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  • Ambiguous Territory: Architecture, Landscape, and the Postnatural

    Ambiguous Territory: Architecture, Landscape, and the Postnatural.
    ann arbor MICHIGAN

    Ambiguous Territory Symposium:
    October 5th – 6th 2017
    University of Michigan Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning
    Free and open to the public

    December 2018 – January 2019
    Pratt Manhattan Gallery, New York

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    Can the ill effects of modernity’s insistence on isolation – of ideas, people, disciplines, cultures, species, wealth, objects, nature and culture, etc. – be understood, let alone reversed, by ever-more isolation? Or, do complex environmental and humanitarian issues demand more inclusive and indirect techniques to recognize and reflect upon them? ​Ambiguous Territory​ answers this second question in the affirmative. The sometimes unnerving, sometimes empathetic affects presented in this exhibition and symposium are the outcome of the unexpected juxtaposition of remote sensors, ​robots and rock piles; of strip mines, stratigraphy and satellite imagery; of pollution, plant languages, and point clouds; of deft draftsmanship and timely data-scapes, of networked ​kites, clouds, buoys, and balloons; and of new ideas and new forms of representation.​ The resultant forms highlight the ​synthetic and surprisingly efficient ability of art and design to reveal what is ubiquitous but often invisible in our cultural and physical climates.

    This is the function of new sensibilities: to capture and hold unlike things in a single, ambiguous form or image. Defined by uncertainty and indeterminacy, ambiguity would appear to be the antithesis of knowledge production and problem solving; in fact, it is the source of them. The existence of ambiguity is what inspires intellectual and aesthetic inquiry. Ambiguous entities are always admixtures; they can grow and expand to incorporate more elements and engage more issues. Such forms do not fetishize form or distract one from reality. Rather, their transformative logic creates improbable hybrids; in ​Ambiguous Territory ​these include combinations that incorporate one discipline with another, that integrate information technologies with biological species, and aggregate invisible atmospheres with physical matter to create new architectural and artistic idioms.

    The alluring yet uncanny ecological aesthetic found in the mediation of atmospheric, biologic and geologic territories presented here not only appeal to our senses, they expand their capacity ​to make sense of and to help find our place within a newly unfamiliar world​. ​This includes exposing the often-violent methods and outcomes of our existing age and the urgent need to respond to them with new aesthetic, social and political forms. It also allows us to recognize ourselves in these monsters and mutants and to engage if not embrace their alluring yet alienating status rather than seek a return to some familiar or impossibly pure state. Something is monstrous when it adds or exaggerates a specific part to produce a disproportionate, novel, and seemingly unnatural whole. Mutations are unpredictable deviations from an existing condition, and in biology and elsewhere serve as essential additions to the evolutionary gene pool. Freed from the conventions of the existing they become a source of the new.

    In this experimental spirit of cultivating other outcomes ​Ambiguous Territory​ asks: in a Postnatural age where humans have been fundamentally displaced from their presumed place of privilege, philosophically as well as experientially, and the status of nature as an antidote or respite from humans’ hubris has vanished, can architects, landscape architects, and artists propose to establish new affiliations and avail new ways to approach contemporary questions at the environmental scale? In other words, what new worlds, what new natures, and what new sensations can art and design reveal and create that other modes of inquiry and knowledge cannot?

    Symposium and exhibition organized and curated by:
    Cathryn Dwyre, Chris Perry, David Salomon, Kathy Velikov

    This project is generously sponsored by the University of Michigan Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning as well as the University of Michigan Office of Research.

    Web site:
    https://taubmancollege.umich.edu/research/ambiguous-territoryy