But what I didn't know back in October was that the Eameses' multiscreen projection inside the IBM Pavilion at the 1964 World's Fair was also called "Think" (of course the "Think" slogan had been in use within IBM since the 20s). Nor did I realize, from simply looking at photos of the 1964 exhibition, just how similar its design and rhetorical strategies were to those employed in THINK 47 years later.
[caption id="attachment_3714" align="alignleft" width="170"] People Wall[/caption]
1964 had the People Wall, which required visitors to prop themselves up awkwardly "in a pose of heightened attention and readiness" (Harwood 190), while 2011's gallery required us to stand amidst pods of monolithic screens, wondering which of their many faces we should strive to see. The People Wall rose 53 feet into the interior of the "Information Machine," whereas at THINK we descended a ramp, gathered in a foyer then were led into a pitch-black room; both were altitude-altering "rites of passage" leading to a disorienting space. And both offered multi-screen extravaganzas: The Information Machine featured 15 screens of various shapes and sizes mounted on the curved wall, while the 2011 gallery contained 40 seven-foot screens rising from the floor.
[caption id="attachment_3717" align="alignnone" width="440"] via http://yaelod.wordpress.com/2011/10/02/ibm-think/[/caption]
Harwood says that the Information Machine...
...displaced the spectator, several times over. First, deprived of any sense of direction by the labyrinth stairs, then set in bleachers without a point of reference, then lifted into the ovoid, and at last fragmenting and multiplying her point
The Forgotten Space Trailer from The Forgotten Space on Vimeo.
It's no small feat to convey the unfathomable complexity and overlapping scales of global capitalism -- and, in the process, to portray this actor-network as simultaneously gorgeous and hideous, as sublime. The film does precisely this.
We might say that The Forgotten Space unearths the physical and virtual "skeleton" of global transit and trade -- so we'll transition into our third theme: bones.
Last month I attended part of the Forensic Aesthetics conference, co-organized by the Vera List Center, Goldsmiths, Bard, and Cabinet. Here's the official explanation for this provocatively titled event:
...[T]he emergence of forensics in legal forums and popular entertainment signifies a new attention to the communicative capacity, agency, and power of things. This material approach is evident in the ubiquitous role that science and technologies now play in shaping contemporary ways of seeing, knowing, and communicating. Today’s legal and political decisions are often based upon the capacity to display and read DNA samples, 3D laser scans, nanotechnology, and the enhanced vision of electromagnetic microscopes and satellite surveillance. From mass graves to retinal scans, the topography of the seabed to the remnants of destroyed buildings, forensics is not only about the diagnostics, but also about the rhetoric of persuasion. The aesthetic dimension of forensics includes its means of presentation, the theatrics of its delivery, the forms of image and gesture. The forensic aesthetics of the present carries with it grave political and ethical implications, spreading its impact across socioeconomic, environmental, scientific, and cultural domains (via).
I missed the first evening's events, a panel on osteobiographies (which would've made for a lovely transition into my fourth theme, material biographies -- but alas) at Cabinet, but I was able to enjoy the first two panels -- on "Forensic Architecture" and "Constructed Evidence" -- on Saturday. The concreteness of these two panels made them extraordinarily compelling. While Norman Weiss (a fantastic presenter!) talked about the restoration of Fallingwater, we held a piece of FLW concrete in our hands. While Arne Svenson discussed his portraits of forensic heads, Linda -- a bespectacled head with quite a head of hair -- stared at us from the center of the table. The set up of the conversations -- speakers surrounding a round table strewn with the objects under consideration; chalkboard at hand for impromptu illustrations; audience ringing the table -- made for a palpable intimacy befitting forensics' etymological connection to "the forum."
Arne's portraits also served as a means of constructing biographies for -- perhaps, as his gallery suggests, "bring[ing] back to life" -- unidentified victims whose only material existence is through the form of a sculpted head.
Which brings us, of course, to my fourth category: material biographies.
This week I saw three exhibitions that captured, through media of multiple formats, the intellectual and creative lives of three fascinating individuals. The Private Collection of Rauschenberg, on display at the uptown Gagosian, displays art-objects and memorabilia that Rauschenberg traded with, or was "gifted" by, his friends and colleagues. In the Times, Roberta Smith referred to the exhibition, appropriately, as a "self-portrait collage. Nearly every item here is a glimpse of a connection between Rauschenberg and the artists he felt close to, as well as the various aesthetic ancestors from past generations and across cultures that he wanted present in his life in some way." It's a touching show, and there's beautiful work here -- much of it by many of my own favorite artists. Cy Twombly drew "Bob" several portraits of flowers as an expression of thanks for his frequent hospitality. I found the musical scores, especially John Cage's Haiku, particularly beautiful.
And today I saw "Resonance: Looking for Mr. McLuhan" at the Pratt gallery near my office. McLuhan's own ideas were so expansive and encompassing that pretty much all art mediums could be said to illustrate one of his "probes." Perhaps for this reason, the show didn't gel for me. It contained some interesting work (I can't not appreciate text or typographic art, and there was some of that here), but it relied a bit too heavily on some McLuhan cliches -- there were quite a few references to the TV set as form -- and was so wide-ranging that it needed a little more contextualization.