The Illinois eDream Institute is dedicated to promoting arts that are conceived, created, and conveyed through digital technologies
visiting research artists

Mikel Rouse

eDream Institute names Mikel Rouse first visiting research artist

Collaboration to focus on new work-in-progress inspired by 1960s computing demo

Mikel Rouse headshot

The University of Illinois’ eDream (Emerging Digital Research and Education in Arts Media) Institute has named innovative composer and performer Mikel Rouse as its first ever visiting research artist. During the 2012-2013 academic year, Rouse will collaborate with eDream and Krannert Center for Performing Arts as he explores and defines a new work inspired by a groundbreaking computer technology demo from 1968.

The somewhat unusual “research artist” title was chosen to reflect eDream’s interest in discovering new ways to harness digital technologies to push the boundaries of creative practice and performance. Rouse—known for his genre-bending, technology-infused works—is an ideal partner for such an exploration.

“Mikel experiments with technology that is highly relevant to the University of Illinois. We know he will synergize and really innovate with this opportunity,” says eDream director Donna Cox.

eDream staff have worked with Rouse before, first on the opera The End of Cinematics, which debuted at Krannert Center in 2005, and then on the song cycle Gravity Radio, performed there in 2010. Both works included display and video effects developed in collaboration with eDreamers.

The new collaboration will focus on “The Demo,” a work inspired by a remarkable 90-minute demonstration of computing technology performed by Stanford researcher Douglas C. Engelbart on Dec. 9, 1968. This demo was the first public appearance of the computer mouse, as well as hypertext, dynamic file linking, and shared-screen collaboration. [Engelbart demo]

“These demos are the precursors to things that change the world,” says Cox recalling a 1989 demo in which she and colleagues at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications demonstrated what the world could be like with high-speed communication networks connecting scientists with one another and with geographically distant resources like supercomputers. That vision of the future is now our present reality. [NCSA's Science by Satellite]

"I've been honored to work with the eDream team over the last 10 years, and our collaboration on The Demo represents a huge step forward in terms of the artist/eDream relationship.  I truly believe we have the potential to create a new kind of techno-theater," Rouse says.

Rouse will visit the Urbana-Champaign campus Oct. 22-26 and will give a public presentation on his use of technology in performance at 4 p.m. Oct. 25 in the NCSA Building, 1205 W. Clark St., Urbana.

Chungliang Al Huang

Chungliang Al Huang

Chungliang Al Huang is Founder/President of Living Tao Foundation. He has been called “a master in the arts of living” and “a sage for the modern age.”

eDream collaborated with Chungliang Al Huang to bring “The Tao of Bach” to the Krannert Center Stage in September 2012.

A pre-show movie sets the mood with computer-generated yin-yang galaxies that segue to calligraphy. Real-life nature shots near the Living Tao Foundation in Oregon subtly highlight eDream and AVL's attention to detail when the coastlines in adjacent shots fit together almost like puzzle pieces.

"We shot high-resolution time-lapse and digital cinema of nature to be used in the performance," says Bob Patterson, eDream associate director for production and AVL visualization research artist.

Jeff Carpenter, a multimedia specialist with eDream, designed and edited of most of the video and calligraphy segments for the performance. He and Patterson worked together to create the digitally affected movies that will be projected on multiple screens before and throughout the performance.

Once the main attraction begins, eDream and AVL staff will play an active role in the show. A Kinect camera captures performers who are within "the cone," the term used for the wedge-shaped viewing area of the camera. Microsoft originally manufactured the Kinect camera to allow users to play Xbox 360 and Windows PC video games using body movements and voice commands. A wire strung across the front of the stage carries the image to two off-stage computers.

Betts will sit at the computers during the show and run a program he developed called CHI-vision that transmutes the image and projects what looks like a silhouette in brightly colored fluid on the screen upstage. The fluid represents chi, or life energy. A multitude of numerical settings in a simple graphical user interface control the qualities of the on-screen aura.

"This work has called upon the breadth of talent in the AVL group," says Cox, from astrophysical visualization and Patterson's digital cinema that make up the pre-show to animated calligraphy and CHI-vision, which will be run interactively in real time during the performance.

Merging art and technology

"What I want to see is a marriage between visual and music," says Huang.

Four world-renown musicians—cellists David Darling and Michael Fitzpatrick, harpist Ann Yeung, and flutist Alexander Murray—will join forces for a single performance at Huang's invitation. Huang refers to himself and the musicians as a quintet.

"It's a once in a lifetime chance," he says.

eDream joined in about a year ago, says Cox, and solidified plans last spring. NCSA and Krannert Center have collaborated on sundry projects for nearly two decades.

"We have a good working relationship with Krannert [Center] and visiting artists," says Carpenter.

Cox took a particular interest in the project after a Memorial Day workshop with Huang. The healing aspect of Tai Ji helped her recover from a recent surgery, says Cox.

Huang is a great collaborator, she says, and provides a lot of creative input and inspiration. She says she has been more involved in this project than usual, especially with design and providing feedback.

John Toenjes


John Toenjes is Associate Professor and Music Director of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) Department of Dance, Technical Director for the Illinois-Japan Performing Arts Network (IJPAN), and former president of the International Guild of Musicians in Dance. He was the first faculty fellow at eDream and continues to collaborate. He has written more than 30 commissioned dance scores for such choreographers as Lucas Hoving, Joe Goode, and Luc Vanier. His collaboration with choreographer Joe Goode, The Ascension of Big Linda into the Skies of Montana, earned the SF Bay Area “Izzy” Award for Best Production of 1986.

Other collaborations include Value Intensity with choreographer Todd Williams, which was the opening concert of the 92nd Street Y Harkness Dance Festival in New York in February 2006, and e’s of water, with choreographer Luc Vanier, a large-scale interactive dance and sonic sculpture installation in June 2007 at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. With artistic partners David Marchant and Ben Smith, he creates computer-assisted interactive dances, most notably Inventions Suite, featured at the 2008 Cleveland Ingenuity Festival. In the fall of 2010, John was invited to an artist residency at STEIM, in Amsterdam. Shortly thereafter, he redesigned the electronics and wrote a new sound score for Trisha Brown’s Astral Convertible (Reimagined), and in 2011programmed the interactive dance fraMESHift for the Virtual Reality and Multimedia Park, in Turin, Italy. John teaches courses in Music for Dance and Internet Performance at UIUC, and coordinates Japanese-American theater and dance Internet cultural exchanges for IJPAN.

His article “Composing for Interactive Dance: Paradigms for Perception,” was published in Perspectives of New Music in Winter 2007, and he wrote a chapter about improvisation in the modern dance class for the book Musical Improvisation: Art, Education and Society, published by UofI Press.

Ellen Sandor


Ellen Sandor is an internationally acclaimed New Media artist, founder and director of (art)n, and co-founder of the Richard and Ellen Sandor Family Collection. Throughout the 1970s, she created mixed media environments and sculptures, while pursuing her passion for exploring photography and outsider art. She received an MFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and was commissioned by private collectors to create sculptural installations that combined neon tubing with photographic murals.

In the early 1980s, Sandor had the vision to integrate photography with other art forms including sculpture and computer graphics that resulted in a new medium she called PHSColograms (pronounced skol-o-grams). This complex blend of forms required collaboration that enabled Sandor to work with additional artists, scientists, technologists, and thinkers who shared her enthusiasm for creating a future that included the use of computers to explore one's creative potential across disciplinary cultures. Sandor has been acknowledged as a forward-thinking pioneer and futurist for her innovations with PHSColograms and interdisciplinary collaborative work methods.

PHSCologram '83 was the first collaborative installation she created that resulted in the formation of (art)n in 1983 with peers from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. The remarkable installation featured sound effects and was contained with sculptural details that referenced historical works by men and women artists, including Louise Nevelson, Georgia O'Keeffe, Man Ray, Marcel Duchamp, and the intuitive artist, realized as PHSCologram images.

This provocative installation caught the attention of the arts community and was reviewed in the New Art Examiner as a historical breakthrough for its original form, process, and evolutionary approach to making 21st Century art. Tom DeFanti and Dan Sandin from the Electronic Visualization Laboratory at the University of Illinois at Chicago were intrigued by Sandor's efforts with (art)n and developed a collaboration with her to digitize the PHSCologram process by 1989, which led to further development at EVL to add interactivity and animation to virtual environments with the invention of the Virtual Reality CAVE, first publicly shown at SIGGRAPH '92 in Chicago, surrounded by an installation of 40 PHSColograms produced by (art)n and collaborators, sponsored by ACM.

In 1986, Sandor worked with Larry Smarr, Donna Cox, George Francis and Ray Idaszik at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Together they created the first PHSColograms made from computer-generated data that "visualized the invisible" with mathematical models such as the Etruscan Venus that were exhibited at Fermilab Gallery in 1987. Sandor began collaborating with scientists from NASA Ames Research Center and The Scripps Research Institute, creating the first PHSColograms used to aid scientific research. From these efforts, a large body of work was produced under her direction that popularized artists working with scientific themes and even scientific data, leading the trends to follow in Art & Science and Art & Technology.

In 1991, Sandor started working in a new direction to address human atrocities through visual history with The Equation of Terror, which was exhibited internationally and also included in the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago's landmark exhibition, Art in Chicago: 1944-1995. The installation brought together elements of photographic history with computer aided visualizations of human warfare. This insightful statement calling for tolerance and creativity led to future work with Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation in 1994 and site-specific commissions for A Living Memorial to the Holocaust – Museum of Jewish Heritage in 1997 and Battle of Midway Memorial for the City of Chicago in 2001.

Sandor additionally worked with Chicago Imagists Ed Paschke and Karl Wirsum, who shared in her spirit for inventiveness and taking creative risks. These works have been shown internationally at Galerie Darthea Speyer in Paris, U.S. Art in Embassies Program in Germany, High Museum of Art, Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art, Brauer Museum of Art, Chicago History Museum, and The Art Institute of Chicago. Recent projects include the exploration of architectural masterpieces and unrealized delineations while continuing to trail blaze the sciences in art.

Sandor's works with (art)n and collaborators are in the permanent collection of The Art Institute of Chicago, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, International Center of Photography, Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art, The University of Oklahoma, The Smithsonian Institution and others. Recent commissions include Murphy/Jahn Architects, City of Chicago Public Art Program, The State of Illinois Art-in-Architecture Program, Nuveen Investments, and SmithBucklin Corporation.

Sandor co-invented U.S. and International Patents awarded for the PHSCologram process and its improvements. She co-authored papers for Computers & Graphics, IEEE, and SPIE. She has lectured by invitation in Europe, Canada and the United States and is a former Collaborator/Associate Professor at the Department of Art and Design at the College of Design, Iowa State University and a former Adjunct Associate Professor at the School of Art & Design at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

She is an Affiliate of eDream, National Center for Supercomputing Applications, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign and Chair of the Advisory Board of the Gene Siskel Film Center of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She is on the Board of Directors for OXBOW, Board of Governors for the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and is a Life Trustee of The Art Institute of Chicago. In 2012, she received the Thomas R. Leavens Award for Distinguished Service to the Arts through Lawyers for the Creative Arts.

– text courtesy (art)n

Chris Landreth


When Chris was a young boy, his was given a battery of psychological tests to determine what he might be when he grew up.  One confusing outcome of this was that Chris was found to have “Mixed Brain Dominance”.  When Chris later discovered computers, he found that while he used a tablet with his left hand, he used a mouse with his right.  This mixed-up brain behaviour has since become a staple of Chris's career path.

For example, Chris flexed his left brain to receive an MS degree in Theoretical and Applied Mechanics from the University of Illinois, in 1986.  After this, he helped develop a fluid measurement technique called Particle Image Velocimetry, which has since become a fundamental way of measuring fluid flow.  

But soon enough, Chris's right brain asserted itself.  He discovered computer animation when he met Prof. Donna Cox at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA).  Chris then created his first short film, The Listener (1991),  which won him notoriety on MTV's “Liquid Television” that year.  Chris decided then that animation was the best way to entertain both sides of his brain equally.

In 1994, Chris joined Alias Inc. (now Autodesk Inc.), as an in-house artist, where he defined, tested and abused animation software as it was being developed.  Chris's work was a driving force in developing Maya 1.0, in 1998.  Maya is the most widely used animation software in the world, resulting in an Academy Award in 2003.   During this period Chris directed the end in 1995, and Bingo in 1998.  the end was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film, in 1996.  Bingo earned a Canadian Genie Award in 1999, and was ranked 37th in the “100 Most Influential Moments in CG History” by CG World Magazine in 2003.

In 2004 Chris released Ryan, with the National Film Board of Canada, Copperheart Entertainment and Seneca College in Toronto.  Ryan quickly became one of the most celebrated animated short films of all time.  It pioneered a style Chris calls “Psychorealism”, using surreal CG imagery to show the psychology of its characters.  Ryan received the 2005 Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film, and over 60 other awards, including prizes at the Cannes Film Festival and Grand Prize at the 2004 Ottawa International Animation Festival.

In 2009, Chris released The Spine, again with the NFB, Copperheart and Seneca College.  This film was nominated for a Canadian Genie award in 2010, and was one of “Canada's Top Ten Films” of the Toronto International Film Festival Group, in 2009.

Chris continues to be obsessed both with new techniques in CG, and new ways in telling stories with these techniques—as both hemispheres of his brain continue trying to outdo one another.  He is an expert in Facial Animation and has developed a course called “Making Faces”, which he has taught at Dreamworks Animation, Seneca College, the University of Toronto and the Ecole George Melies in Paris.

Bill Morrison

bill morrison

Over the past twenty years Bill Morrison has built a filmography of more than thirty projects that have been presented in theaters, museums, galleries and concert halls worldwide. His work often makes use of rare archival footage in which forgotten film imagery is reframed as part of our collective mythology. 

Morrison's films are in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art, The Nederlands Filmmuseum, and The Library of Congress. He is a Guggenheim fellow and has received the Alpert Award for the Arts, an NEA Creativity Grant, a Creative Capital grant, and a fellowship from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts. His work with Ridge Theater has been recognized with two Bessie awards and an Obie Award.

Thecla Schiphorst


Thecla Schiphorst is Associate Director and Associate Professor in the School of Interactive Arts and Technology at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada. She has an Interdisciplinary MA under special arrangements in Dance and Computing Science from Simon Fraser University (1993), and a Doctor of Philosophy – Ph.D. (2008) from the School of Computing at the University of Plymouth. Her background in dance and computing form the basis for her research in embodied interaction, focusing on movement knowledge representation, tangible and wearable technologies, media and digital art, and the aesthetics of interaction. She applies body-based somatic models as articulated in systems such as Laban Movement Analysis to technology design processes within an HCI context. Her research goal is to expand the practical application of embodied theory within technology design.

She is a member of the original design team that developed Life Forms, the computer compositional tool for choreography, and collaborated with Merce Cunningham from 1990 to 2005 supporting his creation of new dance with the computer.

Thecla Schiphorst is the recipient of the 1998 PetroCanada Award in New Media, a biennial award presented to a Canadian Artist for their contribution to innovation in art & technology in Canada and the recipient of three IDMA (International Digital Media Awards) including the people’s choice award for my design of immerce (1994), an interactive interface based on John Cage and Merce Cunningham’s compositional strategies that enabled user’s to explore the Cage/Cunningham media archive by varying navigation modes (linear, associative and random).

Schiphorst’s media art installations have been exhibited internationally in Europe, Canada, the United States and Asia, in numerous venues including Ars Electronica (1997), the Dutch Electronic Arts Festival (DEAF03 + DEAF07), Future Physical Cambridge (2003), Siggraph Electric Garden (1997), Siggraph Emerging Technologies (2005), the Wexner Centre for the Arts (1998), the Canadian Cultural Centre in Paris (1997), the London ICA (1999), at the MM’10 exhibition at the Palazzo Medici-Riccardi, in Florence, Italy (2010), and the Michel Journiac Gallery at the Paris-Sorbonne (2012).

Thecla Schiphorst leads the whisper[s] research group an acronym for: wearable, handheld, intimate, sensory, personal, expressive, responsive systems, and is the Director and Principle Investigator of the $2.3M SSHRC funded International Institutional Partnership entitled MovingStories: Digital Tools for Movement, Meaning and Interaction, which brings together researchers from Movement Analysis, Computing Science (artificial intelligence and machine learning), Human Computer Interaction, Cognitive Science, Psychology, Dance, Theatre and Interactive Art.