The Museum of Contemporary Art Tucson is pleased to present GROPING in the DARK curated by Alex Young. GROPING in the DARK addresses human land use and the effects of the modification of Earthly matter upon interdependent ecologies of mind, society, and environment. The exhibition serves as an experimental presentational platform for artist-researchers whose ecological practices are informed by and actively agglomerate a diverse array of disciplines and media in examining world systems and developing new models of being-in-the-world. Spanning an array of inquiries into planetary scaled networks, agricultural engineering, multi-species entanglements, and the simultaneous expansion and collapse of anthropogenic space, the works collected for this exhibition take the form of in-depth ecological open works wherein their subjects are continuously observed, reexamined, acknowledged as far from fully knowable, and the assumed whole is always less than the sum of its parts. GROPING in the DARK is presented in response to our ecological moment and present reactionary political climate. In stark contrast to a backdrop of manifest anti-egalitarianism, hetero/cis-normative gender constructs, xenophobia, and speciesism, GROPING in the DARK gathers artist-researchers actively exploring plausible worlds through social ecology and multi-species intersectionality, migration, placemaking, and resilience.
The title of this exhibition is borrowed from the 1982 publication Groping in the Dark: The first decade of global modelling—produced as the conference proceedings for the Sixth International Institute of Applied Systems Analysis Symposium on Global Modelling—collaboratively authored by Donella Meadows, John Richardson, and Gerhart Bruckmann. Released ten years after Meadows co-authored The Limits to Growth—the foundational report on the findings of the World3 systems dynamics computer model simulating interactions between human population, industrial and economic growth, food resources, and the limits of earth ecosystems—Groping in the Dark was created as an experimental guide for the production of new world models and the modelling of new worlds. Constructed as a patchwork of disparate-yet-interconnected texts ranging from reports on major works and methodologies in global modelling, to ruminations on the contradictions and limitations of the burgeoning field, to a list of the editors’ respective biases—Groping in the Dark provided an abundance of entry points into then-current attempts to understand and create change within complex social and environmental systems. In a manner akin to its namesake, this exhibition joins practitioners and projects that employ diverse modes of thinking in the examination of how humans modify Earth systems and how we might better model new worlds. Photo credits: “Wild Relatives” by Jumana Manna, “CASH CROP” by J. Eric Simpson, and “Cooking Sex” by Epicurean Endocrinology.
Epicurean Endocrinology (Liz Flyntz + Byron Rich), Ryan Griffis and Sarah Ross, Mary Maggic (with genital collaborator Tamara Pertamina and technical collaborator Char Stiles), Jumana Manna, J. Eric Simpson and Caleb Lightfoot , and SPURSE
ABOUT THE ARTISTS
Epicurean Endocrinology is a collaboration between Liz Flyntz and Byron Rich. Epicurean Endocrinology explores the effects of food on hormones, and hormones on food. Concerned with how food is gendered and how it is sexed, they use food and vernacular cooking to examine the intersections of food production, endocrine disruptors, corporate/institutional influence, and cultural ideology as they relate to biopolitics. By framing careful examination of the ways in which food affects hormone production and use in human bodies through the communal and culturally resonant act of cooking and consumption, Epicurean Endocrinology brings awareness to the ways in which endocrine disruptors permeate food through biological processes and by industrial agricultural externalities.
Liz Flyntz is a curator, information architect, and occasional artist. She’s organized exhibitions and screenings about time capsules, money, ergonomic furniture, slogans, Radical Software, and rock n’ roll nostalgia for venues in NYC, DC, Baltimore, Olympia, and Weimar, Germany. The Present Is the Form of All Life, the book she co-edited about the time capsule works of media art and architecture group Ant Farm is available through DAP Press. She’s also written for The Creators Project, AfterImage, and Intercourse magazines.
Byron Rich is an artist, professor, and lecturer born in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. His work exploring speculative design, biology futures, and tactical media ecology has been widely shown and spoken about internationally. He was the recent recipient of an Honorary Mention from Ars Electronica (2017), and runner-up at the Bio-Art & Design Awards in 2016. He pursued a BFA in New-Media from The University of Calgary before finding himself in Buffalo, New York where he received an MFA in Emerging Practices at The University at Buffalo. He now teaches Electronic Art & Intermedia and is Director of Art & Technology at Allegheny College in Meadville, Pennsylvania.
Ryan Griffis is an artist currently teaching in the School of Art + Design at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Under the name Temporary Travel Office, Ryan has created work and publications that attempt to use tourism as an opportunity for critical public encounters. The Temporary Travel Office has created work for venues such as the MAK Center for Art and Architecture, Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions, SPACES Gallery, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Links Hall, PS122, LA Freewaves, and the Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival. His writing has appeared in international print and online journals and in the edited volumes Cities and Inequalities (Routledge, 2015) and Support Networks (Chicago Social Practice History Series, SAIC/University of Chicago Press, 2014). His recent work employs the form of documentary images and writing to address regional political ecologies and extractive agriculture.
Sarah Ross is an artist who works in sculpture, video and photo and teaches at The School of the Art Institute Chicago. Her projects use narrative and the body to address spatial concerns as they relate to access, class, anxiety and activism. Sarah also works collaboratively with Chicago Torture Justice Memorials and co-founded the Prison and Neighborhood Arts Project; two large scale cultural projects that work with survivors of police torture and currently incarcerated people. She has co-curated exhibitions at SPACES Gallery, Cleveland; Sea and Space Explorations, Los Angeles; and PS122, New York. Sarah is the recipient of grants from the Propeller Fund, Graham Foundation, the Illinois Art Council and she is currently an Open Society Foundation Fellow. Her artwork has been exhibited in venues such as the Armory, Pasadena, CA; Gallery 727, Los Angeles; PS122, New York; Roots and Culture Gallery, Chicago; Pinkard Gallery, Baltimore; META Cultural Foundation, Romania and the Canadian Center for Architecture, Montreal.
Mary Maggic is a non-binary artist working at the intersection of biotechnology, cultural discourse, and civil disobedience. Their work spans amateur science, public workshopology, participatory performance, documentary, and speculative fiction. Maggic’s most recent projects Open Source Estrogen and Estrofem! Lab generate DIY protocols for the extraction and detection of estrogen hormone from bodies and environments, demonstrating its micro-performativity and potential for mutagenesis (i.e. gender-hacking) and toxicological embrace. They hold a BSA in Biological Science and Art from Carnegie Mellon University and a MS in Media Arts and Sciences from MIT Media Lab, and their work has been featured at several festivals and international venues including Haus der Kulturen der Welt (Transmediale; Berlin), Never Apart (Sight+Sound Festival; Montreal), Haus der elektronischen Kunst (Basel), Jeu de Paume (Paris), Institute of Contemporary Arts (Post-Cyberfeminist International; London), out sight (Seoul), Spring Workshop (Hong Kong) and CKSTER Gender Hacking Festival (Berne). Maggic is a recipient of the Prix Ars Electronica Honorary Mention in Hybrid Arts (2017) and is currently based in Yogyakarta on a 10-month Fulbright Award (2019).
Jumana Manna is a Palestinian artist working primarily with film and sculpture. Her work explores how power is articulated through relationships, often focusing on the body and materiality in relation to narratives of state building, and histories of place. Manna received a BFA from the National Academy of Arts in Oslo and an MA in Aesthetics and Politics from California Institute of the Arts. She has participated in multiple festivals and exhibitions, including the Viennale International Film Festival, BAFICI, IFFR Rotterdam, Tate Modern, Marrakech Biennale 6 and The Nordic Pavilion, 57th Venice Biennale. Her 2015 documentary “A Magical Substance Flows Into Me” (premiered in Berlinale Forum, 2016) won Films on Art Competition, at the New Horizons International Film Festival, Wroclaw. Manna was awarded the A.M. Qattan Foundation’s Young Palestinian Artist Award in 2012, the Ars Viva Prize for Visual Arts and was nominated for the Preis der Nationalgalerie für junge Kunst in 2017.
J. Eric Simpson is an artist, researcher and novice farmer in west Texas. His interests include monoculture crop production, bio-technology, weed science and water collecting. His exhibitions include: Lubbock City Eternal – 5&J Gallery, Lubbock TX (2018), Transition and Transform – James Gallery, Hamilton ON (2018), Incident Report No. 102 – Hudson NY (2017), Co-Modify – Indigo Gallery,Buffalo NY (2017), Amid/In WNY Epilogue – Hallwalls gallery, Buffalo NY (2017),and The Measure of All Things – The University at Buffalo (2016). He received his BFA at Texas Tech University in 2013 and an MFA from the University at Buffalo in 2017. He is currently an artist in residence at the Charles Adams Studio Project and is farming with his family in Shallowater Texas.
Caleb Lightfoot received a BA of Architecture from Texas Tech University in 2015 and MA of Architecture from Texas Tech university in 2017. Trained in the discipline of architecture, Lightfoot’s work exists at the intersection of several fields. Collaborating with artists, architects, and classical archaeologists, his work addresses themes of land use, the built environment, culture, anthropology, and speculative design. Critical modes of representation and processes of engagement with places is a core research question that connects all of his work, implementing traditional tools as well as 3D modeling and digital post-processing. He has participated in several interdisciplinary field programs including Land Arts of the American West and the American team of archaeologist at the Sanctuary of the Great Gods on Samothrace. He is also the coauthor of a book chapter entitled Describing Hermion/Ermioni. Between Pausanias and digital maps, a topology which will be included in a forthcoming anthology: “Re-mapping Archeology” (Routledge, 2019)
SPURSE is a creative design consultancy that focuses on social, ecological and ethical transformation. SPURSE works to empower communities, institutions, infrastructures, and ecologies with tools and adaptive solutions for system-wide change. Drawing upon diverse backgrounds that span the fields of science, art, and design, they utilize unique immersive methods to co-produce new ecologies, urban environments, public art, experimental visioning, strategic development, alternative educational models, and expanded configurations of the commons.
ABOUT THE CURATOR
Alex Young is a multidisciplinary artist, writer, and curator based in Pittsburgh, PA. His research based practice employs critical and experimental historiography in exploring the motivating factors and end results—and the subsequent potential for disconnection between the two—in the construction of built environments. His solo and collaborative works have been presented at numerous venues nationally internationally including Conflux at NYU, Brooklyn International Performance Art Festival, and Flux Factory in New York, NY; Kiasma Museum and Alkovi Galleria in Helsinki, Finland; ACC Galerie in Weimar, Germany; Stadtische Museen Zittau in Zittau, Germany; Spanien 19C and Aarhus Billedkunstcenter in Aarhus, Denmark; SDAI in San Diego, CA; Beyond/ In Western New York Biennial, UB Art Galleries, and Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center in Buffalo, NY amongst others. Past curatorial projects include: Universal Dissolvent: Fragments from the Southern California Megalopolis at the San Diego Art Institute, A Haven at ACNY Exhibition Space, Space Was the Place at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, and Comfort, Burn at Big Orbit Gallery and Artspace Buffalo. He is the current Curator-in-Residence at MOCA Tucson and Editor of Drain Magazine’s Ecology of Bad Ideas (forthcoming).