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On The Screen

2021 Runner-Up


On the Screen

The central fountain of the American Academy in Rome is currently a passive part of the compositional order of the McKim Mead & White building; a pleasant but easy to ignore aspect of the entry sequence. Through light and water effects, we aimed to make the fountain truly visible through the performance of “Hypersea,” composed for the event and played on the ondes Martenot (early electronic instrument) and accompanied by a String Quartet. The evolutionary theory of the “Hypersea” traces the fluid that terrestrial life carries within its tissues to our emergence from the sea 3.5 billion years ago. 

That we carry the sea within our collective tissues and share it through complex mechanisms of symbiotic exchange, provides us with a means to imagine the planetary hydrocommons on which we all depend and interdepend. Surrounded by a translucent shroud, the fountain is screened from visibility behind the encircling performers whose movement is registered on the surface of the water by a light object suspended over the top of the veil. Using high intensity light, that registration and the water’s liquid life is made manifest through its reflection and projection back onto the encircling screen. Only through hiding the water, do we thus truly see its aqueous agency.

On the Screen – 2021 Runner-Up


Aroussiak Gabrielian

Aroussiak Gabrielian, (Ph.D., FAAR), is an environmental designer and media artist working with biological materials, natural systems, and atmospheric phenomena. Her work aims to torque our imaginaries to help us re-think our interactions with both human and non-human agents on this planet. Aroussiak is co-founder and Design Principal of foreground design agency, a critical design practice based in Los Angeles that aims to dismantle structures of power and privilege that render specific humans, species, and matter silent. Recipient of numerous recent recognitions including, the Emerging Designer Awards from the Design Futures Initiative, the Tomorrowland Projects Foundation Award administered through the New York Foundation for the Arts, the Word Changing Ideas Awards recognized by Fast Company, and the Rome Prize from the American Academy in Rome, Aroussiak’s work has been exhibited in Los Angeles, Austin, Portland, St. Louis, Detroit, Philadelphia, New York City, and in venues across Italy, Germany, Spain and China. Aroussiak is currently Assistant Professor of Landscape Architecture + Urbanism at the School of Architecture at USC, Affiliate Faculty of Media Arts + Practice at the School of Cinematic Arts at USC, and Director of the recently launched Landscape Futures Lab.
Collaborators & Consultants:
Alison Hirsch, Co-founder, foreground design agency
Grant Calderwood, Microgreens researcher & hydroponic grower
Irene Tortora, Fashion designer
Chris Behr, Chef with the Rome Sustainable Food Project
On the Screen
Alison Hirsch, Co-founder, foreground design agency
Stefano Silvia, Scenic fabricator
Suzanne Farrin, Musical composer & ondes martenot instrumentalist

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