Posts tagged with "ant farm":

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What’s the state of inflatable architecture?

There’s been something of a renaissance lately in inflatable architecture. In the past few years alone, this ephemeral typology has been at Collective Design Fair, Performa 17, and the Park Avenue Armory. Inflatables emerged in the 1960s as a means of expressing dissatisfaction with established cultural norms about life, work, and society. They were seen as potentially revolutionary structures that allowed for experimentation with space in order to influence social, psychological, and physical cognition through the built environment. Inflatables were originally invented by the U.S. military with Cornell aeronautical lab engineer Walter Bird to deploy radio antennae in 1948. Bird, often referred to as the father of the field, is credited for taking this military technology and popularizing it in 1959 by collaborating with Paul Weidlinger on an inflatable roof for the Boston Arts Center Theater. In the ’60s and ’70s, when techno-optimism about the future reached its peak, Buckminster Fuller proposed a massive dome over Manhattan, while Frei Otto envisioned one to shelter 40,000 people in the Arctic Circle. What came next in "inflatotecture" was symptomatic of the counterculture era, which viewed it as a way to construct space for dissent and experimentation while taking advantage of lighter, stronger construction methods and new audiovisual technologies. Ant Farm, a San Francisco–based architecture studio, designed inexpensive and disposable structures out of vinyl for counterculture “happenings,” and anyone attending them could buy the group’s Inflatocookbook, a comic detailing step-by-step how to make one’s own enclosure (a practice common among collectives to disseminate information and design about inflatables). Other contemporaries included the U.K.'s Archigram, Italy's Archizoom, and Germany-based Haus-Rucker-Co.—all of whom envisioned inflatable architecture as a way to explore theories about spatial production, social organization, and consumption. Experimental inflatable architecture continues to be a form that designers use to examine contemporary social problems and to radically play with form and space for its own sake. The following projects stretch the medium to its limits, showing how the next generation of inflatables can generate new experiences. Jesse Seegers Looking to practice new forms of architecture outside of the traditionally accepted profession, New York-based designer Jesse Seegers employs the term “spatial practice,” a framework to create structures that draw from architectural knowledge but are equally related to other disciplines. For example, the Potlatch Pavilion was an ethereal inflatable for a gift exchange party, referencing the Pacific Northwest indigenous American tradition where one’s status is derived from how much you can give away, rather than how much wealth you possess. Here, the inflatable was deployed to “construct alternative systems of political economy.” Seegers’s recent projects include a temporary yoga space called Yoga Dome, which premiered at the opening of Sky Ting Yoga; an installation at a Pioneer Works exhibition on Ant Farm; a concert backdrop for musician SOPHIE’s live tour; and an inflatable landscape for musician Oneohtrix Point Never’s M.Y.R.I.A.D. concert at New York’s Park Avenue Armory. In 2017, Seegers helped French, Los Angeles–based architect François Perrin bring Reyner Banham and François Dallegret’s 1965 conceptual drawing The Environment Bubble to life as a site-specific installation for dance workshops in Brooklyn Bridge Park and Central Park as part of Performa 17. Alex Schweder “An inflatable space in process speaks to the bodies we have. It’s a fleshier, time-based architecture,” said Alex Schweder. The self-proclaimed performance architect began working with inflatables in 2005 at the American Academy in Rome, where his first blow-up installation, Sick Building Sequence, encapsulated feathers floating inside of a translucent plastic “room.” Since then, his inflatables have traversed Collective Design Fair, Tel Aviv Museum of Art, the Venice Architecture Biennale, Tate Britain, and Performa 17. These include a “room” with photosensitive fur, an inflatable hotel inside of a cherry picker, a floor-to-ceiling mass that collapses and expands into and away from itself, and a spiderlike robot that inflates and deflates to reconfigure space on a dance floor. What’s next? Schweder is working with a team of international artists on a traveling show that responds to László Moholy-Nagy’s Mechanized Eccentric, which will debut at the Bauhaus 100th anniversary next year. Seattle Design Nerds Formed in 2014 as a volunteer nonprofit organization dedicated to designing for the public realm, the group is officially the Seattle-based chapter of the international Design Nerds Society. Known for their inflatables, Seattle Design Nerds is a multidisciplinary collab started by Jeremy Reeding and Trevor Dykstra. The pair works with other local architects, designers, and artists on public interest projects to “make Seattle a little more awesome.” True to their mission, Reeding and Dykstra’s first inflatable was a large-scale installation for the 2014 Seattle Design Festival Block Party, a pop-up space shaped like a giant monster and filled with random objects for play. The team veered into the conceptual realm with The Gas Trap, a performance work where a car's tailpipe seemingly fills the inflatable to illustrate our dependence on gasoline. Last year they dreamed up an installation at the Seattle Art Museum's Olympic Sculpture Park composed of eight cuddly, inflatable orbs that change color when bopped. For the 2017 Seattle Design Festival Block Party, the group envisioned an illuminated inflatable mural crafted by visitors at the event with Velcro pixels. Their latest work for Cooper Hewitt’s Design with the Other 90% features a giant egg-shaped inflatable that will debut at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Discovery Center in Seattle in mid-September. Nicolas KK A young Nicolas KK grew up in Brazil in a family of hot air ballooners. From these beginnings, he developed an innate understanding and appreciation of the form. Putting his “family stuff” to good use, he started making his own blow-ups while studying industrial design at the Maryland Institute College of Art. That trajectory has continued through collaboration with digital, audio, and light artists in a shared studio in Bushwick, Brooklyn, called Future Space. Inspired by the inflatables of the 1960s and ’70s, Nicolas KK produces experimental structures by applying his expertise in computational design. His digitally driven experimental performance pieces create “dynamic” qualities and always include a programmable element that directly responds to existing digital infrastructures or naturally occurring biomimetic systems. Nicolas KK plans to study Integrative technologies and architectural design research at the University of Stuttgart in Germany, where he will continue to work with inflatables and collaborate with other artists on projects that respond to the emerging computational environment. In December, New York's New Museum will debut his work in an online exhibition described as “the original live desktop theater internet television show.” Pneuhaus Matt Muller, Augie Lehrecke, and Levi Bedall spearhead the Rhode Island-based design collective Pneuhaus dedicated to the mastery of all things inflatable, specifically spatial designs, temporary structures, contemporary art, and large-scale installations. It all started at Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) in 2014 when Muller and Lehrecke designed a handful of different inflatables inspired by Art Farm’s Inflatocookbook. The university hired them to continue to explore those ideas and design a space for the school’s annual design conference. Soon after, Beddall joined Muller and Lehrecke when they got their first professional commision to design-build and perform a circus for the RISD Museum. Since then, the trio has imagined transient spaces for Spotify, Burning Man, and Brown University. Ranging from inflatable fabric prisms built around the fundamental properties of light to inflatables outfitted with pinhole cameras, their growing list of projects develop as iterations of previous works. Their most recent project, Compound Camera no. 2, is a new iteration of the pinhole camera inflatable dome as a giant tunnel at the LUMA Projection Arts Festival in Binghamton, New York.
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A pneumatic “Antepavilion” sets sail in London

A great golden gourd has materialized on Regents Canal in northeast London. For the next eight days, the inflatable creation will touch down at five different venues along the canal from Hackney Wick to Kings Cross, where it will invite local artists into its soft, playful belly to host live concerts, improvised comedy, and spoken word poetry, among other events. “AirDraft” by architects Thomas Randall-Page and Benedetta Rogers is the winning submission for this year’s Antepavilion: an annual competition co-organized by the Architecture Foundation and Shiva Ltd. to produce a public installation on the Hoxton Docks. Established just last year, the initiative has already made a splash as an experimental counter-weight to the more commercially-minded Serpentine Pavilion. By providing an opportunity for younger artists, architects, and designers to create a temporary structure on a modest budget of $32,000 (£25,000), the Antepavilion is a playful foray into new means of living and working together, with a critical edge. Last year’s winning entry by PUP architects—a rooftop hut disguised as an industrial air duct to subvert planning permission—set a bold precedent for AirDraft, which has nonetheless emerged as a true successor in the Antepavilion’s evolving ambition. For Antepavilion 2018, Randall-Page and Rogers have flown the coop of the Hoxton Docks. Their bulbous creation embraces the sinuous, unregulated vibrancy of the canal as an inflatable performance venue. Working in collaboration with Cameron Balloons, the Bristol-based purveyor of balloons, blimps, and other oxygenized joys, alongside London-based structural engineer AKT II, the pneumatic vessel emits a permanent golden aura that is highly conducive to flattering selfies. “More butternut squash than phallus,” according to Randall-Page, AirDraft takes after the work of artist Jeffrey Shaw and the inflatable architecture aficionados of 1970s, Ant Farm. Seemingly torn out from the pages of Ant Farm’s DIY pneumatic manual, Inflatocookbook, AirDraft emerged from its intense 10-week gestation period with remarkably clear vision, complemented by an impressive attention to detail. The entire structure can be deflated in 12 minutes (re-inflation takes half as long), which makes crossing under the canal’s many bridges a breeze. Meanwhile, ventilation and centrifugal fans keep the butternut buoyant without stealing the spotlight from the performers: “The fans can be turned down during events,” explained Rogers. The sunny squash is a striking visual contrast to its local industrial surrounds, but its warm inflatable enclave also serves a deeper purpose as a temporary events space for London’s vibrant yet precarious canal culture. A short stroll or sail along Regents reveals a plethora of waterborne businesses and houseboats, as well as the countless galleries, studios, and grassroots venues clustering around its banks. But as rent continues to climb, licensing laws tighten, and some fear the London houseboat dream is at risk of drying up, the AirDraft intends to “flag the importance of cultural institutions in danger,” according to Randall-Page. As part of their winning proposal, Randall-Page and Rogers organized an onboard event program that draws upon local (sub)cultural institutions, from theatre venues to nightclubs. Their eclectic list of collaborators includes Total Refreshment Centre, a staple of London’s emergent underground jazz scene that was forced into closure earlier this summer by Hackney Council. “If being able to pop-up and disappear is a way around these regulations, that’s great,” consents Randall-Page. “But we shouldn’t really have to seek out these loopholes in the first place.” With a “boat for a mother and an airship for a father,” according to it design duo, AirDraft is an ebullient, if existentially troubled, intervention into Hackney’s canal culture. The 2018 Antepavilion reflects through its hybrid, flexible, intimate and informal structure all that is precious, unique, and worth saving about north-east London’s canal culture. While not for those prone to seasickness, what it lacks in vertebrae it more than makes up for in vibrancy.
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Ant Farm’s Chip Lord turns his sights on Miami for his latest installment of sea-level rise documentaries

This article appears in The Architect’s Newspaper’s April 2017 issue, which takes a deep dive into Florida to coincide with the upcoming AIA Conference on Architecture in Orlando (April 27 to 29). We’re publishing the issue online as the Conference approaches—click here to see the latest articles to be uploaded.

Video artist Chip Lord has made a career of pointing his lens at subjects he both admires and dislikes. In his early Sony Portapak experiments with the collectives Ant Farm, T.R. Uthco and TVTV, he critiqued but had fun with American subjects like car design, the Kennedy assassination, television news, and domestic habitation. His 1972 Ant Farm-designed House of the Century on Mojo Lake, Texas, both sends up the idea of a playful weekend party house in its male body design and the site of an installation of television monitors slithering out of the lake into the property of the house.

Today, Lord is creating video works that bring his architect-trained sensibility to various cities facing issues of sustainability and rising sea levels including Venice Underwater, New York Underwater and next year a project about Phoenix, Arizona. Now he has created an urban portrait of the American city most immediately facing the issues of rising tides: Miami Beach. His Miami Beach Elegy focuses on the massive investment required to keep the city above water both for residents and its important tourist industry. The video focuses on the physical investment required to maintain the sea level metropolis—like a child building a sand castle that is wiped away by the tide, and a jolly convention of real estate agents as they celebrate selling property in a sinking city.

Miami Beach Elegy will premiere at the Rena Bransten Gallery in San Francisco, May 11 to May 13.

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How art and architecture hit the water in the 1960s and beyond

In 2005, a group of Brooklyn artists working under a loose collaborative called “Bruce High Quality Foundation” (BHQF) fashioned a small boat with a single replica of one of Christo and Jean-Claude’s bright orange post-and-lintel Central Park “gates.” They then motored around Manhattan, orange gate fabric flapping in the wind, as they chased another large-scale work of art: Robert Smithson’s Floating Island to Travel Around Manhattan, which the artist had conceived 35 years earlier, but was realized posthumously in 2005. Here, Smithson recasts Central Park as a detached, unreachable fragment of the city, floating counterintuitively around the island that keeps it landlocked. The reformation of Central Park as an island reframes not only the natural environment of the park but also its relationship to the city, and the city itself. This absurdist scenario—a small motorboat trailing a landscaped barge behind a tugboat—is the jumping off point of the catalogue for Andrea Grover’s Radical Seafaring, which recently closed at the Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill, NY. Grover told The Architect's Newspaper (AN) that she was “born to curate this show,” because “my father started out as a commercial fisherman in the late 1930s and then ran a marina for 50-plus years. My mother was a painter and a sculptor. The two sensibilities merged in my childhood. In 1985 my father crossed the North Atlantic in an outboard-powered boat of his own design, and my mother helped him create some of the safety features that helped him survive the nearly 3,000-mile journey.” The catalogue is a gorgeous silver edition that, like the BHQF’s affection for Smithson, connects the radical water-based art and architecture of the 1960s and 70s with today’s contemporary seafarers. It shows the works indexically, with accompanying essays that elucidate the four categories:

Exploration (the quest for new experiences, the ineffable, and living in an exhilarated state), Liberation (self-reliance, freedom from terrestrial social contracts, the desire to shape one’s world, and utopian (impulses), Fieldwork (hands-on, methodological intelligence gathering about the environment, such as an artist laboratory at sea), and Speculation (waterways as a tabula rasa on which other realities can be built).

Within these headers is a collection of architectural works that have taken maritime themes, from large-scale housing projects to a structure that would facilitate humans' diplomatic relations with marine life. Conceptually, the show has a range of connections to architecture. All of the categories deal with the sea as a new territory where we can redefine ourselves and how we relate to one another and nature. It is not only defined by a different ground plane (water), but also by a different set of rules due its extra-legal, non-sovereign state. Once outside of the limits of “the law of the land,” new possibilities arise from this tabula rasa condition. Dutch studio Atelier van Lieshout (AVL) built a floating abortion clinic for Women on Waves, a Dutch health nonprofit that provides reproductive health services to women in countries with restrictive laws. A-Portable was a gynecological unit that helped women from Ireland, Morocco, Poland, Portugal, and Spain. The Brooklyn collective Mare Liberum takes its name from the 1609 treatise by Dutch jurist and philosopher Hugo Grotius that described the sea as “one of the last free spaces in this densely occupied urban landscape.” The artists channel Grotius as they work to explore and inhabit New York City’s waterways and waterfronts, the last open spaces where the artists feel they can be marginal and ambiguously outside of civilization. An essay by Dylan Gauthier, a founding member of Mare Liberum, can be found in the front of the book and elucidates how the collective’s two-year occupation of a yacht on the Gowanus Canal was possible due to ambiguous law and overlapping bureaucracies. The group is experimenting with new territories and space-making outside of the traditional realm of architecture or urbanism. Mare Liberum’s work also provokes new ways of living, as does Buckminster Fuller’s proposal for Triton City in Baltimore, where large housing blocks would be built on autonomous ships, and anchored in the ground. The 100,000 units were stacked like blocks within a large superstructure. If this sounds like Metabolism, it is because Fuller and Japanese architect Shoji Sadao originally designed the project for Tokyo Bay, typical of other water-based architectures of the 1950s and 1960s in Japan. When its client died, the team was commissioned by HUD and President Lyndon Johnson. It never was realized, despite being verified by the U.S. Navy as fit for building. The model is now on view at the Johnson Presidential Library. Building out onto the water is a popular proposal these days, as Diller’s Island in New York and the Garden Bridge in London compete for most controversial territory. Also projecting new forms of interaction is Ant Farm’s Dolphin Embassy. The speculative underwater diplomatic center was conceived for exploring interspecies communication. This dolphin research platform DOLØN EMB 1 took multiple iterations, as it grew from a simple catamaran-like vessel to a futuristic, technology-driven vessel called Oceania. While the group published numerous articles and received grants for the research, the project was abandoned when they broke up in 1978. The architectural works in the show fit in well, as they are the spatial manifestation of the pioneering and experimental attitude of the whole exhibition. The works by Pedro Reyes, Mary Mattingly, and Dennis Oppenheim could easily have been included in an architectural survey, because of the territorial and social implications of the art that blur the distinctions between architecture and performance. In a way, getting in a boat is an architectural act and a performance at the same time. This speaks to not only the breadth of the Radical Seafaring catalogue but also to its aesthetic and conceptual clarity.
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Never-before-seen works from Ant Farm and LST to go on display in Brooklyn

Opening September 9 this year at Pioneer Works in Brooklyn is an exhibition that will display time capsules from the former San Francisco-based design studio Ant Farm and its contemporary successor LST. Titled The Present Is the Form of All Life: The Time Capsules of Ant Farm and LST, the exhibition will present an interactive media sculpture as well as a chronology of Ant Farm's time capsule works spanning from 1969-75. LST, comprising Ant Farm’s core members Curtis Schreier and Chip Lord as well as Bruce Tomb, have created a large inflatable structure for the exhibition. The structure, according to a press release, "explores the mutable nature of time perception, media obsolescence, and our shifting cultural attitudes toward preservation, consumer objects and privacy." Typical of the Ant Farm vernacular, the structure and the exhibition touches on utopian dreams and counterculture movements.
Inside the inflatable will be a re-invisioning of Ant Farm's famed Media Van. While set to be nostalgic, the exhibition will present Ant Farm's work from the perspective of their shortcomings. In addition to this, much of the group's never seen before archival works are also set to be displayed. An undated video of Tomb, Schreier, Lord and Paul Rauschelbach inside the van and discussing its functions can be seen here.The exhibition will be also feature a series of lectures from the artists, classes taught through Pioneer Works’ education department, as well as a book: The Present is the Form of All Life: The Time Capsules of Ant Farm and LST.  “Over the course of five decades, and specifically through their time capsule works, Ant Farm and LST have routinely transcended disciplinary boundaries and, through experimentation, pioneered new artistic mediums that challenge viewers to think differently” said exhibition co-curator and Pioneer Works Director Gabriel Florenz in a press release. “Transcending boundaries and encouraging experimentation are at the heart of Pioneer Works' mission. Through this exhibition, we celebrate and hope to learn from those who established the practices and approaches that our organization strives to foster through a diverse range of programs.” The Present Is the Form of All Life: The Time Capsules of Ant Farm and LST will run through October 21 of this year and was co-curated by Liz Flyntz. See here for more details.