Where we emerge

Project presentation: Start a Reaction

Robert Pierce (US), Elise Butterfield (US), Taylor Shuck (US), Maysam Al-Ani (US)

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This presentation by artists and curators Robert Pierce, Elise Butterfield, Taylor Shuck, and Maysam Al-Ani will feature documentation of the performance and AR works made as part of the Start a Reaction project, an anti-nukes art and technology campaign. Additionally, an overview of the project’s intentions, significance, and history of the threat of nuclear weapons.

For the first time ever, an all-star team of artists, curators, and nuclear scientists came together in Chicago to energize the nuclear disarmament debate. Start a Reaction is a project of SAIC’s Institute for Curatorial Research and Practice. As a center for the study of processes undertaken by curators, the Institute for Curatorial Research and Practice aspires to foster advanced thinking in the field, serving as an incubator for creative inquiry and future exhibitions.

Start a Reaction culminated in a one-day-only exhibition on August 7, 2021, in Hyde Park. It featured performances by Japanese choreographer and MacArthur genius grant winner Eiko Otake, who performed a new work that interweaves the 1945 story with the perils of today. A site-specific, augmented reality environment has also been commissioned, which takes the audience on a poetic quantum journey into time and space. It is the creation of Judd Morrissey, in collaboration with Taylor Shuck and Abraham Avnisan into realms implicit in the subject. Audience members can also experience a new work by digital media artist Maysam Al-Ani, which utilizes an interactive Instagram AR filter to explore topics of metamorphosis and emergence, inspired by the symbols surrounding the narrative of nonproliferation.


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Robert Pierce (US): Robert is an independent curator and art scholar in Chicago, Illinois. He is the recipient of the 2019 San Francisco Art Institute Masters Fellowship, 2020 La Mirada Cultural Scholar-in-Residence, and 2021 Magdalena Abakanovicz Fellowship. He has delivered lectures at the California Art of the State and Community Built Association Conferences and was recently the guest curator for Francis McComas: Rediscovering California’s First Modernist at the Monterey Museum of Art. His current research focuses on identifying gaps in representational knowledge and providing a generative framework for the inclusion of marginalized voices in the institutional art world.

Elise Butterfield (US): Elise Butterfield is a curator, arts administrator, dancer, and disability advocate. Her work, often through co-creation with others, deals with the interaction between bodies, ideas, and space. Currently a student in the dual MA in Arts Administration and Art History at SAIC, Elise previously worked as Programs and Gallery Director at Art Access in Salt Lake City, Utah. There she worked closely with artists to curate myriad exhibitions, and helped to start Breaking Barriers, a state-wide cultural accessibility training program. Elise, a 2021 Magdalena Abakanovicz Fellow, currently works with the SAIC Dept. of Exhibitions and is a company member of The Space Movement Project. A native Seattleite, Elise holds BAs, magna cum laude, in Dance and International Studies from the University of Washington.

Taylor Shuck (US): Taylor Shuck is an independent curator and scholar based in Chicago, Illinois. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Painting and Art History from Maryland Institute College of Art and a Master’s degree in Arts Administration and Policy from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Taylor is a recipient of the 2021 Magdalena Abakonwicz Fellowship to curate and assist in the development of a site-specific augmented reality installation. Her current research focuses on the interdisciplinary enmeshing of art, technology, and science with an interest in embodied social impact through interactive art.

Maysam Al-Ani (US): Maysam Al-Ani is a digital media artist, game designer, and filmmaker. Her work explores concepts of third-culture-kid and diasporic identities inspired by personal experiences. This includes narratives of fragmented relationships, memories, and identity surrounding the US invasion of Iraq, where she is originally from, and the influence of technology on media portrayals and language barriers, particularly between English and Arabic. Maysam holds a bachelor’s degree in Media Industries & Technology from Northwestern University, where she earned a Studio20Q fund to write and direct an animation “Where Are You Right Meow?” She is currently pursuing an MFA in Art & Technology Studies at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. As a 2021 Magdalena Abakonwicz Fellow, Maysam developed an interactive Instagram AR filter inspired by the symbols surrounding the narrative of nonproliferation.


Robert Pierce – Associate Curator
Elise Butterfield- Associate Curator
Taylor Shuck – Associate Curator and Artist
Maysam Al-Ani – Associate Curator and Artis