Marta de Menezes is a Portuguese artist working at the intersection between art and biology. Last year, Menezes founded Ectopia, an experimental laboratory and artist residency housed at the Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência in Oeiras, Portugal. The program fosters collaboration and discussion between the Institute's scientists and participating artists. In this interview, conducted by Rhizome Curatorial Fellow Luis Silva, Menezes discusses her experience with Ectopia and her larger body of work.
Tools of the Trade is an ongoing feature on Rhizome. Here, we invite artists to discuss the nuts and bolts behind their projects. Justin Downs worked with David Byrne in the design and fabrication of his Playing the Building installation for Creative Time (on view until August 24th). Below, Justin discusses how the work was created. Justin is an independent fabricator and a recent graduate from NYU's ITP program. His website can be found here.
As any techno-cultural aficionado will enthusiastically tell you, the 21st century is the century of "convergence", in which the communications industry progressively rolled out its own rendition of the Swiss Army knife: pocket-sized, hand-held, wireless devices which function simultaneously as movie and music players, mobile phones, gaming engines, internet connectivity devices, still image and video cameras, musical instruments, calculators...with so many functions now capable of being handled by little equipment and energy expenditure, visions of the future both Utopian and dystopian have flown off the shelves at a hitherto unprecedented rate (and wireless electricity is just around the corner as well.) Prophesies abound that this synthesis of communicative modes and cross-pollination of technological functionality is a stepping stone towards realizing some kind of fully-integrated Übermensch; eventually our ability to communicate with and comprehend each other will accelerate to the point where humans morph into sophisticated telepaths. More grandiose yet, there are the fantasies of some ultimate "awakening" along the lines of the "Omega Point" suggested by rogue priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, an ultimate synthesis of human intelligence with cosmic consciousness- the inventor Ray Kurzweil calls the same "universal awakening" phenomenon the "Singularity," albeit with a much more technophiliac gloss to it.
This summer, the Whitney mounted a major exhibit on Fuller's life and work, Buckminster Fuller: Starting With the Universe, on view through September. The show features a variety of Fulleriana, arranged in chronological order, allowing for a roughly biographic experience: sketches, architectural models, concept designs, numerous looped clips from the 1971 documentary The World of Buckminster Fuller, maps and diagrams, original publications, and a 12 foot high cardboard geodesic dome built for the exhibit. Though largely a show about architecture, Starting With the Universe presents Fuller as a revolutionary and visionary thinker who worked, as he put it, "comprehensively," across disciplines, and a forerunner of 21st century environmental design and networked culture.
Bloomberg Tower, the headquarters of New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg's global business news and information corporation, Bloomberg LP, is a sleek, glass and curved steel skyscraper in midtown Manhattan which forgoes cubicles and executive offices for an ostensibly non-hierarchical and sans-wall flow of physical and digital information. As an allegory for globalized information dispersion, this opening-up of interior space reflects the much-discussed contradictions of globalization, itself. Since the building's completion in 2005, the downtown art nonprofit, Art in General, has partnered with Bloomberg LP to produce five contemporary art exhibitions that reflect on this space as well as the model of business practice that it nurtures. The current iteration of the partnership, entitled ONLY CONNECT, features work by artists Larry Bamburg, Tom Kotik, Heather Rowe, Mafalda Santos and Patrick Tuttofuoco that, according to curator Cecilia Alemani, "infiltrate" Bloomberg Tower and offer alternative "systems of communication and exchange that rely on basic materials, fragile geometries or simple, sometimes even natural forms." Given the overwhelming environment of the office building itself, I had to ask what kind of critique could productively challenge or transcend the complex ideas embedded in its surroundings.
Marianne Weems is the artistic director of New York-based multimedia theater group the Builders Association. Their productions often tackle contemporary issues related to technology, such as "post visual forms" of surveillance in Super Vision or the impact of globalization on identity and language in Alladeen. They are currently developing their newest project, Continuous City. The play examines contemporary experiences of location in relationship to the rise of megacities and a distributed sense of selfhood. One unique component of the production is a fictional social networking site named "Zubu" which will collect testimonials and footage from inhabitants in each city in which Continuous City is staged. In conjunction with their week-long residency, Weems, along with fellow collaborators, will give a free public talk on Continuous City at the Kitchen in New York City on Saturday June 21st at 5pm.
"Ideas improve. The meaning of words participates in the improvement. Plagiarism is necessary. Progress implies it. It embraces an author's phrase, makes use of his expressions, erases a false idea, and replaces it with the right idea."So wrote Guy Debord, prominent member of the Situationist International and major instigator of the infamous Paris uprisings of May '68. In his most famous text The Society of the Spectacle, Debord articulates the belief that free trade of thoughts and ideas is not only acceptable, but necessary for the intellectual advancement of culture. He did not simply advocate plagiarism as a means of reference, but as an active way to critically engage and subvert dominant media images -- what he and his fellow Situationists referred to as 'détournement.' Put simply, détournement is the appropriation of these prevailing images for meanings in opposition to their original intent -- a strategy that has influenced generations of activists, academics, and artists. So when the estate of Guy Debord recently sent a 'cease and desist' letter to a group of American artists for copyright infringement, people familiar with Debord's oeuvre were rightly shocked. Beyond the obvious irony of the situation, this particular case has raised questions about the complexities of copyright, monetary compensation and the historical legacy of our anti-establishment icons.
As I enter the conference space, I wonder if I'll be tempted to update my Facebook status constantly at Futuresonic '08. Many of my Facebook friends are here, but still I can't resist tapping on my EeePC from time to time: Michelle is happy in Manchester. Michelle has an idea. Michelle is in love with Dirt Party! Michelle is taking a leisurely pace.
Right now, I suppose I should change my status to: Michelle is writing a review of Futuresonic 08, a five-day festival of art, music, and ideas in Manchester, UK. Futuresonic is an established festival that often showcases emerging issues in creative industries, and this year's topic "The Social" took form both online and offline, and sometimes in between.