sfai news

May 04, 2009

SFAI Awarded $114,000 by the Partner University Fund

In order to further the development of a collaborative project, In/Out, between SFAI and the Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, the Partner University Fund (PUF)—an organization that promotes innovative initiatives between French and US research institutions (see below)—has awarded SFAI $114,000.

SFAI and the Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne will partner, primarily through their Film and New Media departments, to develop graduate-level open-source digital courseware that will enable collaborative international digital networks for interdisciplinary interactive art research and creation. “We are deeply honored to be one of the very few colleges in the US selected for this prestigious grant,” said SFAI President Chris Bratton. “It represents an extraordinary opportunity to bring together students and faculty from the Art Institute with those of the Pantheon-Sorbonne in the exploration of the latest technologies and the creation of innovative approaches to new cinematic forms. This new digital network provides a platform for further creative collaborations in San Francisco and beyond.”

Dedicated to crossdisciplinary artistic creation within the context of new and emergent media, the collaboration will consist initially in continuous virtual exchanges, via a digital peer-to-peer (P2P) platform, among faculty members and students from both institutions, culminating in synchronized multipoint exhibitions. The exchanges will consist in nonlinear, digitized, real-time productions: each student/project manager will receive data feeds from the shared network, which he or she will be free to use, adapt, revise, or ignore, and then will be able to send his or her own real-time multimedia productions back to the network. The coursework and exchanges will be documented so that they may serve as the model for further international versions and expansions.

This new partnership also includes Paris-based Sebastian, an animation and video-game component of the Digital Sister Cities program—inaugurated in 2005 by the San Francisco Mayor’s Office—linking San Francisco to Paris. Contributing significant resources to the project, the Sebastian team will help to ensure not only a successful exchange among students and faculty, but also the expansion of the creative digital network. With In/Out as the critical starting point, SFAI, the Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, and Sebastian will also be coordinating exchanges with Gobelins-l’Ecole de l’Image in Paris and the Stanford Humanities Lab at Stanford University.

Each of the faculty members from the partner institutions involved in the project will bring to it an already-established record of artistic and scientific achievement as well as concentrated academic innovation in film and digital media. At SFAI, lead faculty members will be Lynn Hershman Leeson, chair of the Film department, and Paul Klein, chair of the Design and Technology department. At the Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, associate professor Maurice Benayoun will be the lead.

Bios of Lead Participants

Chair of SFAI’s Film department and professor emeritus at the University of California, Davis, artist and filmmaker Lynn Hershman Leeson is known internationally for her pioneering use of new technologies and her prescient investigations of such issues as identity in a time of consumerism, privacy in an era of surveillance, the interfacing of humans and machines, and the relationship between real and virtual worlds. Her three feature films—Strange Culture, Teknolust, and Conceiving Ada—have been shown at festivals across the world and have won numerous awards. Her work is featured in such public collections as those at MoMA, the ZKM (Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie), and the Walker Art Center. Recently honored with grants from Creative Capital, and the National Endowment for the Arts, she is also the recipient of a 2009 John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, a Siemens International Media Arts Award, the Flintridge Foundation Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Visual Arts, the Prix Ars Electronica, and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Feature Film Prize. Hershman Leeson is currently working on a feature-length documentary—Women Art Revolution—about the revolutionary feminist art movement.

Chair of SFAI’s Design and Technology department, Paul Klein investigates the discursive realms of compact and decentered urbanity as they are reflected in structures of domesticity. In his work, he has explored the cultural practices inherent in spectatorship, identity, and xenophobia. His artwork has been exhibited at such venues as SFMOMA, the San Jose Museum of Art, the Alternative Museum in New York City, and the Museum of Modern Art in Cartagena (Colombia). His work was also included in In Transition: Russia 2008 at the National Centre for Contemporary Art (NCCA) in Moscow (Russia) and in the five-venue traveling exhibition New Realities: Hand-colored Photographs, 1839–Present. He was an artist-in-residence at the Djerassi Foundation in Woodside, California, and was awarded an NEH Summer Institute residency for 2006. Klein currently lives in San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Paris-based new and emergent media art pioneer Maurice Benayoun (aka MoBen) is one of the principal founders of CITU. A director in the 80s of video installations and short films on such contemporary artists as Daniel Buren, Jean Tinguely, Sol LeWitt, and Martial Raysse, he went on to cofound Z-A, a computer graphics and virtual reality lab. In the early 90s, he collaborated with Belgian graphic novelist François Schuiten on Quarxs and received the Bourse Louis Lumié0re/Villa Mé1dicis Hors les Murs award for his project Art after Museum, a virtual reality contemporary art collection. Works from this period also include The Tunnel under the Atlantic (1995)—a televirtual project linking the Centre George Pompidou in Paris to the Musé2e d’art contemporain de Montré3al in Quebec. In 2001, he devised The Membrane, a large surface whose function was to breathe and feel the presence of the visitors to the museum in which it was exhibited. Together with architect Christophe Girault, Benayoun won in 2006 the competition for the new permanent exhibition in the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, which opened in 2007.

Sources of Support

PUFPartner University Fund—was established in May 2007, under the auspices of the FACE Foundation, with the objective of supporting innovative and sustainable partnerships between French and US institutions of research and higher education.

FACEFrench-American Cultural Exchange—is a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting contemporary creative work in the context of French-American cultural and educational exchange. FACE, in partnership with the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in the United States, administers programs and projects in music, theater, dance, cinema, education, and the visual arts.