Art, Engineering, and Politics: In Memoriam, Beatriz da Costa

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Resumen / Sinópsis

In Memoriam, Beatriz da Costa by Brooke Singer and Renate Ferro

Texto completo

Hello all from snow covered Brooklyn. I am going to take this conversation

back in time a bit…

As has been already stated here, I was a co-founder of Preemptive Media

with Beatriz (aka Shani) along with Jamie Schulte. Our collaboration began

several years after a close friendship. Shani and I were both studying in

the art department at Carnegie Mellon University. It was late 1990s and

early 2000s. We did not collaborate immediately. We were involved in our

own research and creative projects that were time consuming.

Shani was working on a robotic cello piece. The project had a steep

technical learning curve that she embraced with a joy and intensity that

was pure Shani. It was only on the tail end of three years at CMU that

Shani and I talked about doing a project together. We began to conceive the

project SWIPE and Shani brought in Jamie, whom I had not met before. Shani

was always very good at bringing people together. There was a lot

excitement — if we failed we would fail together having a good time.

We shared and learned so much with each other through those years so it is

hard for me not to be nostalgic (sorry Shani!). We had a lot of fun. There

were frustrations, too, fights and long working days on top of the stress

of both being junior faculty members. But we were doing work that we all

deeply believed in and were finding avenues to share it. We were able to do

things together that we could not have done on our own. Strength in

numbers. The sum was greater than the parts.

I deeply respected and learned from Shani’s incredible drive and

self-confidence; she just went for it. She never self-doubted or asked for

permission. Her strength was one of her most defining characteristics.

Preemptive Media was a full on collaboration, something rare I think and

for that I am really so very grateful. We brainstormed and conceived

everything together. We stood on stage and co-presented (finishing each

other’s sentences). We divided production work but were in constant contact

and involving each other in every detail from the technical to the

conceptual and aesthetic. This allowed us to learn from each other’s

strengths as well as challenge our assumptions.

Here are some things I learned from our ~six years of collaboration

together and still deeply value:

1. The best collaborations start as a friendship.

2. In collaborations you do not assume someone who is very good at one

thing is not also very good at many other things.

3. It is best to ask for forgiveness later than to ask for permission first.

4. Release early and release often (do not hold ideas close to the chest).

5. Keep moving but make old work open source / open design so others can

pick up and carry on as desired.

6. Don’t become the expert (I have written about this more here:


With love and in loving memory, Brooke

On Fri, Feb 8, 2013 at 4:40 PM, Renate Ferro <r…> wrote:

> ———-empyre- soft-skinned space———————-

> -empyre soft-skinned space

> February 2013: Art, Engineering, and Politics: In Memoriam, Beatriz da

> Costa


> It was such an honor to have both Robert Nideffer and Christiane Paul

> begin our monthly discussion in honor of the memory of the life and

> work of Beatriz da Costa. We have spent the week talking about

> Beatriz’ process and how remarkable her life and work were

> intertwined. Both Robert and Christiane you were so generous to

> enlighten our subscribers about her most recent work especially the

> conceptual projects that have not been realized thus far. Over the

> next three weeks there will be others who share with us their

> recollections and collaborations with Beatriz. I would like to

> introduce to our list-serve Week 2’s guests: Brooke Singer,

> Antoinette LaFarge and Tad Hirsch. They will be our guests for the

> entire week and I know the three of them have much to share. Welcome

> to -empyre soft-skinned space: Week 2: Art, Engineering, and

> Politics: In Memoriam, Beatriz da Costa. Below please find their

> biographies.

> Best, Renate


> Brooke Singer When Brooke was a graduate student at Carnegie Mellon

> University in the late1990s she met Beatriz who was on an exchange

> program from France. They became good friends. In 2002 they began to

> collaborate with Jamie Schulte on a project called Swipe and later

> co-founded the collective Preemptive Media. Brooke Singer engages

> techno-science as an artist, educator, non-specialist and

> collaborator. Her work lives «on» and «off» line in the form of

> websites, workshops, photographs, maps, installations and performances

> that often involves public participation in pursuit of social change.

> Recent awards and commissions include a Madrid Council’s Department of

> the Arts commission, commission, New York State Council

> on the Arts (NYSCA) Individual Artist award, a Headlands Center for

> Arts residency and a fellowship at Eyebeam Art + Technology. She is

> currently Associate Professor of New Media at Purchase College, State

> University of New York, and co-founder of the art, technology and

> activist group Preemptive Media.

> I respected Beatriz deeply as an inspiring colleague interested in

> similar areas to mine. She befriended me when she moved to NYC and we

> met more often while she lived there to compare notes and discuss her

> work. I would consider Beatriz a friend, a colleague, an inspiration,

> a collaborator and a mentor. I miss her deeply.


> Antoinette LaFarge is an artist-writer who is interested in deception,

> actuality, and enactment. Her areas of activity include mixed-reality

> performance, interactive installation, avatar improvisation, and

> fictive art. Recent projects include Galileo in America (2012), WISP

> (World-Integrated Social Proxy) (2010), Hangmen Also Die (2010), World

> of World (2009), and Playing the Rapture (2008-09). She has been

> working between digital and analog media for over a decade, and in the

> 1990s she founded one of the first net-based performance troupes, the

> Plaintext Players. She co-curated two early exhibitions on computer

> games and art: “SHIFT-CTRL” in 2000 and “ALT+CTRL” in 2003, both at UC

> Irvine, where she is Professor of Digital Media in the Art department.

> Her projects website is, and her blog is


> I have known Beatriz since she came to UC Irvine in 2003, and as

> colleagues in new media we worked closely together on curriculum and

> related issues. Our practices are different enough that we never

> collaborated on an art project together, though we had discussed the

> possibility. Our friendship grew after she moved to Long Beach, where

> I also live, and we could meet up for dinner or a yoga class or an

> impromptu beach walk.


> Tad Hirsch is Assistant Professor of Interaction Design at the

> University of Washington, where his research interests lie at the

> intersection of design, urban space, and collective action. He directs

> the Public Practice Studio, a multidisciplinary, public-interest

> design group, and was a founding member of the Institute for Applied

> Autonomy, an internationally-renowned art/technology/activism

> collective.



> —


> Renate Ferro

> Visiting Assistant Professor of Art

> Cornell University

> Department of Art, Tjaden Hall Office #420

> Ithaca, NY 14853

> Email: <r…>

> URL:


> Lab:


> Managing Co-moderator of -empyre- soft skinned space