Please note:  An expanded treatment of the conceptual underpinnings that drive each creative trajectory can be found in the supplemental PDFs embedded in each section of this website.


Mutable Sculpture series

The Mutable Sculpture series consists of video art and sculpture that explores materiality and continuity. In collaboration with cognitive scientist Robert Goldschmidt, these creative, perceptual experiments manifest the intersection of digital video projection and sculptural surface.  Referred to as "mutable sculpture," a defining characteristic of the work is the ability of architecture and sculptural objects to adopt the characteristics of virtual objects, through the layering of virtual and physical space. Through the presentation of the falsely real, the various unstable ontological states between video, sculpture, and installation are explored.


The mind is a powerful and flexible tool for shaping our perceptual experience. Its capacity for learning, pattern grouping, and reification enable swift perceptual comprehension. The layering of virtual and physical space can present new and unique perceptual phenomena that might prime the viewer to ponder certain ontological questions. In our digitally mediated culture, Fontanilla investigates the ways that the virtual can extend and even reinvent the physical, and how the virtual can reorganize and fracture the perception of the physical.


Works during the Tenure Track include:  Overlooked 2.0 (2014);  Writhe (2015);  Tempest (2017);  Erosion (2018);  Evanescence (2019)


Fontanilla was an invited speaker and art exhibitor at TechFest 2014, where Overlooked 2.0 was featured as an exemplar of experimental projection application.  Overlooked 2.0 and Tempest were selected from over 900 entries in a national exhibition of digital art, Digitalia.  The Erosion retrospective solo show, juried by the Sierra Arts Committee, premiered new works that fused wood sculpture, custom software, and video art.  At the national gallery, Nepal Art Council, the Evanescence solo show featured a new creative trajectory of works that combined custom software, radio frequency electronics, strobes, and video art.





Seær a new media text delivery system that uses photoluminescent surfaces, custom software, and lasers in order to display conventional (legible) and asemic* (non-legible) writing.  The series explores the materiality of inscription substrates, and the perceptual experience in the act of reading.  Seær manifests John Cayley’s notion of the ‘catastophic moment’ — the boundary points of signification — when visual forms slip between non-specificity to legibility, between the graphic and the symbolic.  The Seær text delivery system allows the author to shift meaning more fluidly and with finer granularity than that afforded by the conventional atoms of expressivity in language:  the word, the letter, the stroke.


Seær hinges on two major components in the act of reading:  a) the perception of fading text and the resultant expectation that the inscription is transient; b) the reader’s memory of previously inscribed text.  Text that remains entirely legible but is selectively transformed, or alternatively, text that can be read in unconventional orientations (e.g., ambigrams) are further extended with Seær’s method of presentation. In this way, Seær enables the visual form to enact its semantic content, creating moments when the visual-grammar and linguistic-grammar are inextricable.


In this way, Seær’s exploration of the emergent possibilities in authorship manifests the new processes and practice of writing and reading using digital media, as inscription surfaces are regarded as more inherently mutable than they are perceived to be today.


*asemic — “having no specific semantic content”


Works during the Tenure Track include:  Acquaintance [He](2017);  Acquaintance [She](2017);  Novel Perceptual Phenomena in Reading Mutable Inscription Systems (2019).


A paper detailing the authoring processes with Seær was accepted for presentation at the 14th Biennial Symposium on Arts and Technology.  Following the Woven Heritage ( نسيج ثقافي ) International Miniature Printmaking Exhibition in 2017, two Seær works, Acquaintance [He] and Acquaintance [She], were entered into Zayed University’s permanent collection.  More information about the conceptual underpinnings that drive the creative trajectory can be found in my paper about Novel Perceptual Phenomena in Reading Mutable Inscription Systems (2019) currently under review for the special edition of the Journal of IPR Comparative Literature and Aesthetics on Electronic Literature.




Empathy for Place series

In collaboration with Sarah Wright, MFA, Edrex Fontanilla created three virtual reality installations, as part of the Change Ecologies collective, that offer experiential glimpses of urban wilds. The project invites viewers to witness and be present in marginal or vanished landscapes they may not otherwise see. Each iteration of the project sought to engage a different audience in a specific context, from a small community gallery in Queens, to the banks of the Newtown Creek, to the larger community of the Queens Museum, which culminated in an artist-built virtual reality viewer accessible to museum patrons of all ages.  In their presentations, Fontanilla and Wright discuss the challenges and potential of using virtual reality for socially engaged art, and explore how the problems and possibilities of virtual reality as an “empathy machine” change when applied to endangered places instead of people.


Works during the Tenure Track include:  :  Over the River (2015);  Hidden Vistas (2016), Immersive Landscapes: Hunter's Point South (2016), Immersive Landscapes: Flushing River (2016);  Virtual Reality, Empathy, and Place, (2016);  Chance Ecologies interventions  at Open Engagement (forthcoming, 2018)


Essay:  “Empathy for Place” (2016), with Sarah Nelson Wright


This series made its debut in 2015 at the Radiator Gallery.   Following the Studio in the Park Residency in 2016, the series culminated in a number of talks, a site intervention, and exhibition hosted by the Queens Museum and Union Docs.  Collaborative work in this series continues with the Change Ecologies Collective, with  site interventions and an exhibition as part of Open Engagement 2018, hosted by the Queens Museum.



Empathy for People series

In this series of interactive works, the viewer experiences atypical stimuli — an immersive presentation that compellingly simulates the perspective of a person who perceives the world very differently.  Through poetry, digitally processed sound, and manipulated stereoscopic video, an observer looking into the sculpture “The Ethical Viewer" witnesses the various permutations of the ‘Perceptual Fog.’   This metaphor alludes to the selective masking and emphasis of sights and sounds, and the resulting interference with our brain’s processes.  Simulating visual hypersensitivity, aural hypersensitivity, ADHD, and more, the viewer’s field of view is constrained, modeling the disruption of attention and agency.


Further research in this series includes production of disability computer simulations for a pilot study, in collaboration with psychology scholar Nava Silton, PhD.  Their research investigates the potential of computer simulations, and in particular the affordances of virtual reality technology, as an interventional tool to enable cognitive empathy in young people:  to promote place-taking, understanding, acceptance, and social integration of disabilities.   Their research is presented in a forthcoming book chapter entitled, “Employing Disability Simulations and Preliminary Virtual Reality Technology to Foster Cognitive and Affective Empathy towards Individuals with Disabilities”


Works during the Tenure Track include:   include:  The Ethical Viewer: Perceptual Fog (2017), Realabilities pilot simulations (2017)


Book Chapter:  “Employing Disability Simulations and Preliminary Virtual Reality Technology to Foster Cognitive and Affective Empathy towards Individuals with Disabilities” (2018) with Nava Silton, PhD.


In an international competition with over 100 entries from Brazil, Belgrade, Germany, Canada, Nigeria, Sweden and Mexico, I was awarded an Arrow Five Years Out Art Commission for The Ethical Viewer: Perceptual Fog, which was exhibited at the Cherry Arts Festival, and then was entered in Arrow’s permanent collection.  After publication of the book chapter, collaborative work in this series will continue with the development of a serious game, which offers a computer simulation of disabilities represented in the Realabilities universe.


edrex fontanilla ::