ambiguous territory - architecture, landscape, and the postnatural

August 28 - December 15, 2019

Stylized topographical illustrations of a circular chunk of land featuring various flora and fauna, as seen from above and from the side.

A Curiosity Cabinet, by pneumastudio. Drawing by Cathryn Dwyre.

Curated by David Salomon, Cathryn Dwyre, Chris Perry, and Kathy Velikov.

Can the ill effects of modernity’s insistence on isolation—of ideas, people, disciplines, cultures, species, wealth, objects, nature, etc.—be understood, let alone reversed, by evermore isolation? Or, do complex environmental and humanitarian issues demand more inclusive and indirect techniques to recognize and reflect upon them? Ambiguous Territory answers this second question in the affirmative. The sometimes unnerving, sometimes empathetic affects presented in this exhibition are the outcome of the unexpected juxtaposition of remote sensors, robots, and rock piles; of strip mines, stratigraphy, and satellite imagery; of pollution, plant languages, and point clouds; of deft draftsmanship and timely data-scapes; of networked kites, clouds, buoys, and balloons; and of new ideas and new forms of representation. The resultant forms highlight the synthetic and surprisingly efficient ability of art and design to reveal what is ubiquitous but often invisible in our cultural and physical climates.

This is the function of new sensibilities: to capture and hold dissimilar things in a single ambiguous form or image. Defined by uncertainty and indeterminacy, ambiguity would appear to be the antithesis of knowledge production and problem solving; in fact, it is the source of them. The existence of ambiguity is what inspires intellectual and aesthetic inquiry. Ambiguous entities are always admixtures; they can grow and expand to incorporate more elements and engage more issues. Their transformative logic creates improbable hybrids. Such forms do not fetishize aesthetics or distract one from reality. In Ambiguous Territory these complex admixtures include combinations that incorporate one discipline with another, that integrate information technologies with biological species, and aggregate invisible atmospheres with physical matter to create new architectural and artistic idioms.

The alluring yet uncanny ecological aesthetic found in the mediation of the Atmospheric, Biologic, and Geologic territories presented appeal to our senses and expand our capacity to make sense of and to help find our place within a newly unfamiliar world. This includes exposing the often-violent methods and outcomes of our existing age and the urgent need to respond to them with new aesthetic, social, and political forms. It also allows us to recognize ourselves in these monsters and mutants and to engage if not embrace their alluring yet alienating status rather than seek a return to some familiar or impossibly pure state. Something is monstrous when it adds or exaggerates a specific part to produce a disproportionate, novel, and seemingly unnatural whole. Mutations are unpredictable deviations from an existing condition and serve as essential additions to the evolutionary gene pool. Freed from the conventions of the existing they become a source of the new.

In this experimental spirit of cultivating other outcomes Ambiguous Territory asks: in a postnatural age where humans have been fundamentally displaced from their presumed place of privilege, philosophically as well as experientially, and the status of nature as an antidote or respite from humans’ hubris has vanished, can architects, landscape architects, and artists propose to establish new affiliations and avail new ways to approach contemporary questions at the environmental scale? In other words, what new worlds, what new natures, and what new sensations can art and design reveal and create that other modes of inquiry and knowledge cannot?

Artists

ATMOSPHERIC

  • Amy Balkin
  • Ursula Biemann
  • Geoarchitecture @ Westminster
  • Lydia Kallipoliti & Andreas Theodoridis
  • Sean Lally
  • Lateral Office / LCLA
  • Naja & deOstos
  • Mark Nystrom
  • Smudge Studio

BIOLOGIC

  • Ellie Abrons
  • Philip Beesley / PBAI / LASG
  • The Bitterbang Farm
  • Lindsey french
  • Future Cities Lab
  • Michael Geffel
  • Harrison Atelier
  • Cornelia Hesse-Honegger
  • Perry Kulper
  • Office for Political Innovation
  • OMG / O'Donnell Miller Group
  • pneumastudio
  • Neil Spiller
  • Marina Zurkow

GEOLOGIC

  • Paula Gaetano Adi & Gustavo Crembil
  • Bradley Cantrell
  • Brian Davis
  • DESIGN EARTH
  • Formlessfinder
  • Adam Fure
  • Geofutures @Rensselaer
  • Lisa Hirmer
  • LiquidFactory
  • Meredith Miller & Thom Moran
  • NEMESTUDIO
  • The Open Workshop
  • Rachele Riley
  • RVTR
  • Smout Allen
  • Unknown Fields