Staring Back: The Creation and Legacy of Picasso’s Demoiselles D’Avignon


Jenn Karson is a project collaborator on this exhibition and created two sound installations for it. Learn more in the exhibition catalog:

Staring Back:  The Creation and Legacy of Picasso’s Demoiselles d’Avignon
February 3 – June 21, 2015
Fleming Museum Burlington, Vermont

Opening Reception
Hosted by UVM President Thomas Sullivan,
Fleming Director Janie Cohen, and the Fleming Museum’s Board of Directors
Cash bar, hors d’oeuvres and music
Tuesday February 10, 5:30-7:00 PM


Picasso’s major 1907 painting, Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, created an uproar in the Paris art world and laid the foundation for the development of Cubism. This spring, the Fleming Museum presents an exhibition that explores Picasso’s extraordinary process in creating the painting, through innovative installations and advanced technologies that transform the museum experience. The painting’s ongoing legacy is examined through the work of a diverse group of American, African, and European contemporary artists. While Demoiselles does not travel from its home in the Museum of Modern Art, it will be represented at the Fleming in an unprecedented manner.

Visitors will be introduced to the painting in an environment that evokes Picasso’s studio at the “Bateau Lavoir,” where he first showed Demoiselles to his close friends and colleagues in 1907; their reactions may be heard against a background of ambient sounds that would have echoed through the streets of Montmartre at the time. Augmented reality will enable visitors to view images of Picasso’s studies for the individual figures and the full composition in the context of the painting, and to understand its evolution.

Picasso found inspiration for Demoiselles in art history and contemporary visual culture. Through a variety of new visual technologies, visitors will understand how he synthesized and transformed these diverse sources – from Iberian, African, Oceanic, and Egyptian art to Baroque painting, Cezanne’s and Gauguin’s work, and colonial photographers’ images of African women – to launch a radically new artistic vocabulary.

The largest section of the exhibition highlights the continuing pull of the painting – over 100 years after its creation – as evidenced in the work of international artists, including Leonce Raphael Agbodjelou, Gerri Davis, Damian Elwes, Julian Friedler, Kathleen Gilje, Carlo Maria Mariani, Sophie Matisse, Stas Orlovski, and Jackson Tupper.

STARING BACK was conceived and curated by Janie Cohen, Director of the Fleming Museum of Art. The exhibition is informed by the work of numerous Picasso scholars, including Cohen, who has published on Picasso for over thirty years and whose new research on anthropometric-style colonial African photography and Demoiselles will be published in the journal Photography and Culture in March, 2015. Cohen’s project collaborators are Coberlin Brownell, Assistant Professor, Emergent Media Program at Champlain College, Burlington, Vermont; and Jenn Karson, Sound Artist; Lecturer, UVM College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences; and Founder, Vermont Makers, Burlington, Vermont.

Generous support for this exhibition has been provided by the Kalkin Family Exhibitions Endowment Fund; the Walter Cerf Exhibitions Fund; Rolf Kielman and Stephanie Spencer; TruexCullins Architecture and Interior Design; Kimberley Adams, M.D., and Mark Depman, M.D.; Neil and Ursula Owre Masterson ’89; the Offices of the President and the Provost at the University of Vermont; and the Fleming Contemporary Art Fund.



In the public square scattered cell phone “bell” alerts dot the city soundscape ringing from pockets, bags and café tables. This image shows an iphone with alerts set to bells.


Your Attention Please! Ignore this Message

When and Where:

Exhibited as part of Break It! Build It! at the Burlington City Arts Gallery, July 25, 2014 – September 13, 2014


This installation is inspired by an earlier work, the Firehouse Bell Project.

Despite major shifts in technology, bells continue to serve as cultural signifiers in the public square. A bell like the one atop this firehouse remains part of the built environment even though it no longer rings. Next door at City Hall a bell recording plays on the hour through an amplifier, no physical bell required. Scattered cell phone “bell” alerts dot the city soundscape ringing from pockets, bags and café tables.

Within the lifetime of current Burlington residents, civic bells like the Firehouse Bell communicated singular messages that found meaning in community, time and place.
By contrast in 2014 bells and alerts from personalized media sustain a persistent sonic layer of anytime–anyplace messages. While these messages are not meant for us they demand our attention.

Your Attention Please! Ignore this Message explores the cultural shift from public bells to private bells through Malcolm McCullough’s definition of the Ambient Commons. It is a reflection on how (and perhaps increasingly so) our sensory field comes from and refers to someplace else.

Installation Experience:

Ubiquitous cell phone alerts that reference bells were amplified in the gallery through ceiling speakers. Private alerts based on an individual’s schedule were played publicly. The installation Your Attention Please! Ignore this Message brings attention to the continued sounding of bells in the public square, despite major shifts in what we consider public and private and the blurring lines between the common digital and physical spaces we share.


Cell Phone Bells:  This short clip includes “chimes”, “bell”, “bell tower”, and “door bell”.

VT Libraries Transform into Maker Spaces in 2014

Contact: Erica Houskeeper,  Erica.Houskeeper@uvm.edu802-498-5495

Vermont Libraries to Transform into Maker Spaces This Summer
UVM CEMS supporting development of library STEAM programs

The University of Vermont is supporting the development of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts + Math) programs for Vermont public libraries this summer.

Fourteen public libraries from Craftsbury to Charlotte to Castleton will offer summer maker workshops for K-12 students as part of the new “Vermont Makers and Libraries: Sparking a Culture of Innovation” project. The initiative is a collaborative effort between the Vermont Department of Libraries, Vermont Makers, the University of Vermont College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences, Vermont Library Association and CMF Innovations.

“By teaching and sharing technical literacy, we can help empower students through valuable and fun learning experiences,” said Jennifer Karson, founder of Vermont Makers and instructor with the University of Vermont FabLab at the College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences. “The project encourages individual creativity, collaboration and lifelong learning.”

The three-hour workshops will be held June 25 to Aug. 9 and will be taught by local educators trained by Karson. The libraries are each offering two of the five modules: Creative Creatures, Squishy Circuits, Toy Hacking, E-Origami and E-textiles. Participants will learn how to use digital and physical tools to help strengthen their deductive reasoning, logical thinking and problem-solving skills.

A $20,000 Vermont Community Foundation Innovations and Collaborations Grant and a $5,000 grant from UVM CEMS are helping to fund the program. UVM CEMS is providing space for the train-the-trainer workshops for educators as part of the Vermont Engineering Initiative, and the Vermont Department of Libraries is helping coordinate and implement the program in libraries around the state.

“The maker movement is alive and well in Vermont, and like the rest of the nation, public libraries are an important player in providing opportunities to engage in these hands-on creation programs,” said State Librarian Martha Reid of the Vermont Department of Libraries. “I love the ways that maker programs can foster intergenerational learning, introduce novices and experts alike to technology and STEM, and promote teamwork and collective problem-solving.”

Modeled after hacker spaces, a maker space is a place where young people have an opportunity to explore their own interests, learn to use tools and materials and develop creative projects. In recent years, libraries across the country have embraced the trend to create maker spaces for communities.

Librarian Susan O’Connell of the Craftsbury Public Library, who was instrumental in getting the summer program off the ground, said she first witnessed the power of maker spaces at the Champlain Valley Maker Faire two years ago.

“As a librarian and teacher, too often I see children’s scientific curiosity extinguished when science is taught as a set of facts to memorize without the thrill of exploration and discovery,” she said. “At the Champlain Valley Maker Faire, people of all ages were experimenting with trajectory with a pumpkin-chucking trebuchet, learning how to solder, and watching electricity play along a tesla coil. People were trying, sharing and exploring new ideas, and kids were incredibly excited.”

O’Connell said the idea was also inspired by the Collaborative Summer Library Program, which creates programs and activities designed to encourage children to learn and read during the summer. This summer’s theme is science.

Communities participating in the initiative include Bennington, Barre, Charlotte, Craftsbury, Castleton, Fairfax, Groton, Jericho, Poultney, Quechee, Richford, Warren, Westford and Williston.

“Our goal is to make it possible for children who might not have access to this kind of programming in rural areas to engage in fun, hands-on activities and discover how science works in everyday life,” O’Connell said. “While all of the participants might not become scientists, they’ll be better prepared to thrive in our technological world.”

For more information and a list of participating libraries, visit

Two images are available for download (courtesy of Vermont Engineering Initiative), one of educators training for the Toy Hacking STEAM program and an image of a toyToy Hacking is one of the STEAM and Maker programs offered this summer in Vermont public libraries. Download the images here:

Trends in Rapid Prototyping Tools + FabLabs

Thank you to the American Institute of Architects – Vermont for the invitation to speak at the recent ACX 2014 Architecture and Construction Expo. It was a fantastic and dynamic day of discussion!

It was long overdue to bring local architects into the conversation of “making” in Vermont and the conference served as the perfect opportunity to get the conversation started. I hope to see many of you again at the Neri Oxman talk this fall at UVMFollow this link for more information about the Neri Oxman event.

Here’s what we talked about on June 6 at ACX 2014:

Toy Hacking!

Thank you to the Vermont Department of Libraries for inviting Jenn to work with librarians from all over the state in July. We shared a Toy Hacking activity, a reverse engineering project that is accessible to many different ages and really fun. Expect to see similar workshops popping up at a library near you! Thanks to Jeff Branson and SparkFun Electronics for sponsoring the workshop with materials and Jeff’s extensive knowledge in electronics and tech education.
We’re taking our Toy Hacking workshop on the road – see you with Vermont Makers at these great events!

South End Art Hop

September 6-8, 2013
Champlain Maker Faire

September 28 & 29, 2013
Vermont Tech Jam

October 18 and 19, 2013

Memorial Auditorium, downtown Burlington
Vermont Afterschool Conference

Friday, October 25, 2013

Stoweflake Mountain Resort & Spa * Stowe, VT

Critical Making Montreal

As part of the “Site and Sound” festival in Montreal we participated in a Critical Making workshop with Garnet Hertz, the author or the zine “Critical Making” that is proving to be a strong and unique voice in the art + technology scholarship. It was great to work with Garnet and the other workshop participants. At the end of the day we had a new issue of the zine “Critical Making Montreal.” Studio Ju Ju contributed an essay about the Firehouse Bell Project.


The firehouse bell tower in Burlington, Vermont – an iconic part of the local cityscape. The bell tower was restored in 2002 and its bell, after over 50 years in storage at Shelburne Museum, was ceremoniously hoisted back into the tower. However, the bell still does not ring.


The Firehouse Bell Project

When and Where:

User Required
April 12, 2013 – May 18, 2013
Burlington City Arts Gallery, Burlington, Vermont


Bells were once necessary to summon the public all at once, all together, all in one place. Their sounds are deeply woven into the cultural fabric and unique soundscapes of cities and towns worldwide. Civic bells are constant; they mark time through personal stories and shared histories that unite a public’s past and present. Despite extraordinary and rapid advances in communication technology, do we perhaps still have a basic desire to hear bells ring into the future?


The Installation Experience

Voting for the future of the Firehouse Bell in Burlington, Vermont

The Firehouse Bell Project was on view at Burlington City Arts as part of the exhibition User Required in April and May of 2013. The installation posed two questions: Do you think The Firehouse Bell should ring again and if so why should it ring? The installation included video from the foundry where the bell was made, the bell’s original striker that we found in the bell tower.

Scroll down to the bottom of this page to view a video of the installation.


Once an essential communication technology for the City of Burlington, is the firehouse bell just a decoration or does an inspired contemporary purpose await its ring?

Do you think The Firehouse Bell should ring again?
Yes Votes = 464
No Votes = 68

The following suggestions were submitted in response to the question: Do you think The Firehouse Bell should ring again and if so why should it ring?

When there is an opening, ring the bell.

It will inspire people to write poems!!

It should ring every time a new baby is born in Burlington.

Ring the bell on the morning of a voting day as a reminder to vote!

Ring the bell when there is an event at City Hall Park (lets local citizen know if they hadn’t heard/read about it yet)

Ring the bell for celebratory reasons and associate it with announcement on City Hall website. Call it “Why the bell Rings” or something like that.

Bring back the fire pole.

Have the bell travel around announcing a sort of art-mobile. Could start with First Friday Art Shuttle then could take mobile exhibits/displays to schools or randomly around towns, county, state. One farmers market, summervale, waterfront – partner w/Shelburne Museum, Fleming, etc. Bring art to those who wouldn’t otherwise travel to it. Alternate fuel of course,. Bike/Solar etc.

Voting buttons for The Firehouse Bell Project

To celebrate community!

Have it ring at high and low tide.

Have water mist around the bell and ring it when the sun is in position to make a rainbow. 

Ring the firehouse bell! Brings back a sense of history and reminds us how we could still exist without technology.

I think the bell should be able to ring because the bell would ring for special occasions like Christmas, Valentines Day, etc.

I think the bell should ring again because it could be used for events.

The bell RINGING AND BECKONING a community to come together CELEBRATES our accomplishments, ties US TO OUR PAST, resonates for FUTURE GENERATIONS

It rings every time someone falls in love.

The bell should ring every time someone gives any amount of money to a homeless individual in Burlington and texts/tweets the message to a server at the BCA.

What else is a bell good for? Paperweight.

A historic bell has one primary auditory purpose. It must ring! The real issue is when/what purpose?

Aka it may be like a doom bell.

Apocalypse or when warning when all else fails.

The bell must ring for a good reason.

I love the bell.

It should ring according to the moon cycle

It should ring if there is an emergency.

It should ring on holidays and special events.

KEEP IT. Just because it no longer serves the technological, communication purpose it once had is no reason to render it silent. W’er humans aren’t we? WE ASSIGN MEANING TO EVERYTHING. (even the meaningless). We can figure out a new meaning and reason for the bell’s dulcet, brassy tones.

Ring it. It makes us happy. And if it annoys anyone, it doesn’t last for very long. They’ll get over it.

The bell should ring every day at 11:11am and 3:33pm as a reminder for people to smile, enjoy life and strive for excellence. We all need a reminder.

Our communal/community history through common objects is part of who we are as a community today – let’s remember from whence we came by keeping the bell. 

The bell could be used to announce civic events, such as voting day, and rung throughout the day to capture (demand) attention and action.

Function and decoration. Best of both worlds, dingaling, abing bong.

Just ring that damn bell!

The bell should be rung every time a new Burlington baby is born!

It should ring when a bill is passed in Vermont to keep the public engaged and informed regarding new legislation.

Find a way to make music with different beats, different types – for other to accompany.

Every time a baby is born! It would bring a sense of being alive. It should be rung every weekend and when people are celebrating the city!

The firehouse bell is a great reminder of how technology has changed over time. The bell is cumbersome weight has been replaced by lighter more concise technology. 

At the equinox and solstice and other astral events. 

The bell could be used to celebrate and announce community events, such as the Farmer’s Market, First Fridays, Art Hop, Festival of Fools, The Giant Pumpkin Regatta, voting days, First Night, Fourth of July , the last day of school and other special occasions. 

This bell is destined to be used in a contemporary statue that rings at meaningful times. The statue should represent Burlington in all its glory. Or be a pterodactyl. Actually, just make it a pterodactyl. 

It would be really cool to see temporary artwork created with the bell that would be audience-controlled. 

Art can be anything. You just have to find a place to put it. Thank you.

Town Meeting Day

It could symbolize thanks and gratitude when something special happened: New baby born, War ended (maybe more than one ring!), Countless other things!

The bell should be kept to help preserve the building’s exterior historicity.  It should be operable for auspicious occasions, but otherwise preserved as is.

Every time the bell rang it would symbolize God telling us someone did the right thing and it would be God’s form of giving thanks.

Yes! Upcycle! New use for historic artifacts!

Ring the bell exactly one week after a Burlington resident has a baby. Maybe Morse Code the name.

Bells are part of our life. They make us aware of how time moves by. Sacred, honorable, event, move on, take notice, Keep us in step.

Every time a child is born.

Use also some light (lights and sound). 

Utiliser de l’électronique!

I imagine the bell being used for different purposes than the City Hall Bell – such as to announce the opening of a new show!

The &#$! Are you talking about? Just live your life man.

Every time a new business comes to Burlington Vermont!

As evidence of our past communications, stories and history it should have a place.

When there is a big event.

If the bell coincided with the bus schedule…maybe the 1 (that’s the line I most frequently ride), it would be rally helpful for me!

It’s magical.

I love you.

I bet it used to ring and it just takes up power and doesn’t do it anymore. 

Ring every time someone is born (or dies?)

How about allowing views form the top. Ringing on special occasions and/or each Noon.

Soundez justice! Maitenant! S’il vous plaisez!

To ring off city wide “fun days” – beautiful weather days when city employees and (anyone else too!) get the day off. 

It should ring again so that people do not forget what a real bell sounds like. Everyone is now so programmed by all sorts of personalized ringtones on their cell phones that the sound of a real actual bell actually now sounds unusual. 

Making a German coo-coo clock-esque animatronic flying monkey that hammers the bell.

Everytime the mayor tweets, the bell shall ring!

Yes! It’s history and should ring again. Technology doesn’t need to replace everything “old fashioned”!

On the first day of school.

Used for weddings.

It should be replaced with a bubble machine.

Announce begin and end of Art Hop.

Ring at 5:00pm every Friday marking the start of the weekend – “The start of the end”

Ring based on light/dark rather than the exact time of day.

Use public news sources and measure frequency of words like “celebrate” to determine when to ring, only ringing when “celebrate” reaches an extraordinary frequency.

It should warn if zombies attack, have regular Zombie drills (Once a month @ random)

Burlington needs its “symphonies carillon” such as Montreal has its “symphonies portvaires” every year…I’ll come every year for that!

Maybe to commemorate moments in Burlington Vermont history or to open events…the bell could ring!

When it rings 1000 times the aliens will invade the Earth.

Ring at local (high) noon each day – a time different than 12:00 (and I believe a bit different each day).

Please don’t record the sound of the bell and then play the recording rather than ring the bell.

Ring the bell every time an animal is adopted from the CC Humane Society.

“Ring the Bell” Create an online capacity for citizens to celebrate achievement by ringing the bell, with LED screen describing their event, but also just people hearing it and knowing that someone’s smiling.

All cultures depend on shared ritual, knowledge, experience, and play. Perhaps the bell can ring to provoke a valued, community action, such as dance, hugging, recycling, sleeping, exercising, etc. that can be practiced as a community.

The installation included voting ballets, voting boxes, access to a website that held Karson’s research, video of a similar bell being made at the Meneely Bell Company, the striker from the bell and an architectural drawing of the Firehouse and its bell tower. Video by Steve Seremeth.

This installation was included in Critical Making Montreal.

Innovation on the Waterfront

We’d like to take this moment to advocate for five projects submitted to Burlington City’s Public Investment Action Plan (PIAP).

Battery Park-Waterfront Park Pedestrian Connection (1) and Signs of the Times (4) are highlighted in this Seven Days Newspaper Article – Check it out!

All images by Ken Mills

1. Battery Park-Waterfront Park Pedestrian Connection: Using Manhattan’s High-Line as inspiration, we envision a new pedestrian ramp/stairway/walkway connecting Battery Park Extension at Pearl Street and at Cherry Street as well as the north end of Battery Park to the existing pedestrian rail crossing located at Waterfront Park’s midpoint, halfway between The Echo Science Center and the Coast Guard Station.

2. Eco-Boardwalk: This project envisions a circular above-ground boardwalk that transverses the wetland and natural preserve while protecting its integrity; Seating decks along the waterfront allow for relaxation, contemplation, or simple viewing of the dramatic Lake Champlain while protecting the shoreline from human activity. Signs along the trail inform (perhaps interactively via a smartapp) the visitor of the geological, ecological, historical, and cultural significance of the area.

3. Moran Vertical Park: Green roofs are often an intriguing but abstract conception, because rarely are the sites accessible by any of the public and most importantly, they cannot be seen from the ground level. Our proposal seeks to directly link a series of overlapping green roofs with the bike and walking paths, and to create a series of businesses, performance space, and workshop space located within the re-interpreted structure.

4. Signs of the Times: The entire Burlington waterfront is the site for a broad range of interests, ideas, history, business, and interpretation. Creating a smartphone / tablet application that delves into all of these, and allows for a series of links that allows anyone to explore in great depth any applicable topic related to the waterfront, can become a model for urban areas across the country.

5. The Electric Works: The reclamation of the post-industrial waterfront Moran facility, with its high ceilings, concrete floor, and conceptual ties to this new use, is ideal for maker activities. It gives makers of all stripe the physical space, the use of a common pool of expensive tools, the flexibility of terms and space, and the ability to make noise and spectacle without incurring neighbor complaint, all on a relatively low budget.

Connectivity Lab Live at Malmö University, Sweden

IBM Chief Scientist John Cohn and Jenn speak at Connectivity Lab Live, Malmö University, Sweden. It was a great opportunity to introduce Vermont Makers, swap stories about the maker movement and share our explorations arts, science and technology. To learn more see the links and video documentation below.