The following projects feature in the exhibition I See That I See What You Don’t See at the Palazzo dell’Arte during the XXII International Triennale di Milano
Leanne Wijnsma with scents developed by International Flavors and Fragrances
At birth the human is generally considered sterile. From the first seconds of life, the newborn’s gut is being colonised with microorganisms. In the following years microbe culture will grow immensely and be shaped by the body’s environment and social interactions. The genomes of these microbial symbionts, defined as the ‘microbiome’, outnumber human genomes by a factor of one to two. With over a thousand bacterial species living in our gut, the human body is filled with wildlife.
The microbiome is part of the unconscious system regulating immune functions, cognition, learning, and memory. Without microbes, humans would be unhealthy, non-social beings. Especially through body odour, the microbiome communicates information about their host to the outside world while responding to other microbiomes instinctively. This ability to influence behaviour has heralded the microbiome as the next frontier for health sciences, commerce, and even politics.
Investigating the consequences of design’s ability to influence instinctual behaviour, the installation A Wildlife presents three skin fragrances that act as a carrier for invisible communication and influencing.
Los Angeles Blackout
Pascal van Hulst, research by Oscar Peña.
In 1994, a 6.7 magnitude earthquake shook the city of Los Angeles, disrupting the power supply. The bright halo that characterizes Los Angeles’ urban sprawl and its light pollution temporarily gave way to a star-filled sky. According to media accounts, the encounter with the otherwise invisible cosmic bodies sparked fear among the population. Reportedly, emergency centres as well as the famous Griffith Observatory received phone calls inquiring about what some inhabitants anxiously described as a ‘giant silvery cloud’ over the city. It was the Milky Way. Between historical account and urban legend, the L.A. episode sheds light on how light pollution has reduced human ability to connect with the broader system of the universe, and invites discussion on the symbolic currency of darkness within environmental consciousness.
Darkness, as a First Act of Creation
Performances by Ramon Amaro, AmazonPrimeQueen (Victoria McKenzie), DeForrest Brown Jr., Jon Davies (Kepla), Jorge Lucero Diaz, Conrad Moriarty-Cole. Audio contributions by Antonio Lara. Video directed and edited by Carlos Lopes.
Darkness is often understood as the lack of illumination or absence of light, yet it is often an afterimage, or an image that continues to appear in one's vision after the original stimulus has taken place. While most afterimages are considered to be optical illusions, they suggest that what we see in the present differs from actual reality; they are fragments of the past brought forward into our present vision as deceptions and misrepresentations of the real.
Darkness, as a First Act of Creation proposes darkness not as a void or absence but, instead, borrowing from Denise Ferreira da Silva, a type of dark matter with generative potential. A ‘first act of creation’ in a continual process of creating one’s own reality.
The body performances, live DJ set, and audio-visual soundscape that compose this work problematise genetic memory and the black body as a technology; bring darkness to life in an interpretation of the god Kulan, a spirit embodied by the Selk’nam peoples of Chile; and propose darkness as the necessary condition for self-actualisation.
You Will Not Be
Design Academy Eindhoven, Master Social Design, 1st year
As the pace of our time becomes further assimilated into the 24/7 rhythm of the digital economy, a dizzying array of apps and gadgets are designed to optimise our intimate self according to the demands of the market. From therapeutic tools for sleep, and attention- and anxiety-management, to personalised behavioural coaching; from the soothing aesthetics of ‘digital detox’ retreats, to tedious meditation reminders – design is continuously mobilised to influence our day-to-day existence.
You Will Not Be explores the destructive, as well as the restorative and therapeutic, capacities of these technologies promoted as helpful regulators of physical and mental health. Taking the directives of the digital marketplace to their extreme, the project maps onto human bodies the repetitive commands, gestures, and anxieties locked within the promises of happiness and self-fulfilment.
This performative research shows how these narratives of self-optimisation and hyper-productivity shape design practice today, and questions the notions of happiness, awareness, choice, will, and freedom that its products convey.
The Unsleep is a photographic tale at the edge of sci-fi and reality, partially adapted from the eponymous 1962 novel by Meir and Diane Gillion. From a portrayal of the telecommunications workers employed in the outsourced service industries, the project articulates the invisible domain of time-zones over geographical territories. The employees in this spaceless time often become characters in contemporary Indian and Filipino fictional literature, their lives dominated by artificial light and darkness, with long shifts in front of screens, performing tedious tasks and phone calls where regional accents are normalised to better suit customers located at the opposite end of the globe.
This is a world divided into several, often incoherent, representations – the economic one in which territories have ceased to bear significance, and the political / cultural one increasingly concerned with borders. The night, as well as the relationship of sleep and wakefulness – modes of production and consumption that define a new chrono-imperialistic domain – become the paradigmatic landscape of this new frontier.
WifiTapestry is a dynamic wall hanging that renders visible the wireless activity of a space. The tapestry unveils the ever changing ‘landscape’ of radio frequencies around us. The invisible signals from mobile phones, printers, and all kinds of smart devices leave an imprint as they try to negotiate available wireless channels. The mechanisms use a controller that listens to all traffic across 13 channels of the 2.4GHz WiFi spectrum. Whenever data is transmitted on a channel, the controller sends a current to an array of thermal elements embedded in the tapestry, converting data into heat and activating a thermochromic yarn woven into it. Streams of data transmitted through space appear as visual traces from an invisible dimension that gradually form and dissolve.
Bregtje van der Haak, Jacqueline Hassink, Richard Vijgen, 2015 - 2019. Produced by VPRO/Studio Richard Vijgen.
White Spots is a collaborative multimedia project that explores the global divide between the connected and unconnected worlds. While sparsely populated areas experience low connectivity for obvious economic reasons, the journey brings surprising stories of an often deliberate lack of connectivity even inside the world's most intensely networked digital hubs. Working in various media (app, book, exhibition, documentary film) this project leads us beyond the frontiers of the networked world to explore unwired landscapes, communities, and lifestyles, questioning the need to be always connected in one seamless, planetary Tech-topia.
On the occasion of the XXII Triennale di Milano, Bregtje van der Haak, together with Rob Schröder, worked on a collage of stories from 32 places off the grid.
Academy of Urban Astronauts
Since Yuri Gagarin was the first human to orbit the Earth in 1961, about 550 astronauts have circled the planet. They all have had the opportunity to experience a vision of Earth from outer space, or what has been called the Overview Effect. This experience reportedly impacts astronauts’ behaviour and views on life, prompting a cognitive shift.
From space, the astronauts explain, national boundaries vanish and conflicts seem to dilute. Yet, to those seeing the planet from afar, the need to create a planetary society with a united will to protect this ‘pale blue dot’ becomes both obvious and imperative. All humans are astronauts on a single tiny spaceship - Earth.
Today, this solidarity between humans and the fragile biosphere they co-inhabit seems more relevant than ever. The cosmic perspective and self-transcendent experience prompted by an Overview Effect might, perhaps, set in motion a post-humanist worldview where not the human, but the living planet, takes centre stage.
Melvin Moti, 2015 28 minuten 4K video, sound, colour.
The Cosmists where a 19th and early 20th century Russian group of thinkers who combined occult and esoteric theories with space science. These scientists, theologians and philosophers developed a holistic and anthropocentric worldview about the relationship between man and cosmos. Among them was Russian scientist Alexander Chizhevsky (1897-1964) who studied the effect of cosmic radiation on human behaviour. In a series of studies termed 'historiometry' Chizevsky compared statistics and discovered a correlative increase in major historical events on Earth including wars, revolutions and epidemics during years of high solar activity.
The film Cosmism takes Chizhevsky’s theory as a cue to recent conflicts and examines how we perceive and relate to moving images of violent events. The camera, as a device which extends (and sometimes fully takes over) the eyes during violent events, becomes an essential character in the story.
Lucy McRae. Production: Machine Histories.
Compression Cradle looks like a remnant from a world we have not yet seen but might soon inhabit. One where the digital promise of ‘forever connectedness’ has triggered a lonely disconnection with ourselves.
In an attempt to prepare the self for this future that assumes a lack of touch, a machine affectionately squeezes the body within a sequence of aerated volumes that holds it tightly. Through a choreography of touch sensations, this mechanism assists in altering the gene expression of serotonin — the hormone responsible for regulating mood, social behaviour, digestion, and sexual desire — and repairs the broken bonds between ourselves, our emotions and the way we interface with the world.
Yet this physical space, where the boundaries between the bedroom and entertainment have blurred, is continuously measured and monitored. Summoning a shift in how we touch and observe others being touched, the cradle’s membrane reveals the silhouette of a stranger slipping between a squishy wrap, presenting an indifferent format of voyeurism.
Compression Cradle was made possible with the financial support of Het Nieuwe Instituut, the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science and the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (Australia).
Research Department, Het Nieuwe Instituut
Automation, and the 24-hour, 365-day production cycle it enables, disrupts labour markets and the configuration, design and occupation of entire territories. Automated Landscapes documents and reflects upon the spatial design of automated labour in the Netherlands. This collaborative research looks at the greenhouses that occupy vast parts of the country, and where the productivity of the ground is controlled and maximised by automated technologies. In their interiors flowers and fruits grow assisted by climate control, artificial lighting, and water and nutrient distribution systems. This data-filled garden reveals itself to the outside world in the screens of the control rooms and smartphones through which operations are monitored, as well as through the colossal photo-pollution generated by greenhouse emissions.
As these rectangular boxes artificially light the sky, humans, animals, and plants living around them are deprived of the possibility of a dark, starry night. Yet, while some parts of the planet are affected by the recurrent presence of light, in others life evolves in its absence, around recurrent power outages and blackouts. Darkness is an unevenly distributed, and designed, condition.
The Enigma of Vast Multiplicity
Aldo van Eyck. Exhibited at the Triennale di Milano in 1968
The 1968 Triennial di Milano, with the theme The Big Number, addressed world population growth, the achievements of modern science and the connection between Western wealth and deepening poverty in the so-called Third World. At the invitation of curator Giancarlo De Carlo, Aldo van Eyck designed an exhibition that provided a disturbing view of the collapse of Western welfare societies. Visitors had to cross through a forest of tree trunks, and enter into a space dressed with distorting broken mirrors. Laughter came out of speakers. In the next room, huge photographs depicted Western civilisation as, unlike most traditional cultures, unable to solve the problem of the large number. 'Mourning also for all butterflies,' announced a wall text. Hidden in the last, round space, an installation made of a series of multi-coloured streamers brought a message of hope – a vast multiplicity does not necessarily lead to catastrophe. The panorama reveals fragments of this work which, in the midst of the students protests of ‘68 that led to the occupation of the Triennale, never opened to the public.