“Tahir Hemphill: Rap Research Lab” showcases an artist who proudly occupies a space that he describes as the “hybrid area between art, technology, social engagement, and interdisciplinary research.” A technologist, researcher, facilitator, designer, and artist, Hemphill’s 2021-2023 UMBC faculty fellowship in Visual Arts fosters experimentation and learning through visual and material explorations of geographies of Hiphop.
Between January 30 and March 18, 2023, the Center for Art, Design & Visual Culture (CADVC) at University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) will be occupied by
Hemphill’s active research laboratory and studio focused on data visualizations of rap culture and history. CADVC will also operate as a forum for learning through “Mapper’s Delight,” a middle-school curriculum designed by Hemphill in collaboration with Verizon Innovative Learning. All of these activities will happen in the context of an exhibition of Hemphill’s evolving body of multimedia artwork, including a presentation of his growing series titled “Maximum Distance, Minimum Displacement,” and new interactive works
and works-in-progress on view for the first time. Among the new works is “Visualisation
of Authority,” a kinetic sculpture illustrating the evolving data of library holdings that
were the subject of Hemphill’s 2018 research as the 2018 Harissios Papamarkou Chair
in Education at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC.
“Rap Research Lab” at CADVC will also operate as the classroom for Hemphill’s
teaching. His Spring 2023 course, “IRC Fellows Topics in Art and Technology,” invites
an interdisciplinary group of students to work on translating ideas into new visual and
material form through creative technologies. The course is offered in collaboration with
the UMBC Image Research Center. Hemphill and his collaborators will mine the Rap
Almanac, a vast dataset of rap lyrics that Hemphill has assembled from various archives
over the course of many years, to produce new artworks, experiments, and
visualizations. The presentation at CADVC will grow and change as new work is
The first meeting of Hemphill’s class will occur on January 30, followed by a “soft”
opening on January 31, when the CADVC Rap Research Lab space will open to the
public. Through the course of the presentation, the Rap Research will invite audiences
into the design and research process in a number of ways. In addition to sharing
interactive works and data processing activities within the CADVC gallery space,
Hemphill will offer public viewings of a series of public choreographed activations of a
programmable robot arm, produced as a prototype for a partnership project with Dr.
Foad Hamidi (Department of Information Systems, UMBC). Details on how to sign up
and attend these performance-lecture events will be announced at cadvc.umbc.edu.
Rap Research Lab runs from January 30-March 18, 2023. A closing event will occur on
March 16, with details to be announced.