FoAM Newsletter Winter 02012

Posted Dec. 22, 2012 by Alkan Chipperfield

Winter greetings from FoAM, amidst virtual snow and the sudden electric bloom of Christmas lights. As the year draws to its close we look back over some intense months of production amidst gardens of (un)earthly delight, the titanic florescence and demise of superpower plants, picaresque peregrinations on foot, pedal, and unmanned aerial vehicle, not to mention ever-expanding spheres, spaces and spaceship imaginaries of future pre-enactments… while also looking forward to a new year of synaesthetic experiences, collaborative fabulations, and ongoing research into alchemical technologies.

From its carnivalesque opening in Citadelpark to the quiet closing coda of Garden Voices in the greenhouses of Gent’s Plantentuin, Borrowed Scenery has traversed the seasons in an ever-changing fughetta of plants, places, people and patabotanists. As an essay in the realm of alternate reality narratives, the project has embodied many inspiring possibilities, unexpected and exciting spin-offs such as Dave Griffiths’ lobster app, and a dozen unforgettable moments – while also stretching our resources to the limit and leaving us with several lessons to learn.

Though we’ve packed up the physical side of the narrative, we continue to share glimpses into patabotanical universes in several lecture-performances: at the PARN Narrative Strategies symposium in Portugal, SCANZ in New Zealand, and Design March in Iceland. At the same time, Shelbatra Jashari is in postproduction on the Borrowed Scenery film, which we can look forward to seeing next March – see a few of the shorts here and here. Borrowed Scenery and the Buratinas Taxi Service are insightfully reviewed in a recent article by Laura Herman (in Dutch), appearing in Recto Verso as part of a series on “Het gat in de stad.”

Circumnavigating the globe to Mexico, EITC continues to unfold – with some glass tendrils finding their way back and entangling the FoAM studio. Christian Thornton was in residence in Brussels during September, working in collaboration with Bartaku on an evolving sequence of exquisite, organically-shaped glass sculptures as part of Nube de Oro. Back in Oaxaca, Mexico, Bartaku and Christina Stadlbauer worked with nadine to host the Maize Maguey Data Graphics workshop, exploring the translation of data on maize and agave – two plants deeply embedded in Mexican culture – into visual expressions. At the same time, Christina has been working with Studio Xaquixe in the creation of several glass beehives, and Kate Rich has been investigating miel de agave as a sweetener for a new Cube Cola recipe. This was followed by the conference and opening of the Fiesta del Maize Maguey in the Ethnobotanical Garden of Oaxaca: an exhibition exploring and celebrating the revitalisation of cultural imaginaries surrounding maize and agave.

Theun Karelse and Cocky Eek of FoAM Amsterdam have been on several adventures through plant and human landscapes both at home and abroad: a wild edible plants walk in Albuquerque for ISEA 2012, and a field trip through white sands in New Mexico. In the meantime they announced the first guerilla-grafted FoAM apple variety, and are now exploring bubbles in spacetime curvature with Sphaerae, a semitransparent portable pavilion for synaesthetic compositions, which premiered at this year’s Kunstvlaai Festival.

Back in continental Europe, Dougald Hine completed his Resilients Transiency as a journeyer in search of a guild: traversing the continent to discover a host of colourful and picaresque characters in the woodwork, conversing and reflecting with them about cultural resilience in its many embodiments. Shelbatra Jashari and Theun Karelse joined other members of the Resilients team to pedal, paddle and trek through several experiments in unusual forms of cultural mobility and revitalisation. Although the Resilients journeyers are now winding up their peregrinations through resilient cultural practices, rumour reaches us even now of certain orthophotographic missions being flown by several renegade members of the Unmanned Resilience team at the Kilpisjärvi Biological Station north of the arctic circle…

The Resilients project reached its fateful consummation on this year’s Anti-Apocalypse Day, 12/12/2012, in a grandiose and decadent Flotilla gathering – a Resilients prehearsal and an experiment in living, working, and playing as one. As a cross between live action role-playing games, attitude meditations and real life labs, prehearsals aim to expose us to unfamiliar situations where we become more aware of habitual behaviours, both as individuals and as groups. One of our hypotheses in the Future Preparedness case study is that by exercising for any possible future, we can increase the resilience of our present behaviour, as well as imagine a wider variety of future visions that are still grounded in the present and the past. One of the joint ventures on the Flotilla was to collect and share materials gathered for the Resilients publication, which we are working on through early 2013 for its launch in March.

Jumping up to Scandinavian lands and then into the Asia-Pacific: at FoAM Nordica, Anna Maria Orru’s Foodprints Toolkit and collaboration in the development plans of the Norra Djurgården district of Stockholm were featured in the second edition of Backstage Architecture, a publication showcasing the best work of young architects around the world engaged behind the scenes in unique and innovative projects. And FoAM Japan held its inaugural Open Sauces event in Tokyo, guided by olfactory artist Maki Ueda and exploring the phases of mushroom soup through several gaseous, liquid and solid courses. See a visual snippet of the event here.

Space researcher, biomachinic hacker and FoAM board member Angelo Vermeulen's evolving spaceship sculpture, Seeker [DV1], was recently showcased in De Bergkerk in Deventer, The Netherlands. It was developed in connection with the Witteveen+Bos Art+Technology Award, which Angelo won this year. Meanwhile Biomodd [NYC4], the latest iteration of Angelo’s best-known and longest-running projects and famous for its contextual mutamorphoses, was invited to be part of the ReGeneration exhibition at the New York Hall of Science.

In the year ahead we continue to advance the field of speculative culture, looking back to see the future while binding everything together in evolving inner gardens. 2013 sees us working on new films and publications, the reemergence of books and food to the fore, new and revitalised projects at the liminal edges of technology, culture, fable and future, ongoing residencies, transiencies, talks, bacchic apéros, and most dramatically, our newest initiative – cutting edge experimental research into “doing nothing”… stay tuned for further details in the coming months. We wish you a visionary and alchemical solstice and happy endless end-time returns!