This week I am an artist in residence at Mary Mattingly’s WetLand project — a sculpture / habitat / provocation floating in the Delaware at Penn’s Landing in Philadelphia. We’ve got chickens, bees, solar panels, a wetland habitat drawing from the river, ripening jalapeños, a rainwater bathtub … each day Mary, the FringeArts staff supporting the project, and the fellow residents and I talk to the public about the future, ecology, technology, and DIY. Kids, coast guard, native Philadelphians, and international visitors have all been drawn to what is a bit of a spectacle here among the historical ships, hotels, and beach bars — today the hive was kind enough to let me share fresh honey with passersby.
What I appreciate about this situation and Mary’s work in general is that it doesn’t shy away from existing in an indeterminate zone that invokes architectural, design, sculpture, conceptual art, and performance discourses without fitting very well into any of them. It is an exercise in interpretation, ultimately, and interpretation that exceeds the spatiotemporal bounds of the piece and slips into how we talk about ‘habitat’, or maybe ‘inhabiting’ in general. Bees, reclaimed materials, collective living, here they are conversation starters about what is novel, tolerable, exciting, or uncomfortable, and what it is that makes a habitat permanent or transient relative to the diverse everyday conditions of our visitors. In that sense, I don’t really read WetLand as a critique of our consumerism, nor a utopic vision of some bourgeohippy future, though it might easily be understood as such. I think it’s somewhat darker than that, where Mary’s living and (tireless, unceasing) labor are laid bare in an attempt to exist in conscious relation to a society that may be failing, or which we can imagine as failing. Her precarity stands in for our collective precarity. The form of WetLand is then simply her perspective rather than a polemic about how anyone should live. But that perspective includes the collaborations that she has cultivated to realize the work, from volunteers to artists to institutional support — and it’s openness to participation and interpretation that undergirds the richness of the piece.
For myself, I’ve chosen to take inspiration from that and make this residency less about producing a work as reflecting on the state of my practice and looking into future directions. I am reading theory texts, learning new software, and sketching out several small research works I’ll hopefully be able to complete in the next weeks. One of those is mechanism for rhythmanalysis, with no code or electricity involved, but through which I make temporal notations of my surroundings with the help of a stethoscope. That a boat is in constant motion makes it easy to bring rhythm into the foreground, and it has lent my time here a special kind of pulse.
Earlier this week I was a guest at EcoHacker’s build, an art installation in the midst of the woods near Delhi, NY. The structure they created served as a platform for both dialogue on the themes of sustainability, open culture and decentralization, as well as an environment for site-specific performances and artworks.
For my piece, I set up a four-channel sound system projecting out from the structure and into the surrounding land. I sent pulses into each speaker whose rate was determined by the angle above the horizon of four celestial bodies (sun, moon, uranus, saturn — all accurate and realtime for our precise location thanks to the ever-useful pyephem library). The pitches of the pulses were generated via an algorithm mimicking Arvo Pärt’s tintinnabuli method of voice layering. Finally, the timbre and texture of the sound came from me, maintaining a note on a (vintage from the mauerpark market!) melodica for the duration of the piece. Thus my breathing and the transit of celestial spheres were implicated in the landscape, or something, as the audience wandered through it nearby. Also rain. And… noise complaints, which is a certain kind of success.
The designs projected on the walls of the structure set the tone and were by Jonathan Sims, with animation and additional hackery by Gene Kogan. Photo by David Kim. Special thanks as always to El Kalinov.
Starting on August 15th, Mary Mattingly‘s WetLand, a floating, self-sustaining ecosystem on the Delaware River, will open to the public as part of the 2014 Fringe Festival. WetLand will include living and performance spaces, gardens, a water filtration system, and potentially a beehive and chickens. In addition to hosting dozens of artistic and environmental events, WetLand will be home to a rotating cast of resident artists who will work and live on the barge. Brian House discusses his plans for his residency and how WetLand‘s ethos will interact with his own.
Incredibly excited for this year’s Eyeo Festival! I’m honored to be among the presenters:
How can music visceralize data? What is the tempo of code? What physical performances haunt our encodings, and how do we both resist and depend on those atomic metronomes in the sky? Brian House will walk, bike, and browse his way through recent ‘compositions’ and encounter ambivalent technologies and their implications along the way.
Automatic Browser is an extension for Google Chrome that learns how you browse — then sit back, relax, and it will do the work for you, automatically visiting the sites you were probably going to look at anyway. It might even offer some improvements.
Join us to celebrate participatory culture in art and science at this year’s 17th annual Subtle Technologies Festival. Looking at art, science and DIY culture we will investigate the tools and techniques of harnessing collective knowledge and creativity. Our theme for 2014 is “Open Culture”. The festival will celebrate the ways artists and scientists are creating and making use of tools and techniques to harness the collective power, knowledge and creativity of the citizen. Bringing together artists and scientists who are working in these domains will open streams of dialogue leading to increased collaboration between artists and scientists who are interested in contribution of an engaged public.
Val Alen Institute + ISSUE Project Room The Imprint of the City
Spring 2014 Events Launch
Friday, May 9, 7:30pm—9:00pm
How does the physical and sensory richness of the city shape who we are—for worse or for better?
To launch Van Alen Institute’s Spring 2014 Events, the Institute and ISSUE Project Room present a fast-paced medley of music, poetry, personal reflections, conversations, and performances by designers, artists, musicians, writers, social scientists, and others exploring the meaning of well-being, and the effects of the city on our minds and bodies.
Contributions by: Vito Acconci, designer; Diana Balmori, Landscape and Urban Designer; Kai-Uwe Bergmann, Partner, Business Development at BIG; Mindy Thompson Fullilove, Professor of Clinical Psychiatry and Professor of Clinical Sociomedical Sciences at Columbia University; Ariane Lourie Harrison, principal of Harrison Atelier and a critic and lecturer at the Yale School of Architecture; Seth Harrison, principal of Harrison Atelier and founder of Apple Tree Partners; media artist Brian House; poet Rachel Levitsky; artist, designer and founder of The Center for Urban Pedagogy Damon Rich; Associate Professor of Architectural History and Theory at Pratt Institute’s School of Architecture, Meredith TenHoor; modular synthesizer artist Ben Vida; and musician C. Spencer Yeh.