Penny W. Stamps School of Art and Design at the University of Michigan

Roman J. Witt Residency

Witt Artist In Residence

The mission of the Roman J. Witt Residency Program is to support the production of new work with assistance from the Stamps School community. The program awards one residency per academic year for a visiting artist/designer to work at the school to develop a new work in collaboration with students and faculty. A centerpiece of the residency is the open studio, a centrally located studio space that is part of the school’s main gallery where the resident carries out work in a public domain. This public visibility of the artist/designer’s process is intended as a teaching tool for the school as a whole. The residency is expected to culminate in the realization of the proposed work, as well as a presentation that summarizes the process and work accomplished.

2014-15 Witt Proposal Shortlist

Interviews with shortlisted artists are being conducted now. The 2014-15 Witt Residency will be awarded in May.

Anna Macleod

The intention of this project is to build a discursive platform for a re-visioning of the future through the lens of the past; Utopian dreams revisited and reconfigured within today’s realities. The work utilizes water as an emotive tool to reveal and interrogate current realities and poetic wishes for future possibilities.

I propose to create a process-led body of work contained within a mobile structure that focuses on cultural water memory and contemporary social activism in Michigan. The wooden construction, based on Buckminster Fuller’s Geodesic design, is mobile and transferable to a variety of locations and will be constructed in such a way that it can be reconfigured depending on the situation or location. As a structure, it functions variously as a sculpture and as a hub for showing the collaborative works generated during the residency. I envision that the works generated during the residency will include drawings, sculptures, photographic images of live performances, sound recordings of interviews with water activists/ specialists/citizens and archive/contemporary video footage.

The intention is to make a body of work that mediates a local/global contemporary view of water and its relationship to place (Michigan) and human agency & that the school uses the legacy of the process led work and its physical presence as a teaching tool for further module development in socially engaged practices.

The relative mobility of the proposed work offers opportunities for further National and International exhibitions. The installation would be designed in such a way to allow for mobility, and the physical and digital works can be set up in a variety of locations around the campus and beyond or exist as a permanent piece in the collection of the Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design.

Reynold Reynolds

I propose to create an installation and artwork utilizing multiple filmed loops. The finished work will be part of a series of related works addressing the themes of architecture, space, time, symmetry, orientation, and perception. The first work in this series builds on renaissance painting composition and is being filmed in Rome as part of the American Academy in Rome residency. The second is to be filmed in southern Mexico in Aztec ruins.

In Michigan I would like to work with constructed architecture models and concentrate on ideas of scale and forced perspective. The finished piece will be a mix of stop motion and scale models using depth to incorporate the live dancers/actors.

Each work in the series will be a two-channel installation with variations on the themes. Using screens, mirrors, simple props, shadows and wall orientations in the gallery each work will focus on a different aspect of space and time.

The piece will be created by filming in public art spaces, galleries, open studios and museums, and a large number of people are incorporated into the making of the works, even often people from the audience who become active members of the process. These film-performances contribute to the understanding of how moving image art overlaps with other art forms and practices including performance, photography and installation as well as how technology and processes are used.

The project will result in a 2 channel installation. An art-film installation and the documentation of the processes and film performances used in the creation of the art work. This work will be part of an series of film works (started in Rome) around the themes of Architecture, Space, Time and Perception.

Connected to the film-making process the documentation and instruction will be added to a website that functions as a centralized information database with open source data on how to use new technologies such as Arduino and Raspberry Pi in combination with analogue film. This will enable people to create film works with high image quality and creative freedom that were before only possible with specialized and expensive equipment.

The open source website will continue to evolve. People add and improve our technologies and exchange ideas. It should become the essential website for DIY celluloid aficionados hopefully growing beyond any connection to any specific art work or artist.

Josefina Posch

During the Witt Residency I propose to create between 9-15 soft sculptures cast “cloned” from one original. A figures sculpture made up out of body-castings/parts from 15-20 people of varying age, sex and ethnicity as well as shapes inspired by cells, viruses and bacterias. The sculptures will light up, move, make sounds, project, through the use of micro-controllers such as Arduino programmed to response to live data feed information on current global disease outbreaks and Biological Incidents/ Threats/ Anthrax Hoaxes via a site such as Global Incident Outbreaks Maps and/or the data feed of tweets containing words such as Anthrax, H1N1, Swine Flu, Meningitis, Salmonella, Plague etc.

The sculptures will hang from the ceiling and/or be scattered around the exhibition area making it possible for the viewer to walk between, touch and maybe even re-arrange them.

The work can be done either through taking actual physical casts from volunteer models and sculpting the cells and pathogens from images or through utilising 3D scanners and Rapid prototype printing of the parts to later be assembled by me. The original sculpture will be in a solid material such as Jesmonite or Plastic and the clones in rubber but in line with Stamps non -media specific curriculum, it is important that the project has an open-ended aspect with a flexibility allowing to take advantage of opportunities and ideas arousing from working with students and the university and thus the final work could be in other materials shown more appropriate.

Lauren Was and Adam Eckstrom

It is our intention to collect images, sounds, culture, history and the detritus to locate the hopes and dreams, or what we like to call “the Aspirational Location” of the people at Stamps and their surrounding community. Mining the culture and its immediate surroundings for its dreams and desires we approach each project as if one of us were an archeologist and the other an anthropologist.

At Stamps we will research the students, faculty, and the community to find the most interesting crossroads of hopes, desires, and aspirations. We will poll people, collect physical ephemera, and photograph and record the School and it’s environment. Once we have collected our data, and have come to our base conclusions, we then have a set of hypothesis and materials that we can work from.

While we have not set out the specifics of the physical outcome of the project, as we would like much of it to be dictated by Stamps, we can still share some expectations. We will be working with video, audio, the collection of words and detritus; and with these materials we will end up with sculpture, collage, drawing, video and photography.

We will welcome working with students on any and all facets of the project, from the collection, research, to work-shopping ideas, to making text drawings, and collecting and editing video, audio, and still images.

Along side our collection of material objects, we also collect words; words we hear, words we see in advertising, and words that represent what seems to be happening in a given time and culture. Much like the objects we collect, we will take these words and use them in repeat as our pallet to create drawings. If possible we would like to create a large site-specific wall drawing somewhere in or near the school.

From working with the students- The most ideal outcome will be that we both learn from and teach each other about our processes current, invent new processes, and that we all affect each other’s way of thinking.

From exhibiting and working in the Gallery- The most ideal outcome is a successful exhibition that brings as many people into the Gallery as possible and attracts new people that have never been there before.


Previous Witt Residencies

Fall 2014

Jennifer Karady

Artist/Photographer, Fall 2013

For the past seven years, artist/photographer Jennifer Karady has worked with American veterans returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to create staged narrative photographs that depict their individual stories and reveal their difficulties in adjusting to civilian life. After extensive interviews and a lengthy planning process, Karady collaborates with the veteran to restage a chosen moment or memory from war within the safe space of their everyday environment, often surrounded by family, friends and home.

The collision between or collapse of the soldier’s world and the civilian world enables the viewer to glimpse a fragment of what is going on in the individual soldier’s mind, evokes the psychology of life after war and the challenges that adjustment to the home front entails. The process of making the photograph is conceptually inspired by a form of cognitive behavioral therapy and is intended to be helpful for the veteran.

The multi-layered process of making each photograph takes between one and three months, and culminates in a highly choreographed installation/event, cinematic in scale. To maintain the truthfulness of the staged moment and the authenticity of the veteran subject’s participation, there is no digital manipulation. Each large-scale color photograph is accompanied by text, based on audio recordings, that consists of the veteran recounting his/her story in his/her own words.

The Project

The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have impacted, and continue to impact, virtually every aspect of American life and culture. While the wars have attracted vast media coverage, there has been relatively little discussion about returning veterans when one considers the lingering challenges that veterans face in becoming civilians again and the impact of this on millions of families throughout the country. By stimulating community awareness through a residency and exhibition on campus, as well as interaction with local veterans organizations, the Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design at the University of Michigan will foster public dialogue around an important social issue.

With the help of the University of Michigan community and students, Karady will create new work in collaboration with veterans who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan as part of a larger, critically acclaimed national project, Soldiers’ Stories from Iraq and Afghanistan. Stamps students will be involved in the process and production of two new “staged narrative photographs” with sound installation and in the design of a “Listening Area” to include the stories of additional veterans.

Though the end products are large-scale color photographs with sound installation, the process of and concepts behind making the photographs draw from many disciplines. By combining documentary story seeking, fine art photography, narrative tableaux painting, performance and cognitive behavioral therapy/psychology concepts, Karady has developed a detail-oriented, personal approach to portraiture.  This project will contribute to, and expand upon, the discourse around contemporary artistic practice as it relates to portraiture, staged photography, performance, documentary methodology and narrative form (visual, sound and text).  Students will learn both technically and conceptually from this project, which will add to ongoing dialogue on campus about art’s ability to impact change for both an individual and society.


Fall 2012

OpenEnded Group

Digital Artists, Fall 2012

In Fall 2012, renowned digital artists Paul Kaiser, Marc Downie, and Shelley Eshkar of the OpenEndedGroup are coming to A&D as Witt Fellows. During their residency here they will be creating an experimental hybrid digital/documentary artwork to offer new ways for people to explore the public and private spaces of their environment.

With the help of the U-M and Ann Arbor community, OpenEndedGroup will map, evoke, and reflect a cross-section of the complex urban space of Detroit, a rapidly contracting city that teeters between its grand industrial past and a wide-open future.

The project has its origins in an OpenEndedGroup piece commissioned last year by the University of Michigan entitled plant– an immersive 3D exploration of the huge factory ruins of the long-abandoned Packard Plant in Detroit. This project expanded the group’s conception of what maps can do, a conception further enlarged by their concurrent software development for visualizing very large public data-sets (funded in 2011 by the NSF).

The new project envisions an immersive mapping environment that visualizes, situates, and contextualizes diverse layers of information with new precision, while also evoking the past and present individual lives of those who have occupied some of the spaces thus surveyed.

It is a new kind of artwork that will enlarge both the subject and the range of participants and audiences. Though undeniably an artists' project in conception, it will draw upon the contributions of others -- designers, photographers, researchers, audio engineers, and interview subjects; and thus involve the participation not only of faculty and students in Ann Arbor but also of citizens in Detroit.

In spirit, the project would be one of invention and discovery since nothing quite like this has been created before. Their hope is that everyone involved would contribute their ideas and insights rather than simply executing a fixed plan that they determine in advance.

Project outcomes include a multi-screen 3D installation, a high-definition 3D film, and an interactive online application that draws on the new rendering potential of WebGL, which represents the current frontier of online possibilities.



Fall 2011

James King

Speculative Designer, Fall 2011

The Witt Resident:  James King

What if we have to accept a higher level of risk in order to benefit from technology? When the unexpected does happen, what will it look like and how will communities respond? How will we live well in a world that is increasingly complex and interconnected?

Speculative designer James King collaborates with scientists to design potential applications for their research, imagining the possible outcomes if technologies developed in the lab were adopted by people in their everyday lives. The results are objects, films and images intended to spark debate on the desirable and undesirable qualities of future technology. 

For King, the most rewarding aspect of these collaborations has been the opportunity, not just to interpret scientific research, but also to contribute to it. “The design process is an implicit but unrecognized aspect of the biological sciences. Through further collaborations and projects my aim is to build an explicit role for design as part of scientific practice.”

The Project:  A World of Surprises

King’s project during his Witt Residency is a design and science collaboration imagining what it will be like to live with the risks created by developing technologies. Working with University of Michigan students and faculty, and the Ann Arbor community, King will stage a series of temporary installations and happenings in and around Ann Arbor that tell the story of a fictional technological accident and its ramifications.

The project will be documented as a film, and the film will be shown in as part of a seminar held at the end of the project bringing together experts to discuss the intersection between risk, science and art / design.

James King


Grennan & Sperandio

Collaborative Art, Fall 2010

In Fall 2010, Christopher Sperandio and Simon Grennan worked with UM students in the School of Art & Design’s Slusser Gallery workspace to create Conflict Theory as Game, a large-scale, interactive installation that was the site for a series of collaborative games. Conceived as a large-scale model of part of the University of Michigan campus and surrounding Ann Arbor community, UM students, faculty and staff, as well as members of the general public, participated in all stages of planning, execution, and play.  The final cardboard and paint reconstruction of recognizable local streets and buildings was the setting for a series of conflict games.

In sociology, Conflict Theory is a set of ideas that emphasize conflict in human society. One assumption is that competition is at the heart of all social relationships. In a time of (seemingly) endless global conflicts, this new work sets notions of Conflict Theory at the center of an interactive installation. Drawing on sociology, psychology, architecture as well as art and design, the installation served as both a spectacle and a functioning space for communication and fun.

The international, collaborative artists Grennan and Sperandio have created interactive artworks for museums and art centers since the early 1990s. Identified with the Relational Aesthetics movement, the duo most often works in the form of comic books and animation.

Kartoon Kings: The Work of Simon Grennan and Christopher Sperandio


William Dennisuk

Environmental/Installation Artist, Fall 2009 and Winter 2010

Dennisuk’s sculptural and environmental installation works investigate issues of light and space. His recent explorations of new material techniques explore the intersection between physics and art, linking realms of architecture, landscape art, and public installation.

Art on the Huron is a public art initiative drawing attention to our relationship with water and, by extension, the larger environment. The central motif of the project, a vessel-like form — evocative of figure and container — appears suspended on the water’s surface. This, together with the open mesh of the sculptural forms, suggests how subtle, delicate — and at present how strained — the balance between ourselves and the environment is.


Pat Oleszko

Performer, Fall 2008 and Winter 2009

Pat Oleszko makes a spectacle of herself–and doesn’t mind if you laugh. The body is Oleszko’s armature for ideas. Utilizing elaborate costumes and props, she has created lithe performances, films, and installations that include trees, knees, breasts, and elephants. She has worked from the popular art forms of the street, party, parade and burlesque house, to the Museum of Modern Art, from Sesame Street Magazine to Ms, Playboy, and Artforum.

Gulliblurr’s Travels was a wild and burgeoning performance epic engaging the faculty and student/bodies in creating a series of installations, videos and theatrical presentations based on an updated, refigured vision of Jonathon Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels. With direction and work created by Pat Oleszko and students thru workshops and rehearsal, the piece took place in a variety of locations, all filmed and edited into the final live performance event. Using the text as base of continuing exploration and contemporary inspiration, extraordinarily sculptural props and costumes, inflatables, original sound and a variety of diverse theatrics including puppets and the use of absurdity amidst realism created an outstanding performance.



Sound Artist/Composer, Winter 2008

Trimpin’s work is an ongoing exploration of sound, vision and movement, introducing our senses to a totally new experience. Although he uses the latest technologies, he works with “natural” elements–water, air, light, fire, etc.–reconfiguring them in new and unusual applications, pushing them to the limits, and beyond, of their traditional roles.

The Gurs Zyklus (Gurs Cycle) originated in Germany in 1940. The Hebrew tombstone inscriptions in the Jewish cemetery in Trimpin’s hometown puzzled him, and he learned all these people had been taken away to the Spanish-French border internment camp at Gurs—eventually many sent to the infamous death camps. Years later, composer Conlon Nancarrow mentioned being imprisoned at Gurs after fighting fascism with the Lincoln Brigade in the Spanish Civil War. Reminded again of that grim connection, Trimpin wondered how he might express this painful episode in his village’s history.
Developing the scope and content of The Gurs Zyklus using the instrument “FireOrgan” was the focus of Trimpin’s residency. The project engaged a multitude of units beyond A&D including: the College of Engineering, the School of Information, the School of Music Theater & Dance, Taubman College of Architecture & Urban Planning, and the German Department.