The Duck is the Übermensch
About art, metamorphosis and exploring experience to enhance a different political imagination
• Lecture by Chus Martínez at ACT at MIT in collaboration with Swissnex Boston on December 5, 2016
Ducks are capable of abstract thinking. This recent scientific discovery is no surprise to ducks; they are ducks, after all. The discovery just reveals that we, non-ducks, are deeply fascinated by sharing traits that are integral to our own idea of rationality. If taken seriously, the discovery is a revolution, marking in a very nice, duckish way the impossibility of taking the premises of humanism and anthropocentrism as our permanent horizon.
Born in Spain, Chus Martínez has a background in philosophy and art history. Currently she is the Head of the Art Institute of the FHNW Academy of Arts and Design in Basel, Switzerland.
Martínez has been the Chief Curator at El Museo Del Barrio, New York; she was dOCUMENTA (13) Head of Department, and Member of Core Agent Group. Previously she was Chief Curator at MACBA, Barcelona (2008 to 2011), Director of the Frankfurter Kunstverein (2005–08) and Artistic Director of Sala Rekalde, Bilbao (2002–05). For the 56th Biennale di Venezia (20015), Martínez curated a film installation by Albert Serra for the Catalan Pavillion and for the 51st edition she did the National Pavilion of Cyprus.
Her most recent projects are The Metabolic Age, September 2015 at MALBA, Buenos Aires; Undisturbed Solitude, February 19–April 10, 2016; Idiosyncrasy: Anchovies Dream of An Olive Mausoleum. April 29, 2016–April 9, 2017 at the Visual Arts Center Helga de Alvear Foundation, Spain. She is currently preparing a project for the Stiftung Skulpturen Park in Köln and an exhibition for Castello di Rivoli both for 2017.
Martínez lectures and writes regularly including numerous catalogue texts and critical essays, and is a regular contributor to Mousse and Artforum among other international journals.
Respondent Melissa Ragain is the Assistant Professor of Art at Montana State University and a Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. Dr. Ragain’s research interests include the history of sculpture, modern and contemporary art, criticism, and the history of science, especially psychology and ecology. She is currently at work on a book, Formalism and Environmental Aesthetics after WWII, examining the impact of art psychology on notions of form and environment in the postwar United States. She recently edited a collection of writing by the seminal new media theorist Jack Burnham, Dissolve into Comprehension: Writings and Interviews, 1964-2004 (MIT Press 2015). She is the recipient of grants from the Warhol Foundation/Creative Capital (2015) and a Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard (2016).
Discussant Ron Martin was born in San Francisco. He grew up in Mexico City and South New Jersey. He asks, why do people/artists forgo personal health and wellbeing in favor of production? Can we accurately visualize this dynamic and change it? His art also re-imagines large and expensive technologies as small affordable devices to be used by wide audiences. Examples include making a mini-wind generator mounted to a bicycle and an inexpensive 3-D printed ultrasonic wristband to help diagnose osteoporosis. Martin harnesses the energy and data produced by these devices to make informative, critical art installations that manifest hidden ideologies in the global urban context. He studied art at the Cooper Union and the Staedelschule. He’s shown work, published articles and lectured at the Portikus Galerie in Frankfurt and the 2009 Venice Biennale.
ACT’s fall 2016 lecture series is conceived by Gediminas Urbonas, ACT director, and developed and coordinated by Ashley Rizzo Moss, ACT Senior Communications & Public Programs Assistant and Lucas Freeman, ACT Writer in Residence, in conversation with ACT graduate students.
The MIT Program in Art, Culture and Technology (ACT) is an academic program and hub of critical art practice and discourse within the School of Architecture and Planning. ACT is headed by distinguished artist-professors and supported by a dynamic cast of practitioner graduate students and staff, visiting artist-lecturers, affiliates, and guests. Through an integrated approach to pedagogy, hosting, public event programming, and publication, ACT builds a community of artist-thinkers around the exploration of art’s complex conjunctions with culture and technology. It is not an art school in the traditional sense. The program’s mission is to promote leadership in critical artistic practice and deployment, developing art as a vital means of experimenting with new registers of knowledge and new modes of valuation and expression; and to continually question what an artistic research and learning environment can be and do.