Techne Institute Promotes Research at Intersections of Arts and New Technologies

Release Date: September 21, 2012


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Sarah Bay-Cheng, director, Techne Institute for Arts and Emerging Technologies.

Core Sample (2007) by Teri Rueb, professor of media study. This GPS-based interactive sculpture is an example of the art that will be supported by the Techne Institute.

BUFFALO, NY. -- The realms in which creativity and information technologies meet are dynamic areas of research. They depend, however, on new kinds of creative collaboration to provoke a greater understanding of our world, generate jobs, produce revenue and improve quality of life.

To encourage the development of the creative economy of this region and to establish the University at Buffalo as a leader in this field, the university has established the Techne Institute for Arts and Emerging Technologies.

The institute is supported by the 3E Fund, instituted by UB President Satish Tripathi last fall and now directed by Provost Charles Zukoski. The fund aims to spur collaborative, transformational initiatives that will increase research strength across the disciplines, enhance the educational experience of UB students and expand the university's impact.

UB's 3E Fund uses new revenue generated by the NYSUNY 2020 bill, signed into law by Gov. Cuomo last year, to invest in interdisciplinary initiatives that advance UB's academic vision.

The Techne Institute, one of those initiatives, was founded by Sarah Bay-Cheng, UB associate professor of theatre and dance, who serves as its director.

Bay-Cheng points out that the institute is grounded in the fact that, throughout the world, rapidly accelerating creative economies fueled by originality, innovation and resourcefulness are transforming the sciences and arts in ways that produce exciting new work.

"Our role is to foster creative projects and research that critically examine the connections across the disciplines of art, science and technology," she says.

"Some may think of aesthetics as peripheral to the aims of a major research university," she says, "but we cannot separate artistic creation from the university's core mission, which is to develop new knowledge.

"Creative practices," she explains, "have been central to the evolution of new, and especially digital, technologies, and these in turn inform the work of visual and performing artists in every discipline."

She acknowledges that new applications of scientific knowledge provoke exceptionally rapid and sometimes disorienting changes in many fields.

"Those who explore and examine both technologies and the changes they provoke help us respond critically to new and dynamic environments," she says, adding that many pioneering interdisciplinary artists at UB work to challenge assumptions about what we know or think we know.

As a result, she says, UB is at the forefront of such explorations and has the elements necessary to become a leading institution in this field.

Laura McGeough, Techne's administrator and grants manager, outlines the institute's ambitious program for the development of artist residencies and new sources of funding, support for new and ongoing faculty work and pursuit of resources that will enhance and expand graduate education in the arts.

"This is our inaugural semester," she says, "but already we are providing much-needed information on cultural funding sources and grant writing, and are soliciting project proposals from faculty members."

Bay-Cheng adds that part of the institute's mission is to promote national and international awareness of UB's impact in this area, and it will be "pushing our faculty members' work to the forefront of public attention."

On Nov. 10, Techne will host its first event, a Mobile Media Colloquium to explore connections among mobile technologies -- such as cell phones and wireless devices -- ubiquitous or pervasive computing (e.g., Twitter) and the arts. Among the presenters will be major artists noted throughout the world for their work with such new technologies as surveillance practices, wearable media and locative systems across digital platforms of mobile technology.

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John Della Contrada
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