News & Events

Witt Residency Program

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.

2017-18 Witt Residency: Zafos Xagoraris

The Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design at the University of Michigan proudly announces the Roman J. Witt Artist in Residence for the 2017-18 academic year: Zafos Xagoraris.

An internationally recognized artist, Xagoraris has created audio-based work in public spaces in Munich, Germany; Brooklyn, NY; Anacapri, Rovereto, Palermo and Pescara, Italy; and Athens and Patra, Greece.

Zafos Xagoraris, "Downhill Bed", object and action during the group exhibition Politiche della Natura, Fondazione Zimei, Pescara, 2016

For his Roman J. Witt Residency, Xagoraris will host workshops for Stamps School students to design and build simple audio devices — and develop research-based messages to broadcast to the local community. Stamps students will work with Xagoraris to lead workshops in local K-12 schools, helping public school children grasp the technical aspects of the equipment and the power in thoughtful, well-researched messaging. Finally, Stamps students and community members will participate in collaborative outdoor public performance moments in the city of Ann Arbor.

Zafos Xagoraris, "Tide Bell", outdoor installation, 1st Bienal Fin del Mundo, Ushuaia, 2007

Zafos Xagoraris was born in 1963 in Athens, Greece, where he continues to live and work. He studied at the Athens School of Fine Arts, the National Technical University of Athens and at the Center for Advanced Visual Studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Xagoraris has exhibited his work internationally; group exhibitions include: 27th Bienal de Sao Paulo (2006), Manifesta 7, Rovereto (2008), 4th Athens Biennale (2013) and documenta 14 (2017)

Zafos Xagoraris, "The Distance from the Center", action with the participation of students of the Sassari University, Nuoro, 2011

“Zafos Xagoraris exemplifies the positive impact creative practitioners can have when they work with the citizens of their communities,” says Chrisstina Hamilton, Director of Visitors’ Programs for the Stamps School. “Stamps students and the city of Ann Arbor will benefit from his collaborative, research-based, community-focused approach.”

For more information about Zafos Xagoraris, visit:


Previous Witt Residencies

Fall 2016

Pinar Yoldas

Cross-disciplinary artist/researcher, Fall 2016

Pinar Yoldas is a cross-disciplinary artist/researcher based in Durham, North Carolina. Her work develops within biological sciences and digital technologies through architectural installations, kinetic sculpture, sound, video, and drawing, with a focus on post-humanism, eco-nihilism, anthropocene and feminist technoscience.

For her Witt Residency at Stamps, Yoldas created a Silent Spring dining performance, inspired by Rachel Carson’s seminal 1962 environmental advocacy text. The work included a menu and tableware that focused on the chemical compounds found in insecticides and herbicides, and a performative dinner table discussion about the role chemicals play in modern food production.



Fall 2015

Joseph Keckler

Singer, musician, and writer, Fall 2015

Straddling the worlds of art, music, and performance, Joseph Keckler has garnered acclaim for his powerful 3+ octave voice and sharp wit. In his entrancing concerts, he delivers arresting, absurdist arias and haunting chamber pop ballads. He was recently featured on BBC America's The Nerdist and WNYC Soundcheck, and has appeared at Joe's Pub, SXSW, The New Museum, BAM Fischer Center, Issue Project Room, Amsterdam's Bellevue Theatre, and many other venues in the U.S. and Europe.

Borrowing the title from “Lasciatemi morire," the Monteverdi aria, Keckler's Let Me Die approaches the canon of tragic opera as a “body perfumed with death” as he ties together and performs fragments of a multitude of operatic death scenes in this work-in-progress preview of a new durational performance/installation piece.

Photo by Rosie Sharp for Knight Foundation Blog


Fall 2014

Reynold Reynolds

Artist and Filmmaker, Fall 2014

Reynold Reynolds was born in 1966 in Central Alaska. During his undergraduate schooling at the University of Colorado at Boulder, Reynolds studied Physics, receiving a Bachelor’s degree under the professorship of Carl Wieman (Physics Nobel Laureate 2001). Changing his focus to studio art, he remained in Boulder to study under experimental filmmaker Stan Brakhage. After moving to New York City, Reynolds completed an M.F.A. at the School of Visual Arts. In 2003, Reynold Reynolds was awarded the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, and in 2004, he was invited to The American Academy in Berlin. In 2008, he received support from the German Kunstfonds to develop two projects in Berlin. Reynolds has received numerous awards for his film work, including the Festival Award for “Secret Life” at the European Media Art Festival Osnabrueck, 2008, the ’09 Distinction Award for “Six Apartments” at Transmediale Berlin and Mention spéciale du jury, “Last Day of the Republic” at Videoformes, 2011. At the beginning of 2013, he was awarded the Joseph H. Hazen Rome Prize.

At Stamps, Reynolds will be working with constructed architecture models and live performers in a gallery space to investigate ideas of scale and forced perspective. Using screens, mirrors, simple props, shadows and wall orientations in the gallery, a new piece will be filmed. The finished work will incorporate stop motion animation, architectural scale models and live performance to address Architecture, Space, Time and Perception.

These filmed-performances contribute to the understanding of how moving image art overlaps with other art forms and practices including performance, photography and installation.

Connected to the film-making process, instructional documentation will be posted to a website that functions as a centralised information database providing open source data on how to use new technologies such as Arduino and Raspberry Pi in combination with analogue film.

This project will use some similar working methods as Reynolds’ earlier work “Six Easy Pieces”: For more information on the filming process, see:


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.