BDNYC Artist-in-Residence Wins NYFA Award

The BDNYC team is thrilled to announce that our artist-in-residence, Janani Balasubramanian, has been awarded a 2021 New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA) Fellowship, for an excerpted draft from their brown dwarf-themed novel, Harold & Okno.

Janani Balasubramanian

Janani Balasubramanian

Janani Balasubramanian is an artist and researcher working at the intersections of contemporary art and science. Janani’s work is rooted in years-long collaborations with scientists, through which they discover how artistic inquiry can meet, expand, and provoke new thought in relation to a given scientific discipline. They are committed to accessibility, adaptive design, and play as generative principles of their multimedia practice.

In addition to working with BDNYC, Janani is presently an artist-in-residence at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts and the Stanford Data Compression Forum.

Janani’s work represents that beautiful place where art and science meet and mingle. They were awarded the NYFA Fellowship based on an excerpt from their novel, Harold & Okno, a Cold War era tale about an extraordinary friendship, featuring strong science themes of contemporary brown dwarf astronomy as well as octopus neurophysiology.

On the brown dwarf element in the novel, Janani writes: “I was specifically excited in Harold & Okno to work with brown dwarfs as a world, as a place one might inhabit. The octopus character, Okno, is from a world based on the brown dwarf WISE 0855, a rogue object that is relatively cold, close to our own planet Earth, and entirely delightful. I love brown dwarfs as an object that teaches and engages us with themes of alienation, exile, and grief—all concepts that are resonant throughout the emotional landscape of the book.”

When asked about a favorite moment in the novel, Janani shares: “At one point Okno teaches Harold, a human, how to see his home planet by expanding Harold’s vision into the mid-infrared.” Janani notes that this was a detail they were particularly excited to include in the novel from conversations and collaborations with BDNYC group members.

The impressive achievements of the fellowship and the novel are just facets of the enriching experience of being artist-in-residence for Janani. On their experience being artist-in-residence with BDNYC in particular, Janani writes: “I’ve learned and grown so much being in residence with BDNYC—from the scientists themselves, and the way they practice their science, and from the substellar objects they engage with daily. Notably, I’ve learned how to look at darkness differently, and to seek to understand the worlds that are spinning just outside the wavelengths I can see with my eyes.”

You can read more about Janani’s work and follow their journey on their website. The entire BDNYC team congratulates Janani on their fantastic achievement, and wishes them continued success with all of their future work!