This UARTS Faculty Engineering/Arts Student Team (FEAST) will work collaboratively on an interdisciplinary exploration of shadows. Pachikara’s art installations have long involved the novel use of shadow as a tool for interaction. This project aims to expand and hybridize conceptions of shadow from various fields as a way of mining their artistic potential.

From the point of view of language, the connotations of shadow are wide ranging, from “darkness” to “a mere semblance” to “an inseparable companion.” In architecture, when shadow projections augment orthographic drawings, both flat and volumetric conceptions can coexist in a single visualization. Experimental psychology research reveals that the presence of one’s own cast shadow will not only cause the binding between personal and extra personal space but will also automatically and immediately induce a shift of attention towards the body. Shadows in light art pose sculptural form with a potent, yet dematerialized, presence.

The goals of the UARTS Faculty Engineering/Arts Student Team (FEAST) will be:

To represent and model shadows:

  • To use photographic, cinematographic, and sculptural practices:
    • to represent the enigmatic presence of shadows
    • to visualize the contingent behavior of shadow and light including mapping shadows’ locations and directional trajectories relative to stationary and moving light sources

To capture and sculpt shadows:

  • To create instruments to intercept, isolate, and/or record existing shadows and accompanying light phenomena in situ
  • To build shadow generators
  • To use drawing and modeling techniques to propose shadow objects and installations

To research existing precedents from design, theatre, and the visual arts where shadows feature centrally:

  • To create a working repository of visual documentation, analytical diagrams by artists and designers, and critical reviews of creative works that address human responses to light and shadow
  • To develop shadow typologies as working tools

To contextualize the project ideas relative to current experimental psychology and/or neuroscience research:

  • To identify current research on the influence of shadows on spatial perception, embodiment, and selective attention
  • To theorize the implications of light and shadow on experiential space
  • To track the visual and motor response of inhabitants in art encounters made of shadows

The team will be divided into subgroups, each assigned discreet weekly tasks. Common brainstorming meetings will bring the subgroups together to imagine areas of overlap and hybridization. Collectively, the Shadow Catching team will generate images, objects, models, and proposal drawings for immersive works.

Meeting Details
Fridays, 10 am-1 pm
Art and Architecture Building (and on occasion: Faculty/Graduate studios on North Campus)

Students apply to a specific role on team as follows:

**The following positions are currently recruiting only rising juniors, seniors, and grad students**

Please be very specific about your level of skill in the requested areas. You will be asked to share a portfolio that demonstrates your skill.

Fabrication: 3D Design, Model making, and Prototyping of Camera Rigs, Screens, Light and Shadow Lamps (4 Students)

Preferred Skills:
Student 1: Advanced skills in woodworking.
Student 2: Advanced skills in metal fabrication (ferrous and/or nonferrous).
Student 3: Advanced skills with laser cutters, 3D printers, CNC, additive and subtractive fabrication.
Student 4: Advanced skills in fibers and garment construction.

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

Visualization: 2D Illustration, 3D Modeling, Conceptual Drawing (2 Students)

Preferred Skills:
Student 1: Advanced skills in Rhino + Vray and Adobe Suite (After Effects, Illustrator, Photoshop).
Student 2: Advanced skills in Adobe CC and hand drawing.

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

Videography & Photography (2 Students)

Preferred Skills:
Student 1: Advanced skills in video and photography camera operation.
Student 2: Advanced skills in video editing with Adobe Premiere or equivalent (Final Cut, Avid).

Likely Majors/Minors: ARCH, ARTDES, FTVM, PAT

Research Assistants (Psychology, Social Science, and Neuroscience) (2 Students)

Preferred Skills:
Student 1: Experience conducting literature reviews (experimental psychology and neuroscience) to collect material on shadows and visual/spatial perception and selective attention.
Student 2: Experience with eye tracking and movement tracking hardware and software and ability to generate attention maps based on spectators’ reactions to objects, images, and spaces.


Research Assistants (Art History, Visual Arts) (3 Students)

Preferred Skills:
Student 1: Advanced visual research skills and experience using visual arts and design databases; ability to coordinate with university librarians to gather visual documentation, analytical diagrams by artists and designers, and critical reviews of creative works that address human responses to light and shadow.
Student 2: Advanced graphic design skills including Adobe CC software to organize above materials into presentable collections.
Student 3: Advanced data management skills to archive, order, and reorder textual and visual (still and moving) materials into a working document for creative process.

Likely Majors/Minors: ARCH, ARTDES, HISTART, PAT, SI

Faculty Project Lead

Trained in architecture, sculpture, and dance Cynthia Pachikara explores the interplay between vision, movement, and spatial perception. In her “shadow installations” visitors unwittingly encounter cinematic imagery where none should be: inside the space of their own familiar, and engaged shadows. Conceived as spatial riddles, these installations visualize the notion of the body-as-screen and address the social contingency of the audience’s gaze. Spectatorship plays an important role in the construction of this work. The daughter of immigrants, Cynthia Pachikara uses phenomenological frameworks to imagine how separation from, remembrance of, and longing for distant landscapes can be experienced in art. She was trained in architecture and sculpture at the University of Illinois when the MOSAIC web browser was first introduced. Since then, she has examined the thresholds between physical and virtual environments created installations and sculptures that blur the boundaries between both.

Critics have described Pachikara’s works in terms of bodily experiences:

“To watch your own outline suddenly fill with pictures briefly creates the sensation of your own body actually dematerializing, of being neither here nor there…” – Randy Gragg, Oregonian (Portland, OR)

“Wherever the spectator moves, there is a disruption and then a ‘leaking’ out of another story, another image.” Robert Gero, Exhibition Essay, Gallery 210, (St. Louis, MO)

“Memory and identity here seem equally evanescent, caught in the oscillations of presence and absence.” Douglas Utter, Cleveland Free Times (Cleveland, OH) –

“Cynthia Pachikara has delivered an intense, compressed and possibly interminable experience.” Michael Weinstein, New City Newspaper (Chicago, IL) –

Currently Pachikara is exploring how scientific research on multimodal spatial perception can inspire artistic production strategies for natural, immersive art encounters with a minimum of technology: no goggles, no sensors, no computational interfaces except those with which the human body is already equipped. She is exploring ways that experimental psychology and neuroscience research can inform new media works in which the body of the spectator is the critical technology.

Concurrently, in a project entitled Light Cities, Pachikara has been developing tools and techniques to distill the light along urban passageways to understand how movement-through-illumination shapes geographic identity. The approach involves designing and mobilizing large-scale, camera + screen systems along common thoroughfares to collide with environmental light, mid-flight, as residents do. Thus, rather than framing up scenes bathed in light, her camera follows the light as it moves through a location: after has bounced off of, or is otherwise filtered by, by the built environment. The recorded reflections, refractions and shadows embody reliable inferences about their source sites, while also presenting an unambiguous separation from them. This footage is being collected for use in future shadow installation.

Pachikara has presented her work nationally and internationally in galleries, public spaces, and symposia. Her essays about installation art have been published in Metalsmith Magazine and in Forward, the Design Journal of the American Institute of Architects. She has received major grants for her studio research. She taught previously at Purdue University, Reed College, the Pacific Northwest College of Art, and Washington University in St. Louis. Pachikara is currently an Associate Professor in the Stamps School of Art & Design at the University of Michigan and holds a courtesy appointment in the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning where she taught for 10 years.

Students: 12


Meeting Details: Fridays, 10 am-1 pm, Art and Architecture Building (and on occasion: Faculty/Graduate studios on North Campus)

Application: This project requires applicants to include link(s) to your portfolio, work samples, or other website(s) 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

Shadow Catching Video

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