Adam Trowbridge and Jessica Westbrook

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Adam Trowbridge and Jessica Westbrook are multidisciplinary artists, and co-founders of Channel TWo [CH2][1] and Array [ ].[2] They are also professors at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago IL (2010–present) where they teach research and studio courses in the Department of Contemporary Practices and the Department of Art and Technology Studies.[3][4][5] Born in the 1970s, Trowbridge and Westbrook lived through the emergence and evolutions of personal computer, video game, and internet technologies. They grew up in suburban Orlando, FL,[6] and earned BFA and MFA degrees in studio art. They spent the late 1990s working as web developers for major corporations and internet startups in the Baltimore–Washington metropolitan area, and are currently doing research at the intersection of art, design, media, sociopolitical concerns, and code literacy.

In a 2001 Washington Post interview, Trowbridge describes their formative 20th century experiences, "I’ve been in the tech industry at least five or six years. I've been using the Internet since before the Web existed.[7] In her bio Westbrook describes their working relationship, "collaboration is important because ideas, material, and motivations are inherently networked and social," and "togetherness transgresses the obvious and produces something beyond the scope and limits of individual expression/will." [8] Trowbridge and Westbrook and have been partners since meeting in high school in 1990. Oskar Westbridge, their dotcom inspired baby, was born in Y2K, 10 years after they first met.[9][10]

Adam Trowbridge [b 1972, San Diego, CA] is a code media artist, programmer, researcher, and a published author.[11] In 2008 Trowbridge received an MFA in Electronic Visualization from the University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL.[12] In 1996 he earned a BFA in Sculpture and Painting from the University of Central Florida, Orlando, FL.[13] In his early work (video, performance, and sound art) Trowbridge was interested in exploring the "aesthetic possibilities that arise as communication breaks down"[14] and "inventing incidents and simulations that occur slightly above the noise level, between words that organize our communities and the chaos that lies beyond them."[15] In 2015 Adam Trowbridge presented a lecture on his computational research/practice called, "Everything Will Be Fine" for the After Extinction Conference at the Center for 21st Century Studies, University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee.[16]

Jessica Westbrook [b 1974, Pittsburgh, PA] is a media artist, graphic/information/interface designer, researcher, and a published author. In 1998 Westbrook received an MFA in Photography from Temple University, Tyler School of Art, Philadelphia, PA and in 1996 she earned a BFA in Photography from the University of Central Florida, Orlando, FL.[17] Westbrook continues to be interested in "systems, desire, visual cues, language"[18] Her thinking is "influenced and informed by everyday cultural landscapes, the mundane, observations, conversations, rules, routines, and habits of lived experience filtered through timing, probability, and gender and class constructs." She is "attracted to the impossibilities of binary reasoning (real and virtual, fact and fiction, data and narrative)" and uses "design [legitimacy] to negotiate and organize the joys and struggles of information and understanding."[19][20] [21]

History of Collaboration[edit | hide all | hide | edit source]

In 2009 Trowbridge and Westbrook wrote a critical essay on the "Creative Class®" called "Lost South" that was published in "Art Work: A National Conversation About Art, Labor, and Politics" a newspaper produced by art group Temporary Services that included the writings from artists, activists and academics on the topic of working amidst depressed economies and how that impacts artistic process, compensation and artistic property. "Art Work" was distributed and exhibited throughout the United States and Puerto Rico [22] and featured the writings, images, and work of Julia Bryan-Wilson, Holland Cotter, Tim Kerr, Nance Klehm, Harrell Fletcher, Futurefarmers, Robin Hewlett, Nicolas Lampert, Lize Mogel, Dan S. Wang, Gregory Sholette, Dylan A.T. Miner, Christina Ulke and Marc Herbst of the Journal of Aesthetics & Protest, OurGoods, Chris Burden, Scott Berzofsky, John Duda, InCUBATE, Linda Frye Burnham, ILSSA, Cooley Windsor, Brian Holmes, Nick Tobier, Lolita Hernandez, Stacy Malasky, Nate Mullen, Aaron Timlin, Harold Jefferies, W&N, Damon Rich, Teaching Artist Union, FEAST, 16 Beaver Group, W.A.G.E., Chris Kennedy, Nato Thompson, Carolina Caycedo, Guerrilla Art Action Group, Anthony Elms, Adam Trowbridge, Jessica Westbrook, and many other artists, art workers, curators, interns, volunteers, writers, and activists.[23]

In 2009 Trowbridge and Westbrook began working closely (through IRC/freenode) with Philadelphia-based Basekamp, an artist-group researching and co-developing interdisciplinary, self-organized art projects with other individuals and groups in various authorship-blurring configurations.[24][25] With Basekamp, Trowbridge and Westbrook primarily focused on the production of Plausible Artworlds,[26] a project to collect and share knowledge about alternative models of creative practice, "From alternative economies and open source culture to secessions and other social experiments, Plausible Artworlds is a platform for research and participation with artworlds that present a distinctly different option from mainstream culture."[27][28] Plausible Artworlds involved a year-long series of IRC and Skype conversations and interviews. Guests included E.A.T.(Experiments in Art and Technology), b.a.n.g. lab, Ultra-red, IRWIN, etc. The project ultimately culminated in a Plausible Artworlds book (ISBN 978-1-300-72426-1) made possible by the financial support of the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage.[29] Plausible Artworlds was featured at the 2010 Creative Time Summit: Revolutions in Public Practice in New York in 2010 [30][31]

In 2010 Trowbridge and Westbrook formally initialized Channel TWo [CH2], their new media art and design studio, as a means to de-compartmentalize everyday life and channel their interests into experimental, self-initiated projects. Channel TWo [CH2] is named for the idea of "transmission" or "distribution" (Channel) and for the people involved (TWo): Adam Trowbridge, Jessica Westbrook, and Oskar Westbridge.[32][33] In their Rhizome.org bio Trowbridge and Westbrook state that, "We believe collaboration is a priority because media practices are situated across relationships, disciplines, cultures, complexities and economies and it is friendship/connection, not competition or hierarchies, that defines authentic, constructive, accessible, supportive and sustainable conditions for artists, designers, scholars functioning outside the market." [34] This same year Trowbridge and Westbrook used an opportunity to edit the inaugural print edition of Media-N, Journal of the New Media Caucus (a College Art Association affiliate organization) to focus on two-person collaborations. They titled the edition, "Dynamic Coupling," interviewed living artists, and put together a series of dialogues, or models, for reference.[35] From their editor statement, "In breaking with conventional (collaboration) analogies and metaphors, we can now begin to ask bigger cultural and pedagogical questions: What responsibility do we have to encourage experimentation in collaborations as our 21st Century students come of age in the culture and economy they have inherited: post-author, post-structure, post-material, post-market, and potentially pre-collapse? What can we share? How much existing structure do we need to revise or throw out so that artists as groups can go about inventing a place for themselves and establish their own diverse and sustainable art worlds?"[36] Interviews in the collection included a dialogue with Eva and Franco Mattes aka 0100101110101101.ORG.[37] In 2012 CH2 was invited back to Media-N to write an essay for "Tracing New/Media/Feminisms" (SPRING 2013: V.09 N.01). Their piece, titled "Radical Togetherness.pervasiveFeminism" explores language and foregrounds feminism as a primary motivation in CH2.[38]

In 2013 Trowbridge and Westbrook co-founded Array [ ] new media foundations for (critical) art and design edu.[39] This project, originally called "textbook/toolkit," was initially funded by a 2012 Rhizome.org commission (member selection category), through the New Museum, New York, NY.[40]

Channel TWo [CH2]: About[edit | hide | edit source]

Channel TWo [CH2] is an art, design, and research studio initialized in 2010. CH2 is focused on themes of mixed reality (MR), authorized formats and unauthorized ideas, systems of control and radical togetherness. Attracted to contemporary concepts like overidentification, CH2 at times references Slavoj Žižek or Laibach in describing tactics intended to reveal the hidden nature of dominant ideologies not by pointing at them, but by becoming extreme forms of them (dominant ideologies). CH2 projects intersect play-oriented experiences and user interface with critical undercurrents.[41][42][43][44] Channel TWo [CH2] handles all aspects of project research and production in-house including conceptual development, coding, aesthetics, visual/sound/media design, networking/configurations, and technology development. CH2 is thematically interested in luck, levels, and trespassing through the contexts of visual and cultural landscapes. CH2 frequently produces, game environments, apps, and visual communications to reveal paradigms, complexity, contradictions, and cognitive dissonance. CH2 has art work in permanent collections at the Rose Goldsen Archive of New Media Art,[45] Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, and the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, Reproduction Collection, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN. CH2 has lectured at universities and symposiums nationally and internationally including presentations and programs for the @gli.tc/h/ Symposiums Chicago, IL 2010, and 2012.[46] CH2 has exhibited projects in galleries and museums, has screened video and animation nationally and internationally, and has received a number of art awards including: SPACES R+D 2014,[47] Turbulence Commission, New Radio and Performing Arts Inc. 2010,[48] and a Terminal Net Art Commission, APSU Center of Excellence 2009 [49]

Channel TWo [CH2]: Projects[edit | hide | edit source]

  • barelyLegal [2015][50] is an ongoing research series of data-driven desktop documentary "drives" tracing routes to obtain safe legal abortions for women in the United States. Each piece in this series plays the entire duration of a trek for women to receive health care. Viewers can consider real barriers and real distant in real time.
  • open source abortion [2014][51] is an experimental project contrasting open source culture rhetoric with the current socio-political landscape for women in the United States. Channel TWo (CH2) shares/distributes "A Womb of One’s Own: Taking Charge of Your Reproduction Without Doctors by Jane Doe" a document describing open source knowledge, on github, the "World’s largest open source community." Attribution: A Womb of One’s Own: Taking Charge of Your Reproduction Without Doctors was written, published, and distributed by Jane Doe in June 2014. "Open source abortion" was shortlisted for the Birth Rites Bi-annual Award 2015, in Manchester, UK [52]
  • Episodes [2013] is an interactive single-player multi-level virtual landfill, full of trash and seagulls, accessed using a game controller. CH2 is interested in the ubiquity and implications of built monoculture (systems) and landscapes bulging and buckling under the pressure of capital-oriented priorities. Episodes is an aesthetic coping mechanism.[53] The greenscape level involves a highly stylized interactive topography, CH2‘s embedded game-oriented iconographic object array (including USB drives, cherries, skulls, explosives, water bottles, billboards, wind turbines, dumpsters), and concrete portals to the sky level. Players can wander, hide, and discover. The cloudscape level is an interactive AI cluster of wind, clouds, and seagulls. Players can land on seagulls and clouds for moving vantage points, eventually falling back to the landfill. The concepts and design for Episodes are based on site visits to solid waste landfills in the Eastern and Southern United States. Episodes has been exhibited nationally in galleries, at symposiums, and in game conferences.[54][55][56][57]
  • PolyCopRiotNode [2012] is a site-specific, augmented reality series of public artworks that are accessed via a free Android or iOS app.[58] PolyCopRiotNode is featured by Peter Maass in, The Intercept, "Art in a Time of Surveillance"[59] by Celine Browning in Art Papers, "Augmented Reality Revolution",[60] and cited in Geroimenko, Vladimir. Augmented Reality Art: From an Emerging Technology to a Novel Creative Medium. 1;2014; ed. Cham: Springer, 2014. In each implementation of this project, a network of polyCop augments are situated/revealed in specific geolocations based on the research of local activity. PolyCopRiotNode_ makes visible what is ordinarily invisible: suspension of potential community, arrest of non-commercial uses of space, pervasive militarized police presence. The first PolyCopRiotNode was launched in Chicago in 2012. "Jessica Westbrook and Adam Trowbridge (Channel TWO (CH2)) give us polyCopRiotNode, a monumental police officer in riot gear posted at the intersection of Michigan Avenue and Wacker Drive providing a chilling presence…[61] A CH2 statement from the first installation in Chicago, 2012 mixes entertainment and protest: "You think this can last? There’s a storm coming. You and your friends better batten down the hatches, because when it hits, you’re all gonna wonder how you ever thought you could live so large and leave so little for the rest of us." (Batman movie, The Dark Knight Rises)[62] In 2013 PolyCopRiotNode_DC was produced as part of Washington Project for the Arts Experimental Media Series, "Cyber In Securities," Washington, DC, curated by Lisa Moren.[63] Participating artists included: Birgit Bachler, Walter Langelaar, Owen Mundy, and Tim Schwartz; Channel TWo (CH2): Adam Trowbridge and Jessica Westbrook, with Jesus Duran; Heather Dewey-Hagborg; Hasan Elahi; The Force of Freedom with Dave Young; Taylor Hokanson; Ricarda McDonald and Donna Szoke; Lexie Mountain; Preemptive Media; David Rokeby; Julia Kim Smith; and WhiteFeather.In the Cyber In Securities exhibition catalog Moren described polyCopRiotNode_DC: "In addition to second-degree racism and human errors, social sorting is escalated when combined with the data-mining world of algorithmic errors. The consequences of these errors are at the core of PolyCopRiotNode (DC), a project by artist team Channel TWo (CH2)... Inspired by narratives mined from sources such as the Associated Press, PolyCopRiotNode counter-narrates incidents where DC police have used excessive force on unarmed civilians in the privacy of their homes and based on a narrative derived from the police departments own erroneous information. Examples of excessive force in the Washington, DC area include pets who were killed in their homes, thousands of dollars of damage to private property, and an unarmed man who became paralyzed because a Police Corporal shot him in the back. ... PolyCopRiotNode will then generate an animation layered over an otherwise ordinary DC street scene. The viewer can follow the augmented reality until they arrive where the "home invasion" allegedly occurred; the closer the viewer is physically to the node (street intersection) the more massive PolyCop becomes. Without a glint of nostalgia, the digital memory of these events appear as less of a deposit and retrieval information system than as deployed actors revolving around facts that fluxuate between media machines and flawed databases."[64] In 2015, polyCopRiotNode was included in "Blank Arcade: Games out of Joint," at Leuphana Centre for Digital Cultures, in Lüneburg, Germany as part of DiGRA, curated and organized by Lindsay Grace[65]
  • Find Each Other. Begin there. [2012] is an interactive 2-channel networked virtual landscape, accessed using a set of game controllers. Conceptually the work integrates the bucolic representation of abundance, the promises of sustainable energy, time and space for wandering/leisure and an underlying sense that things are not what they seem.[66] Using wireless game controllers two players can run through the virtual landscape in search of each other, or they can stay put and wait. Players must negotiate, communicate, and collaborate with each other in real space/time in order to orient themselves, and find each other in the game space. When players do find each other in the game space, the game generates a low level rumble and a quick flash of bright color, flooding the space and players in green light.[67] The title "Find Each Other Begin There." was borrowed from a chapter in The Coming Insurrection, by the Invisible Committee (2008).[68] This project is featured in a thesis chapter focused on Adam Trowbridge and Jessica Westbrook in "Educating artists beyond digital: understanding network art and relational learning as contemporary pedagogy," by Heidi May.[69]
  • Protocols [2012], is an infected 6-channel video, rss feed, and alternate reality game designed to perform like a slot machine. Protocols may include BOOM!, MMM!, SCORE!, POWER!, SICK! or ENJOY!. There is more to the game than you may expect, players are encouraged to follow the protocols to begin playing.[70]
  • T41nt3d l0v3 or t41nt3d [<3] (read tainted love) [2011] is a collection that includes an archive of classic uncompiled computer virus code, worms, malware, and a set of custom executable apps bundled on USB and packaged for exhibition or distribution. This project was originally developed for an invitation by the art group Temporary Services to participate in a 2011 exhibition of USB content called "Designated Drivers" at Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art in Evanston, IL [71] and then went on to be exhibited nationally and internationally including the Studio XX, HTMlles feminist festival of media arts and digital culture in Montreal along with works by Violeta Vojvodic-Balaz, Susanne Berkenheger, Départ. des Nuisances Publiques, Zach Blas and Micha Cardenas [72] t41nt3d [<3] was inspired by a story about a Russian hacker kid named Benny and his crush Eva.[73][74] CH2 consulted with the Electronic Frontier Foundation(EFF) about this project. An EFF attorney advised them on formatting the code and drafting a project disclaimer for the Block Museum.[75]

Array [ ] new media foundations for art and design edu[edit | hide | edit source]

After teaching upper division art, graphic design, new media, and social practices at the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga, TN for several years Trowbridge and Westbrook recognized culture shifts and evolving curricular needs. In 2010 they began researching the history and state of art and design foundations and were offered 2 positions at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Their intent was immersive research and experimentation in a large foundations department. In 2011 they were invited to present their foundations observations and questions at "Mobility Shifts, Politics of Digital Culture, The New School, New York, NY" during the panel "Free iPads!?: Scalable Digital Pedagogies for Undergraduate Education, with Hasan Elahi, Tiffany Holmes, Elizabeth Losh, Adam Trowbridge, Jessica Westbrook.[76]

In 2012 Trowbridge and Westbrook proposed and were awarded a Rhizome Commission for "textBook/toolKit" new media foundations research.[77] That same year they organized their initial foundations research in a paper, "Writing Your Own Instructions, New Media Approaches for 2022" which was presented at "Rethinking Foundations: Ideals, Purposes, Needs" during the 2012 Middle America College Art Association Conference at Wayne State University, in Detroit MI,[78] published through Furtherfield.org,[79] and delivered at Processing Chicago, at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Electronic Visualization Laboratory to engage in a conversation with the Processing community in Chicago, IL 2012.[80]

Some of the motivations underlying Array [ ] are cited in, "The Emergence of Video Processing Tools: Television Becoming Unglued. 2 vols. Edited by Kathy High, Sherry Miller Hocking, and Mona Jimenez. Bristol and Portland, OR: Intellect Books, 2014."[81] Westbrook and Trowbridge, "We believe that as companies like Apple turn from education and full operating systems to iDevice designed for consumption and as megacorporations like NBC Universal (Comcast GE) abandon support for any sort of open Internet in favor of intellectual property control, young artists should be introduced to the technologies and approaches behind the constant manipulative media stream they are subject to from birth and should have some agency in making digital art and design work free of corporate influence and constraints."

In 2013 Trowbridge and Westbrook began production on the Array [ ] repository and content management system while continuously testing/observing curriculum and ideas in classrooms. This dev process and backend details were shared in a presentation at the MidCamp Drupal Conference in Chicago, 2015.[82] From the Array [ ] website: Array [ ] is a repository of entryways into new media craft, processes, materials, cultures, and contexts specifically geared towards beginners (both teachers and students). The title Array [ ] is inspired by a concept common to programming languages that generally means, "a systematic arrangement" or "a variable that can be indexed." [83] Array [ ] is committed to accessibility, literacy, and criticality, translated into agency. Array [ ] information is free, friendly, and open to everybody interested in learning. Array [ ] concepts prioritize the kind of information beginners need to get acclimated while introducing contexts and suggestions for further engagement.

In 2015 Trowbridge and Westbrook presented Array [ ] at the Foundations in Art: Theory and Education [FATE] Tectonic Shifts Conference, Indianapolis, IN, March 25 – 28, 2015 on the panel "4D Foundations: New Media in an Old Media Classroom."[84]

In 2015 Trowbridge and Westbrook extended participation in the Array [ ], by launching arrayList, an email listserv for ongoing topic-based community discourse hosted on Riseup.[85] Each month a new theme is announced and invited guests post threads for subscriber discussion. Scheduled themes include: fabrication, code, sound, electronics, games, performance. 2015-2016 posted guest threadleaders include: Thomas Albrecht, Amy Alexander, L[3]^2 (Lee Blalock), Ricardo Dominguez, Kirsten Leenaars, Ellen Mueller, Heather Warren-Crow, Nathaniel Stern, Angela Washko, Theresa Devine, j.duran, Patrick Jagoda, Alex Myers, Phoenix Perry, Scott Richmond, Brian Schrank, Alejandro Borsani, Dawn Hayes, Justin Lincoln, Brittany Ransom, Chris Reilly, Erin Gee, Catherine Pancake, Deborah Stratman, Benjamin Thorp, Beth Warshafsky, Ubi de Feo, Evelyn Eastmond, Ira Greenberg, Rebecca Miller-Webster, and Daniel Shiffman, Tom Burtonwood, Jenna Frye, Taylor Hokanson, and Meg Mitchell[86]

In 2015 Trowbridge and Westbrook received National Science Foundation funding, "Computational Art and Creative Coding: Teaching CS1 with Processing," in support of their research into teaching code literacy through art and design contexts. This award was supported in part by the National Science Foundation awards DUE-0942626 (CS1: Creative Computation in the Context of Art and Visual Media) and DUE-1323463 (CS1: Creative Computation in the Context of Art and Visual Media), and by Bryn Mawr College and Southern Methodist University.[87]

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