The Arts, Science + Culture Initiative and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) are pleased to announce the 2017–18 Graduate Collaboration Grant recipients


Elaborating Waste

This project brings together literary and social scientific analysis to explore how capitalist society values and re-values its own wasteful byproducts. Over the last three centuries, capitalist growth has relied, not only on the apparent abundance of the Earth’s natural resources, but also on the ability of human innovators to transform waste products into raw materials for new ventures. If waste has been understood as a form of equivalence that is capable of endless repurposing, Hannah Burnett (PhD student, Anthropology) and Allison Turner (PhD candidate, English) seek to interrogate this view by representing waste’s own residues—the material and affective singularities that have resisted easy conveyance from one context to the next. Together, they will create a temporary exhibition that includes “specimens” of waste from a variety of sites, as well as an accompanying catalogue that draws out the unique stories of each.

Faculty Advisors: Shannon Dawdy (Professor, Anthropology, UChicago), Joseph Masco (Professor, Anthropology, UChicago), and Zachary Samalin (Assistant Professor, English, UChicago)

Invisible/Invincible: The Bacteria Survival Guide

Bacteria form the living infrastructure of our world: they perform invisible roles in maintaining, defending, cycling our soils, oceans, and bodies. They are single-cell microorganisms present in various habitats on Earth such as the soil, water, acidic hot springs, and arctic environments. The survival of the bacterium in its natural habitat depends on its structural and molecular defenses against adverse conditions. In Invisible/Invincible, Joo Young Lee (MFA candidate, Sculpture, SAIC), Mirae Lee (PhD student, Microbiology, UChicago), and Maggie Zhang (PhD student, Microbiology, UChicago) will investigate the survival strategies of microbes and produce microscopic portraits and narratives to investigate what we can learn from the survival strategies of microbes. As women of color, Joo Young, Mirae, and Maggie have found themselves empathizing with the impact and resilience of microbes. Focusing on both invisibility and resilience of microbes, the collaboration seeks to reconsider the act of seeing and the way it affects the understanding of our place in the surrounding world.  

Faculty Advisors: Sean Crosson (Professor, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, UChicago) and Dan Price (Assistant Professor, Sculpture, SAIC)

Looking at the Speculum

The current design of the vaginal speculum was developed by American physician J. Marion Sims in the 1840s. Sims conducted his medical experiments on enslaved women, some of whom endured up to 30 surgeries without anesthesia. This project investigates the clinical use and social implications, pasts, histories, and futures of the speculum. Through artistic experimentation, archaeological consideration, and anthropological method, Emma Gilheany (PhD student, Anthropology, UChicago) and Efrat Hakimi (MFA candidate, Painting and Drawing, SAIC) will examine the social and material life of this instrument to create an installation that critiques the speculum through its function as a viewing tool. This project will consider the particularity of a woman’s embodied experience, and the relationships between curiosity, intimacy, and intrusion. This collaboration seeks to expose, deconstruct, and oppose the violence embedded in seemingly quotidian protocols that women encounter.

Faculty Advisors: Shannon Dawdy (Professor, Anthropology, UChicago), Jan Tichy (Assistant Professor, Photography, SAIC), and Terri Kapsalis (Adjunct Professor, Visual and Critical Studies, SAIC)

Funded by the Graduate Division, School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC).

A Choreographic Score to Human Particle Detection

Dancing in a collective requires that dancers react and adapt rapidly to their environment as it changes around them. The interactive feedback among the dancers occurs predominantly on the somatic level: dancers are specifically trained to sense and feel change. A similar interactive feedback can be observed in particle detection physics: argon atoms are aware of each other through electromagnetic interactions. Stimuli that change the state of the atomic collection result in rearrangements or ionization of the atoms. The similarity between dancing bodies and argon atoms allows choreography to emerge as a powerful heuristic to understand and transform particle detection. In A Choreographic Score to Human Particle Detection, Anne-Sophie Reichert  (PhD candidate, Anthropology) and Evan Angelico (PhD candidate, Physics) will score a choreography for a group of dancers that effectively replicates a functioning particle detector and engages the human ability to communicate somatically. During the performance, the human detector will be held accountable to scientific performance standards in particle physics. At the same time, dancers and audience members will learn the crucial features of particle detection in experience.

Faculty Advisors: Henry Frisch (Professor, Physics, Enrico Fermi Institute, UChicago) and Michael Rossi (Assistant Professor, History, UChicago)

Power Structures: Connotations of the Facade in State Architecture

How do state structures impose and suggest power in the public sphere? Through an investigation of state buildings, particularly those that house authority, legal enforcement and have colonial references, this work considers how public buildings imply dominance of one group over others. Using methods of analysis from social science and the articulation of architecture through art, Ayesha Singh (MFA candidate, Sculpture, SAIC) and Elizabeth Jordie Davies (PhD student, Political Science, UChicago) focus on American and Indian structures, and their legacies of racism and colonialism through their temporal and political context of creation.

Faculty Advisors: Michael Dawson (Professor, Political Science, UChicago) and Jefferson Pinder (Professor, Sculpture, Contemporary Practices, SAIC)

Funded by the Graduate Division, School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC).

Social Movement and Media Narrative: Statistical and Machine Learning Analysis of Socio-political News Coverage

In many ways, the turbulent times of the 1960s and early 1970s America, though fraught with social unrest, foreign crisis, and cultural revolution, played a great role in shaping a generation. In addition to the many significant developments of the time, this era was also a witness to changing African American society, lifestyle and culture. This evolution was reflected in African American magazines and publications of the time. In this project, Kushal K. Dey (PhD candidate, Statistics), Lauren M. Jackson (PhD candidate, English), and Lei Sun (PhD candidate, Statistics) use machine learning methods to process and analyze text data from two leading African American magazines of the time: Negro Digest (which later changed its name to Black World) and Ebony—within a time span of 15 years from 1961–1975. Purely based on the frequencies of words and the contexts in which these words are used, and agnostic to any prior training, their algorithms identify the end of civil rights movement in 1967–68 as a transition point for changes in narratives and the overall vocabulary. These methods also show how narratives connecting African Americans to race, discrimination, protests, and movements during the civil rights era gradually make way for narratives related to African American art, music, theatre and, culture post this era. This project is supported in part by the UChicago Research Computing Center.

Faculty advisors:  Michael Dawson (Professor, Political Science, UChicago) and Peter McCullagh (Professor, Statistics, UChicago)