Experiential Space Research Lab:
Open Call

Open call for immersive art experiences that provoke radical re-imaginings of the living world

The application deadline has passed and we are no longer accepting applications.

The artists selected from this open call produced the immersive exhibition End Of You in February 2020.


The Experiential Space Research Lab is focused on exploring the potential of immersive art and design as critical thinking tools for addressing the pressing issues of our time. The six-month Incubator program provides artists with seed funding, mentorship, and a final exhibition at Gray Area.

We encourage media artists with an entrepreneurial spirit and systems orientation to apply. In the Incubator, we will work together to prototype, develop, produce and market an experiential space, which is modular and can tour to other locations. Successful artworks may be offered opportunities to install in various sites, beyond Gray Area.


Accepted applicants will join the Gray Area Artist Incubator to facilitate creating immersive installations showcased in a final exhibition. Artists will work in collaboration with partners possessing expertise in the following fields to engage the following topics:

  • Background: thinking about living systems
  • Curatorial Strategies: creating art centered around social and civic responsibility
  • Economic Strategies: supporting artists within an immersive format
  • Operations & Facilities: producing sustainable installations that scale
  • Enactive Environments: prototyping and developing experiential spaces

Open Call Theme:
Reworlding: The Art of Living Systems

"Life creates the conditions conducive to life."
- Janine Benyus

“On earth the environment has been made and monitored by life as much as life has been made and influenced by the environment.”
- Lynn Margulis and Dorion Sagan

The most unexpected discovery of the space age is that Earth is alive. Far from serving as a passive context for communities of organisms, it is both the substrate and dynamic extension of our collective existence. Over billions of years, evolving living systems have regulated and transformed the planetary environment. From plate tectonics to the global atmosphere, from mycelial webs to neural networks, life has shaped the world. And today, this is happening at an unprecedented pace under the influence of human technologies.

Reworlding: The Art of Living Systems is an invitation to explore new ways of perceiving these symbiotic relationships. While scientists excel at breaking down the details of our planetary systems, we are seeking artists interested in experientially cultivating an intuition of living wholes. How might immersive artworks become perspective-shifting spaces that dissolve critical distance and reveal intimate entanglements? By making the planetary personal as well as communal, how might we even accelerate Earth’s capacity to heal itself?

Reference Materials

Articles / Essays

Open Call Theme developed in partnership with Gaian.Systems.


Established and emerging artists, especially those from underrepresented communities in art and technology, are strongly encouraged to apply. Applications should demonstrate a body of work in art, technology, and/or environmental design. Portfolios should demonstrate a thorough understanding of the design process through conceptual research, technical sketches, and production.

  • We want to work with artists who see themselves as producers as well as creators, who are as willing and excited to create work as they are to fundraise and challenge boundaries on venue as well as content.
  • We are inviting media artists and creators that represent a wide range of skills, backgrounds, and perspectives.
  • We welcome applications from Individual Artists and Collectives.
  • Individual Artists and Collectives can apply with at least one SF Bay located team lead.

Important Dates

Open Call Application Dates: May 22 - June 28, 2019
Incubator Program Start Date: July 18, 2019
Gray Area Festival (Day + Evening): July 25 - July 27, 2019


  • Each installation will be allocated a budget of $15,000-$30,000 in seed funding
  • In addition, we will work together to define a ticketing revenue share for the exhibition
  • Dedicated desk within our co-working space in Gray Area’s Incubator
  • Guided critique sessions with the Research Lab cohort
  • Creative technology tools including sensors, soldering equipment, and prototyping tools
  • A/V equipment for prototyping including projectors and speakers
  • Fabrication resources including a wood shop and tool shed
  • Access to the Experiential Space Research Lab Database
  • A pipeline of partner venues prepared to scale your artwork to new locations.


Projects will be developed and prototyped from July through January at Gray Area in San Francisco, CA. Installations will be exhibited at Gray Area’s Grand Theater in February 2020.


Josette Melchor (Gray Area, Executive Director)
Barry Threw (Gray Area, Board Member)
Niki Selken (Gray Area, Creative Development Director)
Chris Barr (Knight Foundation, Arts and Technology Innovation Director)
David McConville (Spherical Studio)
Dawn Danby (Spherical Studio)
Bruce Clarke (Library of Congress, Blumberg Chair in Astrobiology)
Toshi Hoo (Institute for the Future, Emerging Media Lab Director)
Becca Dakini (Onedome, Co-Founder/Head of Creative Production)
Roxi Shohadaee (Onedome, Creative Producer)
Han Marie Santana-Sayles (Artist Liaison, Meow Wolf)

This program is supported by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.