Informative art: ideas to improve quality of life

New exhibit at Miller Gallery borders on future technology

Destiny Ridguard Aug 31, 2009

The new exhibit at the Miller Gallery, 29 Chains to the Moon, curated by Andrea Grover, is a bit surreal, but very interesting. Its name comes from R. Buckminster Fuller’s book Nine Chains to the Moon, which is, as stated by the Miller Gallery website, based on “his radical proposal for improving the quality of life for all humankind via progressive design and maximization of the world’s finite resources.”

The name of the book was derived from the fact that if all the people of the world cooperated with each other and stood on each other’s shoulders, then everyone could form nine chains to the moon. With the increase in population since then, the world can now, essentially, complete 29 chains to the moon.

The exhibit is spread out over an entire floor of the gallery. One corner is called the Reading Room, complete with a sofa and a couple chairs where patrons can take time to digest the scene and read books on loan from Hunt Library that apply to the exhibit. There were titles on the shelves like Small is Beautiful and, of course, Fuller’s book.

On the left wall, a monitor is set up playing a five-minute video on loop that describes Open_Sailing, an institution created by Cesar Harada and Hiromi Ozaki. According to their website, www.opensailing.net, Open_Sailing “acts like a globally-conscious superorganism, a cluster of intelligent units that can react to their environment, change shape and reconfigure themselves.”

There is also an impeccably-made scale model of the “International Ocean Station,” complete with a little man looking out to an imaginary sea. Below the monitor is a stand where flyers are stacked, saying that this “floating architecture” is a responsive and reactive habitat at sea. A team of 40 scientists have been developing this amoeba-like marine prototype “composed of multiple dwellings, ocean farming modules, and a ... design that can expand and contract.” It is being assembled in the U.K., France, and Morocco.

The video discussed five items, first, Instinctive_Architecture, discussing the shape of this “floating laboratory.” Second, Nomadic_Ecosystem, noting how its live data feed monitors amounts of freshwater, energy, plankton, algae, as well as detecting favorable environments for relocation. Third, Swarm_Operating_System, a “distributed operating system that suggests a general safest location and a form for the overall structure ... in order to provide intelligent distribution of supplies, energy, and information.” Fourth, it is an Energy_Animal because it creates wind, solar, and wave power at all times. Finally, a Life_Cable, a sustainable wire that will pass energy, water, and data throughout the structure.

In the final segment of the video, was a quote from Alan Kay saying, “The best way to predict our future is to invent it.” This is a poignant point when looking at these amazing futuristic designs that will revolutionize how we think about rigid infrastructure and metropolis.

The next artist to be featured was Mitchell Joachim, co-founder of Terreform ONE, a nonprofit organization that promotes environment-friendly design in urban space. There is one storyboard, complete with smaller square images of projections of their island utopia. This part of the exhibit was the most futuristic, presenting pictures of cars, vehicles, workout centers, biodomes, and geodesic spheres.

The largest poster had modern visualizations of downtown Manhattan — a redesign of New York City complete with integrated structures that would interact with the natural vegetation and surrounding environment. This team had a vision for the future that would revolutionize the way we integrate ecological principles in an urban environment. More can be learned about their missions of sustainability and social justice at www.terreform.org.

Finally, Stephanie Smith’s piece is at the far right corner of the room, and can only be described as a commune circle. She has built a six-foot-high oblong wooden structure, with openings on either side. In the center of the shape is an eight-foot high PVC pipe supported by a tripod, and on the floor is a creamsicle-colored circle, with “I’M SHARING“ and “WE’RE COMMUNING” written in fuschia on either side.

The flyers on the structure call it a “kiosk” and say that it is meant for sharing items, info/resources, and communal experiences. The artist encourages anyone to “gather here, spontaneously or intentionally, for any reason and for any length of time.”

All these artists’ schemes for a fantastic feature were pretty interesting and I would certainly stroll through with some friends and see if you get inspired.