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Creative Capital Grants Fund Basket-Weaving Robots & 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 The project explores the limits and possibilities of machine technology to create ornamental 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 to not be automatic by machines. 

Behar describes the project as creating robots that can make baskets. And as the robots inevitably fail, Behar and other weavers will fix the robots’ mistakes, working with the machines as collaborators. Behar spoke out about the risks and difficulty of creating a robotic limb that can make a basket. 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…” 

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 team or individual will receive an unrestricted grant up to $50,000 as well as professional development and mentorship to further their artistic careers and projects.

After a national open call, and an external review that included industry experts, curators and artists, more than $2.5million was distributed. 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 BlueOk combines Khmer Classical DanceKnown as the Royal Ballet of Cambodia, it is distinguished by its elaborate hand gestures and ornate costumes. It also features Japanese gagaku court music, Shingon Buddhist drumming chanting, Shingon Buddhist drumming, and holographic animated. 

The story of an artist learning how to swim is told through the dance. He is then pulled into the ocean and possessed by a mystical power. Inspiration from a Japanese and Cambodian myth about a prince who descends into the ocean to marry his dragon princess. A Deepest BlueHistorical and folklore are used to explore themes such as fear, loneliness, mortality, and other topics.

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 The 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 PapersAddresses tenth goalThe goal of reducing inequalities is to target discrimination based upon immigration status, income and other identifiers. The oral history collection represents a modernized version of the government-funded. Born in Slavery: Slave Narratives from the Federal Writers’ Project, 1936-1938The Franklin Roosevelt-era Works Project Administration (WPA), archive of narratives that included hundreds of stories by adults who were previously enslaved. 

The Black Land PapersPlans to concentrate on Black agrarian practices, 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 Hyperallergic, describing the experimental nature The Black Land Papers. “That begins with honoring and preserving Black expertise and intergenerational relationships.”

Brea Baker (photo taken by Sydney Holmes).

The next round of funding for Creative Capital awards awards will be announced in 2024. This will support visual arts, film, and other moving image-related projects. The application period for this round will open in March.

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