A mesmerising hybrid creature—half mycelium, half cephalopod, half chicken and half machine—will loom over New York’s Meatpacking District beginning 3 October as a part of the Whitney Museum of American Artwork’s newest digital-art fee, CENTO (2023), by the new-media artist Nancy Baker Cahill. A site-specific augmented actuality (AR) work, the interactive venture addresses the necessity for interspecies cooperation within the face of the local weather disaster from an ecosophical method, which criticises the normal separation of people from the pure world.
The chimeric creature was born from the necessity for different ecological communities and modes of communication, based on the artist, and attracts from varied philosophical and science-fiction texts to discover the existential challenges of the local weather disaster. One specific affect is Jeff VanderMeer’s 2017 brief story The Unusual Chook: A Borne Story, wherein a bird-like creature acts as a metaphor for hybridity gone awry, tackling questions round survival and adaptableness.
“I used to be within the overshoot of planet collapse, which is inextricably linked to societal collapse,” Baker Cahill tells The Artwork Newspaper. “We’ve hit an inflection level round artificial biology and bioengineering, and Cento, particularly, responds to the query: what’s going to life grow to be? It’s going to require a profound reckoning to create interdependence between species.”
Guests can work together with CENTO from varied factors in and close to the museum by downloading the free, Baker Cahill-designed 4th Wall app, the place they will see the creature’s nest and its “refuelling chamber” and, after witnessing CENTO take flight, contribute to the creature’s evolutionary growth by including considered one of 12 feathers—every with its personal organic operate. The principle viewing spot would be the seventh-floor terrace, however CENTO may even be seen from different terraces on the museum, in addition to from the adjoining Excessive Line and on-line.
“It’s thrilling to think about the unintentional communities that might spring out of this, which is one thing that occurs on a regular basis with AR, significantly with public AR tasks,” Baker Cahill says. “CENTO is a piece of ecological creativeness—an experimental, residing check for community-building and adaptableness on this vastly destabilised second. The phrase bioengineering isn’t typically optimistic. It’s an alarming thought, as a result of it’s tied to militaristic, company, capitalist and extractive pursuits. However what would occur if we may create an evolutionarily resilient, transpeciated creature? What would it not be prefer to have a group of various organisms present as a single entity?”
The phrase cento (Latin for “patchwork”) is used to explain a collage poem, comprised of traces lifted from varied different poems. Baker Cahill got here throughout the time period whereas engaged on a brief movie, The Quivering and Vigorous Nerve of the Now (2023), which references the Ukrainian Brazilian author Clarice Lispector and her 1973 novel Água Viva.
“I used to be pulling essentially the most evocative or compelling phrases that I may discover within the e-book and placing them collectively in an effort to visualise or materialise the phrases as I skilled them,” Baker Cahill says. “With out even realizing it, I used to be making a cento, and that time period turned the right metaphor for CENTO, which metabolises this concept that we’re all centos ourselves—made up of thousands and thousands of ideas and existences—though we are inclined to suppose monolithically. The work celebrates the multiplicity of what we’re, and considers how addressing the challenges of ecocide from a collaborative (or extra pastiche, collaged) method is sensible.”
CENTO is the primary interactive AR fee commissioned by the Whitney and might be saved on Artport, a digital exhibition house and archive for new-media works launched in 2001 by the Whitney’s curator of digital artwork, Christiane Paul. Artport additionally homes quite a lot of different collaborative web tasks that handle coexistence from poetic, community-minded approaches. One of many earliest is The World’s First Collaborative Sentence (1994; restored 2013) by Douglas Davis, which invitations members to contribute to an infinitely increasing sentence utilizing a programme that functioned between 1994 and 2005, and has been dwell with out interruption on Artport since 2013. Like with CENTO, the work was envisioned as having “no finish” and maybe “no starting”, Davis mentioned in 2000.
“Augmented actuality is at all times a fantastic annotation of actuality, and the engagement facet of CENTO particularly could be very attention-grabbing and particular,” Paul says. “There’s one thing fairly majestic about seeing this creature suspended from the sky—a creature that we’re participating with in actual time—somewhat than seeing a piece that’s contained inside a room or a display screen, for instance. Participatory AR continues to be a reasonably new idea, and Cento is pushing the boundaries of what which means.”
- Nancy Baker Cahill: CENTO, on view on the Whitney Museum of American Artwork, New York, and on-line beginning 3 October