Monday, February 28, 2011

on the road: mary mattingly

Getting back to ON THE ROAD: Our Tiffany Gallery is currently housing work by Mary Mattingly, courtesy of Robert Mann Gallery.

Mattingly’s work in the show breaks in two different directions: On one side, there’s dystopic, sci-fi-tinged fiction, as seen in the Nomadographies: constructed photographs of a fantastic entropic future where the ocean levels have risen, the terrain is either impossibly lush or impassably hostile, and people need to take to the road and travel light. (Below: photos of Mary Mattingly's work in ON THE ROAD at AAC.)

Mattingly on the photos:

I began the series Nomadographies by doing research, drawing sketches, and by imagining a possible scenario. The story evolved into a series of ad hoc and adaptive low and hi-tech solutions for the circumstances of nomadic life, goals of self-sufficiency, and depictions of a not-so-distant future when the amount of forced environmental and political refugees has increased worldwide, and new temporary communities are continuously created and recreated...Nomadographies is a pilgrimage through real and imagined terrains, a travelogue for the future.

Also in this vein is Mattingly’s video, Pangaea Ultima, which presents a world that once was and might be again: Earth is returned via some ecological disaster to a prehistoric state. A voiceover tells us about an era in which the rainforests have been leveled, turned into deserts. We see images of wandering tribes of humans inhabiting a raging, shifting, inhospitable climate. The viewer is left uncertain as to how far into the future—43 years, or centuries from now?—this cataclysm is supposed to occur.

See video below; click
here if the player doesn’t appear.

On the other side, there’s documentation of Mattingly’s Waterpod project—an incredible, utopian-sounding but very real undertaking. The Waterpod was a 120 foot barge on which the artist and a team of collaborators lived and worked for five months in 2009. It was conceived as a “floating, sculptural eco-habitat designed for the rising tides,” according to the project website.

Mattingly received help from Appropedia founder Lonny Grafman and students from his Humboldt State University engineering class, Engineering 215: Introduction to Design, in which students typically “ in teams with a client to address some real-world problem or opportunity.”

The problems Grafman’s team needed to solve included generating power, purifying water, disposing of human waste, and raising chickens:

...components of the Waterpod include a classic CCAT pedal-powered electric generator called the Human Energy Converter (H.E.C.). There’s also a hydroponic system growing herbs for the kitchen, a dry composting toilet (akin to an outhouse) and a high-tech filtered rainwater catchment system (like an old-fashioned cistern, but safer) with a hydropower system capturing energy from the overflow. A high-tech chicken coop designed by a team of students was adapted by a New York artist utilizing a repurposed shipping crate.

The Waterpod visited all of New York’s five boroughs and Governor’s Island, taking on passengers at every stop. It became a site where scientists, artists, performers, and ordinary New Yorkers could exchange information, educate one another, and think seriously about what sort of future world we humans are designing through decisions we make now—and what it might take to survive there.


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