Pro Arts’ Studio Lab Artist in Residency program welcomes Jessica Feldman as our first artist in residence in 2018. Jessica Feldman is an artist working mainly with sound and digital media. Her works include sculptures, performances, installations, videos, and compositions. Many of her pieces are interactive, and deal with the relationships among the body, new digital and network technologies, and the intimate psychological and communal social dynamics enabled by these tools. Pieces have been performed, installed and exhibited internationally at art galleries, museums, concert halls, public parks, city streets, tiny closets, boats, the New York City subways, and the internet. Recent venues include Socrates Sculpture Park, LMAKProjects, Roulette, The Stone, Maison Jandelle, The Newhouse Center for Contemporary Art, White Box, The Kitchen, and many outdoor, public sites. She has received commissions, residencies, and grants from New York State Council on the Arts, NewHive, the LMCC, and Meet the Composer, among others. She has taught sound art and media studies at The New School, Temple University, and NYU. She received an MFA in Intermedia Art from Bard, an MA in Experimental Music from Wesleyan, and a PhD in Media, Culture, and Communication from NYU. She is currently a Postdoctoral Researcher in the Digital Civil Society Lab at Stanford University.
While in residency at Studio Lab at Pro Arts, Jessica will work on Hold Up Half the Sky – a video and sound installation, made from field recordings and videos, gathered while walking in rallies/protests in a handful of international cities from 2014-2017. The piece consists of video footage of the sky, captured from above, while flying, and from below, while walking, shot by holding a cell phone camera overhead, with corresponding audio. The installation will contrast the raucous, human, emotional sounds of protest with visuals of the slow, ephemeral, drifting clouds and changing light. Temporalities and spatialities are juxtaposed in the piece: focused, immediate, human strife – both specific to a location and endemic of globalization; the tiny scale and portability of the mobile phone; the wide-reaching connectivity it proposes; the earth’s continual rotation; the pavement; the sky; the specificity of languages; the universality of chants; walking and lingering in the streets; flying across time zones and borders. While the visuals of the videos from these sites are similar, the audio reveals the experience of living under specific skies in specific moments. The video installation will be controlled via hacked smartphones, so that viewers can touch the tiny bits of circuitry that are responsible for playback, attempting to use their hands to control large scale projections of the sky. The project speaks to issues of scale and globalization, the specificity of site, and the production process of smartphones, bringing a sense of materiality and embodiment to the capacities of the technologies. The hardware of the devices – made mostly by women in factories in the Far East, hired in part because of the smallness of their hands – is used to control the vastness of the worldview imagined by the technologies. Hold Up Half the Sky takes its name from the famous saying (attributed to Mao Zedong) that “women hold up half the sky.” The piece attempts to put together a patchwork of conflict, protest, and boundaries, while drawing attention the perspectives of those below the sites of power and consumption.
I make sound installations, sculptures, performances, videos, and compositions, which consider how new and emerging media can touch, constrict, or move the subject, and how this connects to political possibilities. Many of my large-scale projects have been site-specific installations in public, urban space, using systems and media that manipulate but do not touch the body: prison architectures, acoustic weaponry, video surveillance tools. Such issues concern a wide audience and I prefer to site them in accessible, non-commercial spaces, bringing up questions about the ways in which the public sphere is shaped through these media. My work has shifted over recent years from a critique of these media, towards an interest in creating objects and spaces that offer possibilities for new or different modes of listening, sociality, and interaction. Sculptures and installations, as well as net projects, seek to reimagine the sensual body and habits of listening as they relate to (the longing for) connection and co-presence. Particularly in my interactive installations, I care a lot about directing systems and objects of privatization, capture, and surveillance (walls, cameras, recordings, money) towards poetics of intimacy and community normally foreclosed. A project will turn a wall into a transmitter, collapse a surveillance tower to make a place for gathering, or masquerade as clickbait to navigate towards the voices of incarcerated people. I see this redirection as a political gesture, which facilitates intimacy and recognition between political subjects who might not normally consider each other.