UKAI Projects draws on partners, prototypers, and supporters in Canada and internationally. In our short history, we are proud to have paid over 100 artists and creators for their contributions to a range of projects. Reach out if you are curious about working with us or developing a project together.
The Ukai Team
Luisa Ji, studio lead
Luisa Ji is a multi-disciplinary creative, designer, and strategist. She is the Studio Lead at UKAI Projects where she designs and delivers arts programming, digital strategy, and digital infrastructure for arts creation, through the principles of transvaluation and prefiguration. She enjoys developing participatory experiences that enable collective sense-making with people who don’t consider themselves artists or creatives. She believes individuals need to take up space as they experience art and author their own stories through art, rather than viewing artworks from a distance. Living systems of ecological succession and perpetual change are foundational to how Luisa delivers experiences that invite people to inhabit digital or digitally-augmented worlds with curiosity and wonder. Luisa obtained her Master’s degree in Architecture (Carleton University) in 2015 and her Permaculture Design Certificate in 2021. She draws connections between experiences of migration (digital and physical) and narratives (official and non-official) of species that are non-endemic to a particular bioregion as useful metaphors when designing conditions for collaboration, cooperation, and mending of relationships.
Kasra Goodarznezhad, prototyping lead
Kasra is a new media artist based in Toronto. His main focus is on performance and installation. After studying graphic design in Tehran, he came to Toronto to continue his studies at OCAD University and graduated from the Integrated Media program. He started his career as a new media artist around 2011. Since then, he’s completed many projects in photography, video, lighting design and installation, and digital arts.
Kasra is the co-founder of two Ontario-based QTBIPOC collectives, Komite and Displaced collective, and throughout their three years of operation, he has curated, promoted, and showcased works by different artists as well as his own work. Reflecting on growing up in Iran and immigrating to Canada in 2015, Kasra’s work deals with concepts of displacement, repression, memory, and censorship. In his work, Kasra looks to explore the subjective complexities of being an individual living in a society that forces you to behave in ways sanctioned by those who hold power.
Jerrold McGrath, research lead
Jerrold McGrath focuses on cross-sector collaborations around issues of broad social concern such as artificial intelligence, equity in response to COVID-19, hope and hopelessness, and the digital diaspora. His creative practice explores the ways we are organized by the world. Jerrold currently serves as research lead at UKAI Projects. .
In 2022 and 2022, Jerrold served as program lead for Goethe-Institut Toronto’s two-year Algorithmic Culture series. He is a former program director at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity and Artscape Launchpad, a BMW Foundation Responsible Leader, and an Ambassador for Berlin’s STATE Festival.
Willem Deisinger, development lead
Willem Deisinger is an artist, designer and writer currently based in London, UK. He’s the Development Lead at UKAI where he works as a creative coder maintaining, enhancing, and re-imagining UKAI’s interconnected technological projects. He’s interested in the aesthetics of systems and tools that define our contemporary experiences in the world. Willem’s practice is based on exploring the potential and failures of old, new, and future digital technologies, highlighting their aesthetic attributes, inner processes, and histories. He re-imagines and hacks the personal and social systems we indulge over with our phones, everyday tools and digital lives
Ahmad Aiuby, artist
Ahmad Aiuby is an interdisciplinary artist and creative technologist from Upper Egypt. His work uses immersive and interactive media, creative coding, AI, and sound to explore the expressive possibilities offered by emerging digital technologies, and the ways in which algorithms are reshaping our everyday lives. He was a 2020 “We Are Data” artist fellow in a fellowship program by Cairotronica (EGY) and IMPAKT (NL) festivals. Aiuby’s work has been exhibited at Cairographie Festival (2017) and Roznama 7th (2019), Cairotronica Festival (2021), Ars Electronica (2021), and Arab Arts Focus (2022).
Michael F Bergmann, artist
Michael F Bergmann is a neurodiverse techno-optimist who explores novel technological approaches to storytelling, performance, and play. His research and creative practice aim to apply improvisational techniques and critical discourse principles to human-robot and human-AI interactions and communication to foster empathy. Their mediums of engagement include theatre, dance, installations, mixed and augmented reality, and collaborating with digital minds. His physical being is mostly located in Toronto and is a faculty member in Performance at The Creative School at Toronto Metropolitan University, where they teach and conduct research through their Technological Research in Performance Lab (tripl.ca). Michael received his MFA in Design from the David Geffen School of Drama at Yale University and held an Eldon Elder fellowship there. They are a member of IATSE Local ADC 659 and continue to design when possible. Michael is a founding member of Synectic Assembly, an art collective for projects organized in response to questions about artificial intelligence and algorithmic culture. Michael is also pursuing his doctorate in Critical Studies in Improvisation at the University of Guelph, examining post-anthropocentric improvisational performance modes for intersentient empathy and play. (bergmann.ai)
Helen Lam, artist
Helen Lam is an Ottawa-based extended reality (XR) and narrative designer with experience in video games and virtual reality. She brings perspectives from a variety of mediums to each project, keen to experiment with the boundaries of each technology. Fascinated with XR and its impact on modern society, her projects exist where art and technology intersect in order to explore how we create engines of meaning for our everyday lives.
Her most recent work is an Augmented Reality portal experience Now That I’m Here (2022), exhibited online in the Tender Circuits exhibition with the Digital Arts Resource Centre. Her previous projects include a collaborative video game made in 48 hours featured in the 2021 Ars Electronica Festival, and fiction that has appeared in the Ottawa-based indie zine Subscribe/d.
Noelle Perdue, artist
Noelle Perdue is an artist, writer, porn historian and near-mint condition collector’s item. Her work exploring digital intimacy and the blurry borders of obscenity can be found on Wired, Washington Post, Pornhub, Slate, Brazzers, et al.
As the digital world continues (desperately) to market itself as a viable alternative to the physical, new borders are being drawn over happy hours and in-office foosball sessions deep in Silicon Valley. Who-or what- is allowed to exist in this new world, and who doomed to live like a sucker in the dirt and the grass? For Intelligent Terrain, Noelle turned data mapping technology (used to auto-moderate online content) against itself , creating a series of images and objects generated to disgust software systems worldwide, ideally resulting in her permanent exile from the Metaverse and ultimate freedom.
Bianca Weeko Martin, artist
Bianca Weeko Martin is a writer, architectural researcher, and passionate practitioner of the arts and the Internet. Her work is informed by a wide range of experiences from architectural offices to interdisciplinary installation studios to fine art museums, from Mexico City to Berlin to Toronto. Bianca has previously collaborated with UKAI Projects, DesignTO, the Bentway, the Art Gallery of Ontario, and the Goethe-Institut Toronto. Projects have explored the counter-narratives of domestic space and suburbia, bringing together ancestral knowledge and contemporary dissemination methods. Bianca’s first book Architectural Guide Manila is projected to be published in 2024 by DOM Publishers. She enjoys food, films, surfing, and scuba diving.
Maria Simmons, artist
Maria Simmons (she/they) served as Community Lead for UKAI Projects in 2022 and 2023. She is a Canadian-based hybrid artist who started at UKAI while working as an artist-in-residence in Finland. Maria investigates potentialized environments through the creation of hybrid sculpture and installation. Her work embraces contamination as an act of collaboration. She collects garbage, grows mushrooms, ferments plants, and nurtures fruit flies. She makes art that eats itself.
In addition to being a direct digital contact, part of Maria’s work with UKAI involved taking some of the ecologically-rooted theories she developed as an artist and expanding them, such a thinking about how the biology of lichen can inform community engagement and practices.
Hooria Rahimi, artist
Originally from Iran, Hooria Rahimi is an interdisciplinary artist currently based in Montreal, QC. Through her artistic practice, she explores human perception through the manipulation of light and reflection in space with a sense of nature and science. By working primarily with light in different forms along with other translucent materials such as mirror and optical glass, Hooria transforms the appearance of a space and bends the reality into something illusory. Her artworks address the major environmental and social issues that the world and humans are struggling with today. Interactivity is an important part of her practice; has led her to create immersive installation arts during the past years with a focus on spectatorship. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts with a concentration in Sculpture from the Art University of Tehran and is currently pursuing her Master of Fine Arts in Intermedia at Concordia University. She is an artist-in-residence at Poetic Societies in Detroit, MA since 2018 and has participated in several group exhibitions in Iran and recently in Canada.
Dan Tapper, artist
Dan Tapper is an artist whose work focuses on revealing hidden worlds through technology and how methods of data processing shape human experience. His work spans DIY radio astronomy – converting the electromagnetic emissions of planets and our own ionosphere into sonic installations – to generative art inspired by emergent behaviors found in nature. For the past 2 years he has been experimenting with artificial intelligence, attempting to convert his practice into a feedback loop between nature and machine.
His work stems from experiences he had as a child moving through mud and bracken in the hillier areas of the UK. He was fascinated by the sounds created as he moved through these landscapes as well as the endlessly evolving noise of wind and water. As a very digital artist, he has always attempted (with varying degrees of success) to maintain a connection to these early roots. He was lucky to find this connection in a footnote of an electronics manual. Here he discovered the strange and wonderful world of Very Low Frequency (VLF) natural radio. Through simple circuitry and coils of wire he was able to listen to electromagnetic activity occurring within the earth’s ionosphere – lightning strikes, Aurora borealis and even occasional bursts of noise from passing planets and the sun. Human generated electrical activity was very present in this band too, so he found myself hiking up hills, far away from cities and human inhabitants to listen to and capture these ionospheric sounds. These excursions made him think about how technology translates information, allowing us to experience sounds and spectrum outside of the human sensory range.
Evangeline Y Brooks, strategy
Evangeline Y Brooks (she/her) is a third culture kid and visual artist working to maintain sustainable and accessible artist communities in local Toronto and online DIY spaces, which are often fleeting against our current culture of immediacy. She looks to counter this by slowing down towards careful, intentional movements, while minimizing workloads by learning from tradition – embracing the paradox that slow planning that allows us to make quick moves.
Coming from overlapping homes and cultures, she sees mirrored structures in how we use hybrid digital/physical spaces, and in how these overlaps lead to strength when digital capacities are used not as end goals, but as tools towards making our lives smoother. With experience in live-stream artist spaces and building accessibility IRL and online, she’s bringing a hybrid forward mindset to UKAI, and looking to further support local and online communities with sincerity and radical compassion.
Meena Rizwan, strategy
Meena Rizwan (she/ her) is a Tkaronto-based multidisciplinary artist, consultant, and creative director whose work aims to challenge prevailing ontological and relational narratives by actively inviting persons to explore realms of connection and metamorphosis. Part bird of prey, part researcher of play, Meena’s framework meshes her proclivity for analytical, scientific thought with her impassioned curiosity, love of humour, and desire to create alternate realities. Her work strives to yield transformation through the intimate exploration of (dis)comfort in geographies of extremity, sites that provide space to question the reticence and fear embedded in dominant, rigid ideologies of power and community. By playing in these places, an alternate way of being may be experienced, allowing for bridges of connection and hope to emerge.
Meena’s work is informed by her positionality as a queer woman of color and newcomer-settler born in Pakistan and raised on Long Island and in Tkaronto. Her growth mindset is oriented towards a multifaceted and polyphonic comprehension of the world and the people within it, reflected in her amalgamation of different disciplines and modalities. Her practice, which often has interactive elements, involves installation, film, audio, woodwork, metalwork, web design, photography, and performance. Her recent work has probed notions around alienation, racial identity, sexual absolution, digital consciousness, counter cartographies, and the grief of displacement. By applying a communal framework that centres principles of decolonization, anti-racism, cultural diversity, critical disability, and human rights, she works towards accessible, respectful, and inclusive design.
Meena has consulted for organizations on issues pertaining to strategic planning, creative direction, and diversity, equity, and inclusion. She has also managed projects, produced curriculums, facilitated workshops, curated exhibits, coordinated conferences and DIY shows, and created employment opportunities for BIPOC and LGBTQ+ community members. Meena has a Master of Arts degree in Gender Studies and Feminist Research and a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Psychology.
Alexandra Yeboah, strategy
Alexandra C. Yeboah is a Brampton-based writer, creative facilitator and quiet disruptor, who is currently using her curiosity to embark onto newfound paths of creativity. A second-generation Canadian to immigrant parents, Alexandra is keen on exploring the intricacies of bicultural identity and the different ways it intersects with everyday experiences. Some of her more recent projects have involved her writing on the themes of body image and colourism and documenting the contributions of Black pioneers in Canada. Her vision is to continue telling stories that centralize themes of marginalization and exclusion and celebrate Afrocentric heritage.
Art in mainstream culture can often present a linear, one-dimensional narrative, leaving those who don’t fit within the traditional, Eurocentric norms out of the picture. Alexandra believes that there is more than one side to every story, and we owe it to the generations before and after us to champion stories that reflect the lived experiences of those from the diverse communities we serve. In the consistent sharing of these stories, we help ensure that the voices of both the storytellers and the receivers are being heard and accounted for. As Alexandra continues to immerse herself in community arts work, she seeks to help cultivate more low-cost accessible spaces that channel innovation and promote collaborative art-making, community-building, and free-flowing art.
Shalaka Jadhav, strategy
Shalaka spent their childhood between cities in India and in Dubai, before moving to a neighbourhood spitting distance from Ontario’s largest mall. They now join from Block 2 of the Haldimand Tract, splitting their time on Treaty 1 territory. Trained as an urban planner and practicing as a curator, Shalaka has worked across multiple roles, including audio journalism, in social innovation spaces, in urban planning departments, on rooftop gardens, and on farms. Across their work, they strive to apply an ecosystem approach of thinking, dreaming, and sustaining.
Currently, Shalaka is exploring hosting and hospitality as a framework for problem-solving that untangles conversations around power dynamics and relationships to spaces and places. This draws on a personal uncovering of turning points and key shifts that explore memory (loss), belonging, grief, and queer ecologies in the context of spatial positionality and critical geographies as they pertain to public memory work, while thinking through the complexity of engagement as a racialized person on Indigenous territories. Recognizing that organic interventions with art have been designed out of our lives, Shalaka sees the role of strategy in supporting the response to this crisis, to build spaces where audiences pull out of solutions-thinking, into spaces of curiosity.
Sarah Brin specializes in building and leading teams that bring unprecedented creative technology experiences to life. Sarah is from Southern California, and lives in London with her big dog, Svenska.
Sarah has a hybrid background that spans sectors, including Fortune 500 tech companies, governments, games/entertainment studios, the metaverse, arts/cultural organizations, and academia.
When you specialize in innovation with new technologies, businesses and disciplines, sometimes it can be hard for other people to understand what you do. Here are some job titles and projects Sarah often uses to define her practice:
Business Development and Strategic Partnerships: Sarah is a connector, and loves finding and developing new partnerships that connect audiences with mind-blowing technology and brands. She has developed and contributed to joint-ventures and partnerships with brands like Sony, BAFTA, Microsoft, BBC, Aardman Animation, Sony PlayStation, Planet Labs, SFMOMA, Google, and lots more.
Exec/Sr. Producer/Programme Manager: Sarah has worked as a Senior Producer and Programme Manager for organizations including Sony Interactive Entertainment, Rolls Royce, Autodesk, Meow Wolf, the European Union and many others. She specializes in agile/scrum development processes for web, digital games, AR/VR/XR, mobile, digital fabrication, immersive installations, and live events. She has received the Creative Producers International, Red Dot, and International Game Developers Association awards for production work, too.
Public Speaker and Coach: Sarah has had the privilege of speaking about design, creativity, and metaverse leadership at venues worldwide, including SXSW, Eyeo, the Game Developers Conference, British Council Japan, Playable City, and many others.
What do all these roles have in common? The future, sustainability, and organizational change. Sarah is excited about developing new and equitable systems for creating groundbreaking creative technology projects, and translating that to fiscal growth. Generally, Sarah finds herself working with organizations who are in periods of transformation, starting new initiatives, or looking to scale in new ways.
Nagata Shachu Taiko Ensemble
Nagata Shachu, based in Toronto, has enthralled audiences with its mesmerizing and heart-pounding performances of the Japanese drum (taiko) since forming in 1998. While rooted in the folk drumming traditions of Japan, the ensemble’s principal aim is to rejuvenate this ancient art form by producing innovative and exciting music that seeks to create a new voice for the taiko. Nagata Shachu has toured extensively throughout Canada, the US, and Italy, and has performed at major engagements in Mexico and Lebanon. In addition to having recorded six CDs of original music and five DVDs, Nagata Shachu produces a three-concert season featuring collaborations with both local and international artists.
Kiyoshi Nagata, Nagata Shachu’s founder and Artistic Director, has been performing in a career that spans four decades. Since 1998 Kiyoshi has taught a credit course in taiko at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Music. From 2003 to 2011, he established a public taiko course at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto. For eight years, Kiyoshi instructed two community groups, Isshin Daiko in Toronto and Do-Kon Daiko in Burlington, which he helped to form in 1995.
Nagata Shachu recently completed a three year school outreach program with funding from the Ontario Trillium Foundation in which we actively engaged over 10,000 youth in priority neighbourhoods through hands-on workshops and performances. We are also proud to have been participating in Arts in the Parks for the last six years, animating community parks and neighbourhoods through free workshops and concerts. During the pandemic in 2020, Nagata Shachu quickly pivoted to an online format and developed a virtual taiko drum (www.virtualtaiko.com) with embedded lessons that could be played on any mobile device or desktop. We also produced an interactive 360 degree video with spatial audio of our performance in order to provide viewers with an immersive experience.
In 2020, Nagata partnered with Ukai Projects on MIGRATION: Migrating diasporic performance to digital production, as well as Long Walk – NYC in 2018. In 2023, Nagata was the lead partner of Together We Rise, a two-day Asian arts festival in Scarborough programming a mix of live performing arts, film screenings, in-person workshops, multimedia insallations, and commissioning original professional works. In 2019, the ensemble was the recipient of Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs commendation for “Promotion of cultural exchange through art between Japan and Canada.” In 2020, Nagata Shachu was one of three finalists for the Toronto Arts Foundation Roy Thomson Hall Award of Recognition for its contribution to Toronto’s musical life.
Ian Garrett is a designer, producer, educator, and researcher in the field of sustainability in arts and culture. He is producer for Toasterlab, a mixed reality performance collective. He is the director of the Centre for Sustainable Practice in the Arts and Associate Professor of Ecological Design for Performance at York University, where he is Graduate Program Director for Theatre, Dance and Performance Studies. He maintains a design practice focused on ecology, accessible technologies and scenography.
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