Futurefarmers artists Amy Franceschini and Michael Swaine explore the limits of knowledge as part of a multifaceted research residency inspired by Charles and Ray Eames's film Powers of Ten. A collaboration between the MATRIX program at BAM/PFA and the Berkeley Center for New Media, the project will culminate in a dynamic series of public programs to be held in Berkeley and San Francisco.
Berkeley, CA, January 20, 2011-(Download a PDF version of this press release.) Founded in 1995, Futurefarmers is a San Francisco–based collective of artists and designers with a common interest in creating art that is socially, politically, and environmentally relevant. Among their many accomplishments, they have developed an ongoing project with the City of San Francisco that supports the transition of unused land into food production areas, designed lunchboxes enabling students to discover hydrogen-producing algae, produced bingo cards that explore the nations with the lowest GDPs, and even designed the now ubiquitous Twitter logo. Their upcoming research residency within the University of California, Berkeley is no less ambitious.
From February through April 2011, Futurefarmers artists Amy Franceschini and Michael Swaine will embark on a multifaceted residency project with the MATRIX program at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAM/PFA) in conjunction with the Berkeley Center for New Media to explore the production of knowledge, asking questions such as: What are its present limits across various fields? What about our universe remains undiscovered, and how are academic researchers moving towards these “unknown” territories?
Franceschini and Swaine will explore these and other mysteries via a series of picnics with scholars from all corners of the University. This unusual framework is inspired by Charles and Ray Eames's documentary, Powers of Ten, which depicts the relative scale of the universe. The film opens with an overhead image of a man and woman picnicking. The camera then slowly zooms out in incremental factors of ten to reveal the scope of the observable universe, before it begins to zoom back down to the picnic, into the man's hand, to views of negative powers of ten until the camera comes to quarks in a proton of a carbon atom-“the edge of our current understanding.” Through the Eames's film, viewers find a universe that is an arena of both continuity and change, of everyday picnics and cosmic mysteries.
The picnics or “research moments” are being recorded, filmed, and photographed via an aerial kit camera and will be made available to the public via multiple channels. They will be posted as podcasts and documented on the project's website (www.futurefarmers.com/powersoften). This research will also inform a BAM/PFA gallery installation and, most importantly, three public programs.
On February 6, Futurefarmers will open the series with a presentation of Eames's Powers of Ten and other short films at BAM/PFA Museum Theater. The screening will be flanked by sound and visual phenomena inspired by the film. On March 5, the artists host a demonstration of tools constructed during an all-day workshop with artists and scientists at the Exploratorium, discussing them in the context of seeing beyond our biological perceptions of the world. The series climaxes on April 17 in the BAM/PFA Sculpture Garden with an afternoon “think lodge” led in part by artist Josh On, concerning methods used by artists and scientists to understand the world around them.
These various activities help bring academic research-which is often cloistered behind closed doors-into the art context and vice versa. And unlike exhibitions where the final products of thought, inquiry, and production are presented as static objects, A Variation displays the process of thought and inquiry as its own production. In total, the project is a journey through various fields of inquiry-from human psychology and philosophy to ecology, microbiology, astrobiology, environmental science, and zoology-that collects and presents knowledge to provide a contemporary portrait of various perspectives on our changing world.
Futurefarmers: A Variation on the Powers of Ten is curated by Phyllis Wattis MATRIX Curator Elizabeth Thomas.
Excursions into Domains of Familiarity and Surprise
Sunday, February 6, 3 p.m. @ BAM/PFA (Museum Theater)
This first event frames the research process, starting from the known and reaching forward to the unknown. The program includes a screening of Powers of Ten and other special shorts (some drawn from BAM/PFA's collection), alongside sound experimentation. With special guest Marijke Jorritsma (Eats Tapes).
Tool Raising in Collaboration with the Exploratorium
Saturday, March 5, 4 p.m. @ Exploratorium (McBean Theater, Palace of Fine Arts, San Francisco)
This event is free for BAM/PFA members and UC Berkeley staff, faculty, and students, with ID
A demonstration of and discussion about tools that allow us to see beyond our biological perceptions and that affect our understanding of the world. The evening includes a show-and-tell of the results of a DIY tool workshop held earlier in the day with Futurefarmers and a cadre of artists and makers, as well as a demonstration of related sensory phenomena.
Sunday, April 17, 3 p.m. @ BAM/PFA (Sculpture Garden)
An afternoon think lodge,* including a participatory exercise with Josh On, that explores the methods used by artists and scientists to alleviate, amplify, condense, explode, illustrate, and understand the world around them. Bring your picnic blanket.
*In between a think tank and a sweat lodge
Note: By nature of its form, A Variation is a fluid, changing project, so check the website for updated event information
Futurefarmers is hosted on campus by Berkeley Center for New Media.
The MATRIX Program at the UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive is made possible by a generous endowment gift from Phyllis C. Wattis; The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts; and the continued support of the BAM/PFA Trustees.
The Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAM/PFA) is the visual arts center of the University of California, Berkeley, one of the nation's leading research universities. BAM/PFA aims to inspire the imagination and ignite critical dialogue through contemporary and historical art and film, engaging audiences from the campus, Bay Area community, and beyond. One of the largest university art museums in the United States in both size and attendance, BAM/PFA presents fifteen art exhibitions and 380 film programs each year. The museum's collection of more than 15,000 works, distinguished by artistic excellence and innovation, intellectual exploration, and social commentary, includes exceptional examples of mid-twentieth-century painting, including important works by Hans Hofmann, Jackson Pollock, Eva Hesse, and Mark Rothko, as well as historical and contemporary Asian art, early American painting, Conceptual and contemporary international art, and California and Bay Area art. The PFA film and video collection now includes the largest group of Japanese films outside of Japan, as well as impressive holdings of Soviet silents, West Coast avant-garde cinema, seminal video art, rare animation, Central Asian productions, Eastern European cinema, and international classics.
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