Sounding resonantly across the dimly lit atrium that houses the Queens Museum’s 1964 Panorama of the City of New York, the voice of Guadalupe Maravilla (born Irvin Morazán in San Salvador) shifted seamlessly between Spanish and English as he recounted a formative childhood experience: In 1984, he migrated from El Salvador to Texas to escape the violence of the Salvadorian Civil War. At ten years old, Maravilla had traveled without an adult save for the coyote who had been hired to escort them across the border. The performance was a crowning moment for an equally powerful exhibition, Mundos Alternos: Art and Science Fiction in the Americas, on view through August 18. Clad in a billowing polyester costume that cartoonishly mimicked a person being carried by a lime-green alien, Maravilla recited the monologue while accompanied by three other players, two of them dressed metallic silver bodysuits and faux taxidermied bear heads, and the third in a white balaclava and a cape adorned with sculpted rabbit heads. Such regalia is typical of Maravilla’s performances, which combine Mayan cosmologies with the artist’s personal history. For this performance—intended to “cleanse political phobias and blockages of New Yorkers”—the actors alternately sat, moved about, and chanted among the panorama’s rivers and bay, thereby enacting the title of the piece, Walk on Water. Bringing together over thirty Latin American and Latinx artists, Mundos Alternos focuses on works that engage the many allegorical lenses afforded by science fiction to examine the multitude of possibilities for the ongoing struggle of Latinx immigrant populations. The works on view encompass a sprawling array of mediums—from video, to sculpture, to installation—and take on an equally wide range of approaches to addressing the shared, thematic subjects of colonization, alienation, and diaspora. Curators Robb Hernández, Joanna Szupinska-Myers, and Tyler Stallings originally organized the exhibition for UCR ARTS at the University of California, Riverside, as part of the larger Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA presentation that opened in September 2017 and ran through January 2018. According to the Queens Museum’s website, they hope to extend the run of Mundos Alternos either within or outside of the U.S. in order to continue a “conversation about speculative aesthetics at a time when immigrant futures are facing a crossroads.” Among the many highlights of the presentation are a reading room where visitors can peruse classic and contemporary works of science fiction published in English and Spanish. Inside a small theater, Alex Rivera’s film Sleep Dealer (2008) is screened on a loop, which astutely revises the heroic protagonist tropes of Blade Runner and The Matrix to apply to the plight of migrant workers. Indeed, the exhibition is aptly divided into an array of physically and conceptually linked realms—or “constellations,” as the curators refer to them—where viewers are free to enter, peer into, or ignore a diverse array of interior spaces. The museum’s central, sky-lit foyer is dedicated to a kinetic sculpture by Chico MacMurtrie and Amorphic Robot Works (ARW) titled Organic Arches (Time Traveler) (2014/2017). Here, sixteen tendrils constructed from electric valves sheathed in diaphanous white fabric hang just above the floor. When “closed,” each cylinder is coiled into loops and the structure constitutes a static, impenetrable scaffold until it is activated at predetermined times, when a computer system slowly expands the contracted limbs of each tube. Extending into the archway of its title, the “opened” sculpture briefly allows visitors to pass through its ribcage-like tunnel before curling back into stasis. By far the most immersive work in the exhibition is Rigo 23’s multi-room installation, where manifestos of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation are scrawled among emblems of the movement, which take the form of snails, butterflies, balaclava-clad activists, and ears of corn. Queremos un mundo donde quepan muchos mundos, states one of the paintings hung in the final vitrine of the installation: “We want a world in which many worlds fit.” Maravilla’s July 21st Walk on Water performance came at an especially pertinent moment in the realm of New York cultural institutions; four days earlier, an Artforum Slant garnered widespread attention for calling on artists participating in the 2019 Whitney Biennial to withdraw their contributions to the exhibition as a form of protest against the museum’s refusal to remove billionaire Warren B. Kanders from their board of trustees. Kanders is the owner of Safariland Group, a distributor of law enforcement equipment including the brand of tear gas that has been used on Central American refugees attempting to cross the U.S.–Mexico border. By the time Maravilla entered the panorama in his human-alien costume, eight artists had demanded the removal of their work from the biennial, and tens of others had publicly advocated for Mr. Kanders’s resignation. While Kanders eventually resigned from his position and the eight protesting artists will remain in the biennial, the renewed discussion regarding the stewardship of public art collections by progenitors of state violence has galvanized many facets of an art world known for its implicit insularity. With its terminus yet to be determined, Mundos Alternos thus constitutes a prescient landscape of possible dystopias that remain unrealized yet highly possible, should the populations in positions of power succumb to the forces of greed or inertia. The spectators lining the panorama for Maravilla’s soliloquy were faced with the traumas inflicted by such dystopic scenarios. Maravilla’s performance, the calm narration of his own transience and pain, reminds us that the retention of our humanity is a choice we must actively pursue, and that the struggle for survival increasingly required of globally marginalized demographics will be fought not only at far off borders but within the private and public spaces of our own cities.
Posts tagged with "Sci-Fi":
At the convergence of neoclassical architecture, sci-fi film sets, and North African ornamentation is Didier Faustino’s design of the XYZ Lounge in Ghent, Belgium. Unifying the refurnished bar and multipurpose auditorium is what the French-Portuguese architect calls a skin. The metal frame enclosure, clad in low-relief pink marble and interspersed vent grids, is intended to emulate human anatomy. In fact, this chamber acts as the heart of Zebrastraat, a co-living arts foundation. “The main concept for this project was the idea of interstitial communication—how people’s bodies connect in time and space,” Faustino explains. “I wanted to magnify the voids that form in between these interactions, so as to create a level of drama.” Positioned at the core of Zebrastraat’s multibuilding complex, XYZ Lounge functions as a new communal space. Visitors and inhabitants can either pass through or stay for a while. This duality is reflected in all aspects of the interior design and custom furniture concept. Rather than implement a standard linear counter, the architect installed a T-shaped scheme in the bar area, allowing for easier circulation and face-to-face communication. The adjoining auditorium space can be used as a lecture hall, cinema, dance club, art gallery, and restaurant—a frontal podium is conducive to all. In the auditorium Faustino introduced 40 of his Delete Yourself chairs, a conceptual project he developed in 2016. Repurposed and recontextualized in this space, the geometric and monolithic seats come in two variants: angular and circular. Like the letters X and Y in the name of the space, which correspond to male and female chromosomes, the two variations are intended to refer to male and female gender identities. But the Z hints at the name of the Zebrastraat complex. “Part of what I wanted to accomplish with this project was to challenge the standard gender binary,” Faustino reveals. “Though the interior achieves ambiguity as the sum of its parts, certain strategic decisions, like the combination of pink and green color palates, suggest underlying themes.” Whether a public intervention, an exhibition design, an installation, or an architectural project, Faustino and his Paris-based team develop concepts based on the exploration of instability: the interaction between humans and their surroundings. The designer’s ultimate goal is to break habits that have been ingrained into society, culture, and education. With the design of the XYZ Lounge and its interplay between transitory and permanent space, Faustino demonstrates this approach.
Explore three near-future worlds where technology has changed romance (and cities too) in this GSAPP exhibit
Film enthusiasts, sci-fi nerds, architects, and romantics alike will delight in the provocative new exhibition at the GSAPP's Arthur Ross Architecture Gallery. Titled Liam Young: New Romance, it features three remarkable films that explore how technology is changing society and the built environment. New Romance is the product of a collaboration between director Liam Young (an Australian architect-turned-filmmaker) and writer Tim Maughan (a British fiction and non-fiction writer). The exhibition features three films that extrapolate current trends in technology to create near-future sci-fi settings; each film tracks a different kind of romance to explore how technology might shape human relationships and architecture. For instance, In the Robot Skies follows the relationship between two teens—Jazmin and Tamir—living in public housing in London. One teen is under house arrest, so the pair uses hacked drones to pass notes between one another. Shot entirely from the drones' perspectives, viewers see a familiar story of star-crossed lovers from an entirely new vantage point. The striking Where the City Can't See was shot entirely in LIDAR, a technology used to scan surfaces for digital mapping and navigation. It follows Dexter, a new arrival to Detroit, as his factory coworker Kelis takes him into a community of young people who shield themselves from the city's smart sensing technologies. Hidden from Detroit's electronic eyes, they gather to dance, party, and freely express themselves. Lastly, Renderlands explores the fantasy life of Prakash, who works at an anonymous Indian render farm. Prakash uses leftover fragments of digital renderings to build the image of his dream girl, an unnamed American actress, who he meets in a romanticized digital vision of L.A. A peon by day and dreamer by night, Prakash constructs a digital fantasy alternative reality. All three films offer beautifully surreal visuals and a soundtrack by Detroit-based D.J. Stingray to match. However, Young and Maughan contend that these films don't depict dystopias in the conventional sense: these worlds are extrapolations of the "trends and weak signals" the duo have already detected in the real world, especially in parts outside the developed West. As Young put it in a panel discussion before New Romance's premier, he and Maughan seek to "embed critical ideas about the present in fiction." The films use romance as a means to "find the emotional potential and drama in the everyday," making the work more accessible to a general audience in the process. There is certainly an activist element to these films. Young described how their goal is to "exaggerate [the effects of technology] to the point that you can't ignore it." Drones, smart city technology, digital renderings—all are essential to the film's "world building" and the relationships between the characters. "You can't separate technology and culture," he added, "we're prototyping those cultures, those subcultures." Liam Young: New Romance runs through May 13, 2017, at the Arthur Ross Architecture Gallery at Columbia University. For more on Young, whose previous projects include New City series, matte animations that explore similar near-future worlds, see his Vimeo page here. More on Maughan (who also contributed to the New City series) can be found here.
The winners of eVolo magazine’s 7th Skyscraper Competition have been announced! This year the publication, which has hosted the prestigious competition since 2006, received 625 submissions from 83 different countries, but only 3 of the most thought-provoking projects were selected as the winners. From floating (on-water and in-midair) skyscrapers to morphing structures, each of these futuristic designs not only resembles something out of a sci-fi film, but more importantly, radically defies our understanding of vertical architecture, creatively explores new technologies, and proposes solutions for a more sustainable urban future. First Place: “Polar Umbrella” (Pictured at top) Derek Pirozzi United States Pirozzi’s ambitious design not only addresses issues of global warming but also aims to rebuild the arctic ice caps. According to eVolo Magazine, “The Polar Umbrella’s buoyant super-structure becomes a statement for the prevention of future depletion of our protective arctic region. Through its desalinization and power facilities, this arctic skyscraper becomes a floating metropolis equipped with NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) research laboratories, renewable power stations, dormitory-style housing units, eco-tourist attractions, and ecological habitats for wildlife. A series of these structures would be strategically located in the most affected areas.” Second Place: “Phobia Skyscraper” Darius Maikoff and Elodie Godo France With their innovative design for the “Phobia Skyscraper” Maikoff and Godo have envisioned a residential development constructed out of reconfigurable recycled industrial materials that, according to eVolo Magazine, “seeks to revitalize an abandoned industrial area of Paris, France, through an ingenious system of prefabricated housing units. Its modularity allows for a differentiation of various programs and evolution in time.” Third Place: “Light Park” Ting Xu and Yiming Chen China Xu and Chen’s design for “Light Park” endeavors to ameliorate Beijing’s issue of traffic and overpopulation. As said by eVolo Magazine, “One way to make scarce green and recreation space available to residents of [Beijing] is a skyscraper that floats above the land, taking new development to the sky. The Light Park stays afloat thanks to a large, mushroom cap-like helium-filled balloon at its top, and solar-powered propellers directly below. Programmatic platforms that host parks, sports fields, green houses, restaurants, and other uses are suspended from the top of the structure by reinforced steel cables; the platforms fan in different directions around the spherical vessel to balance its weight. These slabs are also staggered to allow for maximum exposure to sunlight on each level.” Honorable mentions were given to several other commendable projects, including but not limited to “a pH conditioner skyscraper that resembles a jellyfish and purifies polluted air,” a “volcano skyscraper that harvests geothermal energy,” and “a cluster of artificial islands that create the 7th continent in the Pacific Ocean.” A gallery of the Honorable Mention winners; more information of each of the Honorable Mention projects available on eVolo. Click on a thumbnail to launch the slideshow. All images courtesy eVolo.