Hyphen Hub Salon Series 2023: ENTANGLEMENT with artists Janet Biggs & Juan Cortes
When: Tuesday 10 Oct 2023
Time: Doors open at 6:00pm
Location: Chelsea NYC
For this salon, we welcomed two outstanding artists who have a long trajectory working at the intersection of art, science and innovation.
Janet Biggs is a New York-based interdisciplinary artist known for her immersive work in video, film and performance. Her work is deeply rooted in research and centers around individuals in extreme landscapes or situations, navigating the territory between art, science and technology. Her work has taken her into areas of conflict and to Mars (as a member of crews at the Mars Desert Research Station and Mars Academy USA). Biggs has worked with institutions from NOAA to NASA and CERN. She has collaborated with high-energy nuclear physicists, neuroscientists, Arctic explorers, aerospace engineers, astrophysicists and a robot named Shimon. Recently, Biggs sent a project up to the International Space Station as part of MIT Media Lab’s Space Exploration Initiative. In addition to videos, her work includes multi-discipline performances, often including multiple large-scale videos, live musicians, athletes, and artificial intelligence.
For this particular salon, Janet presented her new collective work with mathematician Agnieszka Międlar and physicist Daniel Tapia Takaki, leader of the University of Kansas’ team for the ALICE collaboration at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider. Their work uses time-based media to explore questions in high energy physics and applies novel mathematical techniques to the production of video and performance. In the physical sciences, “entanglement” refers to sets of data that cannot be described independently of one another. In a more general sense, “entanglement” refers to intricate relationships or complex scenarios. This concept finds valuable application in the realm of interdisciplinary inquiry.
Biggs spoke about her interdisciplinary group’s past work, supported by the Arts Research Initiative at the Spencer Museum of Art and the Arts at CERN, and their new project, supported by The Commonwealth Cybersecurity Initiative, which will premiere at The Cube, Virginia Tech’s Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology in the spring of 2024.
Juan Cortés, a Bogotá-based artist, presented two projects: his award-winning project, “A Tale of Two Seeds: Sound and Silence in Latin America’s Andean Plains” (Golden Nica Prix Ars Electronica 2023) and “Supralunar”, an intricated machine that represents the role of dark matter in the formation of galaxies. The work was sponsored by Hyphen Hub as part of his residency and collaboration with Arts at CERN.
A Tale of Two Seeds is a sound installation that explores the expansion of the current technical agro-industrial colonization in Latin America, in general, and in Colombia, in particular. The work is composed of three parts:
A Tale of Two Seeds: Sound and Silence in Latin America’s Andean Plains uses subterranean and surface recordings of the soil and recordings of electrical conductivity in the soy and amaranth plants to present a sonic testimony of the changing sounds of the Andean landscape after the arrival of genetically modified (GM) monoculture soy expansion in the last decade. For some time now, soy monocultures have been threatened by the amaranth plant. Such is the hypnotic force that soy has on amaranth that industrialists are devoting a large part of their capital to developing technology to uncouple and neutralize the spell between the two species. This work draws attention to the fact that amaranth—before being classified as a parasite by multinational agro-industrial corporations—was a plant that occupied a valuable and sacred place in the lives of many indigenous peoples and is an essential grain that circulates outside the predominant agro-industrial matrix.
The installation is complemented with two video works:
On Vegetal Politics explores food sovereignty, deforestation, and the preservation of biodiversity through the story of soy monoculture and its expansion in South American territories. This work is a reconstruction of an algorithm commonly used in agribusiness to model the growth of transgenic crops on any type of soil. The main objective was to subvert this technology using it to model and demonstrate the enormous efficiency of the amaranth plant when pitted against GM soya.
Botánica Transgénica is a web 3.0 and blockchain artwork that, through search algorithms and web scraping on the internet, aims to register as Colombian intellectual property the codes patented by foreign agro-industrial companies on our living organisms. The project has a specific focus on the patents of genetic modifications of plants. Through a subversive symbolic act, this work seeks to question genetic extractivism, the very idea of genetic ownership of living bodies and the extent to which foreign companies are privatizing our food sovereignty, in Colombia and across the Americas.
During the evening, Cortés also presented “Supralunar”, a work created with sponsorship from Arts at CERN and Hyphen Hub. The artwork invites us to experience discoveries made by the American astronomer Vera Rubin on the relationship between dark matter and the rotational movement of galaxies. It proposes a poetic approach to dark matter, visualizing this strange and unknown entity that scientists believe supports entire galaxies, stopping them from being torn apart by the extreme speed at which they rotate – but which we cannot see or detect yet. Placing one’s chin onto the vibrating plate causes the skull’s bones to act as an amplifier for the sound produced by the electromechanical gears inside. At the same time, the frequency of the lights inside, visible through a lens, creates a simulation of the morphogenesis of a galaxy through light and sound. Paradoxically, “Supralunar’s” construction—reminiscent of an ancient clock—allows us to comprehend through everyday, classical mechanics a phenomenon that is based on the abstract theories and unseen constituents of modern physical cosmology.
This piece has been commissioned by Arts at CERN followed by an exhibition tour titled “About Seeing Sound”, which was curated by Barbara London.
Seeing Sound is an expansive exhibition that explores the current trajectory of sound as a dynamic branch of contemporary art practice. The exhibition features nine artists based around the world—Seth Cluett, Juan Cortés, Iain Forsyth & Jane Pollard, Auriea Harvey, Bani Haykal, Yuko Mohri, Marina Rosenfeld, Aura Satz, and Samson Young. For “Seeing Sound”, the artworks take shape as kinetic sculpture, audio-video installation, and visitor-responsive technologies. With headphones notably absent, the exhibition consists of complex environmental sonic experiences, where each artwork simultaneously allows for multiple modes of communal listening.
To London, “media art in its many forms continues to evolve and develop in tandem with new audio-visual tools and new ways of experiencing art, whether online, in museum and gallery spaces, or in new art venues we can barely imagine.”
About "Seeing Sound"
Seeing Sound was produced by Independent Curators International (ICI) and with the support of Research Assistant, Kristen Clevenson. This exhibition and tour is supported in part by Nokia Bell Labs Experiments in Art and Technology (E.A.T.) program and with the generous support of ICI’s Board of Trustees and International Forum. Nokia Bell Labs is the world-renowned industrial research arm of Nokia. Over its more than 90-year history, Bell Labs has invented many of the foundational technologies that underpin information and communications networks and all digital devices and systems. This research has resulted in 9 Nobel Prizes, three Turing Awards, three Japan Prizes, a plethora of National Medals of Science and Engineering, as well as an Oscar, two Grammy awards and an Emmy award for technical innovation. For more information, visit www.bell-labs.com.