'TWELVE EARTHS' LAUNCH

(LOS ANGELES - AUG. 23, 2017) — Fathomers is pleased to announce the launch of Twelve Earths, an extended collaboration with Michael Jones McKean, in which the artist asserts a contemporary mythos considering the earth as a single, unified body of parallel, crisscrossing narratives; a sculptural poem on time, being, becoming, and re-becoming. In its transcendence of boundary lines — both terrestrial and extraterrestrial, physical and nonphysical — the work encourages the earth to grow as a container of more infinite, robust, and wanton histories and realities. In totality, Twelve Earths will emerge as a sculpture scaled to the planet itself, revealing ambitions geologic, archaeologic, ecologic, folkloric, and humanistic.

Designed to unfurl over the course of a decade, the project takes the form of a terrestrial loop around the globe, a 25,000-mile great circle unifying 12 precisely geo-coordinated locations that embody and reflect the broadest spectrum of possibility: mineral deposits and nuclear fallout, alchemy and science, continents and continental drift, cities and primeval forests, architecture and geology, water birth clinics and animal sanctuaries. By building a dense meshwork of contact points with people, places, processes, objects, and events — establishing brief and long-form encounters where time/space distances can swirl, collapse, and dissolve — these sites aim to stimulate the recombinatory, transmutational, co-occurring realities ever-present within the world.

 
Twelve Earths geolocation research material, 2017. 

Twelve Earths geolocation research material, 2017. 

 

Twelve Earths is a project born of deep, abiding curiosity about the full range of possible experience on this planet,” says Stacy Switzer, curator and executive director of Fathomers. “It insists that we think beyond ourselves and outside the myopia of the present to consider the past and future as tangible, affecting frames of reference.

“As an organization, Fathomers exists to carve space for the unfathomable, and to propose and test new models of earnest and generative collaboration between artists, scientists, institutions, and the public,” Switzer says. “We are incredibly fortunate to be working with Michael, whose vision for Twelve Earths is as generous as it is demanding in terms of re-thinking scope, scale, and support structures for artist-led projects.”

 
 Teignmouth Electron, 2017. (photo: All in Favor Productions)

 Teignmouth Electron, 2017. (photo: All in Favor Productions)

 

Twelve Earths’ opening stanza involves the Teignmouth Electron, an infamous sailing vessel commissioned for a solo attempt in the late 1960s to circle the earth without stopping; its journey ended in tragic failure for the amateur yachtsman at its helm. Beached for decades on the remote Caribbean island of Cayman Brac, the decaying trimaran has long been a muse of artists, inspiring literature, artworks, plays, performances, photographs, folklore, films, songs, and journalistic accounts. For McKean, who purchased the boat ten years ago, the vessel operates as a siren-like talisman — a ruin now morphed into relic.

“The designed purpose of this boat was to traverse the earth and to understand it — not in the abstract, as a map or data set, but as a complex, four-dimensional object,” says artist Michael Jones McKean. “The boat feels like a logical entry point, then, in imagining an artwork that considers the earth as a total object, its stories and intensities.”

In March 2017, McKean, Fathomers, and a team of researchers traveled to Cayman Brac to create an archaeological record of the Electron, an effort that culminated in the selection of a single wood fragment from the wreckage site. That fragment will next undergo a hyper-rapid aging process, racing through millions of years of molecular time in a matter of weeks to emerge as a fossil — one that maintains an anthro-record of contemporary existence, yet is encoded with all the markers of an object that has endured epochs. On a site identified by a titanium marker, this new fossil will be inserted deep in the earth’s geologic record, a small portal between timelines and realities, to serve as the first of 12 beacons in Twelve Earths.

 
Teignmouth Electron, 2017.

Teignmouth Electron, 2017.

 

The coordinates to come (an ordinary house harboring a 300-million-year-old atmosphere; a newly engineered tree species; an F1 engine grown in bone …) will be revealed as they manifest over time, encouraging a more empathic relationship to materials and bodies in the fullest, most speculative sense. In their extremeness, these loci build out a weird humanism composed of energies, evolutions, speeds, spaces, universes, planets, extinction, and regeneration — the very motions of life at all registers. As a linked set, they compress a physical narrative that can be understood in pieces and fragments, yet also endure as a single, cohesive unit.

An artwork framed within the here-and-now, Twelve Earths attempts to tell us about ourselves, within a structure that nods to a long history of humans attempting to understand our world. Within the project’s conceptual and material DNA, though, is a desire to commune with unknown and distant futures, with obscene geologic timescales — worlds remote and without us. As the project arcs toward completion, its earthbound circuit will be retraced from above by a satellite, circumnavigating the ring in concentric orbit from the void of space.

PUBLIC PROGRAMS: LOS ANGELES (FALL 2017)

As Twelve Earths seeks to link locations, so it does people and stories, expertise and experience, the sum total of which will define the limits of the project. Fathomers and McKean are pleased to be working with an extended team of scientists, technologists, engineers, and thinkers. A series of public programs beginning in October 2017 will in part facilitate early- and mid-stage collaborative research, informing and extending the technical and communicative possibilities of the project.

The collaboration also involves the production of a porous project website, where back-end activity — conversations, documentation, mock-ups, links, musings, and tangents — will be freely available to access and engage, to explore development of thought and depth of action in unusually permeable ways.

ABOUT MICHAEL JONES MCKEAN

Michael Jones McKean (b. 1976, Micronesia, lives / works New York City) is the recipient of numerous awards including a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Nancy Graves Foundation Award and an Artadia Award. McKean has been awarded fellowships and residencies at the Core Program at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; MacDowell Colony; International Studio and Curatorial Program, New York; Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center; Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts; and Sharpe-Walentas Studio Program, New York.

McKean’s work has been exhibited extensively nationally and internationally. Recent exhibitions include the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY; Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, MA; Parc Saint Leger Centre d’art Contemporain, Nevers, France; Horton Gallery, New York, NY; Quebec Biennale, Quebec City; Gentili Apri, Berlin; the Art Foundation, Athens, Greece; Inman Gallery, Houston, TX; Parisian Laundry, Montreal; Project Gentili, Prato, Italy; Shenkar University, Tel Aviv; the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art, Winston-Salem, NC; and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, among many others.

McKean is currently an Associate Professor in the Sculpture + Extended Media Department at Virginia Commonwealth University, where he has taught since 2006, and co-director of ASMBLY, based in New York.

ABOUT FATHOMERS

Twelve Earths is co-developed and produced by Fathomers, a creative research institute in Los Angeles dedicated to producing transformative sites and encounters at the intersections of science, technology, and contemporary art.

As the successor to Grand Arts — the influential project space in Kansas City, Mo., that operated from 1995 to 2015 — we commit to implausible sets of ideas shaped by urgent conditions and proceed with open minds, engaging expansive thinkers to resolve complex problems and documenting our experiments along the way. We do this because we value discoveries made absent predetermined outcomes, and we believe in the power of the realized dream as a test site and model for visionary change.

SCIENCE SPEED DATING

On June 28, at NeueHouse Hollywood, Fathomers co-presented Science Speed Dating—7 top scientists giving 7-minute talks on their latest developments and game-changing work—with the Science and Entertainment Exchange (a National Academy of Arts and Sciences program) and the Museum of Imagined Futures.

Fathomers enlisted as presenters two visionary thinkers who commingle fields of science and art: Tahir Hemphill, data sculptor and rap researcher; and Phil Ross, aforementioned inventor and founder of MycoWorks.

Tahir’s “Hip-Hop Word Count” database collects information from the lyrics of hundreds of thousands of rap songs since 1979, permitting language analysis related to, for example, syntax, sentiment, and rhyme. As a hip-hop corpus, it forms the basic text for the Rap Research Lab, an educational curriculum and youth program founded by Tahir—and for his own artistic practice, as well. In his latest project, Maximum Distance. Minimum Displacement, Tahir isolates geographic data specific to 12 artists, converts that data into a system of geo-coordinates, and then uses those coordinates to direct the movements of an industrial robot arm, ultimately producing abstract sculptural forms. Commissioned by California College of the Arts, in San Francisco, the show runs September 5 through October 14 at CCA’s Hubbell Street Galleries.

'WHAT'S NEEDED NOW'

Salon's Noah Charney ponders funding for the arts in a Trump administration. Switzer weighs in: “What’s needed now isn’t more artwork that feeds the market ... We need work that tears down walls and trespasses across boundaries — work that truly changes us, and reminds us who we can be on our best days."

 
 

Credit: Getty/Alex Wong/Mireia Triguero Roura

HOMETOWN LOVE FOR P&P

A double dose of hometown love for Grand Arts and P&P via CJ Janovy, at KCUR, and James Martin, for KC Studio. "Problems and Provocations provides powerful testimony," writes Martin, "that when an organization truly possesses the will and the resources to say yes to artists, amazing things can happen.”

 
 

GRAND ARTS: 'OPTIMISTIC,' 'REVOLUTIONARY'

On the International Sculpture Center blog, Jan Garden Castro revisits a 2002 interaction with Grand Arts — and advocates for the vision it set forth: "I didn’t realize until I read this book how messy and blindly optimistic Grand Arts was to commission work as revolutionary as Cronin’s Memorial and Sanford Biggers’ Blossom ... Problems and Provocations offers a free-thinking model for artists and arts foundations — one far beyond support money and/or space."

 
 

Rosemarie Fiore, process view, Scrambler Drawing, 2004. Acrylic on vinyl, 60 x 60 ft.

On Mycotecture: Breakfast with Phil Ross

Wednesday, Nov. 2
9-10:30 a.m., at NeueHouse Hollywood

As an artist, Philip Ross has exhibited work at the Venice Biennale of Architecture, MoMA and the Museum of Jurassic Technology; as a bioengineering scholar at Stanford University, he’s working to develop an internet of biological things. He’s also co-founder and CTO of MycoWorks, a start-up that turns mycelium (the threadlike, vegetative part of mushrooms) into building bricks and leather – where he’s poised to revolutionize the materials industry with his carbon-neutral, chemical-free, organic, biodegradable and fully sustainable designs. Join us for this casual breakfast discussion presented by Fathomers, a philanthropic research institute dedicated to reshaping the realm of the possible, and hear why fungus is the future. 
RSVP is required and space is limited.

Contact yes@fathomers.org to inquire about availability. 

 
 

Mycoworks, "Fungus Brick". Fungal mycelium. Image courtesy of Mycoworks.

LA REVIEW OF BOOKS ON P&P

"How, then,” asks Alina Cohen for Los Angeles Review of Books, "does a group of people who facilitated the purchase of an amusement park ride, wrangled with the State Department and the Federal Reserve, and created their own dictionary launch a book and reinvigorate the tired panel discussion format?” She came to our New York book launch last month to find out

 
 

Photography by Donald Stahl. Image courtesy of Red Bull Studios New York.

Fun Problems with Smart People

A book opening!

To mark the launch of Problems and Provocations: Grand Arts 1995-2015, transcendental tour guide Timothy “Speed” Levitch leads a dynamic cruise through creative practice, as artists, writers, and thinkers from Grand Arts’ constellation take the stage to puzzle out problems of risk, magic, pleasure, ghosts, and what comes after art. Come find us in NY and KC! 

NEW YORK: OCT. 17
To celebrate the coincidence of P&P’s publication and TOTAL PROOF: The GALA Committee 1995-1997 — which has been getting some attention of late — our New York episode takes place at Red Bull Studios, amid the re-staging of a project Grand Arts helped produce nearly twenty years ago. 

Guest appearances by Mel Chin, Michael Jones McKean, Maria Buszek, Emily Roysdon, John Salvest, Rosemarie Fiore, Filip Noterdaeme, Christophe Thompson and Stephen Lichty, and an exclusive multiple by Spurse.

7-9 p.m. Oct. 17, 2016
(doors at 6:30 p.m.) 
Red Bull Studios New York

RSVP here. Updates via Facebook

KANSAS CITY: OCT 20
Our KC stop takes place at Atkins Auditorium, as part of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art’s celebration of Diwali, Festival of Lights. 

Guest appearances by Anthony Baab, John Salvest, Cody Critcheloe, Frank Shaw, Mary Kay, Megan Mantia, J. Ashley Miller, Shannon Michalski, Neal Wilson, Charlie Mylie and Jarrett Mellenbruch, and an exclusive multiple by Spurse — as well as special guests from the GA staff, including April Pugh, Summer Farrar, and Natasha Karsk.

5:30-7 p.m. Oct. 20, 2016
Atkins Auditorium, at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

Event page here

 
 

AT THE OUTER LIMITS OF ARTMAKING

If you're headed to the 2016 Alliance for Artist Communities Conference, in Portland, check out this Friday break-out session!  

At the Outer Limits of Artmaking
Friday, October 7
11:15 a.m.-12:45 p.m.

Some creative projects require complex support structures beyond the essential elements of time, space and funding. Enter programs like Fathomers (formerly Grand Arts) and Autodesk’s Pier 9 AiR Program - which are uniquely poised to meet impossible ideas with access to new technology, specialized equipment and intensive production support. Hear from artists and residency leaders about the projects that took them to unusual places and explore what it means to support artistic experimentation on a grand scale.

Paolo Salvagione | Artist
Vanessa Sigurdson | Artist in Residence (AIR) Program Manager, Autodesk - Pier 9
Stacy Switzer | Curator + Executive Director, Fathomers
Noah Weinstein | Senior Creative Programs Manager, Autodesk - Pier 9

 
 

'MORE RADICAL THAN MANY OF ITS PEERS'

Vice’s culture platform Creators considers Grand Arts’ legacy, in advance of Problems and Provocations' September publication. "Grand Arts served as a platform for discovery as well as production,” writes Kat Herriman. "More radical than many of its peers, the progressive institution opened their umbrella, welcoming initiatives pertaining to science, technology and social justice underneath.” 

 
 

Filip Noterdaeme, Florence Coyote, 2006. Photo: Russell Gera

De-extinction & Donuts

Breakfast with Andrew Torrance
Wednesday, June 29
9:30-10:30 a.m., at NeueHouse Hollywood

If you resurrect a woolly mammoth and it falls in Pershing Square, who is liable for the damage? Join Andrew Torrance, an expert in the cutting-edge field of biolaw, to find out. With a PhD in biology from Harvard University and a JD from Harvard Law School, Torrance conducts groundbreaking research in intellectual property and the right to innovate as a professor at the University of Kansas School of Law and a visiting scientist at MIT. In this casual breakfast discussion presented by Fathomers, a philanthropic research institute dedicated to reshaping the realm of the possible, Torrance will cover the how and why of de-extinction—a lab experiment no longer limited to science fiction movies—and share stories of his current adventures in reviving the great auk.

RSVP is required and space is limited.

Contact yes@fathomers.org to inquire about availability.