[-empyre-] Beatriz da Costa - the early years

Heidi Kumao hkumao at umich.edu
Wed Feb 20 06:31:02 EST 2013

Hi all,

I’ve been reading what everyone has written and became especially nostalgic
when Antoinette was describing the Robotic Cello piece.  Shani (Beatriz)
and I started sharing a studio at Carnegie Mellon University at that time,
and I witnessed almost every aspect of that project’s construction and
complexities…oh, the golden days!

I will start my writing here by sharing some of my impressions and memories
of Shani  as she was just establishing herself in the U.S. as an artist.

I first met Shani in late 1999 at Carnegie Mellon where she was an exchange
student from Aix-En-Provence finishing her thesis project (the cello) and I
was a Research Fellow at the Studio for Creative Inquiry.  I was sitting in
on Simon Penny’s course on technology, theory, and culture, which had an
amazing array of artists, engineers, computer scientists, and other
interested parties (including Shani) all joining into the lively class
discussions. The culture of Carnegie Mellon’s art community at that time
was incredibly fluid in terms of the art and technology crowd.  Potlucks,
parties, and meetings at bars would always include a mixture of art
students and faculty, as well as Ph.D. students in robotics, computer
science, and AI.  It was a magical time to be at Carnegie Mellon as it was
the home base for many great tactical media practitioners and artist
collectives including: Critical Art Ensemble, Simon Penny, Institute for
Applied Autonomy, SubRosa and other groups working out of the Studio for
Creative Inquiry, a think tank for creative research . Working
collaboratively was commonplace and we all seemed to share similar ideas
about the function of art and the artist in society.  I say all this to
frame the environment that Shani and many of us shared at that time, and
also to contextualize what would become integral aspects of her working

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