SETI AIR: The SETI Institute’s Artists in Residence Program


“Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were, but without it we go nowhere.” Carl Sagan

SETI AIR: The SETI Institute’s Artists in Residence Program
The SETI Institute has become an international leader in the movement to integrate the arts and sciences. SETI AIR facilitates an exchange of ideas between artists and scientists so that these disciplines may inspire each other and lead to new modes of comprehension and expression. This program expands upon the SETI Institute’s mission to explore, understand, and explain the origin, nature, and prevalence of life in the universe. Our artists bring fresh eyes to help navigate difficult concepts and act as a bridge to broaden awareness of the science carried out at the SETI Institute.

Program History and Recent Developments
The SETI Institute’s Artists in Residence Program began in 2010 when Astronomer Dr. Jill Tarter and artist Charles Lindsay visited SETI’s ATA Observatory. Initiating the AIR program Lindsay paired with SETI scientist and information theorist Dr. Laurance Doyle whose research proved that humpback whale communication exhibits syntax, strongly inferring language. “Code Humpback” resulted from their exchanges: an installation mixing midi and morse coded messages with field recordings, video, light and sculpture. MassMoCA curator Denise Markonish chaired the initial advisory committee which selected the first wave of artists. Since 2012 the program has welcomed a dozen artists, and hosted others for lectures and research. Since 2015, the SETI AIR program’s archive has been maintained and developed by the Nevada Museum of Art’s Center for Art + Environment in Reno, Nevada. Bettina Forget continues to be Researcher in Residence and archive liaison. The inaugural SETI AIR group show opened at the New Museum Los Gatos (NUMU) in November, 2016. “Making Contact”  featured work by Rachel Sussman, George Bolster, Martin Wilner, Danny Bazo, Karl Yerkes, Marko Peljhan and Charles Lindsay. SETI AIR are partnering with the Montalvo Arts Center / Lucas Artists Residency program to provide first class accommodation  studio space, and facilities for SETI Institute artists. Artists Jen Bervin, Scott Kildall, Dario Robleto and David Neumann are in long term orbits. Since early 2018 IMPRINT PROJECTS have begun helping shape the SETI AIR program brand. On April 27, 2018 SETI AIR and Montalvo Arts Center will announce program changes, coming shows, lectures, advisory committee changes and an outstanding new artist. Please stay tuned.

AIR Program Benefits
The SETI Institute enables artists whose work is influenced by science to engage individuals and facilities they might not otherwise have access to. AIR program outreach includes public colloquia at the Institute, exhibitions, performances, talks at cultural institutions, and field trips. This initiative is extended through web-based media of all kinds. The SETI Institute currently has over one million followers through Facebook and Twitter.

The SETI Institute AIR position provides private office space, phone, internet, and communal space at the SETI Institute when the artist in residence is physically present. The Institute also offers access to scientists and educators on staff and small to medium meeting rooms to support meetings and events. The artists in residence are expected to comply with the Institute’s volunteer policies, and are protected by the same business policies as all volunteers.

Air Program Affiliations
The SETI Institute is located in Mountain View, California, in the heart of Silicon Valley. SETI’s Allen Telescope Array (ATA) is located at Hat Creek, in northern California. The SETI Institute maintains relationships with NASA Ames Research Center, the Nevada Museum of Art, Montalvo Arts Center, New Museum Los Gatos, Stanford’s CCRMA / Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics, California Academy of Sciences, the Exploratorium, ZERO1, The Long Now Foundation, JPL / Jet Propulsion Laboratory, USC / the University of Southern California, National Science Foundation, Google, TED, the Computer History Museum, and scientific institutions around the world.

Artist Selection
SETI AIR Artist selection encourages those individuals employing new media and technology and/or those whose work exhibits a direct relationship to the contemporary scientific endeavors of SETI Institute researchers. SETI Institute science is front edge, our artists are similarly minded. Mid-career artists working in the following fields, though not limited to these, will be considered equally: robotics, rocketry, electronic music, theater and dance, bio-arts, digital and data-arts, computational arts, climate based works, film and photography, philosophy, poetry, kinetic or land based sculpture, geophysical and geological based works, planetary or astronomical based works, and drawing. AIR terms range from six weeks to two years. Artists may defer their term for 18 months in order to apply for grants. At this time, there is no open application process, all artists to be considered for the AIR position must first be recommended by a member of the Advisory Committee. We are developing a new Visiting Artist aspect to our program. This is being designed to allow additional artists short term access to scientists.

The AIR Advisory Committee
The AIR Advisory Committee is made up of contemporary art curators, SETI Institute scientists, and individuals who have a broad awareness of current trends and developments in the contemporary artistic territory where science, technology, and art intersect. Near Orbit Active Advisors (NOAA) are the most active and will have the most influence. Far Orbit Passive Advisors (FOPA) are former advisors and supporters of the program. The advisory committee works with SETI Institute management to select future artists in such a way that the program is broad-based in terms of discipline, race and gender. The AIR initiative also aspires to encourage young people to experience the exciting possibilities emerging at the nexus of art, technology, and the sciences. Our explicit goal is to make way for the art that we haven’t seen or heard yet. As such, the program favors artists working with new ideas - surprise us !!

On Location
Selected individuals are not required to be in residence at the SETI Institute during their term. Generally, it is expected that the artist in residence has an established practice in another location and visits the Institute periodically. The SETI Institute does not directly provide living space, transportation, or funding for artists selected for the program, although the SETI Institute is available as the institutional home for funded projects that may provide such support.

Funding Requirements
SETI Institute AIR recipients must generate their own funding. The SETI Institute is a non-profit, 501(c)3, and can be the institutional home to administer government and foundation grants and private donations for individual artist in residence projects. In the case of artists applying for grants under the auspices of the Institute, funds received are subject to the same indirect costs as all other awards administered by the SETI Institute. Indirect costs are determined according to Federal requirements.

Additional Requirements
The Artist in Residence position comes with some public visibility. It is our hope that the program will eventually be fully funded—artist’s contributions, visibility, and successes will affect this prospect. SETI Institute AIRs are, through affiliation, SETI Institute ambassadors. It is expected that the artist’s work and behavior will reflect well on the SETI Institute and the scientific community. In the event that this is not the case, the SETI Institute reserves the right to terminate the artist’s position and affiliation at any time.