Join artist Danielle Dean and UT Austin professor Samantha Shorey in conversation with curators Maria Emilia Fernandez, Visual Arts Center, and Robin K. Williams, The Contemporary Austin. The evening’s dialogue will focus on mutual research interests connecting Dean’s artistic practice and Shorey’s work in communications and social sciences—interests including corporate labor practices, workers’ rights, and how media and advertising shape our perceptions of complex realities.
Both Dean and Shorey have pursued these interests in part through research on the technology industry, a sector with a strong and ever-growing presence in Austin. For example, Shorey’s work investigating the invisibility of human labor in maintaining innovative technologies intersects with Dean’s multifaceted Amazon project, which combines her research in the Ford Motor Company archives with an intimate investigation of labor conditions within Amazon Mechanical Turk, an online crowdsourcing platform.
Dean’s work is currently on view as part of The Contemporary’s exhibition This Land, which includes her six-channel video installation Amazon, as well as within the exhibition A Well-trained Eye at the Visual Arts Center. Curators Fernandez and Williams will guide the conversation to address themes connecting both exhibitions, including ethical and environmental implications of current developments in technology and artificial intelligence.
This public program is supported, in part, by the Thoma Foundation and Good Systems, a research grand challenge at UT Austin.
About the Participants
Danielle Dean is an interdisciplinary artist whose work explores the geopolitical and material processes that colonize the mind and body. Drawing from the aesthetics and history of advertising, and from her multinational background—born to a Nigerian father and an English mother in Alabama and brought up in a suburb of London—her work explores the ideological functions of technology, architecture, marketing, and media as tools of subjection, oppression, and resistance. Dean’s work has been exhibited in solo exhibitions at Tate Britain, London (2022); Ludwig Forum, Aachen, Germany (2020); Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (2018); and the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York (2016). In 2022, she participated in the Whitney Biennial at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, and in 2023, she co-presented a version of her video Long Low Line with Times Square Arts. Her work is in the collections of the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Kadist Art Foundation, San Francisco and Paris; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; CC Foundation Shanghai; and The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Dean received her MFA from California Institute of the Arts and is an alumna of the Whitney Independent Study Program and the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. She is the recipient of a Creative Capital award and is an Associate Professor of Visual Arts at the University of California San Diego.
Samantha Shorey is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication Studies and a researcher with Good Systems, a research grand challenge at The University of Texas at Austin. She is a design researcher who studies automated technologies—such as AI and robots—in the workplace. In her research, she seeks to highlight the labor and innovation of people who are often overlooked in media narratives about new technologies. Shorey is currently leading an NSF-funded project examining how Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies are being adopted and adapted by essential workers during the Covid–19 pandemic. She uses methods of ethnography and critical making to learn about various technology design processes, ranging from maintaining industrial AI-powered machines to making hardware with woven wires. Her work has been published in journals such as New Media and Society, as well as proceedings for the Association of Computing Management's leading conferences on Human-Computer Interaction (CHI and CSCW). Before coming to Austin, she was a fellow at the Smithsonian Museum’s Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation, where she investigated the women who handmade computer hardware for the Apollo moon missions. She was a research associate in the Tactile and Tactical Design Lab in the Department of Human Centered Design and Engineering at the University of Washington, where she completed her PhD. She has also worked with collaborative research teams at the University of Oxford, MIT, and as a pre-doctoral intern at Airbnb.
María Emilia Fernández is a writer and independent curator based in Mexico City. She is the former Assistant Curator at the Visual Arts Center, where she organized the current exhibition A Well-trained Eye. She completed her MA in Art History at UT Austin in 2022 and is an alumna of the Center for Latin American Visual Studies (CLAVIS). Previously she worked as Curatorial Assistant at Museo Jumex in Mexico City, where she collaborated in more than twelve exhibitions, including projects with Jonathas de Andrade, Jeff Koons, Xavier Le Roy, Michael Smith, Barbara Wagner & Benjamin de Burca, Franz Erhard Walther, among other artists. She is co-editor of the exhibition catalogue Social Fabric: Art and Activism in Contemporary Brazil and her exhibition reviews and short essays have been included in publications such as Burnaway Magazine, OndaMx, Artishock and Nexos. Along with her father, she broadcasts Covertitlán, a weekly show featuring music covers on Mexican public radio.
Robin K. Williams is Curator at The Contemporary Austin where she has curated numerous projects including the current largescale exhibition This Land. Previously, she was a Ford Curatorial Fellow at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, where she curated the solo exhibition Danielle Dean: True Red Ruin (2018), among other projects. Prior to that she held curatorial fellowships at the Blanton Museum of Art and the Visual Arts Center in Austin. Her writing is published in numerous exhibition catalogs and magazines, as well as the international academic journals Stedelijk Studies and Sin Objeto. She has taught art history at Texas State University and The University of Texas at Austin, where she completed her PhD.