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Architecture and Urban Planning

U-M Arts Initiative, Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, name 2023 Artist Residency

Jessica Jenks

Pan + Tilt, Gibson/Martelli

ANN ARBOR—A London-based team specializing in extended-reality technology will be the new 2023 artists in residency at the University of Michigan Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, in partnership with the U-M Arts Initiative.

Bruno Martelli and Ruth Gibson, commonly known as Gibson/Martelli, will work closely with Taubman College faculty and students on XR technologies by developing work, conducting workshops and engaging with student projects beginning this Winter 2023 semester.

The Taubman Visualization Laboratory (TVLab) Artist Residency combines artistic practice, expansive research methods, and an openness to experiment and explore possibilities within the context of a research university.

In pursuit of new modes of storytelling, design research and hybrid automated processes, TVLab engages a breadth of tested and yet-to-be-discovered applications of groundbreaking visualization tools on U-M’s North Campus.

Gibson/Martelli collaborate to develop interactive immersive installations that explore perception, embodiment and presence in XR. Martelli is a programmer, software designer and visual artist for virtual environments. Gibson is a choreographer and movement scholar at the Centre for Dance Research, Coventry University. Combined, the artists have over 20 years of experience in technology and interdisciplinary research within higher education and industry sectors at national and international levels. Both are graduates of RMIT University (Melbourne, Australia), holding joint Ph.D.s in immersivity and somatic sensing.

The proposed research agenda from Gibson/Martelli will explore the virtual reality experience, multiscreen video installation, creating immersive worlds and the development of open-source tools in the inaugural year of TVLab. The duo will use the Taubman residency to continue developing their skills and their latest project, “PAN + TILT.” They will focus on:

  • Integrating live performance into the experience so a user can animate characters in real time
  • Developing characters and scenes for the project
  • Examining ideas of player, performer and visitor, deploying machine learning and live simulation to create immersive virtual realities

The duo also will open up their research and development process and invite students to join, creating a unique scene for virtual reality or XR research and development that U-M students can implement in the classroom.

“We are excited to work with the phenomenally talented, creative and expert pair of Gibson/Martelli to leverage U-M resources—in this instance the newly launched TVLab—to make an impact for our students and campus in a way that only artists can,” said Christopher Audain, managing director of the Arts Initiative. “We are eager to see what we learn in collaboration with the artists and Taubman College.”

The TVLab artist residency is the pilot for the U-M Arts Initiative Visiting Artist Integration Project, a visiting artist program to integrate the creative vision and dynamic thinking of artists into the U-M process of engagement and learning. The program is just one example of the Arts Initiative’s work with emerging and established artists to create a mutually beneficial exchange between artists and the university to enhance learning, support artists and drive discovery.

“Extended reality platforms are an increasingly central framework for the kind of space-making and spatial visualization that has long been at the core of architecture and planning,” said Jonathan Massey, dean of Taubman College. “I am excited for Gibson/Martelli to help students, faculty and staff at and beyond Taubman College find new creative possibilities in XR.”

Anya Sirota, associate dean for academic initiatives and associate professor of architecture at Taubman College, said: “We’re delighted that the Arts Initiative recognized Taubman College’s leadership in experimental modes of spatial visualization and chose us as a collaborator to launch this residency program.

“We founded TVLab to expose the myriad of contributions our faculty and students are already making to the field of spatial visualization, to cultivate new pedagogical and professional experimentation, and to make emergent tools accessible and joyful. The resident artist will bring another fresh perspective to this space and will benefit from a fertile ground in which to engage with Taubman College and the broader university community around the future of visualization in the arts and public discourse.”

The TVLab aligns with U-M’s XR Initiative through the U-M Center for Academic Innovation.

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