Owens Leads Networked Digital Sculpture Studio in Venice and Ithaca
Stephanie Owens, visiting assistant professor in art and Cornell Council for the Arts (CCA) director, led a studio workshop in July at the Università Iuav di Venezia (IUAV).
The workshop, titled Object Empathies: Networked Digital Sculpture Studio, was the first step in developing her new project, Mare Nostrum (Our Seas), and part of IUAV's 2016 Workshop Architettura Venizia (W.A.V.e.). Each year W.A.V.e. invites architects and artists to Venice for three weeks to work on an intensive project in the context of the city. The workshops are led by Italian and international guests interested in large-scale interdisciplinary projects.
During the workshop, Owens and graduate students of IUAV’s program in visual arts used "reality computing" as a sculptural process to model a Venetian boat as a means to explore the tangible aspects of recent forced migration in large Italian cities. Owens and the students found and modeled a 10-meter San Pietro boat — a traditional type of Venetian cargo boat and the kind that might be used by refugees crossing from Northern Africa, Libya, or Syria to the coast in Italy.
In addition to the boat, the workshop used photogrammetry to model objects collected by the students that symbolized Venice as a significant crossroads of international migrants and travelers. Prompted by an exercise that asked them to imagine which single object they would take with them if they were forced to leave everything behind, the resulting collection of personal objects — for example, a bed pillow, native plant, and small talisman — as well as the San Pietro boat, were modeled and stored in cloud-based software, to be shared with peers at Cornell.
As a continuation of the Venice workshop, students in Owens's fall advanced digital art studio titled, Object Empathies: Digital Sculpture will explore a similar relationship with found or personal objects. All of the various objects sourced and scanned at both universities and cities will then be united in one aggregate form and fabricated at a 1:1 scale from found cardboard and other recyclable materials.
Object Empathies is a new studio and research class that follows from Owens's work at the interplay of social networks, art, and society, exploring "how memes function as representation in motion, and, in Mare Nostrum," says Owens, "whether remote human suffering can be better understood through the experience of a documentary realism that is more physical than photographic images." The final sculpture is being made in parallel to the fall 2016 CCA Biennial, titled "Abject/Object Empathies," opening at Cornell in September, and is to be exhibited in Venice sometime next year.
"This first voyage of the project was realized through a partnership between Cornell and IUAV, with the support of Enrico Fontanari who runs IUAV's international programs." says Owens. "I am grateful to art department chair Michael Ashkin and AAP dean Kent Kleinman for their support of my participation through the faculty Professional Development Fund administered by the dean's office."
By Patti Witten