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 challenge 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 ten “specimens” of waste, 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

In ​Invisible/Invincible, ​Joo Young Lee (MFA candidate, Sculpture, SAIC), ​Mirae Lee (PhD student, Microbiology, UChicago), and ​Maggie Zhang (PhD student, Microbiology, UChicago) explore the politics of invisibility in th​e scientific and aesthetic sense ​by constructing a staged environment that simulates survival strategies of microbes and experimenting with microscopic portraits. ​How does a bacterium protect itself from a hostile environment? The collaboration aims to reexamine the invisible and often underappreciated bacteria that withstand physical adversities to form the living infrastructure of our world. As women of color, Joo Young, Mirae, and Maggie have found themselves empathizing with the impact and resilience of microbes​. The project will investigate the invisible barriers protecting bacteria and humans against their rapidly​ ​changing​ ​and​ ​potentially​ ​adverse​ ​environments​ ​through​ ​a​ ​microscopic​ ​lens. 

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) and Jan Tichy (Assistant Professor, Photography, 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

Since the latter half of the 20th century, news media has been an active participant in the social and political climate. As the times change, the narratives and outlook of the news media evolve, too. In this project, Kushal K. Dey (PhD candidate, Statistics), Lauren M. Jackson (PhD candidate, English), and Lei Sun (PhD candidate, Statistics) will develop machine learning approaches to objectively explore how social, cultural, or political narratives may change over time for a given news outlet and also how they change across different outlets when compared within the same time frame. While we intend to touch upon various social and political issues, one topic of key interest is the evolution of blackness as a staple idiom within African American or Black American publications along with the narrative developments in contemporary media, as it covers social and political issues that affect Black Americans (police violence, Ferguson and Baltimore, Black Lives Matter, etc). The authors will process and analyze text data from newspaper and magazine archives and study the comparative enrichment of narratives across different media outlets and across time.

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