Pierre Huyghe
February 21 – August 17, 2014

If the practice of Pierre Huyghe (b. 1962, Paris) were a metaphysical equation, it could read: what is = +/– growth. Huyghe infects matter with memory, whether in the melodic voice of Lucie Dolène, the invented customs of a new town, or the biotope of psychoactive plants, a roaming dog, and bees returning to their hive on a statue’s head. His somethings—expediently called “art”—expose us to systems that grow and leak; they propel us beyond the known and towards what may be.

For this eighth season of The Artist’s Institute, we are in a process of thinking with Huyghe, becoming sensitive to the varying intensities of spiders, temperatures, rat songs, lectures, pheromones, texts, and time together. This dynamic embodied experience puts us under the influence of human and inhuman forces, and of fictions that may, over time, seep into reality and de-script what we thought we knew.

Suspending our need for a resolution, or even for an exhibition, we follow what emerges, day by day, from a basement beneath the street.

Il y a, February 21 – March 30, 2014

Morphogenesis refers to the way that matter generates form. The morphogenesis of an egg, for example, involves a complex process by which columns of calcite stack side by side to surround a membrane. It is how the skeletal remains of sea creatures aggregate in shallow warm waters, eventually forming the crystalline compounds we call limestone. Rather than the shape of a thing being imposed from the outside, there is life proper to matter itself—an an immanent potential for novelty and invention.

We can only ever anticipate the spontaneous self-generation of form. It surprises us, as it grows and bubbles from within. The same may be said for what lies here in the basement at the beginning of our season with Pierre Huyghe.… Read more

Morphogenesis refers to the way that matter generates form. The morphogenesis of an egg, for example, involves a complex process by which columns of calcite stack side by side to surround a membrane. It is how the skeletal remains of sea creatures aggregate in shallow warm waters, eventually forming the crystalline compounds we call limestone. Rather than the shape of a thing being imposed from the outside, there is life proper to matter itself—an an immanent potential for novelty and invention.

We can only ever anticipate the spontaneous self-generation of form. It surprises us, as it grows and bubbles from within. The same may be said for what lies here in the basement at the beginning of our season with Pierre Huyghe.

February 20, 7.30pm, Dance for Radium.
When the sun sets, a dance for Marie Curie.

February 21 – August 17, 2014,
Pheromone.
The German biochemist Adolf Butenandt spent twenty years researching the female silkworm moth, otherwise known as Bombyx mori. During this period he noticed that the moths emitted certain chemicals that triggered social interactions within their species. In 1959, these chemicals were given the name “pheromones.”

In the restricted space of subterranean tunnels, odor is trapped for a much longer period than in outdoor areas, making it an ideal way to mark territory. Rats, for example, leave traces of urine in their environment. Smelling one of these marks, other rats are able to distinguish details like social status, sex, and sexual state of the individual who has effectively left its chemical calling card.

Inside The Artist’s Institute, a sex pheromone from the clitoral gland of female brown rats has been applied to select areas of the walls and floor. It is an ovulation-indication chemosignal that acts as a scent mark for the male. It is a clear, colorless to light-yellow liquid with a chemical nomenclature of (2E,6E,10E,14E,18E,22E) -2,6,10,15,19,23-hexamethyl -2,6,10,14,18,22-tetracosahexaene, more commonly known as squalene. Rats are not the only creatures attracted to squalene: cockroaches are too.


Hole for Rats.
In the first part of the twentieth century, there were three types of rats living in New York City: the brown rat (Rattus norvegicus), which lives in burrows and stays close to the ground; the black or ship rat (Rattus rattus), which prefers attics and maritime life; and the roof rat (Rattus rattus alexandrinus), a subspecies of the black rat. At the present time, there is only one kind. The brown rat ate or otherwise killed all its underground opponents.

This hole, which connects to an interstitial space beneath the gallery floor, is perfectly sized for a rat.


Spiders.
The cool crevices of basements are a veritable oasis for the Pholcidae or Cellar spider. When it senses a visitor entering its territory, it begins to vibrate. Flexing its legs and pumping its body in a circular motion, it transforms into a blurry optical illusion that confuses predators. Pholcidae are trompe l’oeil tricksters, too. When food is scarce, they search out the webs of their neighbors and extend their legs with a “tap, tap, tap.” In spider-language, “tap” means “I’m trapped,” from an insect as it struggles to escape its fate. When the web’s owner comes over to retrieve its fake-prey, the cellar spider is waiting. The trap sprung, it captures and eats its fellow spider.


Fly Electrocutor.
Fernando Ortega, Untitled, 2003. Fly electrocutor device, 26 × 13 × 4 inches. Courtesy the artist and kurimanzutto, mexico city

Every time an insect is attracted to the light and gets electrocuted, the room plunges into temporary darkness.

Dress For Radium Dance.
Loie Fuller (1862–1928) was well known in Paris for her dancing. One of her most famous dances Le Papillon earned her the nickname the Butterfly Girl, because she used a flowing gown to simulate the delicate movements of the winged creature in flight. Fuller was also well known for her pyrotechnics. A friend of Marie Curie, she was inquisitive about the properties of radium, which she thought would give her stage costumes a special glow. Though Curie discouraged her from experimenting with the toxic substance, Fuller insisted on applying phosphorescent salts to a dress in her laboratory. To thank her chemist-host, she performed a radium dance only for her.

Limestone.
Most limestone is produced through a natural version of collecting seashells. The skeletal remains of sea creatures aggregate in shallow, warm waters forming its crystalline compound of calcium carbonate. The sedimentary rock appears in various forms: it was used to build the Great Pyramids and is consumed by birds as a nutrient for strengthening their bones and form their eggs. At the same time, it is relatively fragile and easily re-dispersed through acid erosion and biological metabolism. By virtue of its abundant and protean character, limestone can be conceived of as a kind of medium for slowly recirculating the history of maritime life through our material and ecological landscape.

Oxygen.
Oxygen makes up approximately 20–21 percent by volume of room air. Two thirds of the human body, by mass, is oxygen, and it is essential for most organic and inorganic life. Yet the anxieties sewn into its historical descriptions are not inaccurate: alone, oxygen is highly explosive and when bonded with any number of other elements, it becomes corrosive.

February 21 – March 8
Fertile Egg.
Once the bird lays its egg, it is viable for 14–17 days if stored in a cool dark place at 50–60 degrees Fahrenheit. This egg was purchased on eBay from Barn of Angels in North Dakota. It will hatch an extra-extra-small bird.

99.5 Degrees.
A constant 99.5 degrees must be kept for the embryo to reach full maturity. The incubator regulates itself with a digital thermostat and a built-in fan. In addition to maintaining the internal temperature of the device, it is crucial that the external temperature of The Artist’s Institute stays relatively constant throughout the incubation period. A room temperature of 70–80 degrees is ideal, and fresh air without drafts is necessary. No direct sunlight should strike the incubator.The Artist’s Institute is at the bottom of a four-story apartment building and can get quite cold. New York City landlords are only obligated by law to provide heat to residential tenants, leaving commercial renters the responsibility to warm their spaces by whatever means available. As a basement, The Artist’s Institute has few options. It currently uses the free heat emanating off the pipes running along its walls and ceilings, though it is hardly reliable. New York is experiencing record-low temperatures this winter. On January 7 it was a mere 4 degrees Fahrenheit in Central Park, the coldest the city had been since 1896.

March 8, 11am–5pm, Symposium.
A compressed history of Pierre Huyghe will unfold as a series of case studies presented by his interlocutors, each of whom have developed thinking around particular works. It will be held at The Artist’s Institute, whose diminutive scale will allow for a more intimate exchange of ideas than is usually possible in this format. Seating is first-come, first-served. A recording will be available online in mid March.

11am, Session One
Tom McDonough (Snow White Lucie, The Third Memory, No Ghost Just a Shell); Julieta Aranda (Mobile and The Castle of Turing); Sinziana Ravini (The Host and the Cloud) Discussion, moderated by Alex Kitnick

2.30pm, Session Two
Liam Gillick (The Association of Freed Time); Lynne Cooke (Streamside Day); Dorothea von Hantelmann (Untilled) Discussion, moderated by Jenny Jaskey

March 8, CV.
Pierre Joseph, CV, 1999, A4 inkjet print on photo paper. Courtesy the artist

A fittingly non-comprehensive and unreasonably modest C.V. for the quietly influential French artist Pierre Joseph. Using a kind of elliptical recursion, the single page print-out is an experiment in biography that manages to simultaneously tell us nearly nothing and almost everything about Joseph and his practice. That is, his most obvious successes as an artist are denied any priority over a list of quotidian jobs working on conveyer belts and telecommunications systems that still do more to explain the  forms of his art than any list of exhibitions might hope to do. The themes of transmission, personal presentation, and exposure, central to Joseph’s work are all here, though recoded at the level of form as well as content.

March 9, Hatch Day.

March 14, 7pm, Angelique Corthals on Copper Man.

In 1899, the body of a man was discovered at Chuquicamata, Chile, the largest open pit copper mine in the world. It was an especially startling discovery, because his dessicated body appeared to include copper ions that had migrated from the copper to his system, providing somewhat of an antifungal effect and thus leaving the body well preserved—a hybrid of human flesh and metal. Through carbon-14 analysis, researchers believe he lived in 550 CE.

The industrialist J. P. Morgan purchased the Copper Man and brought it to New York, to the American Museum of Natural History, in 1905, where it has rested ever since. Dr. Angelique Corthals, a renowned forensic anthropologist who conducted research on the Copper Man, will come to The Artist’s Institute to share more about its social and natural histories, as well as the fossilization process.

 

March 21–30, Video.
Camille Henrot, Deep Inside, 2007. Video, felt tip on film, 7 min., music by Benjamin Morando, song written by Nicolas Ker & Camille Henrot. Courtesy the artist and Kamel Mennour, Paris

Heads and hearts and hands fill the frames of Camille Henrot’s video Deep Inside. Taking an old reel of 35 mm film and a thick black marker, the artist draws her sentimental pictures frame by frame on the celluloid. The film stock is of classic 1970s porn, and so her innocent drawings are re-animated through their juxtaposition with hot sex. The artist’s Frankenstein-like manipulations lend a strange effect to the images that waver between absence and presence, where the pleasure of looking is both deep inside and from without.

Reduce text

+/-, April 1 – May 18, 2014

Although light is flowing all around us, we can only perceive a sliver of it. Radioactive explosions, sun rays, and the transmissions of a cell phone are all light waves—they differ only according to the frequency and energy of their vibrations. Dial up the energy of a radio wave, and humans will begin to see the colors of the rainbow in it. Dial it up again, and X-Ray machines can make images of bones. How something is experienced often has to do with whether its frequency is in or out of range.

This month, things in the basement will begin to vibrate. Pulsing oxygen molecules will produce a familiar yet indiscernible scent, underwater insects will sing in ultrasounds, and a philosopher will consider what it means for a thing to be more or less intensely itself.

… Read more

Although light is flowing all around us, we can only perceive a sliver of it. Radioactive explosions, sun rays, and the transmissions of a cell phone are all light waves—they differ only according to the frequency and energy of their vibrations. Dial up the energy of a radio wave, and humans will begin to see the colors of the rainbow in it. Dial it up again, and X-Ray machines can make images of bones. How something is experienced often has to do with whether its frequency is in or out of range.

This month, things in the basement will begin to vibrate. Pulsing oxygen molecules will produce a familiar yet indiscernible scent, underwater insects will sing in ultrasounds, and a philosopher will consider what it means for a thing to be more or less intensely itself.

April 1, 6pm – 8pm,


Influenza.

Influenza is a highly infectious disease characterized by fever, body aches, and a sore throat that lasts one to two weeks, sometimes progressing to the more serious respiratory condition Pneumonia. The flu occurs typically produces annual epidemics during the winter months, where lower air humidity and increased indoor confinement allows for the virus to spread more easily through its primary means: aerosol dispersion through coughing, sneezing, and talking that can transmit the illness up to six feet away.

While infectiousness is usually highest at the peak of the Flu’s symptoms, hosts are capable of spreading the virus a day before becoming symptomatic and a third of those carrying it show no symptoms whatsoever.


The Mosquito.

The Mosquito is an alarm that emits high-frequency sound waves only humans under age 25 can hear. It was originally conceived to ward off teens from loitering, vandalism and graffiti. Its high pitch tone needs between five and fifteen minutes to take effect, depending on ambient noise. Although harmless, the Mosquito has been controversial on the basis of discrimination against young people. In 2006, a year after the Mosquito was invented, young people created the “Teen Buzz,” a cellphone application that used similar high-frequency sounds, enabling them to communicate without adults’ knowledge.

 

April 1 – May 11,
Documentary.
Ryan Gander, And You Will Be Changed (Centre Pompidou, Paris), 2014. In this documentary video, curator Emma Lavigne gives a tour of Pierre Huyghe’s retrospective at the Pompidou in Paris after its deinstallation, imaging the works and speaking as if they were still there.


Scent.
Sean Raspet, CCCCCCCC=O CCCCCCC(=O)C // (Phantom Ringtone), 2013-2014, fragrance formulation in Propylene Glycol, 15-gallon HDPE container. Courtesy Société Berlin

The script of the two chemical compounds in this fragrant solution, Octanal and 2-Octanone, differ only in the location of a single oxygen molecule.

Together they form a synthetic scent capturing the minimal difference between two nearly identical artificial odors used for flavoring and perfume.

Such an admixture is in constant chemical vibration, as the incessant back-and-forth of a single molecule produces a commensurate olfactory experience that is both intense and fleeting: redolent of familiar plants and foods but without ever settling into specificity. If artificial odors are typically used mimetically to stimulate easy recognition, their convergence here produces a prototypical encounter with abstraction–the halting experience of falling in and out of apperception.


Blue Bird Droppings.

Etienne Chambaud, Additive Expression, 2013. Induced colored bird feces, dimensions variable. Courtesy the artistFor the next six-weeks, Lower East Side birds will shit in hues of deep sky, International Klein Blue, sapphire and azure.

Artist Etienne Chambaud has provided thirty pounds of dried blue bird seeds for the windowbox of The Artist’s Institute and for a stretch of grass in the Sara D. Roosevelt Park nearby. On average, a well-fed pigeon deposits twenty-five pounds of droppings a year. Readdressed to a human eye’s attention, blue bird droppings will turn into drippings, an “additive expression” in blue that may soon appear on buildings, taxis, benches and passersby as the weeks wear on.


Housefly.

The Musca domestica, commonly known as the housefly, is one of the most widely distributed insects. Over its life cycle, the housefly goes through a complete metamorphosis, beginning as milky-white maggot that feeds on things like moist garbage, open wounds, and animal excrement. Within ten days, it searches for dryer environs, where it grows a reddish-brown skin, from which a fully developed fly hatches three to six days later.

Because of their proximity to places like dumps, sewers, garbage heaps, and fecal matter, a single house fly can carry over 100 pathogens, including those which lead to typhoid, cholera, salmonellosis, tuberculosis, anthrax, and parasitic worms.

Text.
Selections from Jakob von Uexkull, (1934). “A Stroll through the Worlds of Animals and Men: A Picture of Invisible Worlds.” In C. Schiller (ed.), Instinctive Behavior, New York, International Universities Press, 1957.

Visual Space

Eyeless animals who, like the tick, have a photosensitive skin probably have identical skin regions to produce local signs for both light stimuli and tactile stimuli. Visual and tactile loci coincide in their world.

Only in animals with eyes are visual and tactile space distinctly segregated. In the retina of the eye, a very small elementary section, the visual elements lie close together. Each element of vision has a corresponding place in the Umwelt, since there is a local sign for each visual element.

It is clear that, owing to the global structure of the eye, the section of the environment that reaches one visual element grows with increasing distance, and that ever more comprehensive parts of the environment are covered by one place. In consequence, objects receding from the eye become smaller and smaller, until they shrink to a single locus, at which point they vanish. For the place or locus represents the smallest spatial vessel within which there are no differences.

In tactile space, objects do not grow smaller. And this is where visual and tactile space enter into conflict. A cup grasped with the outstretched arm and guided to the lips grows in visual space, but does not change its size in tactile space. In this case tactile space predominates, because an impartial observer does not see the cup grow.
The roving eye, like the feeling hand, spreads a subtle mosaic of places, or sites over all the things in the subject’s world. The delicacy of this mosaic depends on the number of visual elements, which grasp the same sector of the environment.

Since the number of visual elements varies greatly in the eyes of different animals, the place-mosaics in their environments must differ correspondingly. The coarser the place-mosaic, the more details will be lost, and the world as seen through the eyes of a fly must appear considerably cruder than it does to the human eye.
Since any image can be transformed into a place-mosaic by superimposing a fine mesh or lattice on it, this method makes it possible to render the differences between the place-mosaics of various animal eyes.

By diminishing a picture more and more, photographing it again with the same lattice, and then re-enlarging it, we shall obtain a progressively coarser mosaic. Since the lattice photographed with the picture is disturbing, the coarser mosaic-images have been reproduced as watercolors, without the lattice. Figures 9a to 9d were made by the lattice method. They enable us to gain insight into the world of an animal if we know the number of visual elements in its eye. Figure 9c corresponds roughly to the image furnished by the eye of a housefly. It is easy to see that in a world which contains so few details, the threads of a cobweb must vanish completely, and we may say: the spider spins a web that remains totally invisible to its prey.

The Farthest Place

Unlike operation and tactile space, visual space is surrounded by an impenetrable wall, which we call the horizon or farthest plane. Sun, moon and stars wander without any difference in depth on the same most distant plane, which surrounds all visible things. The location of the farthest plane is not rigidly fixed. When I took my first walk out of doors after a serious case of typhoid, the farthest plane hung down before me at a distance of about twenty meters, like a colorful tapestry on which all visible things were depicted. Beyond the twenty meters, there were no nearer and farther objects, only larger and smaller one. Even the cars that drove past me did not become more remote, only smaller as soon as they reached the farthest plane.

When the lens muscles are contracted, “forward” directional signs appear. When the elastic lens distends the relaxing muscles, directional signs appear which signal “backwards.” When the muscles are totally relaxed, the eye is set for a range of from ten meters to infinity. Through the muscular movements, we recognize the things in our environment as being near or far within a radius of ten meters. Outside this orbit, objects at first become only larger or smaller. The infant’s visual space ends here with a farthest plane that encompasses his entire world. Only gradually, step by step, do we learn to push back the most distant plane with the aid of distance signs, until, at a distance of 6 to 8 km., it sets a limit to the adult’s visual space, too, and the horizon begins.

The difference between the visual spaces of a child and a grownup is portrayed in Figure 10, which reproduces an experience described by Helmboltz. He reports that as a little boy he was passing the Potsdam garrison church, and noticed some workmen on the gallery. Thereupon he asked his mother to reach down some of the little dolls for him. Church and workmen were already on his farthest plane, and so were not distant, but small. Thus he had every reason to believe that his mother could fetch the puppets down from the gallery with her long arm. He did not know that in his mother’s world the church had altogether different dimensions and that the people on the gallery were not small, but far away. It is hard to decide where the farthest plane begins in the Umwelt of an animal, for it is difficult to determine experimentally at what point an object approaching the subject in his environment becomes nearer as well as larger in his specific world. Attempts at catching flies show that the approaching human hand makes them fly away only when it is about half a meter from them. Accordingly, it would seem justifiable to suppose that their farthest plane is at this distance.

But other observations suggest that the most remote plane also appears in other ways in the housefly’s world. We know that flies do not simply circle around a hanging lamp or chandelier, but interrupt their flight abruptly whenever they have flown half a meter or so away, and then fly close by or under it again. This behavior is like that of a yachtsman who is anxious to stay within sight of an island.

Now the eye of a fly (Fig. 11) is built in such a way that its visual elements (rhabdoms) are long nerve configurations, which must intercept the image projected by their lenses at varying depths, depending on the distance of the object seen. Exner has surmised that we might here be dealing with a substitute for the muscular lens apparatus of the human eye. Assuming that the optic apparatus made up of the fly’s visual elements functions as a portrait lens, the chandelier would vanish at a certain distance, and thus cause the fly to return. As an illustration of this phenomenon, compare Figures 12 and 13, which represent a chandelier photographed without and with a portrait lens.

Whether the farthest plane encloses visual space in this or another manner—it is always there. We may therefore picture all the animals around us, be they beetles, butterflies, flies, mosquitoes or dragonflies that people a meadow, enclosed within soap bubbles, which confine their visual space and contain all that is visible to them. Each soap bubble harbors different loci, and in each there exist the directional planes of operational space, which give its space a solid framework. The fluttering birds, the squirrels leaping from branch to branch, or the cows that browse in the meadows—all remain permanently surrounded by their soap bubbles, which define their own space.

Only when this fact is clearly grasped shall we recognize the soap bubble which encloses each of us as well. Then we shall also see all our fellow men in their individual soap bubbles, which intersect each other smoothly, because they are built up of subjective perceptual signs There is no space independent of subjects. If we still cling to the fiction of an all-encompassing universal space, we do so only because this conventional fable facilitates mutual communication.

 

April 20, 6pm, Tristan Garcia on Intensity.
As philosopher Tristan Garcia understands it, there is a way to think about a universe of pure extensity, where each entity would be part of another, that would be part of another, and so on. Here nothing would ever belong to itself, but anything would belong to something else: being unidentifiable, each entity related to itself would already be another one. Extensity would be the name of an endless nightmarish extension of entities without identity and without intensity.

Garcia, whose book Forme et Objet (2011) is released in English translation this month, will speak at The Artist’s Institute about how identity, far from being neutral, is a tension comprised of entities about to disseminate themselves into myriads of distinct things indifferent to one another. Logical identity, temporal identity, and organic identity are several versions of what makes a single object out of several things. Since nothing is ever absolutely itself, everything is subjected to variation and, compared to itself, a thing is never mistaken for itself: it’s more or less itself, it’s intense.

 

April 20, 7.30pm, Ultrasound.
Jana Winderen, Out of Range, 2014, 40 min., courtesy Touch.

When flying around a cave, a bat generates ultrasound to find its way. These sonic calls range in frequency from 14,000 to over 100,000 Hz, pinging off walls and creating a highly complex echolocation scan of the surrounding environs. Animals including whales, toadfish, and and moths also use the acoustic properties of space for orientation. You could say they ‘see” with sound and “hear” the objects around them.

While all sound is invisible, ultrasound is inaudible to humans. Its oscillating sound pressure waves have a greater frequency than our upper limits, which top off at around 20,000 Hz. Many species have access to a greater frequency than us and also more specific and specialized combinations of senses, producing and perceiving high frequencies for orientation, hunting, and communication.

The mix for Winderen’s piece Out of Range (2014) is based on ultrasound hydrophone recordings onto an ultrasound detector, hydrophone recordings below the water, and of echolocation sound in audible range by mammals and sounds made by fish and underwater insects. The recordings were made in various locations in Central Park and along the East River in New York, in a forest outside Kaliningrad in Russia, in Regents Park, London, and in various locations in Madeira, Norway, Denmark and Sweden. The ultrasound is time-stretched to bring it into a frequency range audible for human beings. We will play it in The Artist’s Institute following a talk by philosopher Tristan Garcia.

April 28, 7pm, Vincent Normand, “The Exhibition as Ontoscopy.” 
Both sixteenth-century seafarers and the scientists of modernity relied on technologies of orientation and figuration. Whether charting untested waters and populating them with axiomatic monsters, or de-animating Nature in quarantined laboratories, they drew on a similar logic–one that finds resonance in the modern museum. Curator Vincent Normand will discuss the museum and its relationship to the term “exhibition” in light of two boundary practices he believes defined modern cosmography: vivisection and navigation. His talk takes its title from a darkly humorous question posed in Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent: “It would be really telling if one could throw a bomb into pure mathematics…what do you think of having a go at pure astronomy?”

May 6, 7.30pm, Films at Anthology.
We will screen a selection of films at Anthology Film Archives, 32 Second Ave., NYC. Tickets are available at anthologyfilmarchives.org.

Pierre Huyghe, A Way in Untilled, 2013, 14 min., color.

As Pierre Huyghe describes it: “The place is enclosed. Elements from different strata in history lie next to each other with no chronological order or sign of origin. There are either physical adaptations of fictional and factual documents or existing things. In the compost of a Baroque garden, artifacts, inanimate elements, and living organisms . . . plants, animals, humans, bacteria are left without culture, non dependent and indifferent to our presence.”

 

Jean-Daniel Pollet, Bassae,1964, 35 mm, 9 min., color, voice-over by Jean Négroni.

High up in the mountains of the Arcadia region, Bassae is one of the oldest archeological site in Greece. Devoted to Apollo, the temple was built in 5th century B.C. In Latin, bassae means “little valley in the rocks”. French filmmaker Jean-Daniel Pollet filmed the old temple in decay, hovering around the ruins as if time was a gigantic loop with no beginning and no end. The old rocks of the Bassae temple are made of solid organic substances that will continue drifting towards the mineral world. Its columns turn into trees, and its architecture is like a forest. As the film’s narrator tells us, “Ce minéral dressé ou couché, à quel ordre appartient-il ? À quel désordre ? Cela n’a pas de nom précis dans aucune langue, pas d’histoire propre, c’est nulle part, cela pourrait être importe quand.”

 

Jean Painlevé, Spider Crabs and Macropodia (Hyas and Stenorhynchus), 1927, 35mm, 18 min.; The Sea Horse,1933, 35mm, 13 min.; Sea Urchins, 1954, 35mm, 11 min.; Acera or the Witches Dance, 1972, 35mm, 13 min; Liquid Crystals, 1978, 35mm, 6 min; The Love Life of the Octopus, 1967, 35mm, 13 min.; Diatoms, 1968, 35mm, 17 min.

Jean Painlevé is often credited with inventing the genre of science-as-fiction. A favorite of Breton, Buñuel, Artaud and others, Painlevé sought out the surreal beauty in the everyday drama of ecological life. In a career that spanned over fifty years and 200 films, Painlevé’s camera roamed the natural world capturing everything from the formation of crystals, to the birth of a jellyfish and the eating habits of insects. Painlevé pioneered underwater, slow-motion, and macro photography, making significant contributions to naturalist and avant-garde filmmaking; decades later, his films’ relentless curiosity and vitality remain a testament to the fact that science and art are both fundamentally rooted in experimentation. This selection of films spans forty years of Painlevé’s oeuvre and features some of his most beloved works, including The Sea Horse (1933) and The Love Life of the Octopus (1967).

 

Fabien Giraud and Raphaël Siboni, Bassae Bassae, 35 mm film, 9 min.

Ever since 1987, when its restoration work began, the Temple of Bassae has been covered by a large white tent, making it disappear. Forty years ago, filmmaker Jean-Daniel Pollet described how stones had fallen back into silence, as the gods withdrew from the scene, and his film Bassae (1964) captures this sentiment. Bassae Bassae by Giraud and Siboni shows the temple now made invisible by its very restoration. Like a contemporary reprise of the original work, Bassae Bassae is a film about that which has become mute and invisible.

Reduce text

Growth, May 29 – July 20, 2014

As Pierre Huyghe’s season moves into early summer, the basement shows signs of expansion. Ancient yeast couples with flour and bacteria to produce warm bread, and further excavation of our walls creates new layers of grey dust. A humming plant, simulated creatures, and animated lights suggest that growth is neither a linear nor a self-contained process, and amongst them we begin to sense the leaks that cultivate change. To better understand the genetic basis for evolving bodies, we’ve invited a scientist to speak about stem cells. And to appreciate Huyghe’s own exploration of auto-generative systems, we will screen his film The Host and the Cloud with our friends at Anthology Film Archive. … Read more

As Pierre Huyghe’s season moves into early summer, the basement shows signs of expansion. Ancient yeast couples with flour and bacteria to produce warm bread, and further excavation of our walls creates new layers of grey dust. A humming plant, simulated creatures, and animated lights suggest that growth is neither a linear nor a self-contained process, and amongst them we begin to sense the leaks that cultivate change. To better understand the genetic basis for evolving bodies, we’ve invited a scientist to speak about stem cells. And to appreciate Huyghe’s own exploration of auto-generative systems, we will screen his film The Host and the Cloud with our friends at Anthology Film Archive. 

May 29 – July 20,

Computer Animation.
Karl Sims, Evolved Virtual Creatures, computer animation, 4 min., 1994. Courtesy the artist

In 1994, computer scientist and graphics researcher Karl Sims combined the abstract mathematics of genetic algorithms with the possibilities of 3D computer-generated simulations. Sims was trying to solve the quintessential problem of control vs. complexity in computer generated animations: users were excellent at controlling design variables but were limited in scaling their work to make highly complex worlds. Autonomous digital systems could crunch enough data to simulate high levels of complexity but only allowed for limited control over the quality. His solution was to integrate the natural laws of evolution with computational power using so-called “genetic algorithms.”

Genetic algorithms, which provide mathematical formulas for evolution, had existed since the early 50s, though Sims, using only recently available technology, was the first to apply them to generating 3D models animated using the laws of physics. Each 3D “creature” is the product of randomized choices that select for their shape and behavior.  They are then subjected to the rules of specific simulated challenges like swimming, or snatching a block from another creature, and then selected for reproduction based on the effectiveness of their solutions, after which they are given random mutations and reintroduced to the system.

In the conclusion to his presentation to the interactive graphics convention SIGGRAPH’94, Sims suggests his approach could induct a new era in virtual animation, unburdened by the necessity of technical know-how or obsessive oversight. In other words, a new generation of sophisticated computer generated images without intelligent design.

 

Growth Chart.
Ian Cheng, More & Less Than Human,  paper and tape, 2013. Courtesy the artist

This intuitive guide to the history of consciousness by Ian Cheng maps a path through three compounding models of being– from the base of surviving the Umwelt (self-centered world) of material, biological, and social realities; to exercising the painful growth cycles of creative destruction; to imagining a speculative existence in which chaos is absorbed as a source of energy. Consciousness is only one of many “mental apps”, and life itself is considered material for an infinitely variable game. As Oliver Wendell Holmes once wrote, “I would not give a fig for the simplicity this side of complexity, but I would give my life for the simplicity on the other side of complexity.”


Pain Levain.
Saccharomyces Cerevisia
, or Baker’s Yeast, is considered by many to be the oldest domesticated organism, dating back some 4,000 years. In addition to being the main strain of yeast responsible for making our doughs rise, S. Cerevisia is of special interest to those who study the biology of life cycles, contributing to the identification of more genes affecting aging in mammals than any other model organism.

When S. Cerevisia is mixed with the bacteria Lactobacillus, flour, and water it grows into a thick, frothing soup, that will double in size every four to eight hours; the foundation for the bread known as Sourdough or Pain Levain. Every such “starter” gives its bread a unique flavor profile by the chance co-ordination of S. Cerevisia with locally available strains of yeast and Lactobacilli. Because any given yeast population is immortal–it can continue to divide and rejuvenate itself forever, even reverting to asexual reproduction if necessary–there is technically no limit on how long a starter can grow.

The starter used to make this bread was “born” in the 1890s in Klondike, Alaska, during the infamous Klondike Gold Rush. It was probably brought to the region by eager prospectors from San Francisco, the fabled home of American Sourdough. Over 100,000 such hopefuls left California for long trek to the frozen Klondike region, packed with a year’s worth of food (part of the government’s immigration mandate), though only a third of them persevered to their destination, with just a fraction of that number finding fortune.

 

Plant Song.
Martin Roth, Untitled (Plant),  2014, Devil’s Backbone plant and Damanhur device. Courtesy the artist

Devil’s Backbone, or Pedilanthus tithymaloides, is a foot-shaped flower native to the American tropics. In the 1970s a team of researchers with a background in electronics embarked on a series of tests designed to investigate how plants perceive and act. Informed by more than forty years of explorations into plant perception, they eventually developed a device that enables plants and trees to play music. This device functions as a biofeedback system, which controls the MIDI synthesizer by measuring the electrical resistance of the vegetable tissues of a plant or a tree and then converting the variations of this physical parameter into control signals.

Plants that have been trained with this device are quicker to find the right balance and produce pleasant, gentle sounds. A “beginner” plant usually needs more time to start playing and may not play at all.

Text.
Pierre Huyghe selections from: The Garden of the Forking Paths by Jorge Luis Borges; The Invention of Morel by Adolfo Bioy Casares; The Preserving Machine by Philip K. Dick; A Time Capsule That Will Survive One Thousand Years in Manhattan by Jaron Lanier with the collaboration of David Sulzer and Lisa Haney.

“A strange destiny,” said Stephen Albert, “that of Ts’ui Pén Governor of his native province, learned in astronomy, in astrology and tireless in the interpretation of the canonical books, a chess player, a famous poet and a calligrapher. Yet he abandoned all to make a book and a labyrinth. He gave up all the pleasures of oppression, justice, of a well-stocked bed, of banquets, and even of erudition, and shut himself up in the Pavilion of the Limpid Sun for thirteen years. At his death, his heirs found only a mess of manuscripts. The family, as you doubtless know, wished to consign them to the fire, but the executor of the estate–a Taoist or a Buddhist monk–insisted on their publication.”

    “The descendants of Tsu’ui Pen,” I replied, “still curse the memory of that monk. Such a publication was madness. The book is a shapeless mass of contradictory rough drafts. I examined it once upon a time: the hero dies in the third chapter, while in the fourth he is alive. As for that other enterprise of Ts’ui Pen…his Labyrinth….”

    “Here is the Labyrinth,” Albert said, pointing to a tall, lacquered writing cabinet.

    “An ivory labyrinth?” I exclaimed. “A tiny labyrinth indeed…!”

    “A symbolic labyrinth,” he corrected me. “An invisible labyrinth of time. I, a barbarous Englishman, have been given the key to this transparent mystery. After more than a hundred years most of the details are irrecoverable, lost beyond all recall, but it isn’t hard to imagine what must have happened. At one time, Ts’ui Pen must have said; ‘I am retiring to construct a maze.’ Everyone assumed these were separate activities. No one realized that the book and the labyrinth were one and the same. The Pavilion of the Limpid Sun was set in the middle of an intricate garden. This may have suggested the idea of a physical maze.

    “Ts’ui Pen died. In all the vast lands which once belonged to your family, no one could find the labyrinth. The novel’s confusion suggested that it was the labyrinth. Two circumstances showed me the direct solution to the problem. First, the curious legend that Ts’ui Pen had proposed to create an infinite maze, second, a fragment of a letter which I discovered.”

    Albert rose. For a few moments he turned his back to me. He opened the top drawer in the high black and gilded writing cabinet. He returned holding in his hand a piece of paper which had once been crimson but which had faded with the passage of time: it was rose colored, tenuous, quadrangular. Ts’ui Pen’s calligraphy was justly famous. Eagerly, but without understanding, I read the words which a man of my own blood had written with  a small brush: “I leave to various future times, but not to all, my garden of forking paths.”

    I handed back the sheet of paper in silene. Albert went on:

    “Before I discovered this letter, I kept asking myself how a book could be infinite. I could not imagine any other than a circular volume. A volume whose last page would be the same as the first and so have the possibility of continuing indefinitely. I recalled, too, the night in the middle of The Thousand and One Nights when Queen Scheherezade, through a magical mistake on the part of her copyist, started to tell the story of The Thousand and One Nights, with the risk of again arriving at the night upon which she will relate it, and thus on to infinity. I also imagined a Platonic hereditary work, passed on from father to son, to which each individual would add a new chapter or correct, with pious care, the work of his elders.”

    “The conjectures gave me amusement, but none seemed to have the remotest application to the contradictory chapters of Ts’ui Pen. At this point, I was sent from Oxford the manuscript you have just seen.”

    “Naturally, my attention was caught by the sentence, ‘I leave to various future times, but not to all, my garden of forking paths.’ I had no sooner read this, than I understood. The Garden of Forking Paths was the chaotic novel itself. The phrase “to various future times, but not to all” suggested the image of bifurcating in time, not in space. Rereading the whole work confirmed this theory. In all fiction, when a man in faced with alternatives he chooses one at the expense of the others. In the almost unfathomable Ts’ui Pen, he chooses–simultaneously–all of them. He thus creates various futures, various times which start others that will in their turn branch out and bifurcate in other times. This is the cause of the contradictions in the novel.”

    “Fang, let us say, has a secret. A stranger knocks at his door. Fang makes up his mind to kill him. Naturally there are various possible outcomes. Fang can kill the intruder, the intruder can kill Fang, both can be saved, both can die and so on and so on. In Ts’ui Pen’s work, all the possible solutions occur, each one being the point of departure for other bifurcations. Sometimes the pathways of this labyrinth converge. For example, you come to this house; but in other possible pasts you are my enemy; in others my friend.”

    “If you will put up with my atrocious pronunciation, I would like to read you a few pages of your ancestor’s work…”

… “I do not think that your illustrious ancestor toyed idly with variations. I do not find it believable that he would waste thirteen years laboring over a never ending experiment in rhetoric. In your country the novel is an inferior genre; in Ts’ui Pen’s period, it was a despised one. Ts’ui Pen was a fine novelist but he was also a man of letters who, doubtless, considered himself more than a mere novelist. The testimony of his contemporaries attests to this, and certainly the known facts of his life confirm his leanings towards the metaphysical and the mystical. Philosophical conjectures take up the greater part of his novel. I know that of all problems, none disquieted him more, and none concerned him more than the profound one of time. Now then, this is the only problem that does not figure in the pages of The Garden. He does not even use the word which means time. How can these voluntary omissions be explained?”

    I proposed various solutions, all of them inadequate. We discussed them. Finally Stephen Albert said: “In a guessing game to which the answer is chess, which word is the only one prohibited?” I thought for a moment and then replied:

    “The word is chess.”

    “Precisely,” said Albert. “The Garden of Forking Paths is an enormous guessing game, or parable, in which the subject is time. The rules of the game forbid the use of the word itself. To eliminate a word completely, to refer to it by means of inept phrases and obvious paraphrases, is perhaps the best way of drawing attention to it. This, then, is the tortuous method of approach preferred by the oblique Ts’ui Pen in every meandering of his interminable novel. I have gone over hundreds of manuscripts, I have corrected errors introduced by careless copyists, I have worked out the plan from this chaos, I have restored, or believe I have restored, the original. I have translated the whole work. I can state categorically that not once has the word time been used in the whole book.

    “The explanation is obvious. The Garden of Forking Paths is a picture, incomplete yet not false, of the universe such a Ts’ui Pen conceived it to be. Differing from Newton and Schopenhauer, your ancestor did not think of time as absolute and uniform. He believed in an infinite series of time, in a dizzily growing, ever spreading network of diverging, converging and parallel times. This web of time–the strands of which approach one another, bifurcate, intersect or ignore each other through the centuries–embraces every possibility. We do not exist in most of them. In some you exist and not I, while in others I do, and you do not, and in yet others both of us exist. I this one, in which chance has favored me, you have come to my gate. In another, you, crossing the garden, have found me dead. In yet another, I say these very same words, but am an error, a phantom.”

    “With my machine a person or an animal or a thing is like the station that broadcasts the concert you hear on the radio. If you turn the dial for the olfactory waves, you will smell the jasmine perfume on Madeleine’s throat, without seeing her. By turning the dial of the tactile waves, you will be able to stroke her soft, invisible hair and learn, like the blind, to know things by your hands. But if you turn all the dials at once, Madeleine will be reproduced completely, and she will appear exactly as she is; you must not forget that I am speaking of images extracted from mirrors, with the sounds, tactile sensation, flavors, odors, temperatures, all synchronized perfectly.”

    “An observer will not realize that they are images. And if our images were to appear now, you yourselves would not believe me. Instead, you would find it easier to think that I had engaged a group of actors, improbably doubles for each of you!”

    “This is the first part of the machine; the second part makes recordings; the third is a projector. No screens or papers are needed; the projections can be received through space, and it does not matter whether it is day or night. To explain this more clearly, I shall attempt to compare the parts of my machine with the television set that shows the images from more or less distant transmitters, with the camera that takes a motion picture of the images transmitted by the television set; and with the motion-picture projector.”

    “I thought I would synchronize all the parts of my machine and take scenes of our lives: an afternoon with Faustine, conversations with some of you; and in that way I would be able to make an album of very durable and clear images, which would be a legacy from the present to the future; they would please your children and friends, and the coming generations whose customs will differ from our own.”

    “I reasoned that if the reproductions of objects would be objects–as a photograph of a house is an object that represents another object–the reproductions of animals and plants who would not be animals or plants. I was certain that my images of persons would lack consciousness of themselves (like the characters in a motion picture).”

    “But I found, to my surprise, that when I succeeded in synchronizing the different parts of the machine, after much hard work, I obtained reconstituted persons who would disappear if I disconnected the projecting apparatus, and would live only the moments when the scene was taken; when the scene ended they would repeat these same moments again and again, like a phonograph record or a motion picture that would end and begin again; moreover, no one could distinguish them from living persons (they appear to be circulating in another world with which our own has made a chance encounter). If we grant consciousness, and all that distinguishes us from objects, to the persons who surround us, we shall have no valid reason to deny it to the persons created by my machinery.”

    “When all the senses are synchronized, the soul emerges. That was to be expected. When Madeleine existed for the senses of sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch. Madeleine herself was actually there.”

    “I have shown that Morel’s style is unpleasant, with a liberal sprinkling of technical terms, and that it attempts, vainly, to achieve a certain grandiloquence. Its banality is obvious: It is hard for you to accept such a mechanical and artificial system for the reproduction of life? It might help if you bear in mind that what changes the sleight-of-hand artist’s movements into magic is our inability to see!”

    “To make living reproductions, I need living transmitters. I do not create life.”

    “The thing that is latent in a phonograph record, the thing that is revealed when I press a button and turn on the machine–shouldn’t we call that ‘life”’? Shall I insist, like the Chinese, that every life depends on a button which an unknown being can press? And you yourselves–how many times have you wondered about mankind’s destiny, or asked the old questions: ‘Where are we going? Like the unheard music that lies latent in a phonograph record, where are we until God orders us to be born?’ Don’t you see that there is a parallelism between the destinies of men and images?”

    “The theory that the images have souls seems to be confirmed by the effects of my machine on persons, animals, and vegetables used as transmitters.”

    “I understood that what Morel had said several hours ago was true (but very possibly he did not say it for the first time several hours ago but several years ago; he repeated it that night because it was part of the week, on the eternal record). I experienced a feeling of scorn, almost disgust, for those people and their indefatigable, repetitious activity. They appeared many times up there on the edge of the hill. To be on an island inhabited by artificial ghosts was the most unbearable of nightmares; to be in love with one of those images was worse  than being in love with a ghost (perhaps we always want the person we love to have the existence of a ghost).”

    “The word museum, which I use to designate this house, is a survival of the time when I was working on plans for my invention, without knowing how it would eventually turn out. At that time I thought I would build large albums or museums, both public and private, filled with these images.”

    “Now the time has come to make my announcement: This island, and its buildings, is our private paradise. I have taken some precautions–physical and moral ones–for its defense: I believe they will perfect it adequately. Even if we left tomorrow, we would be here eternally, repeating consecutively the moments of this week, powerless to escape from the consciousness we had in each one of them–the thoughts and feelings that the machine captured. We will be able to live a life that is always new, because in each moment of the projection we shall have no memories other than those we had in the corresponding moment of the eternal record, and because the future, left behind many times, will maintain its attributes forever.”

    Logical reasons induce us to reject Morel’s hopes. Then images are not alive. But since his invention has blazed the trail, as it were, another machine should be invented to find out whether the images think and feel (or at least if they have the thoughts and the feelings that the people themselves had when the picture was made; of course, the relationship between their consciousness and these thoughts and feelings cannot be determined). The machine would be very similar to the one Morel invented and would be aimed at the thoughts and sensations of the transmitter; at any distance away from Faustine we should be able to have her thoughts and sensations (visual, auditory, tactile, olfactory, gustatory).

    This month there were a number of higher tides; two of them were lunar, and the others, meteorological.

    The appearances and disappearances: the machines project the images. The power from the tides causes the machines to operate.

    After rather lengthy periods of low tides, there was a series of tides that came up to the mill in the lowlands. The machines began to run, and the eternal record started playing again where it had broken off.

    If Morel’s speech was on the last night of the week, the first appearance must have occurred on the night of the third day.

    Perhaps the absence of images during the long period before they first appeared was due to the change of the tides with the solar periods.

    The two suns and the two moons: Since the week is repeated all through the year, some suns and moons do not coincide (and people complain of the cold when the weather on the island is warm, and swim in fetid water and dance in a thicket or during a storm). And if the whole island were submerged–except for the machines and projectors–the images, the museum, and the island itself would still be visible.

    Perhaps the heat of the past few days has been so intense because the temperature of the day when the scene was photographed is superimposed on the present temperature.

    When I was ready, I turned on the receivers of simultaneous action. Seven days have been recorded. I performed well: a casual observer would not suspect that I am not a part of the original scene. That came about naturally as the result of my painstaking preparation: I devoted two weeks to continuous study and experiment. I rehearsed my every action tirelessly. I studied what Faustine says, her questions and answers; I often inserted an appropriate sentence, so she appears to be answering me.

    A bomber moved overhead. Bombs fell, bursting the museum to fragments, bringing the walls down in a roar of rubble and plaster. In the debris the last score disappeared, lost in the rubbish, to rot and mold.

    And then, in Doc Labyrinth’s vision, he saw the score come burrowing out, like some buried mole. Quick like a mole, in fact, with claws and sharp teeth and a furious energy.

    If music had that faculty, the ordinary, everyday instinct of survival which every worn and mole has, how different it would be! If music could be transformed into living creatures, animals with claws and teeth, then music might survive. If only a Machine could be built, a Machine to process musical scores into living forms…

    Weeks passed. The Machine was coming along fine; in fact, it was almost finished. They had given it a trial run, feeding a couple of popular songs into it. The results? Two small mouse-like animals had come scampering out, rushing around the laboratory until the cat caught and ate them. But the Machine was a success.

    Many fleeting notions much have coursed through his mind as he adjusted the controls and made ready for the first transformation. He had selected a priceless score to begin with, the score of the Mozart G Minor Quintet. For a time he turned the pages, lost in thought, his mind far away. At last he carried it to Machine and dropped it in.

    Labyrinth went ahead feeding the music of many composers into the Preserving machine, one after another, until the woods behind his house were filled with creeping, bleating things that screamed and crashed in the night. There were many oddities that come out, creations that startled and astonished him.

    …So he let them go, off into the woods, and away they went, hopping and rolling and jumping as best they could. But already a sense of failure hung over him. Each time a creature came out he was astonished; he did not seem to have control over the results at all. It was out of his hands, subject to some strong, invisible law that had subtly taken over, and this worried him greatly. The creatures were bending, changing before a deep, impersonal force, a force that Labyrinth could neither see nor understand. And it made him afraid…

…He had ensured their survival, all right, but in so doing he had erased any meaning, any value in it.

    …”There’s no doubt.” Labyrinth came over and sat down opposite me. “It’s undergone some metamorphosis. It certainly didn’t have poisoned spines to start with. you know, it’s a good thing that I played my Noah role carefully…”

    …”What do you mean?”

    “I made them all neuter. They can’t reproduce. There will be no second generation. When these die, that will be the end of it.”

    “I must say I’m glad you thought of that.:

    “I wonder,” Labyrinth murmured. “I wonder how it would sound, now this way.”

    “What?”

    “The sphere, the Bach bug. That’s the real test, isn’t it? I could put it back through the Machine. We could see. Do you want to find out?…

    …Labyrinth stirred. He pushed the slot-piece aside and reached into the Machine. His fingers came out grasping a slim sheet, a score of music. He handed it to me. “This is the result,” he said. “We can go upstairs and play it.”

    We went back up to the music room. Labyrinth sat down before the grand piano and I passed him back the score. He opened it and studied it for a moment, his face blank, without expression. Then he began to play.

    I listened to the music. It was hideous. I have never heard anything like it. It was distorted, diabolical, without sense or meaning, except, perhaps, an alien, disconcerting meaning that should never have been there. I could believe only with the greatest effort that it had once been a Bach Fugue, part of a most orderly and respected work.

    “That settles it,” Labyrinth said. He stood up, took the score in his hands, and tore it to shreds.

    As we made our way down the path to my car I said, “I guess the struggle for survival is a force bigger than any human ethos. It makes our precious morals and manners look a little thin.”

An archive of the New York Times Magazine and other materials will be encoded into the DNA of cockroaches which will be released in Manhattan.

The familiar New York City cockroach predates the city’s geography. It has survived ice ages, earthquakes, famines, and floods. It has watched the dinosaurs come and go. It has resisted determined efforts by mankind to remove it even from individual buildings. It would survive a nuclear attack. It will probably outlive all other contemporary fauna on Manhattan, including humans.

Some of the cockroach’s genes are extremely stable. They have not changed substantially for millions of years, and are therefore extremely likely to remain stable for the next one thousand years. Associated with these genes are DNA sequences known as introns which serve no known purpose. While it is possible that these sequences serve some unidentified function, their content is gibberish.

Recombinant techniques will be used to overwrite this gibberish with the archival materials. While computer memory is made of bits, which exist in two states (zero or one), DNA is composed of four “base pairs”; so it has four states. Therefore a given sequence of DNA can store twice as much information as a similar length of computer memory.

A single cockroach’s introns will easily be able to contain the articles, letters, and other primary texts of one full year’s editions of the Times Magazine.

Certain types of information will be written into mitochondrial DNA sequences, which are inherited matrilinearly and are not subject to sexual recombination, instead of introns. DNA in this location is not as stable, but will nonetheless remain useful for the required period of time. Mitochondrial DNA is well suited to data such as digitized photographs, audio recordings, and crossword puzzles. The continuous nature of photographic and audio materials makes them useful even if there are slight modifications to the data; indeed even the best preserved photographs are constantly undergoing slight changes which are not perceived by casual observers. While crossword puzzles are made of discrete information (text), it is presumed that the further in the future the puzzle is decoded, the more advanced the civilization will be; therefore any errors caused by the passage of time will simply generate an appropriately difficult puzzle.

Once an archive is selected, it will be written into a computer file and coded into DNA base pairs. The sequences will then be synthesized by conventional protocols. Then the archival DNA will be ligated into cockroach intron DNA via injection into eggs.

Once the archival roaches are born they will be cultivated until the population achieves at least the specified volume (8 cubic feet). The roaches will be released in selected locations in Manhattan. Further cultivations and releases will follow, carefully calculated to assure that the archive is widespread enough to survive for the specified period of time.

Within approximately fourteen years, the archival roaches will inexorably become so endemic as to become an ubiquitous and permanent feature of the island.

In order to decode the archive, a future historian would make use of Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) to amplify and then sequence the fragments, turning the DNA sequence once again into the contents of a computer’s memory.

 

June 24, 7.30pm, Film at Anthology.
Pierre Huyghe, The Host and the Cloud,  2009–10, 122 min., digital.

Join us for a screening of Pierre Huyghe’s The Host and the Cloud (2009–2010) at Anthology Film Archives. As Pierre Huyghe describes it:

“Set in a disused French ethnographic museum lying on an ancient human and animal zoo, an experiment unfolds over the course of one year. A small group of people is put under influence. Everything that happens is real. They are exposed to live situations that appear accidentally, simultaneously or without any sense of order within the building. They can imitate or transform them endlessly to variable intensity. From a trial to a dance, from a hypnosis session to sexual acts, from an archive to a coronation, all these figures are presented or re-interpreted. A set of operations unfolds: it is an auto-generating system in which cause and effect remain indeterminate and where everything that was written leaks into the contingent and the chaotic.

The Host and the Cloud is a ritual of separation. The relations structuring a subject to its context are cut. The conditions of a culture are recreated. Its influence, its mode of exhibition are exorcised. Some witnesses were chosen to penetrate the building during the Day of the Dead, on Saint Valentine’s and during May Day, but the experiment remains indifferent to their presence. The film documents a part of the event and shows the incapacity to represent the absent subject who has been affected.”

July 17, 7pm, Dr. Ali Brivanlou on Genetic Engineering.
Dr. Ali Brivanlou’s research focuses on the molecular events and cellular interactions that regulate the emergence of key structures in the early embryo. Most of the work in his laboratory focuses on the molecular basis of cell fate specification and patterning during early embryonic development. The ultimate objective of the work is to understand the molecular circuitry underlying embryonic induction, with a special emphasis on the formation of the nervous system. Toward this aim, he performs comparative studies using both amphibian and mammalian model systems, including human embryonic stem cells (hESCs). Dr. Brivanlou will come to speak about his research, and about its potential crossovers with artistic speculation.

Reduce text

. . ., July 26 – August 17, 2014

Over the past half year, the Institute has become a timekeeper. It holds vestiges of of seasons past in the dusty murals by Lucy McKenzie, now visible from continuous sanding. Months of electric jolts have created a fly mortuary above the desk, whose bodies double as a record of every flicker of the light. A spider who wintered in the chair closet has now migrated to the windowsill, where it’s web can catch the summer light. Remembering everything that has happened here is an impossible task, but over the next few weeks, artists Melissa Dubbin and Aaron S. Davidson will try. They are adding a final layer of gypsum, whose absorbent properties will soak up the season and allow us to continue to live with it as a compressed memory. … Read more

Over the past half year, the Institute has become a timekeeper. It holds vestiges of of seasons past in the dusty murals by Lucy McKenzie, now visible from continuous sanding. Months of electric jolts have created a fly mortuary above the desk, whose bodies double as a record of every flicker of the light. A spider who wintered in the chair closet has now migrated to the windowsill, where it’s web can catch the summer light. Remembering everything that has happened here is an impossible task, but over the next few weeks, artists Melissa Dubbin and Aaron S. Davidson will try. They are adding a final layer of gypsum, whose absorbent properties will soak up the season and allow us to continue to live with it as a compressed memory. 

July 26–August 17,
Gypsum.
Earlier this season, Pierre Huyghe sanded down the walls of the Institute. That excavation revealed faint traces of a wall painting that Lucy McKenzie made last fall based on Moorish patterns from the Alhambra Palace. It also left deposits of grey dust around the perimeter of the room, which eventually spread to other parts of the basement on the bottom of visitors’ shoes.

This month, there is dust on top of dust. Melissa Dubbin and Aaron S. Davidson have dropped a layer of white gypsum throughout the space. It was gathered near White Sands National Monument, one of the world’s vastest deposits of the substance, where the desert’s evaporation cycle has made its crystal structure highly absorptive. As our time with Pierre Huyghe comes to a close, the artists will use the gypsum to soak in the elements of the room, and then make it into a brick that contains the season as a crystallized memory.


Gypsum Pyrograph.
Melissa Dubbin and Aaron S. Davidson, Raster Burn (gypsum pyrograph), 2014, gypsum wallboard, 14 x 8 x 1 inches. Courtesy the artist

The White Sands Missile Range (WSMR) in New Mexico is the largest military installation in the United States. Located within the northern Chihuahuan desert, it goes on for 3,200 square miles and is a site where numerous military weapons and defense systems are tested, including the now defunct Strategic Defense Initiative, commonly called Star Wars This pyrograph was made by applying heat from a laser to a piece of drywall made with gypsum from White Sands. Its fungal-like interior is the result of numerous micro-cuts into the material.

 

Garnets.
Melissa Dubbin and Aaron S. Davidson,Brilliant Pebbles, 35 anthill garnets (chrome pyrope garnets unearthed by ants) to be cast in lead, 2014.

From far away, the small figures dotting the top of the Institute’s mantel look like marching ants. The confusion is half-right, as these rough garnets, placed one after the other, were harvested by an ant colony. Although garnets are semi-precious stones to jewelers, to ants they are just another obstruction in their underground passageways, and so they drag them up to the edges of their anthills. These particular garnets come from anthills in New Mexico.

 

August 16, 9pm-10.30pm, Star Gazing.
They say the skies are so dark in Cherry Springs State Park, Pennsylvania that the Milky Way casts a shadow. Here you can see aurora, zodiacal light, and faint meteors–phenomena unobservable in most places because of skyglow, or the illumination of artificial light. The International Dark Sky Association says Cherry Grove is one of the ten best places in the United States to see stars and recently made it a dark sky preserve to protect it from human light.

On August 16th, artist David Horvitz will be making a five-hour journey from New York City to see the night sky at Cherry Springs, where he will meet Stash Nawrocki, an astronomy enthusiast with a good telescope. They will have a 360-degree view of the horizon from their perch high on a mountaintop.

Reduce text

Events

August 16, 9pm,

Star Gazing.
They say the skies are so dark in Cherry Springs State Park, Pennsylvania that the Milky Way casts a shadow. Here you can see aurora, zodiacal light, and faint meteors–phenomena unobservable in most places because of skyglow, or the illumination of artificial light. The International Dark Sky Association says Cherry Grove is one of the ten best places in the United States to see stars and recently made it a dark sky preserve to protect it from human light.

On August 16th, artist David Horvitz will be making a five-hour journey from New York City to see the night sky at Cherry Springs, where he will meet Stash Nawrocki, an astronomy enthusiast with a good telescope. They will have a 360-degree view of the horizon from their perch high on a mountaintop. If you would like to join David and Stash, send us an e-mail: info@theartistsinstitute.org.

July 17, 7pm,

Dr. Ali Brivanlou on Genetic Engineering.
Dr. Ali Brivanlou’s research focuses on the molecular events and cellular interactions that regulate the emergence of key structures in the early embryo. The ultimate objective of the work is to understand the molecular circuitry underlying embryonic induction, with a special emphasis on the formation of the nervous system. Toward this aim, he performs comparative studies using both amphibian and mammalian model systems, including human embryonic stem cells (hESCs). Dr. Brivan- lou will come to speak about his research, and about its potential crossovers with artistic speculation.

June 24, 7.30pm,

The Host and the Cloud Screening.
Join us for a screening of Pierre Huyghe’s The Host and the Cloud (2009-10) at Anthology Film Archives.

“Set in a disused French ethnographic museum lying on an ancient human and animal zoo, an experiment unfolds over the course of one year. A small group of people is put under influence. Everything that happens is real. They are exposed to live situations that appear accidentally, simultaneously or without any sense of order within the building. They can imitate or transform them endlessly to variable intensity. From a trial to a dance, from a hypnosis session to sexual acts, from an archive to a coronation, all these figures are presented or re-interpreted. A set of operations unfolds: it is an auto-generating system in which cause and effect remain indeterminate and where everything that was written leaks into the contingent and the chaotic.

The Host and the Cloud is a ritual of separation. The relations structuring a subject to its context are cut. The conditions of a culture are recreated. Its influence, its mode of exhibition are exorcised. Some witnesses were chosen to penetrate the building during the Day of the Dead, on Saint Valentine’s and during May Day, but the experiment remains indifferent to their presence. The film documents a part of the event and shows the incapacity to represent the absent subject who has been affected.” –P.H.

The film is 122 min. and tickets can be purchased from anthologyfilmarchives.org.

May 16, 8pm–10pm,

Cinema Karaoke.
This Friday join The Artist’s Institute for karaoke minus the singing. Become your own avatar, whether that’s Blue Steel, Inigo Montoya, or Michael Corleone. A gadget called Yoostar will allow our images to live inside the cinema using green screen and motion sensor technology. Free drinks, popcorn. Organized for the Pierre Huyghe season by Institute Fellows Sam Cate-Gumpert, Andrianna Hughes, and Gabriela Vainsencher.

May 6, 7.30pm,

Film Screening. A selection of films at Anthology Film Archives, 32 Second Ave., NYC.

Pierre Huyghe, A Way in Untilled, 2013, 14 min., color.

As Pierre Huyghe describes it: “The place is enclosed. Elements from different strata in history lie next to each other with no chronological order or sign of origin. There are either physical adaptations of fictional and factual documents or existing things. In the compost of a Baroque garden, artifacts, inanimate elements, and living organisms . . . plants, animals, humans, bacteria are left without culture, non dependent and indifferent to our presence.”

 

Jean-Daniel Pollet, Bassae,1964, 35 mm, 9 min., color, voice-over by Jean Négroni.

High up in the mountains of the Arcadia region, Bassae is one of the oldest archeological site in Greece. Devoted to Apollo, the temple was built in 5th century B.C. In Latin, bassae means “little valley in the rocks”. French filmmaker Jean-Daniel Pollet filmed the old temple in decay, hovering around the ruins as if time was a gigantic loop with no beginning and no end. The old rocks of the Bassae temple are made of solid organic substances that will continue drifting towards the mineral world. Its columns turn into trees, and its architecture is like a forest. As the film’s narrator tells us, “Ce minéral dressé ou couché, à quel ordre appartient-il ? À quel désordre ? Cela n’a pas de nom précis dans aucune langue, pas d’histoire propre, c’est nulle part, cela pourrait être importe quand.”

 

Jean Painlevé, Spider Crabs and Macropodia (Hyas and Stenorhynchus), 1927, 35mm, 18 min.; The Sea Horse,1933, 35mm, 13 min.; Sea Urchins, 1954, 35mm, 11 min.; Acera or the Witches Dance, 1972, 35mm, 13 min; Liquid Crystals, 1978, 35mm, 6 min; The Love Life of the Octopus, 1967, 35mm, 13 min.; Diatoms, 1968, 35mm, 17 min.

Jean Painlevé is often credited with inventing the genre of science-as-fiction. A favorite of Breton, Buñuel, Artaud and others, Painlevé sought out the surreal beauty in the everyday drama of ecological life. In a career that spanned over fifty years and 200 films, Painlevé’s camera roamed the natural world capturing everything from the formation of crystals, to the birth of a jellyfish and the eating habits of insects. Painlevé pioneered underwater, slow-motion, and macro photography, making significant contributions to naturalist and avant-garde filmmaking; decades later, his films’ relentless curiosity and vitality remain a testament to the fact that science and art are both fundamentally rooted in experimentation. This selection of films spans forty years of Painlevé’s oeuvre and features some of his most beloved works, including The Sea Horse (1933) and The Love Life of the Octopus (1967).

 

Fabien Giraud and Raphaël Siboni, Bassae Bassae, 35 mm film, 9 min.

Ever since 1987, when its restoration work began, the Temple of Bassae has been covered by a large white tent, making it disappear. Forty years ago, filmmaker Jean-Daniel Pollet described how stones had fallen back into silence, as the gods withdrew from the scene, and his film Bassae (1964) captures this sentiment. Bassae Bassae by Giraud and Siboni shows the temple now made invisible by its very restoration. Like a contemporary reprise of the original work, Bassae Bassae is a film about that which has become mute and invisible.

April 28, 7pm,

Vincent Normand, “The Exhibition as Ontoscopy.”
Both sixteenth-century seafarers and the scientists of modernity relied on technologies of orientation and figuration. Whether charting untested waters and populating them with axiomatic monsters, or de-animating Nature in quarantined laboratories, they drew on a similar logic–one that finds resonance in the modern museum. Curator Vincent Normand will discuss the museum and its relationship to the term “exhibition” in light of two boundary practices he believes defined modern cosmography: vivisection and navigation. His talk takes its title from a darkly humorous question posed in Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent: “It would be really telling if one could throw a bomb into pure mathematics…what do you think of having a go at pure astronomy?”

April 20, 7.30pm,

Jana Winderer, “Out of Range.”
When flying around a cave, a bat generates ultrasound to find its way. These sonic calls range in frequency from 14,000 to over 100,000 Hz, pinging off walls and creating a highly complex echolocation scan of the surrounding environs. Animals including whales, toadfish, and and moths also use the acoustic properties of space for orientation. You could say they ‘see” with sound and “hear” the objects around them.

While all sound is invisible, ultrasound is inaudible to humans. Its oscillating sound pressure waves have a greater frequency than our upper limits, which top off at around 20,000 Hz. Many species have access to a greater frequency than us and also more specific and specialized combinations of senses, producing and perceiving high frequencies for orientation, hunting, and communication.

The mix for Winderen’s piece Out of Range (2014) is based on ultrasound hydrophone recordings onto an ultrasound detector, hydrophone recordings below the water, and of echolocation sound in audible range by mammals and sounds made by fish and underwater insects. The recordings were made in various locations in Central Park and along the East River in New York, in a forest outside Kaliningrad in Russia, in Regents Park, London, and in various locations in Madeira, Norway, Denmark and Sweden. The ultrasound is time-stretched to bring it into a frequency range audible for human beings. We will play it in The Artist’s Institute following a talk by philosopher Tristan Garcia.

April 20, 6pm,

Tristin Garcia on Intensity.
As philosopher Tristan Garcia understands it, there is a way to think about a universe of pure extensity, where each entity would be part of another, that would be part of another, and so on. Here nothing would ever belong to itself, but anything would belong to something else: being unidentifiable, each entity related to itself would already be another one. Extensity would be the name of an endless nightmarish extension of entities without identity and without intensity.

Garcia, whose book Forme et Objet (2011) is released in English translation this month, will speak at The Artist’s Institute about how identity, far from being neutral, is a tension comprised of entities about to disseminate themselves into myriads of distinct things indifferent to one another. Logical identity, temporal identity, and organic identity are several versions of what makes a single object out of several things. Since nothing is ever absolutely itself, everything is subjected to variation and, compared to itself, a thing is never mistaken for itself: it’s more or less itself, it’s intense.

March 14, 7pm,

Dr. Angelique Corthals on Copper Man.
In 1899, the body of a man was discovered at Chuquicamata, Chile, the largest open pit copper mine in the world. It was an especially startling discovery, because his dessicated body appeared to include copper ions that had migrated from the copper to his system, providing somewhat of an antifungal effect and thus leaving the body well preserved—a hybrid of human flesh and metal. Through carbon-14 analysis, researchers believe he lived in 550 CE.

The industrialist J. P. Morgan purchased the Copper Man and brought it to New York, to the American Museum of Natural History, in 1905, where it has rested ever since. Dr. Angelique Corthals, a renowned forensic anthropologist who conducted research on the Copper Man, will come to The Artist’s Institute to share more about its social and natural histories, as well as the fossilization process.

March 8, 12pm,

Symposium.
A compressed history of Pierre Huyghe will unfold as a series of case studies presented by his interlocutors, each of whom have developed thinking around particular works. It will be held at The Artist’s Institute, whose diminutive scale will allow for a more intimate exchange of ideas than is usually possible in this format. Seating is first-come, first-served. A recording will be available online in mid-March.

11:00 AM, Session One: Tom McDonough (Snow White Lucie, The Third Memory, No Ghost Just a Shell); Julieta Aranda (Mobile and The Castle of Turing); Sinziana Ravini (The Host and the Cloud); Discussion moderated by Alex Kitnick

2:30 PM, Session Two: Liam Gillick (The Association of Freed Time); Lynne Cooke (Streamside Day); Dorothea von Hantelmann (Untilled); Discussion moderated by Jenny Jaskey

February 21, 6pm–8pm,

Opening.
Save the date for the eighth season of The Artist’s Institute with Pierre Huyghe.

February 20, 7.30pm,

Dance for Radium.
When the sun sets, a dance for Marie Curie.

Recordings

Pierre Huyghe Symposium, March 8, 2014, with Tom McDonough

Pierre Huyghe Symposium Part II, March 8, 2014, with Liam Gillick, Lynne Cooke, and Dorothea von Hantelmann

“Copperman,” March 14, 7pm with Dr. Angelique Corthals

“Let it be, and make it intense,” April 20, 6pm with Tristan Garcia

“Boundary Practices,” April 28, 7pm with Vincent Normand

“Genetic Engineering and Artistic Speculation,” July 17, 7pm with Dr. Ali H. Brivanlou.