2016: NEW INC's Year In Review

There's a lot to cover.

 From left: Emilie Baltz, Rachel Rossin, Alice Sheppard, Laura O'Relly


Back in September, New York Magazine ran a comprehensive essay on the state of virtual realityand the title, "In Virtual Reality, Women Run the World," more or less speaks for itself. Few clear winners are guaranteed in an industry still in its infancy, but writer Dayna Evans identifies VR and its unique freedoms from hierarchical structure as "a rare opportunity to start from a level playing field." 

With five members currently at Sundance Institute's New Frontier showcase, and the annual VERSIONS conference on New Realities just around the corner, NEW INC finds itself playing a major hand in the realm of VR, AR, and MR. But new realities hardly cover the entirety of NEW INC's reach. In fact, our members are steeped in myriad boundary-blurring experiments that run the full gamut of art, design, and technology. 

Take RES, for example, the artist-run nonprofit coalescing residencies from across the web into a single search engine–a herculean effort that, per Artsy's description, would "relieve artists of the immense time commitment currently required when searching for residency opportunities." Taeyoon Choi, meanwhile, maintains an artistic practice that synthesizes education, computer programming, and civic activism into critical enterprises.

In the spirit of looking back, we rounded up seven defining moments from 2016 that highlight the breadth and depth of our community's projects.

1. NEW INC Hits Hard At Sundance Institute's New Frontier Showcase


 Courtesy New Realities.


For over a decade, Sundance Institute's New Frontier showcase has highlighted exceptional projects engaged in virtual-, augmented-, and mixed-reality spaces; and of the twenty-seven works selected for their edition in 2017, five are the brainchilds of NEW INC family. There's Rachel Rossin's "The Sky Is a Gap;" NEW INC advisor Aaron Koblin's 'Life of Us;" Alexander Porter and James George's "Zero Days;" and Hyphen-Labs' "NeuroSpeculative AfroFeminism," which recently landed on the Huffington Post's radar

And then there's Milica & Winslow, the duo behind the recently-rebranded creative studio called New Reality Company. Their VR project, 'Giant,' which simulates life in a war-torn region, was the talk of town throughout 2016, collecting high praise from The New Yorker, the Los Angeles Times, and the Guardian UK. For New Frontier this January, they're delivering a VR project called 'Tree,' a New York Times-endorsed interactive experience that tackles the pressing environmental issue of deforestation.

2. Rachel Rossin Champions Virtual Reality Art


 Courtesy Rachel Rossin.


In a year abundant with 'top lists' of artists to know, multimedia wunderkind Rachel Rossin was something of a fixture, ranking into the roundups spun by industry tastemakers like W, Artsy, and the Creator's Project. (In January, Forbes named her one of 2017's 30 Under 30 in art.) 

The painter and programmer debuted her VR work at New York's Signal Gallery last year, and she's since become a formidable force in the art+tech space. In December, Artsy invited Rossin to design an immersive VR experience complete with live music for Art Basel fair-goers in Miami Beach (with the help of fellow NEW INC alumnus Charlie Whitney). 

But as she hinted to W's Fan Zhong, this is just the beginning: “Right now I’m using sculpture and painting to address the gradient between the virtual and the real. But I have other things in progress that take that even further."

3. Alice Sheppard Brings Down The House At CounterPulse


 Courtesy Alice Sheppard.


San Francisco was in for a treat this past December. Just before the New Year, New York-based dancer/choreographer Alice Sheppard and her team at Kinetic Light took over CounterPulse theater for a rendition of "Descent from Beauty," a dance about Venus and Andromeda conducted on a custom-engineered architectural ramped stage. According to the dance company, the performance involves light and video projection to explore modernist sculptor Auguste Rodin's statues.

Sheppard's venture came on the heels of another dance at the SeMA Biennale in Seoul, South Korea this past September. "My work is challenging equal participation in aesthetic, social, cultural, and political life," Sheppard told NEW INC, adding that she's hoping to transform prevailing notions of disability art into one that sees it as an "artistic and generative force–not a limitation that has to be erased or overcome."

4. Artiphon's All-In-One Instrument Dazzles Thousands Worldwide


 Courtesy Artiphon.


As the most funded musical instrument in Kickstarter history, Artiphon's Instrument 1 wields the combined capabilities of a piano, a guitar, and a violinand then some. Interest in the product ran high since it first launched in 2015, amassing $1.3 million well within two months (exceeding their original $75,000 target); and to the delight of musicians, sound artists, and sonic enthusiasts alike, Instrument 1 officially hit the online market at the tail end of 2016 following an earlier retail deal with the MoMA Design Store in New York and Tokyo.

Notably, Artiphon's newly-minted instrument gathered fanfare even before it left the gates, with features and mentions across New York MagazineFast Comapny, and the Fader dating back as early as March of 2016. In December, Instrument 1 received its first product review on PC Magazine, in which Geek.com's senior editor Jordan Minor characterized it as "a unique, powerful, accessible music machine." For the more seasoned artists and musicians, we presume the sky's the limit.

5. 'Dear Data' Project Secures MoMA Acquisition


 Giorgia Lupi. Courtesy Dear Data.


Over the course of a year, information designers Giorgia Lupi and Stephanie Prosavec exchanged postcards depicting observations of quotidian life from their respective sides of the Atlantic. Their resulting correspondence, 'Dear Data,'  birthed dynamic analog visualizations, subsequently garnering critical acclaim, winning its lion's share of awards, and enriching the discourse around information design.

Now, their project has effectively taken on a life of its own. In September, 'Dear Data' became the subject of an eponymous large-format title published by Penguin Random House imprint Particular Books and Princeton Architectural Press. In November, the original 104 postcards joined the Museum of Modern Art's permanent collection. The authors note in a blog post that MoMA's acquisition validates "what is possible both for data visualization and for visual communication." Let's hope a sequel is in the works.

6. Wallplay Is Poised To Be 'A Tetsuo-Sized Behemoth'


 Courtesy Wallplay via Forbes.


Since its inception, Wallplay founder Laura O'Reilly and her team have been amassing a roster of artists and creatives to "break down walls between creatives and corporates." From hosting FKA Twigs's EP release party, to transforming their space into an homage to '90s graffiti, there's no denying that Wallplay takes its mission seriously.

But don't take our word for it; as Kurt McVey wrote for Forbes in December: "Its ongoing presence at NEW INC gives Wallplay the potential to become a Tetsuo-sized behemoth of creative collaborations in the quickly evolving, global online and IRL marketplace." 

7. NEW INC Dominates Panorama Festival 2016


 The Lab at Panorama 2016. Courtesy The Verge.


When tech studio VolvoxLabs and indie rock band Neon Indian partnered up in 2015, they confirmed what most creative insiders already knew: performances and concerts (and the festivals that support them) lend themselves as natural habitats for experimentation in art and technology. In July, VolvoxLabs re-surfaced with a new project for Panorama Festival's inaugural debut on Randall's Islandand they weren't the only creative studio tasked to participate.

At the invitation of The Verge, which hosted a special art-x-tech dome on the island called The Lab, VolvoxLabs and ten others (three of whom were also affiliated with NEW INC) presented interactive experiences that combined "technology, artistry, and design." Between Dave & Gabe's interactive silk cocoons, which wove three-dimensional soundscapes, to Emilie Baltz and Philip Sierzega's audio-visual cotton-candy-making station which premiered at our Year 1 Showcase, festival denizens encountered a sampling of displays that marry art and science.


Editor: Julia Kaganskiy