Sam Freeman: Electric Media and Obsolescence / Information Visualization

Sam Freeman

Electric Media and Obsolescence / Information Visualization

B.S., January 2009, Magna cum Laude

Dean’s List

Sam Freeman is an electric artist who infuses electric technology into his art to portray the human relationship to energy.

In 2007 he received a grant from the Burning Man Art festival for his interactive, self-contained electrical system powered solely by the user and the sun. The audience engages with the piece acting as the engine, generating electricity on a bicycle which then results in an interactive video projection. “This project brought together diverse interests of mine and forced a steep learning curve as I only had four months to build the installation. I put together a dedicated, eclectic, team ranging from my physics professor to my bike messenger roommate. The software and hardware came together in time to exhibit the piece in New York, San Francisco, and finally triumphantly under the famous effigy in the desert of Nevada, where the Burning Man festival takes place.”

Freeman recently completed a large multimedia project about the General Electric Corporation. 1000 Ways It Don’t Work is a multimedia art project that seeks the human dimensions and implications of “the multi-national behemoth that is General Electric.” It takes its name from GE’s founder, Thomas Alva Edison, who searched relentlessly for a working filament for the electric light. After years of failure he met with his creditors, including J.P. Morgan, who were demanding results. “Results?” Edison replied, “Results, I’ve got results, I’ve learnt 1,000 ways it don’t work!”

This past summer, Freeman participated with the CUNY Institute for Sustainable Cities by building a solar powered ecosystem art piece on Governor’s Island at their annual Art and Science exhibit. The ecosystem required participation to survive; visitors interacted with the bamboo structure by providing water and light through servo-motors and microcontrollers.

Information Visualization is an emerging field that focuses on the use of computer-supported tools to explore large amounts of abstract data. “Working in Prof. Weigang Qiu’s Evolutionary Bioinformatics Lab, I designed, developed and implemented a genome browser. The Seenome (SEEing-the-geNOME) is designed for real-time annotated display of, and interaction with, genetic data. A web-based application, the Seenome is freely available over the internet. The program enables researchers to examine every level of genetic data, making it perfect for comparative genomics. Freeman has also worked on a “protein comparer,” a research tool that applies computer vision ideas about 3D shape comparison to bioinformatics, which generates histograms (graphic displays of tabulated frequencies) based on algorithms and then compares proteins quickly, allowing rotation, scaling and visualization.

Following graduation, Freeman went to Oaxaca, Mexico where he worked on a national forum on appropriate technology, from bicycle-powered water pumps to potato powered lights.

For Electric Media and Obsolescence, he worked with Prof. William Sakas, Computer Science, Hunter, using graduate and undergraduate courses in Dance, Computer Science, Art and Media; he used courses in Computer Science, Media, Math and Biology for Information Visualization, with Prof. Qui, Biology, Hunter.

Freeman came to CUNY BA from Bard College Early High School, having also studied at the Academy of Art University. In his letter of recommendation, Prof. Philip Glahn, Art History, Hunter, wrote “Sam might be the most outstanding student I have encountered so far.” Indeed, in completing well over 100 credits in CUNY, Freeman achieved a 4.0 GPA. He is now in the CUNY Graduate Center’s Computer Science Ph.D. program on a $24,000 Science Fellowship; he is working with Prof. Ioannis Stamos and receives additional funding from a National Science Foundation grant and scholarship. His work can be seen at