Maker Faire Rome 2020

Date: Dec 7-12 2020
Location: Rome, Italy

Hyphen Hub was invited by Maker Faire Rome 2020 to develop a series of online events that included performances and moderated discussions on a range of topics related to new media art in the COVID-19 era. Hyphen Hub’s participation was under the auspices of the U.S. Embassy in Rome which highlighted our program in their media and radio campaigns, including the launch of the Maker Festival, which included a talk between Whitney Museum of American Art curator Christiane Paul and Asher Remy-Toledo, director of Hyphen Hub. FashionTech designer and Hyphen Hub member Anouk Wipprecht was selected as the keynote speaker for the opening night. The U.S. Embassy/Maker Faire Rome 2020 gave space to the voices of innovators in art and science with the participation of more than a dozen Hyphen Hub community members as well as half a dozen individuals and institutions from the United States. In addition to Anouk, Hyphen Hub community members included Estudio Atractor from Bogotá, Fito Segrera from Colombia, Jakob Steensen from Denmark, Claudia Hart from the U.S., Donato Piccolo from Italy, and Tomy Martinez from Pioneer Works in New York. The event was curated by Valentino Catricalá, curator at the School of Digital Arts in Manchester, U.K.


To view this video, click here.

In this conversation organized in the style of a “fireside chat”, Christiane Paul (Adjunct Curator of Digital Art at the Whitney Museum of American Art) and Asher Remy-Toledo (Founding Director of Hyphen Hub in New York) came together to discuss the current state and future of new media art during this period of great volatility and uncertainty. The discussion focused on how artists, creative technologists, and others could take advantage of new and emerging opportunities as we prepare for a post-COVID world.


Hyphen Hub presented The Strange Garden Part l (Il Giardino Strano, Parte l), an imaginary place built on the ruins of failed realities but where now a new strange garden grows. In this garden, there is a Doll’s House which has been created by artist Claudia Hart inside a Mozilla Hub platform. The house was open to visitors throughout the Maker Faire festival. This social VR experience occurred daily, with a 60-minute guided tour by the artist. During the visit, participants experience a live musical performance by New York City sound composer Matthew Gantt who specializes in sonic experiences for virtual spaces.


The Strange Garden Part Il (Il Giardino Strano, Parte lI) featured an in-depth interview with pioneering Dutch FashionTech designer and engineer, Anouk Wipprecht. Anouk’s distinctive designs combine couture, interactive technology, and artificial intelligence. Since 2015, when she began working with Bionic Pop Artist Viktoria Modesta, she began developing interactive prosthetics which reshaped the future of performing arts. For this session, Anouk talked about her latest high-profile collaboration which brought together prosthetics maker Össur and videogame publisher Ubisoft France and the Just Dance team. Anouk created a custom arm prosthesis for limb amputee dancer and choreographer Angelina Bruno for the dance video game, Just Dance 2021. Anouk presented the video which was released in November 2020, a week before Maker Faire 2020. Angelina is the first person with a prosthetic to be featured in a video game.


The Magdalena River in Colombia was recently given rights as a legal entity. Although this change is important, it is still difficult to think of actions to preserve Colombian rivers, which have been immersed in the country’s conflicts for so long. All of Colombia’s blood and life have flown through the Magdalena River which always played a fundamental role in all cultural, economic, and political aspects of the country.

The River—a video work by Juan Cortés and Atractor Studio—assumes a non-human perspective on the rivers. Like an Uroboros, a river is both an origin and a destination where past, present, and future intertwine. In the river, we see a reflection of a history parallel to ours where relations are both calm and turbulent, symbiotic and parasitic. Rivers regulate the dynamics of biological relations, connecting territories and dividing them, transporting in their rapid flows microorganisms, minerals, seeds, insects, animals, stories, and cultures.

The River is a project in which Atractor Studio puts to use digital tools in order to find another model of relationship between humans and a river, where the river tells its own story reflecting our history and our present.

The Migrants is a multimedia performance and video game created by Juan Cortés and Atractor Studio. The work is based on a true story of bird migration in 2014. Golden Warbler birds faced adverse conditions due to global warming that generated storms on the coast of Florida, which was their main destination. This caused the birds to alter their migration routes, being forced to explore an alternative route through Mexico and Central America until they reached Colombia.

During the performance, the protagonist of the game controls the movement of a bird that is part of a flock, in order to guide it on its migratory journey from a forest in Canada to the mountains of Tolemaida in Colombia, helping it to overcome obstacles and reveal food to feed itself and the flock. To this end, the artist has designed a prosthesis with sensors that allow him to translate the movements of his body to the bird on the screen, thus assimilating Amerindian traditions and practices that adopt the animal’s point of view to interpret and narrate events.

The migration of flocks of birds is a phenomenon that also contributes to the maintenance of ecosystems, because the birds, in their journey, collect and disperse seeds. The work thus invites reflection on the complexity of migration and displacement in the human sphere as well, whose realities are rooted in political, economic and climatic contexts that also lead to the production of new cultural and social fabrics. Rethinking the relationships between technology, the animal world and culture through art offers the possibility of imagining new scenarios where biodiversity as the production of difference from nature recovers its power in a gesture of resistance.


What is the role of dark matter, an invisible form which accounts for approximately 70% of all matter in the universe? In the 1970s, astronomer Vera Rubin discovered that the objects at the edges of galaxies moved faster than expected, and predicted the existence of unseen dark matter to explain the discrepancy.

In Supralunar, Juan Cortés and his colleagues at Atractor Estudio invited us to experience discoveries made by Rubin on the relationship between dark matter and the rotational movement of galaxies. It proposed a poetic approach to dark matter, visualizing this strange and unknown entity that scientists believe supports entire galaxies, stopping them from being torn apart by the extreme speed at which they rotate – but which we cannot see or detect yet.


VUCA — an acronym that stands for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity — is a U.S. military concept that emerged in the 1990s to describe the multilateral world at the end of the Cold War. This term also effectively captures our “new normal” during COVID-19, the global pandemic that contributed to and was exacerbated by social unrest in many parts of the world. For this conversation, Asher Remy-Toledo, director of Hyphen Hub, and Tommy Martinez, Director of Technology at Pioneer Works (both art organizations based in New York City) will share their experiences about how their organizations navigated uncertainty in a range of ways, including supporting and co-developing a number of speculative, subversive projects that challenged the status quo and built more equitable futures through the interrogation of new tech.


Anouk Wipprecht — artist, engineer, innovator, and pioneer of FashionTech design — was the keynote speaker for the Maker Faire Rome 2020.