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MAX Presents MAXlive 2021: THE NEUROVERSE, Produced in Collaboration with New York Live Arts

MAX Presents MAXlive 2021: THE NEUROVERSE, Produced in Collaboration with New York Live Arts


MAX (Media Art Xploration) and New York Live Arts


New York Live Arts Theater, The Invisible Dog Art Center, ONX Studio and more


Friday, November 5, 2021 - 3:00pm daily through November 7, 2021



MAX (Media Art Xploration) and New York Live Arts

MAX (Media Art Xploration) Presents MAXlive 2021: THE NEUROVERSE, Produced in Collaboration with New York Live Arts, November 5-7

NYC-Based In-Person Festival Features an Array of Thrilling Live Performances,Immersive Installations, and Timely Conversations Around Urgent Questions and World-Expanding Innovations in Neuroscience, Artificial Intelligence, and the Human-Machine Collaboration

MAX Gathers International Artists, Scientists, Creative Technologists, and AI to Create Work that Engages the Promise and the Peril of Our Present Moment

Festival Offerings Are Presented at New York Live Arts, Onassis USA and New Inc’s ONX Studio for Extended Reality, and the Invisible Dog


Festival Features: 

  • OÁYE AI, Boys and Girls Club of Rosebud’s Photo Series About Oáye, an Ethical Framework Based on Lakota Cosmology and an Alternative Approach to Developing AI, as Considered by Lakota Youth 
  • Stephanie Dinkins’ Secret Garden, Using Extended Reality Technology to Immerse Audiences in Black Women’s Stories from Across Generations
  • Wandering Mind, from Gershon Dublon & Xin Liu (slow immediate), Taking Audiences on an Auditory Tour of the World via Tens of Thousands of Online Field Recordings 
  • Grayson Earle’s Inference Engine, Plunging the Participant into a Generative Adversarial Network (GAN), Presented as a Spaceship that’s Fallen Out of Orbit; Earle Will Also Lead the Workshop Exploring the GANthropocene: flying through latent space, on the Basics of GANs
  • Composer Annie Lewandowski & Artist and Coder Kyle McDonald’s Siren: Listening to Another Species on Earth, an Audiovisual Immersion into Whale Song Like it’s Never Been Experienced Before
  • Ethan Lipton’s We Are Your Robots, a Bold, Hilarious Exploration of What Humans Want from Their Machines, Directed by Leigh Silverman and Featuring Ethan Lipton & His Orchestra
  • Kat Mustatea & Heidi Boisvert’s Lizardly, Employing VR, MoCap, and Machine Learning to Create a Vivid Narrative of Hybrid Humans in a Smart-Home in Posthuman Miami
  • NUUM Collective’s Doppelgänger, Hacking Machine Learning to Create a Duet Between a Performer and Themselves 
  • Philipp Schmitt’s Lecture-Performance How Does Thinking Look Like?, Offering a Chronicle of the Creation of AI and How the Human Imagination Conjures its Thousands of Dimensions  
  • MAXforum, the Festival’s Convening of Visionary Artists and Technologists in Discussion, Featuring MacArthur Fellow Annie Dorsen Speaking on Her Long Engagement with Algorithms; Science Writer Anne Murphy Paul Exploring the Role of the Body in Human Intelligence; an Excerpt from Andy Bragen’s Johnsville Road, Developed in Collaboration with Daniel Fish, Examining the Horrors and Human Cost of Advances in Autonomous Weaponry, and Conversation Surrounding the Work; and Festival Artists Including NiNi Dongnier, Stephanie Dinkins, Gershon Dublon, Kyle McDonald, Suzanne Kite, and More


MAX (Media Art Xploration) presents MAXlive 2021: THE NEUROVERSE, the organization’s first New York City-based arts festival, produced in association with New York Live Arts. THE NEUROVERSE teams artists with scientists that push the limits of mind and machine through groundbreaking interdisciplinary works. Amid an explosion of new intelligences, technology opens the doors to exhilarating experiences and functions, reorienting our perceptions of consciousness and the wiring that activates it. But smart machines can also pose an existential threat to our species and life as we know it. Will the good or evil uses of these technologies win? THE NEUROVERSE explores both sides, as new artistic forms emerge within innovative reflections on existence—and its curious state on a planet where climate change renders life ever more fragile while technology expands it into new dimensions. 

THE NEUROVERSE—featuring work from Boys and Girls Club of Rosebud, Andy Bragen & Daniel Fish, Stephanie Dinkins, Gershon Dublon & Xin Liu (slow immediate), Grayson Earle, Annie Lewandowski & Kyle McDonald, Ethan Lipton & Leigh Silverman, Heidi Boisvert & Kat Mustatea, NUUM Collective with choreography by NiNi Dongnier, and Philipp Schmitt—will take place November 5-7 at New York Live Arts, New Inc’s ONX Studio for Extended Reality, and the Invisible Dog Art Center. On November 7, MAX presents MAXforum: Day of the Future, gathering thought leaders—including acclaimed algorithmic theater visionary Annie Dorsen as keynote speaker and science writer Anne Murphy Paul, as well as many artists featured in THE NEUROVERSE—in discussion of and expansion on the festival’s core themes. 

In THE NEUROVERSE, theater, dance, audiovisual installation, and lectures meld with the very technologies they consider in immersive, mind-bending works and experiences—allowing us to hear whales like we have never heard them before; to tour the globe as we fall asleep. On the flip-side, the festival programming grapples with the implications of the dawn of autonomous weaponry; of automation’s replacement of human workers and human identity. Embedded in the very creation of these hybrid works is the alluring potential of breakthrough and the possibility of error. THE NEUROVERSE offers a roller coaster ride through the promise and peril of machine learning. 

MAX is a nonprofit organization working with artists and scientists to create live arts that both interrogate and exploit the scientific missions of our time. The organization brings THE NEUROVERSE to New York following its first biennial arts festival, MAXlive 2019: A Space Festival, which, for San Francisco audiences, explored our new space age, the extraordinary scientific advances in this field, and how they change the way we see ourselves and Earth. As performance reemerges as an opportunity for gathering in-person, the MAXlive festival further embraces the potentials of technology to give new meaning and form to what can be done artistically in physical, and virtual, space. 

MAX Artistic Director Kay Matschullat says of THE NEUROVERSE, “There’s so much possibility in what machines give us, including an extended sense of humanity and greater communication with the more- than-human on this planet who can hopefully help us save it. The question isn’t whether AI is fundamentally good or bad; what will determine the future of human existence is, rather, how we choose to use it. As Jacob wrestles the angel to the ground, will we wrangle smart machines to be our engines, or will they suffocate and subsume us? These questions—along with the pure drama of, ‘will the technology work?’—are folded into the making of works in this festival.”

MAXlive 2021: THE NEUROVERSE Consulting Producer Adaora Udoji says, “There’s currently not much in the way of centralized experiences of artistic uses of these technologies: you can go to SXSW, you can go to Sundance, you can go to Cannes, and these are all critically important venues and distribution points, but MAX’s work comes simultaneously out of art and technology from the ground up, solely focused on exploring this nexus in culture. MAX wants the broadest audiences to be asking questions about what media, art, and technology mean and how they impact our lives. People will be seeing a lot of these combinations of new technological tools for expression for the first time. And that’s what MAX is affording you: it truly is a window into what’s available to us today.”

Tickets for MAXlive 2021: THE NEUROVERSE go on sale Thursday, September 30 at mediaartexploration.org.


MAXlive 2021: THE NEUROVERSE Schedule and Descriptions


Boys and Girls Club of Rosebud 


New York Live Arts Lobby

Installation Open November 5, 6:00pm; November 6 and 7, 10am-10pm

Lakota cosmology provides an alternative framework for developing and integrating AI into society that takes into account the needs of the community. MAX, in partnership with 5 Corners Collective and Boys and Girls Club of Rosebud Reservation, presents a photo series that approaches the concept through young people’s eyes. With the landscape of South Dakota as the backdrop, this photo series is a breathtaking investigation of artificial intelligence and computation through an Indigenous framework that places one eye on scientific and commercial advancements and the other on Indigenous concepts of respect for oneself, one’s community, and the environment.


Stephanie Dinkins 

Secret Garden 

ONX Studio

Interactive Installation: November 5, 4-8pm; November 6, 2-7pm; November 7, 2-7pm

After a critically acclaimed run at the Sundance Festival, Stephanie Dinkins’ immersive work, Secret Garden, is returning to NYC, this time more intimate than ever before. Step into a time-collapsing garden and encounter stories from Black women across generations: surviving a slave boat, growing up on a 1920s Black-owned farm, surviving 9/11, to name a few. Secret Garden is the timely reminder that sharing and receiving stories is an act of resistance.


Gershon Dublon & Xin Liu (slow immediate) 

The Wandering Mind

New York Live Arts Studio

November 5 at 7pm, November 6 at 2pm and 7pm

With The Wandering Mind, artist-engineer duo slow immediate build on their practice of helping us explore what it means to be human on our shared planet. In collaboration with invited musicians, their AI-guided improvisational performance draws from tens of thousands of field recordings from every part of the globe to construct an opus that serenades and guides you on a tour of the world with your eyes closed.


Grayson Earle

Inference Engine

ONX Studio

Interactive Installation: November 5, 4-8pm; November 6, 2-7pm; November 7, 2-7pm

In Inference Engine, you are stepping into more than a video game. You’re in a spacecraft that has been knocked out of orbit and into the GANthropocene; now you're lost in a Generative Adversarial Network—or, GAN for short. With only the controls you have in front of you, you must navigate your way back to your destination before time runs out.  


Inference Engine: Exploring the GANc

November 6, 11am-12pm Meet-and-Greet, 12-2pm Workshop

Exploring the GANthropocene is a hands-on workshop from Grayson Earle that introduces the basics of utilizing Generative Adversarial Networks. Students will learn about how GANs work and then utilize a pre-trained Generator to produce new images and videos. Topics include: an introduction to neural networks; creative projects that utilize GANs; how Generative Adversarial Networks function; latent space; training a GAN (this will not happen from scratch due to time constraints, but students will be able to try this later on their own); using “inference” to generate new images; and creating videos that “walk” through the latent space of a GAN model.


Annie Lewandowski & Kyle McDonald

Siren: Listening to Another Species on Earth

Immersive Concert 

The Invisible Dog Art Center 

November 5, 6:30-10pm; November 6, 2-8pm, November 7, 1-6pm (with timed ticketing)

Sound artist Annie Lewandowski, artist and coder Kyle McDonald, and scenic designer Amy Rubin explore a meeting of intelligences—human, humpback whale, and artificial—in Siren: Listening to Another Species on Earth. Arriving in New York following previews on Martha’s Vineyard and at Cornell University, Siren immerses listeners in Lewandowski’s detailed recordings of humpback whale song, made with pioneering bioacoustician Katy Payne and the Hawaii Marine Mammal Consortium. Lewandowski and McDonald’s analyses of these recordings find their creative expression through McDonald’s captivating and machine learning-driven synesthetic lighting design, which is vividly projected onto Rubin's elaborate sculpture made from marine debris recovered from the ocean around Cape Cod. The Siren installation draws audiences into a thick mix of the interior and exterior worlds of humpback singers, resulting in both a call to beauty and a call to action to protect marine mammals from entanglement.


Ethan Lipton and His Orchestra

We Are Your Robots

A Cabaret

Written by Ethan Lipton 

Directed by Leigh Silverman

New York Live Arts Theater

November 5 at 9pm; November 6 at 9pm

In this poignant and wonderfully absurd existential inquiry, Ethan Lipton & His Orchestra, a band of robots, have been invited to perform for this audience. Across their performance, they seek to learn what human beings want from their machines, to understand what it means to be human, and finally to discern what about us still exists (or matters) now that we have them—our smart machines. The hilarious and harrowing new work was commissioned by The Sloan Foundation and MAX, and is directed by Leigh Silverman.  


Kat Mustatea & Heidi Boisvert


A Mixed-Reality Performance 

New York Live Arts Theater 

November 7, 1:45 and 6pm

Vincent and Rebecca’s marriage is falling apart as they brace for an oncoming hurricane and they are simultaneously turning into lizards. Set in post-anthropocene Miami, humans have not been wiped out, so much as they have adapted to rapid environmental shifts by mutating into reptiles. Vincent and Rebecca have no choice but to weather the storm inside their smart-home, a technological remnant named June whose functions (and malfunctions) they weaponize in an escalating domestic turf war. The staging employs VR, MoCap and Machine Learning to create a vivid portrayal of hybrid humans in a posthuman world. As a way of bringing the metaphor of transformation outward, the characters influence their surroundings through their gestures, triggering transformations in the environment.


NUUM Collective 


A Dance

New York Live Arts Theater

Choreographed and Performed by NiNi Dongnier     

November 5 at 3pm and 6pm

In Doppelgänger, the NUUM Collective uses machine learning to manufacture a duet between a performer and themselves. In the piece, performer NiNi Dongnier explores isolation and connection as she dances in real-time with her computer-manipulated doppelgänger. NUUM Collective, a group of artists and technologists whose multidisciplinary work asks fundamental questions about what we see and what we think we see, in their latest piece illustrate how it in fact does not take two to tango. 


Philipp Schmitt 

How Does Thinking Look Like?

ONX Studio


November 5 at 7pm, November 6 at 4pm and 6pm, November 7 at 3pm 

In a world where most people's capacity to visualize what artificial intelligence is ranges from the Terminator to face recognition, artist Philipp Schmitt is broadening the spectrum of perception. Featuring choreography by Sarah Danhke, this lecture-performance  delves into the imagination of the engineer and the aesthetics of artificial intelligence and gives you access to new ways of picturing AI—that will remain with you long after the curtain bow. 


The Knights 

On Wings of Song: Listening to Another Species on Earth

New York Live Arts Theater

November 6 at 5:30pm

Brooklyn-based orchestra The Knights share music that takes flight, written for strings and percussion. In a year of a devastating pandemic and of a reckoning with the devastating effects of humanity’s impact on earth, this installment of Listening to Another Species on Earth focuses on birds and other winged creatures in particular. Birds are the original virtuoso musicians, sending out coded signals through their songs intended to affect a change in the listener’s behavior (and perhaps, at times, just for “pleasure”?). Recent neuroscience studies have suggested that hearing “enjoyable music” lights up the same mesolimbic reward pathway for both human beings and birds. MAX presents an evening of pieces by composers who listened deeply to the songs of winged creatures.


MAXforum: Day of the Future

New York Live Arts Studio

November 7

Bodies of Intelligence

Featuring Annie Murphy Paul and Annie Dorsen


Join us for a two-part presentation exploring ideas around embodied learning. Acclaimed science writer Annie Murphy Paul discusses her research into human cognition as a networked and profoundly embodied process; and Annie Dorsen, a theatre director working at the intersection of algorithms and live performance, who most recently has been working with GPT-3, will discuss her experience working with disembodied machine intelligences—the limitations, possibilities, and obstructions.


Costs of Extraction: Using Science and Technology to Sound the Alarm and Light the Way Forward

Featuring Kyle McDonald, Stephanie Dinkins, and Suzanne Kite

Moderated by Adaora Udoji


How can artists liberate technologies from their extractive origin stories to create subversive art works? Artists Stephanie Dinkins, Suzanne Kite, and Kyle McDonald join innovator and storyteller Adaoro Udoji in conversation to explore how artists are using technology to be agents of change.


Road to Recovery: Using Science and Technology to Listen Deeply

Featuring Annie Lewandowski, Gershon Dublon, and NiNi Dongnier

Moderated by Kay Matschullat


How can technology enable different attitudes of attention and care? Composer Annie Lewandowski, researcher and engineer Gershon Dublon, and dancer-choreographer NiNi Dongnier join MAX founder and artistic director Kay Matschullat to discuss how they are utilizing acoustic innovations, AI, and machine learning to provide opportunities for audiences to slow down and absorb information differently.


Have the Robot Armies Arrived?

Including a Reading from Johnsville Road, by Andy Bragen, Developed in Collaboration with Daniel Fish; a Video of Robot Soldiers; and a Conversation


With a recent assassination in Iran by an autonomous vehicle did we unwittingly witness the entrance of autonomous weapons in the theater of war?  And what is a person to do about it?  

This event features a reading from the play, a viewing of state of the art autonomous machines, and a conversation moderated by Adaora Udjoni, featuring Ryan Calo, AI ethicist and co-director of Tech Policy Lab at University of Washington.



Programs in THE NEUROVERSE are made possible by support from the Science Sandbox, an initiative of the Simons Foundation, EST/Alfred P. Sloan Technology and Science Project, and MAX’s many individual donors.  


About MAX

Media Art Xploration’s mission is to illuminate scientific innovation through artistic expression and broaden artistic expression through scientific insight to create shared experiences and build a more informed democracy. MAX activates a process in which playwrights, programmers, composers, and roboticists, creative technologists and technologically-curious creatives share their collective expertise to explore a new frontier, a convergence of the arts and sciences, and then share their resulting live art pieces with the public. This recipe has revealed itself to be urgently relevant. In 2019, we partnered with Carnegie Hall and New York Historical Society to create an interdisciplinary celebration of Apollo 11’s 50th anniversary; planned and produced our first ever biennial festival, MAX 2019: A Space Festival, in San Francisco’s premiere venues (Exploratorium, California Academy of Sciences, and Z Space); and collaborated with over 100 artists and scientists, reaching nearly 10,000 people.                            

MAX sprung from the observation that community engagement in and awareness of scientific and technological change needs to grow. We include audiences that do not have the privilege of access—or self-exclude, for fear of not understanding—to the arts or to the information necessary to think critically about technological and scientific innovation. To this end, we produce and present the work of artists that reflect the diversity of the communities in which we work; we work on a tiered ticketing system, making space for a socioeconomically diverse audience; we work with the Festival city to set up transportation passes for all attendees; and we devote tens of hours to audience outreach, spreading the word through ads on public transportation and social media, papering community hubs, press features, e-blasts, and more.

In 2018-2019, MAX piloted these audience engagement methods and successfully brought artists, scientists, and a highly diverse audience where they had never been before. We brought a youth group from the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota to San Francisco’s California Academy of Sciences and the Exploratorium, Neil Armstrong’s son to perform at Carnegie Hall, and a tech crowd to a drag show. We found that at a MAX event, you can expect to find thinkers of all stripes and ages together, in one space, engaging with the future of our planet and democracy. 


About New York Live Arts

We acknowledge that New York Live Arts is located on the ancestral homeland of the Lenape people in New York City. We acknowledge and pay respect to the Lenape people and to all Indigenous people past, present and future, here and everywhere. Led by world-renowned artist Bill T. Jones, New York Live Arts produces and presents dance, music and theater performances in its 20,000 square-foot home, including a 184-seat theater and two 1,200 square-foot studios. New York Live Arts offers an extensive range of participatory programs for adults and young people; it supports the continuing professional development of performing artists. New York Live Arts serves as home base for the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company; it is the company’s sole producer, providing support and the environment to originate innovative and challenging new work for the Company and New York’s creative community.


About Onassis USA and New Inc’s ONX Studio for Extended Reality

Founded in 2000, Onassis USA was the first international affiliate of the Onassis Foundation. It is dedicated to culture, community, and education, with projects that can effectively inspire social change and justice across borders. By collaborating with Onassis Stegi in Athens and educational and cultural institutions throughout the Americas, Onassis USA presents theatrical and dance productions, art exhibits, conversations, lectures, a Webby-nominated podcast based on Greek myths, and other initiatives. These projects trigger discussions about democratic values, human rights, civil rights, and the ever-changing realities facing today’s citizens on a global scale.

Launched in October 2020 amidst the Covid-19 pandemic with the goal of supporting the practices of extended reality artists, ONX Studio distinguishes itself as a hybrid space where work is both created and presented. It functions as an accelerator, a subsidized production studio/workspace, and an exhibition gallery located in the Onassis Gallery of Olympic Tower in Midtown Manhattan.


The Invisible Dog Art Center

The Invisible Dog is dedicated to the integration of innovation in the arts with profound respect for the past. In 2009, the building was restored for safety reasons, but special attention was given to the preservation of its original 1863 form. The rawness of the space is vital to our identity.

The ground floor is used for exhibitions, performances and public events featuring visual artists, performers and curators from around the world. The second and third floors are divided into over 30 artists' studios and are integral to the vast creative community of the Invisible Dog.

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