1001++ (Magical Technologies) is a series of artistic inquiries inspired by Arthur C. Clarke’s 3rd law, “[a]ny sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” This lens allows us to re-examine folk narratives not as superstitious and fanciful but to read the ‘magic’ as culturally aspirational desires of applied technologies (e.g., VR, machine learning, robotics, storytelling, choreography). In particular, 1001++ (Magical Technologies) reimagines this ‘magic’ found in under-represented and under-researched folk tales/lore (pre-colonial narratives) from the Middle East, South Asia and other muslim communities.

More specifically, the project revisits the magic in folktales from these Muslim cultures in order to provide alternate narratives that positively counter the prevalent and hegemonic logic of most current technoculture. The project uses, and/or refers to, technologies such as drones, learning algorithms, bitcoin and immersive VR to bring lost narratives to a larger audience. Typically these communities have a strained relationship to said technologies (Drone bombing, digital surveillance). Offering rich alternative impressions of these cultures, created using such technologies in positive ways, appeals to, and reaches, people who might not otherwise engage with those narratives, which are largely only available in printed book form. In addition, the new narrative forms of these artworks counter popular and dominant media narratives associated with these cultures (terrorist, barbaric, un-American, other). The project provides its own diasporic communities with reinvigorated new tellings of their own lore through a futurist lens offering new imaginaries.

Examples of projects:

  • Flying Carpets realized with drone technologies.
  • Scheherazade as a storytelling machine learning algorithm, this would be sourced from existing tales and newer diasporic community stories and narratives.
  • The mystical winged Buraq reimagined as an immersive VR film and mechanical ride, revisiting journeys of terrestrial migration (including regional Drone footage).
  • Jinns as quantum entities.
  • Ali Baba reimagined as crypto hacker and bitcoin raider.

The initial project will explore the magical voyage that took the Prophet Muhammad to heaven on the the mystical winged Buraq reimagined as an immersive 360 VR film and mechanical ride, and entangled with contemporary narratives of terrestrial migration and transcendence. The VR film includes dance numbers/motion capture, CGI generated clips, as well as 360 drone footage.

Student Engagement: Students will be working on interdisciplinary projects that explore the confluence of literature, history, technology and the arts (visual, music, dance). Students will be exposed to transdisciplinary ways of imagining and working with teams across varying disciplines on projects that are slated to be shown in a major museum (MassMoCA) exhibition in Spring 2024.

Research: Students will assist in researching concepts and help think through technical and aesthetic solutions for the project.

Prototyping: Students will help develop prototypes, technologies, and workshop ideas and ready these concepts into production.

Production: Students will be involved in producing final works which will be included in a museum exhibition.

Students apply to a specific role on team as follows:

Computer Graphics/Modeling (3 Students)

Preferred Skills: Individuals should be fluent in computer modeling for 3D printing and 3D animation.

Likely Majors/Minors: ARCH, ARTDES, CS, ME, SI

Film/Video Production (3 Students)

Preferred Skills: Individuals should be comfortable in filming and editing video, have experience or interest in drone filming and 360 VR production.

Likely Majors/Minors: AERO, ARTDES, FTVM, INTPERF, ROB, SI

Dance/Choreography/Performance Art (2 Students)

Preferred Skills: Individuals have experience in developing choreography and performance.

Likely Majors/Minors: DANCE, MUSPERF, THTREMUS

3D Fabricator (2 Students)

Preferred Skills: Students are comfortable with any of the following skills, working with wood, metal (welding, bending), mold making (Silicone, resin), ceramics, digital fabrication, as well as open to working with unconventional materials.

Likely Majors/Minors: ARCH, ARTDES, ME, MSE

Computer/Electronics Programmer (2 Students)

Preferred Skills: Individuals that can program either software (machine learning, interactive systems, VR gaming engines) and hardware (Arduino, Raspberry Pi, Drone).

Likely Majors/Minors: ARTDES, CE, CS, EE, ME, ROB, SI

Cultural Researcher (2 Students)

Preferred Skills: Interested in literature related to folk tales/lore (and other pre-colonial and contemporary narratives) from the Middle East, South Asia and other muslim communities.


Faculty Project Lead

Osman Khan is a Detroit-based artist interested in constructing artifacts and experiences for social criticism and aesthetic expression. His work plays and subverts the materiality behind themes of identity, home/land, social and public space through participatory & performative installations and site-specific interventions. He is currently an Associate Professor at the Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design at the University of Michigan.

Khan’s work has been shown at Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA); the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MoCAD); the Shanghai Biennale; the Zero1 Festival, San Jose; Witte de With Centre for Contemporary Art, Rotterdam; Ars Electronica Center, Linz; Socrates Sculpture Park, NYC; Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, Grand Rapids (as part of ArtPrize 2014); Centro Internazionale per l’Arte Contemporanea, Rome; among others.

He is a recipient of a 2020 Guggenheim Fellowship, an Art Matters grant, Ars Electronica’s Prix Ars Award of Distinction, and an Arctic Circle 2009 Residency. Articles about his work have appeared in numerous publications including Hyperallergic, Artforum, Art in America, I.D., LA Times, NY Times, among others.

In addition to his artistic practice, Khan is also Co-Director of the Indus Detroit Artist Residency + Culture Lab, co-curator of Halal Metropolis, a recent series of exhibitions and programs exploring Muslim identity in southeast Michigan, and a member of the cosmic jazz group the Astro Mystic Sama Ensemble.

Students: 14


Meeting Details: Wednesdays, late afternoon (4:30/5:00pm)

Application: Consider including a link to your portfolio or other websites in the personal statement portion of your application to share work you would like considered as part of your submission.

Summer Opportunity: Summer research fellowships may be available for qualifying students.

Citizenship Requirements: This project is open to all students on campus.

IP/NDA: Students who successfully match to this project team will be required to sign an Intellectual Property (IP) Agreement prior to participation.

Course Substitutions: CoE Honors