The 2020–21 ASCI Graduate Collaboration Grants were awarded to four outstanding teams of UChicago graduate students. ASCI's affiliation with the School of the Art Institute may resume for the 2021–22 academic year.
Dante in the Lab
Dante in the Lab is an exploration of the influence of contemporary physics and medieval literature on each other. The team consists of Beatrice Fazio (PhD candidate, RLL, Italian Studies) and Tanvi Gandhi (PhD candidate, Physics), who investigate the physical mechanisms that lay down the topology of Dante’s Inferno. The concepts of entropy and classical gravity, as well as the idea of apparent order accompanied by underlying chaos, are considered to reframe our understanding of Hell. To illustrate the changes in entropy while traveling through the various circles of Hell, the team presents a short film which uses the narrative device of a couple experiencing a breakup. The film is further accompanied by animated illustrations and visuals from a soft matter experiment of an entropic phase transition. Identifying the themes that relate the worlds of science and literature will not simply help clarify the role of medieval physics in Dante's Comedy and how it connects to contemporary physics, but it will also expand new areas of synergy between fields often considered mutually exclusive.
Faculty advisors: Justin Steinberg (Professor, Italian) and Heinrich Jaeger (Professor, Physics/James Franck Institute).
The Real Housewives of Beverly Hill
The Real Housewives of Beverly Hill is an original puppet show that takes place after an unspecified mass revolution where capitalism is overturned. Marissa Fenley (PhD candidate, English & TAPS) and Blair Bainbridge (PhD candidate, Anthropology & Conceptual & Historical Studies of Science) follow six housewives—each represented by a 14” rod puppet—who live on Beverly Hill, the only hill left in the one-time playground of the rich and famous, Beverly Hills. Beverly Hill is, to the housewives, a safe haven from the revolutionaries who brought about the end of capitalism and their own personal apocalypse. As we follow the housewives, we learn about how they have managed to construct modes of capital accumulation among themselves (namely a canned bean economy) and a patriarchal hierarchy they can wield in order to re-subject themselves and each other (they all share one husband to preserve the symbolic order of wifeliness without the inconvenience of having to maintain a marriage.) Thus, the series has two dramaturgical registers: on the one hand, it is a satire of the conventions and characters of The Real Housewives franchise. However, it is also an anthropological look at how specific dynamics of capitalism infect the construction of upper-class female identity.
Faculty advisors: David Levin (Professor, Cinema and Media Studies, Germanic Studies, TAPS) and Michael Rossi (Associate Professor, History of Medicine, the Conceptual and Historical Studies of Science, Stevanovich Institute on the Formation of Knowledge)
Robot Mediation of Performer-Spectator Dynamics
With the encroachment of technology as mediators in our performative spaces, from Alexa at home to Spotify’s Playlist recommendations, this project investigates how robots can mediate relationships among performers, among spectators, and between performers and spectators. Robot Mediation of Performer-Spectator Dynamics builds on existing research in Human-Robot Interaction, which has shown that the actions of social robots in groups that include humans have ripple effects on the interpersonal dynamics among humans themselves. Baldwin Giang (PhD student, Music) and Valerie Zhao (PhD student, Computer Science) tackle this question by composing a work for instrumentalists, social robots, and interactive audience members from whom robots collect input that both provides feedback to the performers and also shapes the improvisational dynamics and formal properties of the work in real-time. Through multiple virtual performances, we conducted a human subject study to collect qualitative and quantitative data about the interaction between the performers, audience, and the robot mediator.
Faculty advisors: Sam Pluta (Assistant Professor, Music), Sarah Sebo (Assistant Professor, Computer Science), and Blase Ur (Neubauer Family Assistant Professor, Computer Science).
Humans are visual creatures, and we often build our reality around what we can see. However, what we consider to be an objective reality is often only a subjective interpretation informed by our individual biologies, cultures, and past experiences. As a neuroscientist who studies the retina and a sculptor who relies on vision to create work, Jen Ding (PhD 2021, Neurobiology) and Anton Auth (MFA 2021, Visual Arts) explore the subjectivity implicit in the act of seeing. Subjective Realities is an opportunity for two practitioners—one of science and one of art—to speak candidly with each other to compare the role of seeing in two fields of knowledge that are sometimes considered to be on opposite sides of the cultural spectrum. This collaboration—compiled into a book of artworks, scientific inquiries, descriptive figures, correspondences, disputes, and moments of synchronicity—investigates the differences in practice and approach between the participants. The exploratory journey across disciplines proposes questions to the collaborators and to the reader: How do people’s sociological background impact the way that they see? What does handcraft look like in science, and where do we see evidence of the scientist in her experiments? What happens when the artist begins to see himself as the subject of his own experiments?
Faculty Advisors: Stephanie Palmer (Associate Professor, Organismal Biology and Anatomy) and Geof Oppenheimer (Professor, Visual Arts).