Creative Capital Grants Fund Basket-Weaving Robots and More

This year’s Creative Capital grantees, announced today, January 24, use innovative concepts to explore future realities. One example is Katherine Behar’s project Inside Outsourcing, which Probes the limits of machine technology to create decorative artworks. Behar, one of 66 recipients of Creative Capital’s “Wild Futures: Art, Culture, Impact” awards, became interested in basket weaving when a how-to book claimed that basketry is the only process not to be automated by machines.

In a description of the project, Behar plans to create robots that will make baskets. And as the robots inevitably fail, Behar and other Weavers will fix the robots’ mistakes, working with the machines as collaborators. Speaking about the difficulty and risk in producing a robotic limb with the dexterity necessary to make a basket, Behar told Hyperallergic“Every roboticist I’ve spoken with has told me that with current technology this is going to be extremely difficult if not impossible, and at this point we are not even trying for Autonomous operation…”

An Oversized off-white rectangular ceramic Utility wall plate sprouts a partially-woven basket joined to the plate through coaxial cable fittings;  the same off-white coaxial cable that makes up the basket continues onto a large spool hung high on the wall.
Katherine Behar, “Coax” (courtesy the artist)

The “Wild Futures” Awards include a total of 50 projects across genres spanning technology, performing arts, and literature as well as multidisciplinary forms. Each individual or team will receive an unrestricted grant of up to $50,000, as well as professional development, mentorship, and networking opportunities to help further their projects and artistic careers.

Funds totaling over $2.5 million were dispersed after a national open call and an external review conducted by industry experts, curators, artists, and other arts professionals. This year’s group of grantees consists of over 75% artists of color and includes representation from countries like the United States, Cambodia, Germany, and Japan.

Khmer-American artist Prumsodun OK, founder of Cambodia’s first gay dance company Prumsodun Ok & NATYARASA, is among this year’s dance grantees. In A Deepest Blue, Ok combines Khmer Classical Dance, also known as the Royal Ballet of Cambodia and identifiable by its intricate hand gestures and ornate costumes, with Japanese gagaku court music, Shingon Buddhist drumming and chanting, and Holographic animation.

The dance follows the story of an artist learning to swim who is pulled into the ocean by a mystical power. Inspired by a Cambodian and Japanese myth about a prince descending into the ocean to marry a dragon princess, A Deepest Blue uses history and lore to explore themes including fear, loneliness, and mortality.

Speaking about the impact of Creative Capital’s funding on his work, Ok told Hyperallergic that the grant helps him to Invest in the next generation of Khmer Classical Dancers in Cambodia, Japan, and the United States. “The performance of A Deepest Blue in April 2024 will also be my first multi-city tour, and my first time returning home with my students, with the jewels I have been polishing for seven years,” he told Hyperallergic. This performance will also be Ok’s last work as a performer as he transitions to teaching and choreography.

Performance still of Prumsodun Ok & NATYARASA, “Drops and Seeds” (photo by Nobuyuki Arai)

After learning of their awards, 24 artists opted to label their works as related to one of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Works that address UN SDGs like climate action, clean water, or reduced inequalities have the international initiative’s logo on their project pages.

Writer and activist Brea Baker’s The Black Land Papers addresses the tenth goal of reduced inequalities, which targets discrimination based on immigration status, income, race, and other identifiers. The oral history collection envisions a modern version of the government-funded Born in Slavery: Slave Narratives from the Federal Writers’ Project, 1936-1938an Archive of narratives from the Franklin Roosevelt-era Works Project Administration (WPA) Repertory that amassed hundreds of stories from adults who were formerly Enslaved as children.

The Black Land Papers plans to focus on Black agrarian practices and sustainability. Baker will collect narratives digitally, in person, and through her “Call An Elder” campaign, which will reach Black elders, their families, and communities through cultural events, faith centers, and Historically Black College and University (HBCU) campuses.

“A wild future to me is one where Black and Indigenous people have full access to the land and where we become reconnected with what it means to be stewards of land,” Brea told Hyperallergicdescribing the experimental nature of The Black Land Papers. “That begins with honoring and preserving Black expertise and Intergenerational relationships.”

Brea Baker (photo by Sydney Holmes)

The next cycle of funding for the Creative Capital Awards will be announced in 2024 and will support visual art and film and moving image-related projects. This round will open for applications in March.

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