Niemeyer Receives Hewlett 50 Arts Commission Grant

14 Nov, 2017

Niemeyer Receives Hewlett 50 Arts Commission Grant

Image credit: Composite image of DJ Spooky and graphics by Greg Niemeyer. Courtesy of the artists.

BCNM professor Greg Niemeyer and collaborators DJ Spooky and the Internet Archive have recieved a grant from the Hewlett foundation to fund their project, Sonic Web Instrument!

From the release:

Berkeley, CA -- Today the Hewlett Foundation announced that UC Berkeley Associate Professor at the Department of Art Practice Greg Niemeyer will be among the selected Bay Area-based recipients of the the prestigious Hewlett 50 Arts Commission grant for his collaborative project with DJ Spooky and the Internet Archive, among other institutions such as Zellerbach Hall. Hewlett 50 Arts Commissions is the largest initiative supported by the Foundation that supports the creation of 50 outstanding works of performing arts and their premiere in the Bay Area over the next 5 years, through grants of $100,000 to $200,000.

The Hewlett 50 Arts Commission grant will be used by Niemeyer to utilize an original electronic instrument, the Sonic Web Instrument. Niemeyer’s Sonic Web Instrument will be used in a collaboration with artist Paul D. Miller aka DJ Spooky in creating an 11-movement multimedia production for string quartet, a vocalist, and original electronic instruments that will debut at The Internet Archive in San Francisco in August 2018.

Niemeyer emphasized the significance of the project originating at UC Berkeley because of its supportive and collaborative environment. When discussing the creation of the Sonic Web instrument he said “only at UC Berkeley can we ask fundamental questions to go beyond the apparent linearity of music and create an open source instrument that takes years to develop and share with the world for the greater public good”

The Sonic Web Instrument, a large touchscreen with a software tool to draw network diagrams, will enable DJ Spooky to grow and deconstruct networks to see what networks sound like, and further layer that sound with the vocalist and string quartet. Niemeyer says the “Sonic Web will dig into the big crate of the Internet Archive and remix internet history in a new, networked way. We will break out of linear musical structures and move towards a more networked and connected sound.”

The overall composition is about the origins of the internet and what needs to be done in order to keep it accessible, neutral, and free, a fitting use of technology in producing new forms of media. Niemeyer explained, “Sonic web will help a new generation connect with the backstory of the internet in a more critical and inclusive way. The internet is not some given thing, but rather a system that expresses specific values and beliefs. ”

For Niemeyer, the role of creating new art in responding to and reflecting the concerns of a community or society comes down to how culture is a bridge between humans to their environments and to each other. He says, “Because both people and environments change so much, artists keep developing new forms of culture to keep the connection alive.”

Niemeyer’s new, original instrument in collaboration with The Internet Archive and DJ Spooky continues to push the boundaries of creativity in the Bay Area and beyond.

About the Artists:

Greg Niemeyer is Associate Professor at the Department of Art Practice, Co-Director of the CITRIS Social Apps Lab, and Assistant Professor for New Media where he focuses on the critical analysis of the impact of new media on human experiences. His creative work focuses on the mediation between humans as individuals and humans as a collective through technological means, and emphasizes playful responses to technology. Recognized projects include Gravity (1997), PING (2001), Oxygen Flute (2002), Organum Playtest (2005), and Good Morning Flowers (2006).

DJ Spooky aka Paul Miller is a composer, multimedia artist, editor and author, whose work blends genres, global culture, and environmental and social issues. He has produced and composed work for a vast array of artists, including Yoko Ono, Thurston Moore, and award-winning films. Miller’s multimedia pieces include Rebirth of a Nation, commissioned in 2004 by the Lincoln Center Festival, Terra Nova: Sinfonia Antarctica commissioned by BAM in 2009, and The Book of Ice, a graphic design project exploring the impact of climate change on Antarctica through digital media and contemporary music compositions. Miller is currently the Executive Editor of Origin Magazine, which focuses on the intersection of art, yoga, and new ideas.

About the Hewlett 50 Arts Commission

In celebration of the Hewlett Foundation’s fiftieth anniversary, we are pleased to announce a new five-year, $8 million commissioning initiative that is one of the largest of its kind in the United States: the Hewlett 50 Arts Commissions. The initiative will support the creation of 50 exceptional works of performing arts and their premiere in the Bay Area through grants of $100,000 to $200,000 to Bay Area nonprofit organizations. Nonprofit organizations will receive funding to achieve their creative vision in partnership with the commissioned artists, who may be based anywhere in the world.

The ultimate beneficiaries of the new program will be local audiences, who will be among the first to see important new works in the performing arts premiered in their communities.

This new program aligns with our longstanding commitment to providing Bay Area audiences with access to world class performing arts, and it is our hope that the works created will go on to inspire, engage and challenge audiences across the country and around the world in years to come.