This illustrated talk by the artist and scholar, Jane Prophet, considers the development of the augmented reality (AR) project, Pocket Penjing that was developed in Hong Kong from 2014-2016. The app scrapes live air quality data and uses it to grow cherry blossom trees that are displayed using augmented reality. The production of the AR app, made with an international team, led by Prophet, included 60+ local Hong Kong participants. Rather than focus on the research methods and outcomes using frameworks from art or user-experience, in this talk an autoethnographic approach is taken and the experience of producing project is used to expose some of the legacies of colonialism, including those related to the artist’s whiteness and privilege as a so-called “elite transnational worker” living in Hong Kong.

The discussion will draw on intersectionality to begin to show how the project both perpetuated and countered colonialism.
Specifically, the talk will reflect on 1) the intersection of race, gender and unequal power relations in elite transnational work, 2) symbolism and indigeneity in relation to plants, and 3) typology and Linneal plant naming as a colonial practice. The process of creating the app is used to extend the idea of phytographia expounded by Patricia Viera, writing with plants, to coding with plants. The artist will introduce and discuss phytography as a co-constituted process through which landscapes and more specifically, trees inscribe and are inscriptions of power, socio-cultural, and political processes.

Professor Jane Prophet is Associate Dean for Research, Creative Work, and Strategic Initiatives at Stamps School of Art & Design, University of Michigan. She is a visual artist whose practice-based research and writing emerges through collaborations with neuroscientists, stem cell researchers, mathematicians and heart surgeons. She works across media and disciplines to produce objects and installations, frequently combining traditional and computational media. Her research foci include the experience of living with chronic pain, apparatus of contemporary neuroscience experiments, and blended online/offline identities via augmented reality and ubiquitous computing. Prophet’s papers position art in relation to contemporary debates about new media and mainstream art, feminist technoscience, artificial life and ubiquitous computing.

Professor Prophet received a PhD in Arts Education from Warwick University in 1995. She has contributed widely to debates about art, design and media in higher education, in particular interdisciplinary and practice-based PhDs and the role of the academic artist-researcher. The series aims at opening up the conversation about creative practice research methodologies: how these rise from practice, are applied, and/or lead to interdisciplinary approaches. Through examples of research projects the sessions will ask questions, give new ideas, or highlight problematic instances of the research journey.

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23 Nov 2020, 1:30 pm

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