AMES, Iowa — Johnny DiBlasi, an Iowa State University assistant professor of art and visual culture, has received a Fulbright US Scholar Program in Creative and Performing Arts – Visual Arts award to Austria for the 2020-2021 academic year.

The Fulbright Scholar Program operates in over 160 countries, and this coming year will send more than 800 US citizens abroad to teach, conduct research and provide expertise. DiBlasi will research and develop a new artwork at Q21/MuseumsQuartier Wien as part of a project to investigate areas of biodata, digital networks and computer-generated sound and light for art.

DiBlasi specializes in digital media and visualization of data through art and design. His works use data collected from the environments around them that people can then experience in physical form, with audio and light components.

“[During my graduate study] in Baltimore, I became interested in this information and data that’s always around us, and this swirl of electronic signals and currents,” DiBlasi said.

“Later I really got interested in environmental data and working with the natural ecosystems — thinking about what information we take for granted from the environment and the connection between living organisms in the environment, and how those things affect our experience with them.”

Combining his interest in technology, data and art, DiBlasi has since created several unique art installations that often use audio, light and data-gathering sensors within site-specific environments. His living, interactive projects shift and change with the data coming in from the sensors.

Data as art media

Last summer, DiBlasi’s work was selected for the International Symposium on Electronic Art (ISEA2019) in Gwangju, South Korea. His “Hidden Layer” interactive installation used data from biosensors set up throughout urban spaces, gardens, parks and other area ecosystems to showcase the aesthetics of the landscape’s electronic data network.

DiBlasi was drawn to Austria for the Fulbright award because of the Ars Electronica Festival held annually in the city of Linz. This five-day exhibition of art, technology and society is particularly suited to his work, he said.

“Art is an experience for the viewer. I’m using data to generate that new experience. If you think about painting — the painting is the representation, the paint is the media. For me, the data is the media, it’s what I use to make the painting,” DiBlasi said. “I’m hoping that people will feel connected to the landscape and the ecosystem.”

Due to COVID-19, Fulbright Awards for 2020-2021 will begin no earlier than January 2021. From February to May next year, DiBlasi will live in Vienna and use the resources of the Q21creative space to research, build prototypes, conduct testing and create the final interactive artwork. He will be developing the technology for the piece himself, from the sensors down to the circuits. He currently refers to the work as “Transcoded Ecologies” because the title best represents what the project is about, but he anticipates that will evolve over time.

DiBlasi also looks forward to connecting with new colleagues in Austria and creating a cultural exchange with other artists, professors and community members alike, he said.

DiBlasi holds a bachelor of fine arts in photography and digital media from the University of Houston and a master of fine arts from Maryland Institute College of Art. He joined the ISU College of Design faculty in August 2018 and teaches video and computational media courses.


Johnny DiBlasi, Art and Visual Culture, jdiblasi@iastate.edu
Hailey Allen, Design Communications, hallen15@iastate.edu
Heather Sauer, Design Communications, hsauer@iastate.edu