Paula Gaetano-Adi, UNT new media artist, receives prestigious VIDA grant award

Paul Gaetano-Adi, New Media assistant professor
Initiative for Advanced Research in Technology and the Arts

College of Visual Arts and Design new media assistant professor Paula Gaetano-Adi, left, has been awarded the prestigious VIDA Art and Artificial Life Awards' Artistic Production Incentives grant — an international grant award for art and artificial life projects created by people from Iberoamerica (Spain, Portugal, and Latin-America).  The award will allow Gaetano-Adi to pursue her proposed artificial life system project over the course of the next year.

The winning proposal submitted by Argentinian native Gaetano-Adi involves an installation of seven giant spherical robots with an external shell of dried mud fabricated using a pre-colonial construction technique.  The work is titled “TZ’IJK,” the Mayan word for mud, and it will be a collaborative piece created jointly with the artist’s long-time mentor and fellow artist Gustavo Crembil

VIDA is an international awards organization that supports artificial life projects based on systems which emulate, imitate or speculate on the notion of life through current research and technology. These systems may involve attributes of agency and autonomy which display specific behavior, are dynamic, react to their surroundings and evolve, and which question the frontiers between what is alive and what is not, between synthetic and organic life.

TZ'IJK concept“This work is the contradiction of putting together two different types of materials: very high technological aspects for robotics and movement and very low-tech materials like the mud,” Gaetano-Adi said.

Gaetano-Adi’s abstract calls TZ’IJK  a “technological art project inspired by Latin-American indigenous roots that not only echoes their creationist mythology, but also attempts to use some native technologies and different low-tech sustainable materials to create an artificial but autochthonous technological landscape.”

The concept for TZ’IJK is based upon a Mayan creation myth in which the gods make several false starts in setting humanity upon the Earth, and created man first out of mud but soon found him to be “a useless, clumsy creation that moved around without understanding, insight, or perceptiveness,” the abstract reads.

“Robotics has always been applied to successful intelligence,” Gaetano-Adi said.  “This work is to apply that high technology to an ancient idea regarding the inadequacies of the mud-humans the Mayan gods saw as a failure.” 

Gaetano-Adi is the newest member of UNT’s new media art faculty and of the Initiative for Advanced Research in Technology and the Arts (iARTA) – an evolving research cluster bringing together faculty from the colleges of music, art and design, arts and sciences, and engineering. iARTA celebrates a growing international reach with the addition of Gaetano-Adi to their team.  The artist brings expertise in art-robots, performance, and the aesthetic applications for artificial life systems to UNT's new media discipline.  

Additional Context

In 2006, Gaetano-Adi also took first prize in VIDA’s 9.0 completed projects competition and was awarded 10,000 euros for her Alexitimia project, a biomorphic robotic art piece that reacted to human interaction by sweating when touched.

UNT music composition faculty member and iARTA coordinator David Stout received honorable mention in the 2010 VIDA 13.0 awards for a sound and visual project he created with Cory Metcalf called Noisefold 2.0, a complex generative computation system creating a real-time flow of data which is manifested simultaneously as three screen video and audio output. 

Jurors for VIDA awards include top artificial life artists, thinkers, writers, and researchers from places as varied as Spain, France, Austria, Mexico, New Zealand, and Canada, with winners from just as varied a geography. 

Artificial life projects like those pursued by Gaetano-Adi are an intriguing interdisciplinary practice within the new media trend sweeping art schools around the world.  Gaetano-Adi joined UNT’s new media faculty this fall.  She was previously living in Troy, N.Y. where she was an adjunct professor in Integrated Electronic Arts at Rensselaer University

Gaetano-Adi coined the term “artificial corporality” as a compliment to the notion of “artificial intelligence” in the context of creative or artistic robotics.  The project she will pursue with the VIDA grant award is a natural continuation of her research that has been included in international exhibitions, most notably at The National Art Museum of China (Beijing), MejanLabs Gallery (Stockholm), ARCO Fair (Madrid), FILE Festival (Sao Paulo), Centro Andaluz of Contemporary Art (Sevilla), National Museum of Poznan (Ponznan), BrandenburgerTor Foundation (Berlin), Museum of Modern Art (Buenos Aires), and Proteus Gowanus Gallery (New York).

— Amelia Jaycen, Publications Assistant, Office of Research and Economic Development