From ad hoc laser bike lanes to a potential technological (hyper)reality in your head, a variety of ideas and disciplines are currently on display in Hyperlinks: Architecture and Design. Fostering experimentation across a range of practices, these fluid exchanges between artistic and scientific communities not only generate ideas about what the future holds, but also motivate reflection on current conventions in an otherwise unearthly light. Plant Facts Plant Fiction and Growth Assembly are two such works in this new exhibition that offer similar but distinct prospects for imbuing plant life with human design.
The Troika Design Group contemplates the future of synthetic biology in Plant Facts Plant Fiction. Shown in intricate photographic detail, designer plants serve as individual case studies that advance such questions as “Could mushrooms hush rooms?” and “Can we cultivate computers?” These hybridizations relate a divine optimism about the future functionality of cross-disciplinary design. Gold Weed(Brassica aurea) processes metal in landfills and Selfeater (Agave autovora), seen above, breaks down its own cellulose for the fermentation of ethanol.
Sascha Pohflepp and Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg’s Growth Assembly applies similar notions regarding plant life and synthetic biology to the economics of assembly production. By collaborating with illustrator Sion Ap Tomas, Growth Assembly grounds the fantastical notion of growing products inside of plants in the historical realm of botanical illustrations. Engineered morphogenesis becomes something you might find in an old Sears & Roebuck catalog. Far from projecting an inevitable scenario, these conceptual plant species encourage us to think about the future we endeavor to create together. Pohflepp and Ginsberg, for example, imagine shops evolving into factory farms where licensed products are grown where sold and the postal service delivers lightweight seed-packets for domestic manufacturing.
Whether wittingly or not, these exercises in design update a rare and neglected practice of taxonomizing outlandish flora and fauna. The Voynich Manuscript, thought to date back to the 15th century, is like an encyclopedia to a different world, full of strange diagrams and written in a cryptic language that has baffled codebreakers since its discovery in 1912. Similarly, though less mysterious in origin, Italian artist and designer Luigi Serafini explores the biological and social functions of a menagerie of bizarre plants and creatures in his Codex Seraphinianus, publishedin 1981 and seen above. Though Growth Assembly and Plant Facts Plant Fiction are drawn from rigorous work across disciplines, I still found striking parallels to these seemingly less scientific explorations of fantasy floristics. Each of these evocative works creates open-ended questions about the quality of life on our planet by illuminating the inner workings of a parallel world.
The Troika Design Group. Plant Facts and Plant Fiction, 2010. The Art Institute of Chicago, funds provided by the Architecture & Design Society.
Sascha Pohflepp and Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg. Illustration by Sion Ap Tomos. Growth Assembly, 2009. Courtesy of Sascha Pohflepp and Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg, Objs. 206751-58.
12 hours 41 min ago The Art Institute of Chicago COMING SOON—Provoke: Photography in Japan between Protest and Performance, 1960–75
The short-lived Tokyo magazine Provoke is now recognized as a major achievement in world photography of the last 50 years. A major international traveling show, which has Chicago as its only North American venue, this exhibition is the first survey of postwar Japanese art to be organized at the Art Institute and draws heavily on the the museum’s collection—more than 60% of the over 200 items on display belong to the Art Institute.
OPENING JANUARY 28—http://bit.ly/2jMlnUx
15 hours 53 min ago The Art Institute of Chicago NOW ON VIEW—The Italian–born American artist Josef Stella revisited his native Italy in 1922, where he became fascinated by Renaissance painting. Drawing inspiration from Sandro Botticelli, Stella began to produce decorative, detailed, symbolic compositions, such as A Vision (seen here). Stella was enthralled by the tropical plants he observed at the Bronx Botanical Garden in New York, and he imagined an iconic woman growing out of the earth like the towering flowers on either side of her.
The French–born American artist Gaston Lachaise found his own iconic inspiration for the sculpture, Woman (Elevation), in Isabel Dutaud Nagle, whom he later married, telling her, “I want to create a miracle with it… as great as you.” This sculpture represents Lachaise’s first full-scale expression of the idealized female form that would come to dominate his art. Modernists like Lachaise believed preclassical art possessed a primitive vitality absent from later art forms.
See Josef Stella’s A Vision (1925/26) and Gaston Lachaise’s Woman (Elevation) (1912–15; cast 1927)—on view in Gallery 271.
1 day 12 hours ago The Art Institute of Chicago NOW OPEN—Rodney McMillian: a great society
Our latest exhibition in the Modern Wing represents the last decade of the artist’s work in video. Grappling with the complexities of class, race, and place in America, Rodney McMillian employs elements of performance, public speaking, oral history—and his interest in the science fiction genre—to expose the social and psychological consequences of economic inequality, endemic racism, and the failed promise of freedom and prosperity for all of its citizens. While McMillian's work engages the often stark realities of history and contemporary culture, it is motivated by the potential for alternative realities and future transformation.
See Rodney McMillian: a great society on view in the Modern Wing through March 26.