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Art-tech hub pulls out of Fort Greene development

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A workshop for techie artists and artsy technologists moved to Sunset Park recently for what was supposed to be a short stay, but now it is sticking around for a while.

Eyebeam had plans to move into a shiny new building in the so-called “Brooklyn Cultural District” in 2016, once construction wrapped up on its new digs in Fort Greene. But after schlepping from the Chelsea section of Manhattan to Industry City in Sunset Park earlier this year, the heads of the arts group decided to pull out of the Fort Greene plan, saying they signed up for it in haste.

“We went into it without really analyzing what it would mean for us,” said Patricia Jones, executive director of the group. “We didn’t really think through the ramificati­ons.”

The group focuses on making art using technology, not on showing it off, and a space so close to the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Theatre for a New Audience, and Bric House would have meant putting a lot of resources towards public displays, Jones explained.

“It would have skewed a lot of attention away from the actual making of art and moved it more towards showing art,” Jones said. “We’re not an exhibition space. We’re more like a work in progress.”

The group formed in 1997 in a neighborhood on the distant island of Manhattan known mostly for its warehouses and industrial space. But as years passed, more and more luxury housing went up around its headquarters.

“When we opened in Chelsea, it was still very much a working neighborho­od,” Jones said. “But when we left there were a lot of high-end condos. It was a changing neighborho­od.”

Eyebeam’s building eventually sold, and the group looked across the East River to find a new home.

“We felt that Brooklyn was a much more comfortable fit for us,” Jones said.

The space in Industry City was only supposed to be Eyebeam’s home base until the Lafayette Street building went up, but now the group is considering staying permanently. Jones said that the do-it-yourselfer community there, and in much of Brooklyn, is right up Eyebeam’s alley.

“There’s a really interesting mix of artists and technologists here,” she said. “We see this as fertile ground for collaborat­ion.”

Eyebeam gives grants and workspace access to residents and fellows who are working on art projects that utilize new technologies. And since the group is new to the area, its leadership also wants this year’s projects to give back to Brooklyn.

One of the fellows, Torkwase Dyson, is planning to build a solar-powered, communal art space in the Surfside Community Garden in Coney Island.

Another project, by residents Chloe Varelidi and Atul Varma is Minicade, a planned platform for creating, collaborating, and sharing simple video games. The pair hopes to use the system get Brooklyn teens as interested in making games as they are in playing them.

Jones said that the residents are picked for having innovative ideas and showing they can make them a reality.

“We look for artists and technologists that seem to be breaking new ground,” she said. “But we also want them to have the skills and track record that say they can complete the project.”

Techno Files

A new car-share service called Car2Go launches in Brooklyn on Oct. 25. The company offers members access to a fleet of Smart cars through an app. It charges users by the minute, hour, or day, and unlike competitor Zipcar, Car2Go wheels can be left in any un-metered parking space, as well as in designated lots.

• • •

The new “.nyc” domain hit the internet last week, giving New Yorkers the opportunity to jazz up their URLs. Ten thousand businesses and groups registered for one of the new addresses before the domain even went live, the city said.

• • •

Pratt Institute is holding a day-long digital arts festival on Oct. 18. “Pratt Upload: Meme, You, and Everyone We Follow” will include workshops, panel discussions, and displays from artists working in new media. Among the art discussed will be Zach Blas’s “Facial Weaponization Suite,” in which he created bizarre-looking masks based on composites of many people’s facial scans, in protest of facial recognition software.

Reach reporter Matthew Perlman at (718) 260–8310. E-mail him at mperlman@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @matthewjperlman.
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