New-media arts inside and outside the research laboratory


November 29, 2012


Golan Levin


Carnegie Mellon University


This talk considers some histories of arts-driven innovation in and out of computer research laboratories. Through artist residencies, “renaissance teams”, and other multidisciplinary innovation methods, high-technology research laboratories have knowingly (and sometimes unknowingly) engaged with new-media artists for nearly fifty years, yielding meaningful dividends in both culture and technology. The first generation of computer artists, in the 1960s, were wholly dependent on such labs for access; most recently, however, the growth of personal computing power and rapidly-expanding cultures of commons-based peer-production have allowed loose, self-assembling networks of artist-hackers to innovate quickly outside the laboratory. The presentation includes a discussion about how commercial research labs might better harness the energies of this expanded talent pool, while returning value to these communities in ways they find meaningful.

Levin’s presentation is framed by a brief discussion of his own computational and new-media artworks, with attention to how the use of speculative gestural interfaces can support new modes of critical inquiry, interaction and play. His presentation concludes with an update from his laboratory at Carnegie Mellon, and its recent initiatives in real-time robotic arts, social and tactical media, Kinect-based cinema, and biological art


Golan Levin

Golan Levin (@golan) is Associate Professor of Computation Arts at Carnegie Mellon University, where he also holds courtesy appointments in computer science, design, and entertainment technology. Levin’s research explores new intersections of machine code and audiovisual culture, combining equal measures of the whimsical, the provocative, and the sublime in a wide variety of media. His work has spanned themes such as gestural robotics; the tactical potential of personal digital fabrication; novel aesthetics of non-verbal interactivity; and information visualization as a mode of arts practice. Through performances, digital artifacts, and virtual environments, Levin applies creative twists to digital technologies that highlight our relationship with machines, make visible our ways of interacting with each other, and explore new intersections of abstract communication and interactivity.

Golan has spent more than 20 years as an artist embedded within high-technology research environments, in places like the MIT Media Laboratory, the Ars Electronica Futurelab, and Paul Allen’s former Interval Research Corporation in Palo Alto. Since 2009, Levin has served as Director of CMU’s Frank-Ratchye STUDIO for Creative Inquiry, a discipline-shattering laboratory for atypical research across the arts, science, technology and culture. A two-time TED speaker, Levin was named one of “50 Designers Shaping the Future” by Fast Company magazine in October 2012. He has exhibited widely in Europe, America and Asia