Prof. Vibeke Sorensen

Vibeke Sorensen is an artist and professor working in digital multimedia, animation, immersive media, interactive architectural installation, and networked visual music performance, using Big Data, the Internet of Things (IOT), and the Internet of Living Things (IOLT). Her work in experimental new media spans more than four decades and has been published and exhibited worldwide. Her research and creative work has been supported by the New York State Council on the Arts, the US National Science Foundation, Intel Corporation, the University of Southern California, and Nanyang Technological University, among others. She has taught at the California Institute of the Arts, Princeton University, and the University of Southern California where she founded the Division of Animation and Digital Arts (DADA) in the School of Cinematic Arts, and was a Visiting Associate in Computer Science at the California Institute of Technology. She created scientific visualization for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and was Senior Fellow at the San Diego Supercomputer Center where she co-founded the Advanced Scientific Visualization Laboratory (ASVL). In 2001 she became a Rockefeller Foundation Fellow in Film/Video/Multimedia and in 2007 she was the Chair of the ACM SIGGRAPH Art Gallery: Global Eyes. From 2009-2019, she was Professor and Chair (head of school) of the School of Art, Design, and Media at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore, where she was Founding Director of the Centre for Asian Art and Design (CAAD). From 2016-2019 she was also Adjunct Professor of Design, Games and Interaction in the School of Media and Communication at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, in Australia. Vibeke Sorensen’s creative artwork “Mood of the Planet” (2015) is a kinetic light-sound sculpture incorporating global, real-time big data, Twitter, and music composed by Sorensen. In 2015 she produced “Mayur”, a 4K animation inspired by Asian textiles, symbols, music, and cosmologies. Her recent work “Digital Amulet: Smart Necklace”(2017) incorporates 3D printing, networked environmental data, and wearable computing. “In Other Wor(l)ds” (2018) featured textiles, physical computing, global environmental data, and the IOT. “Prakempa” (2018-2020) is part of a larger research project on Asian conceptions of space-time in digital media art that includes sonification and visualization of the Balinese Calendar (the most complex calendar known to anthropology) and Gamelan Music. Collaborating with anthropologist and ecologist Prof J. Stephen Lansing, a three-part multimedia installation about Bali’s Green Revolution and living heritage was exhibited at the Sharjah Architecture Triennial’s “Rights of Future Generations” from November 2019 – February 2020. This research is providing a deeper understanding of the relationships between the calendrical systems and the natural environment, architecture, and music/performing arts, of several Southeast Asian cultures.


Plants and the Planet
Plants are the lungs of the planet and the source of all life, the foundation of every ecosystem. When we replace complex ecosystems with very reduced ones, we create deserts on land and dead zones in the oceans. We ignore these connections at our peril. We need to experience them. Rice, for example, is the single most important food crop for humans, but it is also the source of invisible greenhouse gas emissions from methane and nitrous oxide, which have a larger impact on global warming than all of the world’s airplane travel. This impact can be reduced by 2/3 through harmless changes to irrigation schedules, but the effects are invisible to farmers. By sonifying and broadcasting the emissions from a single rice plant, the cry of the Rice Goddess can be heard by the farmers. A different experience is created for Western consumers, with scenes of the beautiful forests that are now disappearing from the world’s jungles. Printed on sustainable silk and wrapped around our bodies, they bring us into closer touch with the life that we must steward and protect. We already know what needs to be done, but we need to see, feel and experience our relationship to the life that sustains us.

This talk will review several creative works that concern plants and the planet, suggesting alternative approaches to navigating the complex relationship between nature, human beings, and technology in a time of planetary ecological crisis.