]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "Shawn Brixey Bio". Shawn Brixey. Retrieved 11 August 2013. 
  2. ^ "Center for New Cinema Personnel". Retrieved 11 August 2013. 
  3. ^ Lehrke, Dylan Lee. "Brixey builds star, program," The Daily, November 13, 2003.
  4. ^ Scott, Carrie E.A. "The Art of the Stars," The Stranger, December 1, 2005.
  5. ^ "DXARTS website". Retrieved 2011-05-27. 
  6. ^ "Shawn Brixey York University". The International Council of Fine Arts Deans. Retrieved 2 June 2016. 
  7. ^ "Welcome to the Canadian Association of Fine Arts Deans (CAFAD)". Canadian Association of Fine Arts Deans. Retrieved 2 June 2016. 
  8. ^ "VCU Names New Dean for School of the Arts, Shawn Brixey". Style Weekly. Retrieved 19 May 2017. 
  9. ^ "Shawn Brixey Appointed Dean of Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts | ARTnews". Retrieved 19 May 2017. 
  10. ^ a b Stephen Wilson (2002). Information Arts: Intersections of Art, Science, and Technology. MIT Press. pp. 250–. ISBN 978-0-262-73158-4. 
  11. ^ Brixey, Shawn. "1986 Photon Voice". Retrieved 2017-03-03. 
  12. ^ "Shawn Brixey Appointed Dean of Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts | ARTnews". Retrieved 19 May 2017. 
  13. ^ "Shawn Brixey Appointed Dean of Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts | ARTnews". Retrieved 19 May 2017. 
  14. ^ "Shawn Brixey". Retrieved 2 June 2016. 
  15. ^ Bonnier Corporation (July 2004). Popular Science. Bonnier Corporation. pp. 102–. ISSN 0161-7370. 
  16. ^ "Design Challenge Editor's Choise [sic] : Marine Mammal Rx". Popular Science. Retrieved 2 June 2016. 
  17. ^ "DXARTS Director Shawn Brixey is Awarded UW's Prestigious Floyd and Delores Jones Endowed Chair in the Arts". DXARTS. University of Washington. Retrieved 2 June 2016. 


  • Simulation to Emulation: New Frontiers in Telematic Arts, College Art Association Conference, February 20–26, Boston, Massachusetts. (MIT Press/Leonardo New Media Futures, 2006).
  • Albrecht, Donald and Ellen Lupton, Design Culture Now, The National Design Triennial. (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton Architectural Press, 2001). ISBN 1-56898-215-1.
  • Claus, Jurgen, Elektronisches Gestalten in Kunst und Design. (Hamburg, Germany: Rowohlt Press, 1991). ISBN 3-499-18194-0.
  • Costa, Mario, Phenomenology of New Technology Arts. (Salerno, Italy: ARTMEDIA Press, Universita di Salerno, 2005).
  • Czaji, Attila, Art and Technology Works. (Budapest, Hungary: Mucsarnok Publishers, 1990). ISBN 963-7402-49-7.
  • Henry, Steven, Wonders of Genetics Breed New Art, New York Times. (New York: New York Times Company, Sunday, May 26, 2002).
  • Korza, Pam, Museums and Civic Dialogue, Case Studies from Animating Democracy. (Washington, D.C.: Americans for the Arts, 2005).ISBN 978-1-879903-37-1.
  • Lehrke, Dylan Lee. "Brixey builds star, program," The Daily, November 13, 2003. [1]
  • Popper, Frank, From Technological to Virtual Art. (Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press, 2006). ISBN 0-262-16230-X.
  • Popper, Frank, Art of the Electronic Age. (London, England: Thames and Hudson, 1992). ISBN 0-8109-1928-1.
  • Popper, Frank, Art and Electronic Media, Kunst Forum, Vol. 50, No. 4. (Köln, Germany: Kunstforum International, 1990).
  • Scott, Carrie E.A. "The Art of the Stars", The Stranger, December 1, 2005. [2]
  • Shanken, Edward, Art and Electronic Media. (London, England: Phaidon Press, 2008). ISBN 978-0-7148-4782-5.
  • ed. Weber and Weidemeyer, Deutscher Kunstlerlexicon und Archiv, Documenta 1-8. (Kassel, Germany: GmbH Co., 1987). ISBN 3-925272-14-3.
  • Wilson, Stephen, Information Arts, the Intersection of Art, Science and Technology. (Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press, 2001). ISBN 0-262-23209-X.

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