Thursday October 19 / 3:30-5:00 

Co-creation in Place: Participation, Energy, and the (un)Settled Politics of Work

Maria Michails, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Maria Michails works across disciplines in the arts, engineering, science and social sciences to produce projects that draw on scientific ideas and emerging technologies. She is interested in developing diverse modes of participation for the co-production of knowledge-making tools that could re-imagine civic engagement with environmental issues. Taking consumer behaviour, labour, and ecological crisis as the entry points of inquiry, her gallery-based works have recently spawned a new direction toward a critically-engaged eco-social practice, where her focus has shifted to engaging communities in co-creative processes to tackle localized environmental problems. Her current (PhD) research centers on methods that integrate citizen science, critical-making, and ethnography – embedding oral histories with interactive mapping, environmental sensing and performance, as tactics for knowledge-production and sleuthing activism to affect policy decision-making. Addressing these themes, concerns and methodologies, Michails will discuss several works including S.OIL, a human-powered installation that communicates the connection between energy and food production; AirTRACS an art-science community air quality sensing project created with youth in an environmental justice community; and a new archiving and documentation project titled The Orphans with Saskatchewan farmers who are left with abandoned oil wells without much recourse for cleanup.


Maria Michails is a Canadian cross-disciplinary artist and writer. Her work has been exhibited in solo and group shows throughout North America and Europe, including New York Hall of Science, NYC; Urban Institute of Contemporary Art, Grand Rapids, MI; Central Michigan University; Art Gallery of Southwestern Manitoba; Rockland Center for the Arts, NY; Charleston Heights Art Center, Las Vegas; IMAGES Festival, Toronto; and the Centre d’Art Contemporain de Basse Normandie, France, to name a few. Grants and fellowships in support of her projects include the Canada Council for the Arts; Heritage Canada; Conseil des arts et des lettres du Quebec; and the New York State Artists Workspace Consortium. Recent residencies include BRiC at Banff Centre; Eyebeam Art + Technology Center, NYC; Sculpture Space, Utica, NY; the Santa Fe Art Institute, and in 2012-13 she was the Barstow Artist-in-Residence at Central Michigan University where she also developed and taught a special topics course, Art, Ecology & Culture. Her recent publications include a survey chapter in Media Art and the Urban Environment – Engendering Public Engagement with Urban Ecology (Springer-Verlag); “Mining Data, Making Art” in Digital Creativity; and an upcoming essay in Transformations – Journal of Media, Culture and Technology. Michails’ work has been written about in local and national press and recently featured on the Scientific American blog. She earned an MFA in Intermedia from Arizona State University and a BFA in Interdisciplinary Arts from Concordia University, Montreal. She is currently a Doctoral dual-fellowship recipient (SSHRC and HASS) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY.

Ezra Prentice Earthweek Event, Maria Michails