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Mayan-inspired concept earns prestigious international grant

TZ'IJK conceptPaul Gaetano-Adi, assistant professor of new media artPaula Gaetano-Adi, right, assistant professor of new media art, has been awarded the prestigious VIDA Art and Artificial Life Awards' Artistic Production Incentives grant.

The grant is an international award for art and artificial life projects created by people from Iberoamerica (Spain, Portugal, and Latin-America.)

The award will allow Gaetano-Adi to pursue her proposed artificial life system project over the course of the next year.

The winning proposal submitted by Argentinian native involves an installation of seven giant spherical robots with an external shell of dried mud fabricated using a pre-colonial construction technique. The work, above, is titled TZ’IJK, the Mayan word for mud, and it will be a collaborative piece created jointly with Gustavo Crembil, assistant professor at Rensselear Polytechnic Institute.

VIDA is an international awards organization that supports artificial projects based on systems which emulate, imitate or speculate on the notion of life through current research and technology.

Gaetano-Adi’s abstract calls TZ’IJK  a “technological art project inspired by Latin-American indigenous roots that not only echoes their creationist mythology, but also attempts to use some native technologies and different low-tech sustainable materials to create an artificial but autochthonous technological landscape.”

The concept for TZ’IJK is based upon a Mayan creation story in which the gods make several false starts in setting humanity upon the Earth, and created man first out of mud but soon found him to be “a useless, clumsy creation that moved around without understanding, insight, or perceptiveness,” the abstract reads.

“Robotics has always been applied to successful intelligence,” Gaetano-Adi said.  “This work is to apply that high technology to an ancient idea regarding the inadequacies of the mud-humans the Mayan gods saw as a failure.” 

Gaetano-Adi is a member of UNT's Initiative for Advanced Research in Technology and the Arts (iARTA) – a research cluster bringing together faculty from multiple university departments.

In 2006, Gaetano-Adi also took first prize in VIDA’s 9.0 completed projects competition for Alexitimia, a biomorphic robotic art piece that reacted to human interaction by sweating when touched.

UNT music composition faculty member and iARTA coordinator David Stout received honorable mention in the 2010 VIDA 13.0 awards for a sound and visual project he created with Cory Metcalf, Noisefold 2.0.

Gaetano-Adi's work has been in exhibitions in the United States, China, Spain, Brazil, Sweden, Poland, Germany and Argentina. 

— Amelia Jaycen, Publications Assistant, Office of Research and Economic Development

Posted on: Tue 06 November 2012

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