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Exploratorium celebrates Artist-in-Residence program's 50th anniversary

Exploratorium celebrates Artist-in-Residence program's 50th anniversary

Choreo-roboticist Catie Cuan and bio-artist Heather Dewey-Hagborg highlight milestone programming with works that explore the relationship between humans and technology

Woman dancing with robot arm (left) and woman sitting on lab table in front of projection screen


SAN FRANCISCO (February 6, 2024) – The Exploratorium proudly celebrates the 50th anniversary of its Artist-In-Residence program with thrilling works by bio-artist Heather Dewey-Hagborg and choreo-roboticist Catie Cuan that explore the relationship between humans and ever-advancing technology.

On March 7 and 8, Dewey-Hagborg debuts Xeno in Vivo, her first live multimedia opera performance with singers investigating xenotransplantation – the genetic engineering of pigs for human organs. The opera explores the 10,000-year history of pig domestication and breeding by humans and ponders how cutting-edge gene editing technologies and xenotransplantation will affect that relationship in the future.

Xeno in Vivo features an operatic soundtrack, live narrative, and 3D-printed ceramic pig sculptures, and will include multiple projections integrating original documentary footage, 3D imagery, and live heart cells. The culmination of Dewey-Hagborg’s multi-year residency at the Exploratorium, Xeno in Vivo was created with funding from a Hewlett Foundation 50 Arts Commission and is additionally supported by the Simons Foundation.

“Xenotransplantation is clearly a morally complicated issue,” said Dewey-Hagborg, an Artist-in-Residence since 2018. “The goal with my work generally is to question the status quo, to advocate for critical attention and to debate topics that are under-discussed.”

Since 1974, the Exploratorium has hosted hundreds of artists and artist groups drawn to collaboration and interdisciplinary dialogue for its seminal Artist-in-Residence program. Alumni include Ruth Asawa and Ned Kahn, and most recently, Dewey-Hagborg, Brett Cook, Tristan Duke and Rosten Woo.

This year, Catie Cuan joins the esteemed group as the Exploratorium’s newest Artist-in-Residence. A dancer, choreographer, and engineer, Cuan received her PhD and Master’s of Science in robotics and AI from Stanford University, and is a leader in the emerging field of choreo-robotics.

Cuan kicks off her residency with a lecture and discussion at After Dark: Simple Machines on February 29. Further programming for the public will be added as she collaborates with Exploratorium staff to develop work exploring the relationship between humans and robots, which will also involve the museum’s audience in its creation.

“I grew up in the Bay Area and have been going to the Exploratorium since I was 5 years old and it was beyond my wildest dreams to even know they had an AIR program, let alone to be chosen for it this year,” Cuan said. “The Exploratorium has such a singular presence in the canon of experiential art and scientific learning, and I am so excited to share my personal mission to make nascent technologies more accessible and more humanistic with the public. We have ambitious plans to create, partly with the public involvement, a new kind of robot with its own machine-learnt caring techniques. I can’t wait to discover and build this project alongside the Exploratorium and its audience.”

Cuan recently debuted Breathless: Catie and the Robots, an 8-hour dance performance with an industrial robot arm, at National Sawdust in New York. Breathless, co-created by UC Berkeley professor and artist Ken Goldberg, addresses the complexity of our collective fears about artificial intelligence and the future of human labor.

“Our founder, Frank Oppenheimer, believed in the power of artists like Catie and Heather to help us see and understand the world,” said Lindsay Bierman, the Exploratorium’s Sakurako and William Fisher Executive Director and CEO. “As we celebrate 50 years of our Artist-in-Residence program, we’re thrilled to bring their multimedia work to the Exploratorium, and build on our history of being home to groundbreaking experiences at the intersection of science, art, and human perception.”



About the Artists

Catie Cuan
An entrepreneur, engineer, and artist, Dr. Catie Cuan is a pioneer in the nascent field of ‘choreorobotics’ and works at the intersection of artificial intelligence, human-robot interaction, and art. She is currently a Postdoc in Computer Science at Stanford University. Catie holds a PhD and Master’s of Science in robotics and AI from Stanford. The title of her PhD thesis is “Compelling Robot Behaviors through Supervised Learning and Choreorobotics”, which was funded by the National Institutes of Health, Google, and Stanford University. During her PhD, she led the first multi-robot machine learning project at Everyday Robots (Google X) and Robotics at Google (now a part of Google Deepmind). She has held artistic residencies at the Smithsonian, the Exploratorium, Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, Everyday Robots (Google X), TED, and ThoughtWorks Arts. Catie is a prolific and award-winning robot choreographer, having created works with nearly a dozen different robots, from a massive ABB IRB 6700 industrial robot to a tabletop IDEO + Moooi robot. Catie is also an International Strategy Forum (ISF) fellow at Schmidt Futures and the former co-founder of caali, an embodied media company. She recently founded a company to bring her unique expertise on humanistic AI into a scalable consumer product.

Heather Dewey-Hagborg
Dr. Heather Dewey-Hagborg is a New York-based artist and biohacker who is interested in art as research and technological critique. Her controversial biopolitical art practice includes the project Stranger Visions in which she created portrait sculptures from analyses of genetic material (hair, cigarette butts, chewed up gum) collected in public places. Heather has shown work internationally at events and venues including the World Economic Forum, the Daejeon Biennale, the Guangzhou Triennial, and the Shenzhen Urbanism and Architecture Biennale, Transmediale, the Walker Center for Contemporary Art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and PS1 MoMA. Her work is held in public collections of the Centre Pompidou, the Victoria and Albert Museum, SFMoMA, among others, and has been widely discussed in the media, from the New York Times and the BBC to Art Forum and Wired. Heather has a PhD in Electronic Arts from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. She is an Artist-in-Residence at the Exploratorium, and is an affiliate of Data & Society. She is a founding board member of Digital DNA, a European Research Council funded project investigating the changing relationships between digital technologies, DNA and evidence.


About the Exploratorium

Exploratorium logo

The Exploratorium is a portal to the astonishing scientific phenomena that animate our world and shape our actions. We create extraordinary learning experiences that ignite curiosity, upend perceptions, and inspire brave leaps forward. Since 1969, the Exploratorium’s museum in San Francisco has been home to a renowned collection of exhibits that draw together science, art, and human perception, and that have changed the way science is taught. Our award-winning programs provide a forum for the public to engage with artists, scientists, policymakers, educators, and tinkerers to explore the world around them. We celebrate diversity of thought, inspired investigation, and collaboration across all boundaries.

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