Artist Profile – Hyphen-labs

Published on 2018-02-21

Artwork featured in the salon: 'Neurospeculative Afrofeminism (NSAF)' (2016 – ongoing) Virtual Reality Artwork for Oculus Rift.

Hyphen-Labs is an international team of women of color working at the crossroads of technology, art, and science to offer services in physical computing, data visualization, prototyping and post- production. The group, whose core consists of Carmen Aguilar y Wedge, Ashley Baccus-Clark, Nitzan Bartov, and Ece Tankal aims at developing speculative projects that are  human-centered, meaningful, and emotionally engaging.

In 2017, Hyphen-Labs showcased their work “NeuroSpeculative Afrofeminism” at the Sundance Institute and later at SXSW. The ambitious project consists of three components informed by Afro-feminist and Afro-futurist perspectives. According to the artist behind the project, “NeuroSpeculative Afrofeminism” is “inspired by the lack of multidimensional representations of black women in technology.” The first component transports visitors to a futuristic and stylish virtual beauty salon stocked with products designed especially for women of color like sunscreen for dark skin and earrings that record video during hostile situations. The second component imagines the visitor as a young black girl and takes them on a psychedelic VR journey via the electric currents pulsating through their avatar’s new hair extensions. The final component consists of research on the potential of VR to reduce bias toward women of color by immersing  people in positive virtual experiences with them. The project has also been displayed at the Tribeca Film Festival, the Gray Area Art & Technology Festival, the Primer Speculative Futures Conference, the School of Art Institute of Chicago, and the New Inc. Versions Festival. 

The group has also released prototypes of a device called “HyperFace Camouflage” in collaboration with artist Adam Harvey, which is designed to trick facial detection systems by printing “false faces” to distract computer vision algorithms.

The artists who create Hyphen-Labs projects come from various backgrounds. Mexican-born Aguilar y Wedge co-founded Hyphen-labs after studying civil engineering, to merge her interests in research, education, computing, and human interaction. The other co-founder is Tankal, a Turkish architect currently teaching at the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia. Baccus-Clark was originally trained as a molecular biologist focusing on stem cell research, and joined the project after growing frustrations with the lack of sunscreen available on the market that could protect her skin tone. 

Collectively, the work of these women is inspired by the work of science fiction writers like Octavia Butler and legendary black poets like Gwendolyn Brooks to imagine a future where women of color are at the forefront of the technological vanguard. 

Artwork courtesy of the artists.

Artist bio written by Arshy Azizi for The Current.