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Sophia Brueckner Named Nokia Bell Labs Artist in Residence

Nokia Bell Labs has accepted Sophia Brueckner into its 2020-21 Artist in Residence program. Brueckner is a futurist artist, designer, engineer, and assistant professor at the Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design at the University of Michigan.

Brueckner will collaborate with the Nokia Bell Labs "Experiments in Art and Technology" (E.A.T.) program and the Stamps School of Art & Design to deliver the first-ever Midwest iteration of the residency.

Unlike the EAT residencies of the past, this iteration will not happen on site at Nokia Bell Labs in New Jersey, but rather it will unfold on the University of Michigan campus, with visits from Nokia Bell Labs engineers.

Bell Labs has a long history of fusing technology and the arts, beginning in 1931 with the collaboration of conductor Leopold Stokowski on the first transmission of stereo sound. In the 1950s and 1960s, composer James Tenney and pioneer of computer-mediated art Lillian Schwartz developed the first computer graphics, art, and sound as part of their residencies at Bell Labs.

Rather than harvesting data from the wearer, Sophia Brueckner's Embodisuit (2018) allows the wearer to experience their data as physical sensations on their skin and assert their autonomy from corporate interests.

Fusing technology and creativity, the EAT program helps research teams deepen their understanding of how technology can support emotional connection and empathic communication — and offers a unique opportunity to invent new forms of communication, interaction, and sharing between people.

Brueckner comes to the residency with a creative practice informed by her experience as a software engineer at Google, where she designed and implemented products used by tens of millions and developed experimental projects within Google Research. After her time in Silicon Valley, Brueckner earned her MFA in Digital + Media at the Rhode Island School of Design and an MS in the Fluid Interfaces group at the MIT Media lab. Her creative work, exploring speculative futures and empathy, has been featured by SIGGRAPH, Artforum, Eyeo, ISEA, the Peabody Essex Museum, Portugal’s National Museum of Contemporary Art, TEDx, the Bemis Center for Contemporary Art, and others.

Captured by an Algorithm (2019) is a commemorative plate series by Sophia Brueckner that looks at romance novels through the lens of the Amazon Kindle Popular Highlight algorithm. It tells a story of the loneliness, grief, and vulnerability felt by the readers.

“We are thrilled to collaborate with Nokia Bell Labs on this residency,” said Guna Nadarajan, dean of the Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design. “Sophia Brueckner’s approach to research and creative practice — combining her background in design and engineering with the perspective of an artist — holds so much promise for this residency and for inspiring new ways of humanizing technology.”

About Nokia Bell Labs + Artist Residency

Nokia Bell Labs is the world-renowned industrial research arm of Nokia. Over its more than 90-year history, Bell Labs has invented many of the foundational technologies that underpin information and communications networks and all digital devices and systems. Nokia Bell Labs acknowledges that engineering and scientific training can limit perspective of the world and thus often requires the human centric perspective of an artist. To address this gap, the Experiments in Arts and Technology (E.A.T.) program began over 50 years ago by artist Robert Rauschenberg and Bell Labs engineer Billy Kluver. The present-day incarnation of the Nokia Bell Labs E.A.T. research lab is designed to explore how technology augments human creativity and provides an extension of Nokia’s research and innovation by fusing art and technology in meaningful ways.

About the Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design, University of Michigan

Fueled by the scholarship, research, and resources of a tier-one research university, the Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design at the University of Michigan provides a unique approach to transdisciplinary, inquiry-led creative practice. Our graduate and undergraduate students enjoy a supportive, curiosity-filled culture of makers and scholars seeking to activate their creative practice as an engine for cultural change and innovation. The school offers undergraduate degrees in art and design and two graduate level degrees: an MFA in Art and an MDes in Integrative Design.