Wednesday, December 30. 2015
Note: could a perfect ending for this year be this post about (yet another) new exhibition (in Boston)? It is about the fantastic, the radical and the utopian Black Mountain College in North Carolina that became an important school for a large part of the post-war avant-garde in the United States/East coast.
It was an "adventure in progressive education" which points again how schools, when they remain "wild" enough, can become important structures to crystalize creative energies and momentum (and that is therefore also logically listed in Beatriz Colomina's research project about historical "Radical Pedagogies" in architecture).
Via MIT Press
"Leap Before You Look: Black Mountain College 1933-1957," an exhibition currently showing at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston, focuses on how Black Mountain College (BMC) became a seminal meeting place for many of the artists, musicians, poets, and thinkers who would become the principal practitioners in their fields of the postwar period. "Leap Before You Look," the first exhibition in the US to examine BMC as a hotbed for the American avant garde, opened on October 10, 2015 and will show through January 24, 2016. Senior Production Coordinator Christine Savage recently checked it out and shares the following insights:
The story of Black Mountain College (BMC) serves as an excellent reminder of how brilliant, prolific, and innovative people can be. The school was an idyll, an embodiment of a progressive, collaborative, utopian future. The college was also an absolute anomaly, and serves possibly as an even better reminder of how rarely we come together to achieve such promise.
If only it hadn’t gone broke and closed after only 24 years.
“Leap Before You Look: Black Mountain College 1933-1957” is a remarkable exhibit that does a wonderful job of illustrating BMC’s proud stature among the great artistic moments in the last century. The collection features music and dance performances, as well as over 200 pieces of artwork created at the college. A history of the school and the art created there can be found in the MIT Press book, Black Mountain College: Experiment in Art edited by Vincent Katz, which documents the brief—but influential—existence of the school, and offers a fascinating glimpse of campus life.
BMC was a tiny school with a disproportionate influence on art and culture in the 20th century. (A partial—yet still absurdly impressive—list of artists who taught and studied there includes Willem and Elaine de Kooning, Robert Rauschenberg, Josef and Anni Albers, Jacob Lawrence, Ruth Asawa, Merce Cunningham, John Cage, Cy Twombly, Kenneth Noland, Vera B. Williams, Franz Kline, Buckminster Fuller, Francine du Plessix Gray, Charles Olson, Robert Creeley, Dorothea Rockburne, and Walter Gropius.)
Founded in 1933 at a former summer camp with 22 students in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, BMC was an adventure in progressive education. Less an art school than a perpetually broke experimental liberal arts college, the program’s philosophy centered around the belief that artistic experience was instrumental to all aspects of learning and grew students into better—and more curious—democratic citizens. Fortunately for art lovers the world around, BMC’s college life and curriculum revolved around the artistic process at a critical moment when American Progressivism combined with European Modernism.
Photographs at the start of the exhibit show the communal, egalitarian style of living and working at the school. The faculty owned and operated the college, and governed it together with students. In the early 1930s, sweat equity was more useful than tuition—they grew their own food, cooked their own meals, and built their own classrooms.
The founders of BMC kicked off their utopian educational experiment by hiring Bauhaus artists Josef and Anni Albers, who brought with them a healthy dose of enthusiasm for communal idealism and experimentation. These values remain evident in the profoundly interdisciplinary art created at the college during its brief existence, spanning painting, sculpture, ceramics, textiles, poetry, dance, music, and theater.
The exhibit begins with the colorful geometric paintings and prints of Josef, and the striking, modernist weavings and jewelry of Anni. In nearby rooms, photographs and models showing Buckminster Fuller’s experimental architecture—and the oftentimes unsuccessful attempts at constructing it—sit in conversation with the geometric and organic drawings and sculptures of Ruth Asawa, as well as the vibrant, expressionistic paintings of Elaine and Willem de Kooning and Franz Kline.
Later in the exhibit, the artistic creations of Merce Cunningham, John Cage, and Robert Rauschenberg showcase the collaborative, bodily nature of the work at BMC. Displays and performances using their choreography, music, and set decorations—schedules of which are available on the ICA website—allow museum visitors to share in an experience that, well, grew from shared experience.
As one might expect from the school’s summer camp beginnings, it was a perfect storm of intense closeness, idealism, freedom, and collaboration. Throughout the ICA’s galleries, the works of art from BMC seem to speak to each other, and to be in their presence is to get a glimpse of how their creators exemplified the school’s motto of “learning through doing.”
It’s an education in the importance of experimentation and exposure to difference, and a chance for (oft-maligned) utopian idealism—however short-lived—to get a little vindication.
Monday, December 21. 2015
Gramazio Kohler celebrates 10 years of research in digital fabrication at ETHZ in a video | #digitalfabrication #researchbydesign
Friday, October 02. 2015
The design research Inhabiting and Interfacing the Cloud(s) will be presented during the peer reviewed Renewable Futures Conference next week in Riga (Estonia), which will be the first edition of a serie that promiss to scout for radical approaches.
Christophe Guignard will introduce the participants to the stakes and the progresses of our ongoing experimental work. There will be profiled and inspiring speakers such as Lev Manovitch, John Thackara, Andreas Brockmann, etc.
Christophe Guignard will make a short “follow up” about the conference on this blog once he’ll be back from Riga.
Monday, September 28. 2015
Note: a book as a follow up of the exhibition for which fabric | ch designed the scenography last May at the Haus der elektronische Künste in Basel (project White Oblique, downloadable pdf on our website). I was implicated in a double way in the exhibition due to the fact that the content of the design research I'm jointly leading with Nicolas Nova for ECAL and HEAD, Inhabiting and Interfacing the Cloud(s), was also exhibited. I have the pleasure to publish a text in the book about the state and objectives of the ongoing research as well.
Note: we’re pleased to see that the publication related to the exhibition and symposium Poetics & Politics of Data, curated by Sabine Himmelsbach at the H3K in Basel, has been released later this summer. The publication, with the same title as the exhibition, was first distributed in the context of the conference Data Traces. Big Data in the Context of Culture and Society that also took place at H3K on the 3rd andf 4th of July.
The book contains texts by Nicolas Nova (Me, My cloud and I) and myself (Inhabiting and Interfacing the Cloud(s). An ongoing Design Research), but also and mainly contributions by speakers of the conference (which include the american theorician Lev Manovitch, curator Sabine Himmelsbach and Prof. researcher from HGK Basel Claudia Mareis) and exhibiting artists (Moniker, Aram Bartholl, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Jennifer Lyn Morone, etc.)
The publication serves both as the catalogue of the exhibition and the conference proceedings. Due to its close relation to our subject of research (the book speaks about data, we’re interested in the infrastructure –both physical and digital– that host them), we’re integrating the book to our list of relevant book. The article A short history of Clouds, by Orit Halpern is obviously of direct signifiance to our work.
It can be ordered directly from H3K website:
Wednesday, August 26. 2015
Hippie Modernism exhibition at the Walker Art Center to celebrate design's trippy side | #radical #experiments #counterculture
Note: In parallel with the exhibition about the work of E.A.T at the Museum der Moderne in Salzburg, another exhibition: Hippie Modernism: The Struggle for Utopia that will certainly be worth a detour at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis later this autumn.
The architecture and design of the counterculture era has been overlooked, according to the curator of an upcoming exhibition dedicated to "Hippie Modernism".
Yellow submarine by Corita Kent, 1967. Photograph by Joshua White
The radical output of the 1960s and 1970s has had a profound influence on contemporary life but has been "largely ignored in official histories of art, architecture and design," said Andrew Blauvelt, curator of the exhibition that opens at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis this autumn.
"It's difficult to identify another period of history that has exerted more influence on contemporary culture and politics," he said.
Superchair by Ken Isaacs, 1967
Women in Design: The Next Decade by Sheila Levrant de Bretteville, 1975. Courtesy of Sheila Levrant de Bretteville
While not representative of a formal movement, the works in Hippie Modernism challenged the establishment and high Modernism, which had become fully assimilated as a corporate style, both in Europe and North America by the 1960s.
The exhibition, entitled Hippie Modernism: The Struggle for Utopia will centre on three themes taken from taken from American psychologist and psychedelic drug advocate Timothy Leary's era-defining mantra: Turn on, tune in, drop out.
Organised with the participation of the Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive, it will cover a diverse range of cultural objects including films, music posters, furniture, installations, conceptual architectural projects and environments.
Hendrixwar/Cosmococa Programa-in-Progress, 1973. Courtesy of the Walker Art Center collection, Minneapolis
Jimi Hendrix, Ira Cohen, 1968. Photograph from the Mylar Chamber, courtesy of the Ira Cohen Archive
The Turn On section of the show will focus on altered perception and expanded individual awareness. It will include conceptual works by British avant-garde architectural group Archigram, American architecture collective Ant Farm, and a predecessor to the music video by American artist Bruce Conner – known for pioneering works in assemblage and video art.
Tune In will look at media as a device for raising collective consciousness and social awareness around issues of the time, many of which resonate today, like the powerful graphics of the US-based black nationalist party Black Panther Movement.
Untitled [the Cockettes] by Clay Geerdes, 1972. Courtesy of the estate of Clay Geerdes
Drop Out includes alternative structures that allowed or proposed ways for individuals and groups to challenge norms or remove themselves from conventional society, with works like the Drop City collective's recreation dome – a hippie version of a Buckminster Fuller dome – and Newton and Helen Mayer Harrison's Portable Orchard, a commentary on the loss of agricultural lands to the spread of suburban sprawl.
Environment Transformer/Flyhead Helmet by Haus-Rucker-Co, 1968. Photograph courtesy of Haus-Rucker-Co and Gerald Zugmann
The issues raised by the projects in Hippie Modernism – racial justice, women's and LGBT rights, environmentalism, and localism among many other – continue to shape culture and politics today.
Blauvelt sees the period's ongoing impact in current practices of public-interest design and social-impact design, where the authorship of the building or object is less important than the need that it serves.
Payne's Gray by Judith Williams, circa 1966. Photograph courtesy of the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery, The University of British Columbia
Superonda Sofa by Archizoom Associati, 1966. Photograph courtesy of Dario Bartolini, Archizoom Associati
Many of the exhibited artists, designers, and architects created immersive environments that challenged notions of domesticity, inside/outside, and traditional limitations on the body, like the Italian avant-garde design group Superstudio's Superonda: conceptual furniture which together creates an architectural landscape that suggests new ways of living and socialising.
Hello Dali by Isaac Abrams, 1965
Blauvelt sees the period's utopian project ending with the OPEC oil crisis of the mid 1970s, which helped initiate the more conservative consumer culture of the late 1970s and 1980s.
Organised in collaboration with the Berkeley Art Museum and the Pacific Film Archive, Hippie Modernism will run from 24 October 2015 to 28 February 2016 at the Walker Art Center.
Thursday, August 06. 2015
Note: we remain in history for a little more time... It's now Ken Isaacs' turn to be praised for his work around micro inhabitable spaces and living structures! I post this with the iodea in mind that his work could serve as reference for a future workshop next November at ECAL, probably with rAndom International as guests and when we'll continue to work around "cloud computing" and its infrastructure (datacenter), looking for counter-proposals or rather "counter-designs".
Via Object Guerilla
This week at work I picked up an old book, How to Build Your Own Living Structures, by Ken Isaacs, to read at lunch. I didn't finish it, so I brought it home. A little internet-ing revealed this book was out-of-print, rare, and selling for a good bit at various outlets. However, I think the copyright has lapsed, because it is available online as a PDF.
Isaacs was born in 1927 in Peoria, Illinois, and served in the military as a young man. After Korea, he studied architecture, and then began to craft a career as a designer, architect, and educator. In the late fifties, he became Head of Design at the Cranbrook Academy of Arts, birthplace of much notable mid-century modernism, including Eliel and Eero Saarinen Charles and Ray Eames, and Harry Weese. He also spent some time teaching at the Illinois Institute of Technology, founded by Mies van der Rohe as a sort of Bauhaus West.
Cover, via Pop-Up City.
Matrix-based "super chair." Nowadays, most of that stuff can be replaced with an iPad... The next iterative leap in the Matrix was to do away with the framing altogether. Isaacs developed rigid stress-skin structures, using plywood and "L" brackets to make cubes. The cubes were built in modules: 16", 24", and eventually, 48". Smaller units were used for storage; mid-size ones could serve as desks and chairs; and the large units became the first Micro-Houses.
The Micro-House, circa late 60s, via Pop-Up City. Isaacs had the same idea, but he designed a modular, flat-pack, lightweight, re-configurable system. Combining the original beam-based Matrix and the stud-less panel structures, he built 8-foot modules out of 1" steel pipe and inserted plywood volumes into the matrix. Taking the classic modernist approach -- divorcing structure and skin -- he came up with a cheap, versatile house. The First Microhouse, built with a Graham Foundation grant in Groveland, Illinois, (near Carbondale, home of fellow light structure pioneer Buckminster Fuller), looks dated in the photos, but also startlingly fresh. I love the raw, stark geometry of it, everything stripped down to the margins.
Another variation on the Microhouse -- it is infinitely reconfigurable. His 8' Microhouse is very of its era, but has nonetheless managed to inspire at least one modern imitator, in Glasgow. It creates an 8' volume based on a matrix of eight 4' volumes bolted together. The canted sides, tetrahedral feet, and hatch doors give it a real Apollo feel, minus the silvery skin.
The plywood stress-skin Microhouse. Throughout, wrapped in some seventies slang and general architectural hooliganism, Isaacs stresses pre-fabrication, modularity, simplicity, and off-the-shelf parts. None of the projects are particularly difficult to make with simple tools(a little time-consuming, perhaps). The book itself is a bit shambling, combining personal narrative, philosophical inquiry, and DIY instructions. In many ways, it seems like a blog, written with no caps and little editing. Some of the book sale listings I found online show the original as spiral-bound, in keeping with its guerilla nature.
They were eventually able to replace the department-store albatross with this number.
Friday, January 16. 2015
Note: we didn't found enough time last December to document an interview of fabric | ch that was publish in the French design magazine Étapes. So let's do it in early 2015... The magazine itself has been recently revamped under the direction of a new editorial board. It is now a quite exciting magazine, interested in transverval approaches to design questions, including interaction design, architecture, etc. even so its main and historical focus remains graphic design.
The interview that took place between Christophe Guignard (fabric | ch) and Isabelle Moisy (editor in chief, Étapes) concerns the specific approach to architectural design that fabric | ch has adopted through times. This approach has taken into account since our foundation (1997) the networked and digital natures of contemporary space and territories (landscapes) combined with the physical one. This last point was particularly evident in the fact that since the start, our group was composed of architects and computer scientists. Our work has of course evolved since 1997, but this "coded/data dimension" of space has obviously gained importance in our work and in general since then, it has also proved itslelf to become a major element in the conceptualization of spaces in our still early century.
By fabric | ch
From the "Édito":
"(...). En l'absence d'horizon précis, les supports de communication se superposent, et les designers débordent sans complexe des pratiques restrictives auxquelles ils ont été formés. Les qualificatifs se multiplient. Designer pluriel, transdiciplinaire. (...)". Isabelle Moisy
Friday, November 21. 2014
Note: a message from Matthew on Tuesday about his ongoing I&IC workshop. More resources to come there by the end of the week, as students are looking into many different directions!
Note: the workshop continues and should finish today. We'll document and publish results next week. As the workshop is all about small size and situated computing, Lucien Langton (assistant on the project) made a short tutorial about the way to set up your Pi. I'll also publish the Github repository that Matthew Plummer-Fernandez has set up.
The Bots are running! The second workshop of I&IC’s research study started yesterday with Matthew’s presentation to the students. A video of the presentation might be included in the post later on, but for now here’s the [pdf]: Botcaves
First prototypes setup by the students include bots playing Minecraft, bots cracking wifi’s, bots triggered by onboard IR Cameras. So far, some groups worked directly with Python scripts deployed via SSH into the Pi’s, others established a client-server connection between their Mac and their Pi by installing Processing on their Raspberry and finally some decided to start by hacking hardware to connect to their bots later.
The research process will be continuously documented during the week.
Connecting to Pi via Proce55ing
Wednesday, November 19. 2014
| rblg note: following my previous post about the design research project we are leading with Nicolas Nova, a workshop is going on this week at the ECAL with our guest contributor Matthew Plummer-Frenandez (aka #Algopop). I'll reblog here during the coming days what's happening on our parallel blog (iiclouds.org)
Note: I publish here the brief that Matthew Plummer-Fernandez (a.k.a. Algopop) sent me before the workshop he’ll lead next week (17-21.11) with Media & Interaction Design students from 2nd and 3rd year Ba at the ECAL.
This workshop will take place in the frame of the I&IC research project, for which we had the occasion to exchange together prior to the workshop. It will investigate the idea of very low power computing, situated processing, data sensing/storage and automatized data treatment (“bots”) that could be highly distributed into everyday life objects or situations. While doing so, the project will undoubtedly address the idea of “networked objects”, which due to the low capacities of their computing parts will become major consumers of cloud based services (computing power, storage). Yet, following the hypothesis of the research, what kind of non-standard networked objects/situations based on what king of decentralized, personal cloud architecture?
The subject of this workshop explains some recent posts that could serve as resources or tools for this workshop, as the students will work around personal “bots” that will gather, process, host and expose data.
Stay tuned for more!
Botcaves (by Matthew Plummer-Fernandez)
Algorithmic and autonomous software agents known as bots are increasingly participating in everyday life. Bots can potentially gather data from both physical and digital activity, store and share data in the ‘cloud’, and develop ways to communicate and learn from their databases. In essence bots can animate data, making it useful, interactive, visual or legible. Bots although software-based require hardware from which to run from, and it is this underexplored crossover between the physical and digital presence of bots that this workshop investigates.
You will be asked to design a physical ‘housing’ or ‘interface’, either bespoke or hacked from existing objects, for your personal bots to run from. These botcaves would be present in the home, workspace or other, permitting novel interactions between the digital and physical environments that these bots inhabit.
Raspberry Pis, template bot code, APIs, cloud storage, existing services (Twitter, IFTTT, etc) and physical elements (sensors, lights, cameras, etc) may be used in the workshop.
British/ Colombian Artist and Designer Matthew Plummer-Fernandez makes work that critically and playfully examines sociocultural entanglements with technologies. His current interests span algorithms, bots, automation, copyright, 3D files and file-sharing. He was awarded a Prix Ars Electronica Award of Distinction for the project Disarming Corruptor; an app for disguising 3D Print files as glitched artefacts. He is also known for his computational approach to aesthetics translated into physical sculpture.
For research purposes he runs Algopop, a popular tumblr that documents the emergence of algorithms in everyday life as well as the artists that respond to this context in their work. This has become the starting point to a practice-based PhD funded by the AHRC at Goldsmiths, University of London, where he is also a research associate at the Interaction Research Studio and a visiting tutor. He holds a BEng in Computer Aided Mechanical Engineering from Kings College London and an MA in Design Products from the Royal College of Art.
fabric | rblg
This blog is the survey website of fabric | ch - studio for architecture, interaction and research.
We curate and reblog articles, researches, writings, exhibitions and projects that we notice and find interesting during our everyday practice and readings.
Most articles concern the intertwined fields of architecture, territory, art, interaction design, thinking and science. From time to time, we also publish documentation about our own work and research, immersed among these related resources and inspirations.
This website is used by fabric | ch as archive, references and resources. It is shared with all those interested in the same topics as we are, in the hope that they will also find valuable references and content in it.
| rblg on Twitter