2013, Exhibition Space Design

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Installation view, Sullivan Galleries, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago
Photography by James Prinz

Premise

Initially presented at dOCUMENTA (13) in Kassel, Germany in 2012, News from Nowhere continues to evolve with the Chicago Laboratory as its next, expanded iteration, which is also the first US presentation of this exceptional co-generative work. News from Nowhere is both a stirring exhibition and an open platform for investigation of the world as it is today and as it could be imagined in the future. For this ongoing project Korean artists Moon Kyungwon and Jeon Joonho assembled a remarkable group of thinkers and practitioners to contribute to their research exploring the meaning, social function, and the role of the arts in contemporary times.

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Installation view with El Fin del Mundo, Sullivan Galleries, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago
Photography by James Prinz

Context

News from Nowhere exhibit is set in 1000 square-meter space in the former Carson, Pirie, Scott and Company Building by Louis Sullivan in 1899-1904. The exhibition includes two films by Moon and Jeon—El Fin del Mundo and Avyakta—as well as contributions by six of the artists’ collaborators: architect Toyo Ito, fashion designers Kuho Jung and Kosuke Tsumura, mime Yu Jin Gyu, and design firms MVRDV and takram design engineering. As a laboratory, the exhibition will become a site of research and creative process, serving as a platform for lectures, workshops, performances, and other public programs that enable discourses to unfold.

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Installation view of takram zone, Sullivan Galleries, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago
Photography by James Prinz

Shenu on World Tour

takram design engineering is both the artistic collaborator that created Shenu: Hydrolemic System, on display, and the exhibition space designer. Developed by takram, Shenu: Hydrolemic System consists of an artificial organ system to conserve the water usage of human body. takram developed this set as part of group exhibition for dOCUMENTA(13) in 2012, themed under water bottle for the future, post-catastrophic world. Shenu: Hydrolemic System and News from Nowhere: Chicago Laboratory is on view from September 21–December 21, 2013 at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s Sullivan Galleries.

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Installation view of Shenu, Sullivan Galleries, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago
Photography by James Prinz

De-Cartesian Platform

Moon Kyungwon and Jeon Joonho’s installation El Fin del Mundo projects the world following a cataclysm that has brought it to the brink of annihilation. Acts of man and nature’s responses have resulted in rising sea levels and the release of hazardous materials into the environment. Earth is a vast sphere of desolation: the highest peaks and tallest skyscrapers now rise as islands above the waters, bases for the construction of new platforms.

In this post-apocalyptic world, the familiar power system, socio-economic fabric, art, and culture no longer exist. Museums and galleries are mausoleums, submerged or barely visible. In the new world, survival supersedes all else. A new plan must come into being for civilization to be reconstituted so that those remaining can join together and rebuild. This dire and seemingly hopeless condition might also be a new platform that provides an opportunity to reassess what constitutes art, design, culture, and the quality of life itself when preconceptions and prejudices have vanished.

In forming a new world order, coordination becomes a preeminent task. Coordination is a fundamental construct of civilization because it affects and effects an understanding of the world as distinct and separate from one’s own corporeality; it frames how humanity inhabits the natural world. For centuries, the Western world in particular has been organized on the Cartesian system. René Descartes’ coordinates allowed everything to be located on a grid. However, when Descartes’ longitudinal-latitudinal grid is projected onto the globe, unequal geometrical and surface distributions emerge. These incommensurable irregularities no doubt were the impetus for Buckminster Fuller’s Dymaxion map and geodesic incarnations, whereby icosahedron variants are deployed to equalize geometrical distribution and minimize projective distortion. By extension, this utopian mechanism suggested a destabilization of hierarchical forms of power embedded in up-down, top-bottom, and North-South dichotomies. Nonetheless, just like for Descartes, Fuller’s systemic geometrization of the world assumes various political motivations and imposes a universal order.

In Moon and Jeon’s hypothetical future world, any attempts at uniform, universal order are not only impossible but unnecessary. Fragmented platforms, islands of fragile human collectives, are too concerned with their survival. Supplanting Cartesian absolutist, rational uniformity is a more geo-specific Einsteinian field of relativity.

21-step incremental and associative spatial transformation based on external and internal conditions

The “canvas” here for the display of their collaborative project News from Nowhere is architect Louis Sullivan’s Modernist grid, the “Chicago frame.” Onto Sullivan’s grid is superimposed a fullerene pattern, suggesting the relational metamorphoses to come. Based on factors such as intensity, density, directionality of information, circulation, and artworks, the layout of the exhibition transforms the fullerene system into a physical manifestation of new coordination, informed and formed by multiple relationships. As the positivistic act of categorization or numeration is denied, the genius loci cannot be reduced to coordinates, but must be described in term of propinquity. Thus, the exhibition space is imbued with an otherworldly coordination that has been stripped of the coordinations of both Descartes and Fuller, and is instead a large pseudo-scientific “cabinet of curiosities” of the world inculcated in Moon and Jeon’s News from Nowhere.

Preliminary design by takram design engineering
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Installation view, Sullivan Galleries, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago
Photography by James Prinz

Image Gallery

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Installation view, Sullivan Galleries, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago
Photography by James Prinz

Drawing Gallery

Drawings by takram design engineering

Progress Gallery


Credits

Kaz Yoneda, Project Leader and Architectural Designer
with
Moon Kyungwon and Jeon Joonho, Artists

Special Thanks

Generous support for the artists has been provided by Hyundai Motor Company, LB Investment, and Nefs Co. Ltd., along with Asiana Airlines in cooperation with GALLERY HYUNDAI, Seoul. Special thanks is also extended to the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency, for their support of the exhibition.
takram design engineering would like to thank Mary Jane Jacobs, Executive Director, and the dedicated members of Sullivan Galleries, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, for their countless hours, making this exhibition space design possible and executing takram’s design to its fullest extent.
Also, many thanks to Kris Budelis and Hiroki Sato for their assistance as interns.
© 2013 takram design engineering