The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) has announced the recipients of its 2021 Art + Technology Lab grants, an annual series of prizes that extends monetary and in-kind support for artistic projects that push the boundaries of emerging technologies. Selected from over 900 submissions, this year’s winners include projects that explore nonbinary gender through virtual reality, sound and interactive gaming, nonhuman intelligence via video gaming technology, and science fiction and rocket science.
LACMA has funded over 40 Art + Tech projects by artists from around the globe since 2013. The awards are modeled after the museum’s original Art and Technology program, which paired Southern Californian artists and technology companies from 1967 to 1971. Today, the Art + Tech grantees gain the support of an advisory board whose members include Hyundai, SpaceX, Google, and others.
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This year’s winners include Lukas Avedaño, EYIBRA (Abraham Brody), and Oswaldo Erreve. Their project “MUXX” is inspired by the muxes of the Zapotec people in Mexico. Muxes represent “an identity that has existed for thousands of years, surviving colonization and forced christianization,” Brody wrote in an email to Hyperallergic. “It is an identity (along with nonbinary and third gender from cultures across the globe) that has existed since the beginning of time.” The artist trio will combine performance, virtual reality, and 3D video to explore the importance of nonbinary and third gender identities in indigenous communities and in communities of color.
Jaqueline Kiyomi Gork and Rhett LaRue’s project “Inhabit360” will use sound as the primary media for navigating a multiplayer game space. “Sound in interactive media is typically an afterthought, designed around the existing visuals to supplement and elevate game play,” Gork and LaRue noted over email. “Rather than focus on using sound for its immersive effects, we are interested in the ways it makes you attuned to your internal self.” Their project aims to use sound as a catalyst for mining the user’s desires and “internal, somatic motivation.”
Lawrence Lek’s “Death Drive” will use video game technology to create an interactive road movie about ideas of empathy and autonomy related to the non-human other. “The fictional figure of the alien/monster/robot symbolizes a social and political fear of unknown groups of radicalized beings,” Lek said in an email to Hyperallergic. “Rather than dealing with the nonhuman as a simplistic binary, as a threat or as a victim, I’m interested in exploring ideas of empathy and connection — particularly how humans and non-humans can share similar psychological mechanisms.”
The final grantee project is “Collective Head” by American Artist. The project will pull research from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory to build a machine in the form of a rocket motor test that is inspired by the science fiction writer Octavia E. Butler and America’s Second Great Migration.
The works will be presented on a rolling basis at various venues and will start to appear online this winter.