Experiments In Motion Blog

The Curator's Blog

7/25/2014
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theenergyissue:

The Industrial Sublime: Edward Burtynsky’s Manufacturated Landscapes

Using photos and videos from photographer Edward Burtynsky's trip through China, Jennifer Baichwal created a feature length documentary which surveys the landscapes that have been altered by large-scale human activity. Manufactured Landscapes portrays these industrial terrains with very little commentary, allowing the viewer to focus on the contents of the images. Burtynsky’s photos, which combine vast scales, high resolution, and repetition, reveal environments that seem too large and too complex to fully grasp. Indeed, a sense of the sublime, and the uneasy tension between beauty and horror it invokes, is a continuous strain throughout Burtynsky’s work. The images raise questions about the interplay of environmental ethics and aesthetics, and ask Western viewers to consider their complicity in a industrial culture on which their societies rely.

 
7/24/2014
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theenergyissue:

Rain Dances of the Jemez Pueblo

The rain dances of the Jemez Pueblo people are documented in a 1947 film from Dudley Pictures Corporation’s “This Land is Ours” series of educational travelogues. Rain dances are a form of weather modification that span a number of cultures across the world. The ritual has deep historical roots and is still practiced in areas, including Zimbabwe, Slovakia, and Native American communities. While many Native American rituals involved only men, the rain dance was unique in that women also participated—an indication of the importance of rain to the entire community. The dance was more common to Native American tribes who lived in dry, Southwestern regions which received little rain. Indeed, the Pueblos, who have historically resided in a very arid region of New Mexico, have a particularly intricate rain dance. 

 
7/24/2014
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theenergyissue:

Fritz Kahn: Man as Machine and the Birth of Infographics

Fritz Kahn (1888–1968) was a German physician and prolific popular science writer known for pioneering infographics. He wrote on a range of topics, from the Milky Way to the atom, and often used startling metaphors, both verbal and visual, to make complex principles of nature and technology comprehensible to layman readers. In The Life of Man, an encyclopedic work of 1600 pages and 1200 illustrations, Kahn depicts biology as industrial and mechanical processes. Adopting avant-garde visual techniques and contemporary styles like Neue Sachlichkeit, Dada, Surrealism, and Constructivist photomontage, he draws comparisons between the energetic processes of the human body and those of automobiles, buildings, electric lights, furnaces, and more.

 
7/23/2014
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theenergyissue:

Nam June Paik’s “Lake Placid ‘80”

Nam June Paik (1932–2006) was a Korean American artist considered to be the founder of video art. Working at the cusp of a new era of telecommunications and digital technology, Paik’s video sculptures, installations, performances and single-channel videos captured the emerging links between the artworld and the media, pop culture and the avant-garde, and technology and philosophy. With the irreverent and playful sensibility of the Fluxus art group, he captured the frenetic energy of global communications in vibrantly textured audio and visual collages, combining emblematic motifs of Pop iconography, international avant-garde figures, multicultural performances and media appropriations. By literally manipulating the hardware of electronic media—most notably, televisions—Paik creates psychedelic and jarring distortions that tap into the kinetic energy embedded in telecommunications devices. In ”Lake Placid ‘80,” a piece commissioned for the 1980 Olympic Winter Games, Paik juxtaposes fragmented, accelerated and colorized imagery of high-performance sports, the dancers from Global Groove, and heat-seeking missiles with an audio reel of “Devil with a Blue Dress On.” The hyperbolic pace and rhythm of this energetic “music video” ends with Paik’s computer-graphic version of the Olympic logo superimposed over a chanting Allen Ginsberg.

 
7/23/2014
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theenergyissue:

Takashi Murakami’s Jellyfish Eyes: Sci-Fi, Anime, and Fukushima

Known for blurring the line between high and low arts, Japanese artist Takashi Murakami combines pointed critiques of post-war Japan with a colorful pop aesthetic. Indeed, his prints have adorned Louis Vuitton purses but also make regular appearances at Sotheby’s and international galleries and museums. He coined the term “superflat” to describe the two-dimensional quality of Japanese artsa characteristic of everything from wood block prints to manga—and the superficial nature of post-war Japanese culture and society. “Superflat” is also used as a moniker to describe Murakami’s own artistic style and that of other Japanese artists he has influenced. Jellyfish Eyes (2013) represents Murakami’s first foray into feature-length film, and it explores post-Fukushima Japan and the uneasy, ongoing relationship with nuclear energy in Japanese culture. Taking elements from sci-fi, traditional Japanese daikaju monster films like Godzilla, anime, and Japanese notions of kawaii, or “cuteness,” Murakami examines how his society has “flattened” serious questions, concerns, and fears into these “childish” cultural phenomena. In the film, schoolchildren are bestowed with Pokémon-like monster companions that they can summon with their cell phones. Unbeknownst to them, however, the nearby nuclear plant is harvesting their data and negative energy through these “F.R.I.E.N.D.s” to create a monstrous agent of destruction. As Murakami notes, this uneasy relationship with energy reflects a fraught reality:

Even now that popular sentiment has largely turned against nuclear energy, we still cannot stop its use. I can’t help but feel that this dilemma is much like that of a country that wants to end a war but cannot.

 
7/22/2014
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theenergyissue:

Masdar City, Abu Dhabi: Eco-City of the Future

Located in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, Masdar City is planned city envisioned as an “arcology”: a self-sufficient, very densely populated habitat in which individual human environmental impact is minimized. A portmanteau of “ecology” and “architecture,” the term was coined and popularized by architect Paolo Soleri. Though he went on to influence generations of architects through his writings, drawings and models, Soleri was only able to partially realize his visions in the experimental town of Arcosanti in Arizona. Masdar City, which began construction in 2006, appears to finally promise the realization of Soleri’s arcology concept, albeit without the architect’s distinct formal treatment. Designed by the British architectural firm Foster and Partners, the city is being built at a cost of $18 billion by Masdar, a subsidiary of Mubadala Development Company, with the majority of seed capital provided by the Government of Abu Dhabi. As the world’s most ambitious eco-city, Masdar relies on solar energy provided by a 22-hectare field of 87,777 solar panels and other renewable energy sources. It will hold 40,000 residents in only two square miles and has replaced cars with driverless electric vehicles. Patrick Kingsley adds in Wired that the design of the walls of the buildings has helped reduce demand for air conditioning by 55 percent. In addition, sensors have replaced light switches, cutting electricity consumption by 51 percent, and water usage by 55 percent. The city is designed to be an internationl hub for cleantech companies, and its first tenant, the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, has been operating in the city since 2010. As Kingsley notes, “Masdar is slowly helping to change attitudes about renewable energy and climate change in the Gulf and the Maghreb,” and may become the unexpected role model for sustainability in a region long-reliant on its oil reserves.

 
7/22/2014
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theenergyissue:

Shell Prelude: The First Floating Liquified Natural Gas (FLNG) Platform

Prelude FLNG is the world’s first floating liquefied natural gas platform, due to be completed in 2017. The Prelude is being built by Samsung Heavy Industries in South Korea for Royal Dutch Shell oil and gas corporation. It is 488 metres (1,601 ft) long, 74 metres (243 ft) wide, and utilizes more than 260,000 tonnes of steel, making it the largest offshore facility ever constructed. In operation, it would weigh more than 600,000 tonnes; more than five times the weight of the largest aircraft carrier. As an FLNG plant, the Prelude handles all the processes involved in capturing, processing, and storing liquid natural gas. Each year, 2.9 million tons of natural gas will be extracted from wells and liquified (by chilling it to –162°C) before being offloaded onto smaller ships that bring it back to the mainland. By removing the need for long pipelines to land-based LNG processing plants, FLNGs are predicted to ultimately reduce costs. The Prelude FLNG system will be used in the Prelude and Concerto gas fields in the Browse Basin off the coast of Australia, where it will remain for about 25 years. As Damon Lavrinc notes in Wired, due to the area’s turbulent seas, the system, using a 305-foot-tall turret that runs through the ship and into the seafloor, is also designed to withstand Category 5 hurricanes. Despite the costs of mounting such a massive project, however, FLNG is considered by many industry experts to be a “game-changer” as unconventional oil and gas begin to rapidly replace conventional fossil fuels as the world’s predominant energy source.

 
7/22/2014
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theenergyissue:

Gansu Wind Farm is the World’s Largest

Though the project will not be fully completed until 2020, Gansu Wind Farm in the northwest province of Gansu in China is already the world’s largest. Begun in 2009, the farm has a capacity of 5,160 MW, five times greater than that of the next two largest wind farms, Jaisalmer Wind Farm in India and Alta Wind Energy Center in California. By the time of completion, it is expected to have grow to 20,000 megawatts at an estimated cost of 120 billion Chinese yuan ($17.5 billion). The project, which is being built by more than 20 developers, is one of six national wind power megaprojects approved by the Chinese government. Gansu reflects a larger move to invest heavily in renewables, a surprising turn for a country often associated with pollution, rapid industrialization, and short-sighted planning. In fact, though China, likely to surpass the United States as the world’s largest oil importer, accounted for one-third of the world’s growth in oil consumption in 2013, it is also the leader in renewable energy investment. As Jack Perkowski notes in Forbes, China spent a total of $56.3 billion on wind, solar and other renewable projects last year and is now home to about 24 percent of the world’s renewable power capacity.

 
7/21/2014
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theenergyissue:

Arcangelo Sassolino's Nitrogen-Powered “Afasia 1" Beer Bottle Gun

Italian artist Arcangelo Sassolino’s work focuses on industrial processes, exploring mechanical behaviors, materials and physical properties of energy and force. “Afasia 1,” housed inside a metal cage in the Palais de Tokyo, is a nitrogen-powered sculpture that shoots empty beer bottles against a wall every few minutes. Launched at 600km/hr, the bottles hit the gallery wall with a piercing crash, creating an unusual atmosphere of unease. By stripping kinetic processes down to a bare minimum and pushing them to their limits, Sassolini brings visitors into a space of intimate interaction with the visceral energy of mechanical forces. 

 
7/21/2014
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theenergyissue:

Cloud Seeding: Man-Made Rain

Cloud seeding, a form of weather modification, is the act of attempting to artificially induce or increase precipitation, usually to stave off drought. By dispersing substances into the air that serve as cloud condensation or ice nuclei, cloud seeding is meant to change the amount or type of precipitation that falls from clouds. The most common chemicals used for cloud seeding include silver iodide, potassium iodide and dry ice (solid carbon dioxide). Though the practice started as a fringe science in the 1940s, it entered the mainstream with Operation Popeye, a US military operation to increase rains over Vietnam during the Vietnam War in order to slow Vietnamese military truck activity in the region. While practiced widely around the worldnotably at the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympicsthe effectiveness of cloud seeding is still a matter of academic debate. Rainmaking in general has ancient roots and strong cultural significance in many societies around the world, and rain dances and other rituals are still practiced today in areas ranging from Zimbabwe to Slovakia. 

 
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About

This blog chronicles the project from the perspective of the curators. Be sure to follow the individual studio blogs for studio-specific updates, and the student blogs to follow individual's work.

Christopher Barley

Independent curator and partner in the firm Therrien Barley.

Troy Conrad Therrien

Partner in the firm Therrien Barley, and Chief Architect, Cloud Communication Software at Columbia GSAPP.

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