Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) kicked off its inaugural Artist-in-Residence program on April 12 with the installation of a multimedia sculpture resembling a neural network.
Los Angeles-area artist Deborah Aschheim, a native of Wellesley, Mass., is visiting the WPI campus for a week-long residency, during which her artwork will be realized and installed in the staircase of Fuller Laboratories. A team of WPI students with experience in the arts is assisting Aschheim in the preparation and installation of the finished artwork. Joshua Rosenstock, assistant professor of humanities and arts, is serving as liaison among the artist, students, and staff. The residency will culminate in a public event for the presentation of the new work on April 18, with an artist’s talk at 2 p.m. in Salisbury Labs 105 to introduce and give context to the project. A reception will follow at 3 p.m. in the upper lobby of Fuller Labs.
"WPI students and faculty are passionate about the arts, and we wanted to do something innovative and creative to celebrate that passion," said Rosenstock. "What's really great for us is the technical component of Deborah Aschheim's work. It matches what's going on at WPI; themes relating to science and technology."
Aschheim's project, a light sculpture titled "What do machines remember?" was chosen from 150 submitted proposals. She is inspired by the personal and scientific understanding of memory and the interaction of humans, machines and buildings. The sculpture will be based on some of her more recent works, which visualize the memory process and resemble webs of neurons. Audio and video elements will be incorporated into the sculpture. Aschheim said her light sculptures explore the natural tie-in between people and science. "It's interesting to open it up to students," she said. "It will be a memory network, and the kids will make videos. It's like making new DNA to pull into the genes of the project."
She presented the question "What do machines remember?" to students she will collaborate with. Aschheim anticipates that the videos they produce will answer that question. Those videos will play on small screens along the sculptured network.
"Deborah Aschheim has a good, multidisciplinary orientation, and she has a really good vision for collaboration with the students to develop the project," Rosenstock said. "It will broaden people's perceptions of what public art can be."