31 century museum in Chicago

Marissa Lee Benedict

Sullivan Galleries, CO(i)NSTRUCT(ion) station

Chalkboard (9/7/2011-10/7/2011)

The CO(i)NSTRUCT(ion) for Survival station is comprised of a flat file, for archiving and displaying the object created by or from Instructable instruction sets.Some of the object will be recreated from Instructable PDF files, and some will be the original objects from which the online Instructable was created, lentfor display/archive by the Instructable owner/creator. The file cabinet will hold the PDF print out of the Instructables displayed, for reference and distribution. The orange crates will be a growing library of analog and digital resources related to contemporary and historical DIY culture.

The chalkboard will change as the project develops and progresses, the backside used to document the changes and post an Instructable of the week.

Chalkboard (10/7/2011 – present)

CO(i)NSTRUCT(ion) for survival

31st Century Museum (Laboratory) @Chicago (Sullivan Galleries)

Created and propagated by Thai artist and curator Kamin Lertchaiprasert, The 31st Century Museum of Contemporary Spirit is something which is understood through experience – more felt then known. Unlike the more rooted nature of most art institutions – tied to a place or invested in a specific mission – the 31st Century Museum has a certain fluid, nebulous quality as it is a continually evolving, self-reflexive organism. As Kamin has framed it, The 31st Century Museum of Contemporary Spirit is reflective of who we are and what we see in the world. It is an institution which is somehow contradictory site/viewer specific and universally expansive.

For Kamin, the 31st Century Museum is a place to house moments of everyday connection and examples of “contemporary spirit”; a collection of objects and words which embody and document gestures of reciprocity, kindness and generosity. While Kamin has his own personal interpretation of what comprises contemporary spirit, he has extended to those of us participating in the project the opportunity to manifest our idea of contemporary spirit in the 31st Century Museum (Laboratory) @Chicago. In this exhibition, we have created a space which is a gathering place to discuss what we wish to see and project into the future; a select document of contemporary life which is reflective of our personal memories, experiences, hopes, ideas and desires for the future.

While searching for manifestations of “contemporary spirit” here in Chicago, a couple of points carried particular weight for me. On a trip to City Farm, farmer, philosopher, activist, artist and business owner Ken Dunn expressed to us that he felt, as a culture, we already have everything we need, know everything we need to know. He told us our task is to recognize knowledge and to use it to its fullest potential; to see undervalued resources and to reinvest them with value. Ken has displayed an incredible commitment to this philosophy through City Farm and other projects; not just theorizing, but enacting his philosphy in a functioning, physical way.

In addition to Ken’s wisdom, Kamin’s avid philosophy of generosity and espousal of free education resonated with me as I prepared to graduate from an incredible, but costly, educational institution. Kamin presented to us the model of Cooper Union, a place where students receive world-class education free of the heavy burden of expensive tuition. As the cries of Occupy Wall Street grow stronger, and the national burden of student debt and economic instability grow heavier, Kamin’s espousal of free education seem particularly relevant.

For me, these two ideas – of cultural knowledge and free education – coalesced in the form of DIY knowledge, as exemplified by the platform Instructables.com. As an sculptor interested in making – and the pedagogy surrounding making – I have become personally and professionally fascinated by the digital platform of “Instructables” (www.instructables.com). As I dream up projects which border on the edge of my own body of knowledge – beyond my education in the fields of science, horitculture, technology, electronics – I have found myself turning more and more frequently to the Instructables community, scouring their site for pieces of the puzzle I need to solve. Generated by a group of both amateur and professional tinkerers, Instructables is an unedited collection of of personal “How To”s; any member of the community can upload their idea or object along with a list of “How To” instructions for the internet browsing community to download, comment on and recreate. There is an implied generosity – a philosophy of free knowledge and communal education – fostered by the site. It is a place where you can learn how to build a Tesla coil, brew algal biodiesel and bake a pie – and do them all at once, in your kitchen, with the support and input of a vocal internet community.

In the same way we have come to trust the public knowledge of a platform like Wikipedia, I, as a maker, have come to trust the communal information/knowledge provided by Instructables; I have unwittingly entered into a grey world where anything goes and concepts of personal safety and sanity don’t always apply. Instructables is one of those amazing virtual spaces where either a lot of time and knowledge are gained or completely wasted while attempting to sift through the overwhelming amount of (often unneeded or unnecessary) information. In a sense, both the genius and the flaw of the site is its open-source mentality, allowing a platform to share everything from glitter covered garbage cans to gummy bear surgery. For some, Instructables is about life skills (how to balance a checkbook, eat a cupcake, etc.) and for others it is about home decoration; primarily the site seems to be a platform for information proliferation. It has generated an incredibly diverse – and often strange – body of shared information, but has it added anything to our cultural understanding? Can we filter out anything essential from this enormous pool of communal information? Can we sort through the massive amount of information and find useful knowledge? What do we – as a culture – need to know (physically,socially, psychologically, emotionally, culturally)?

To investigate and represent these questions, I am working on the project and platform CO(i)NSTRUCT(ion) for survival.

CO(i)NSTRUCT(ion) for survival will archive, create and represent “essential Instructables”. I am interested in ideas and activities related to our communal understanding of what is needed for survival (social, physical, psychological, emotional, etc.). What, as an internet community of makers, do we consider worth knowing and have taken the time to share?

My plan is to collect and index Instructables and instruction sets, creating an library of paper, objects, videos, books and digital information accessible to a number of different publics and spaces – to those who visit the Sullivan Galleries and to those from diverse communities (local and digital) across Chicago and the world.

In a sense, an archive of Instructables is not only an archive of instruction manuals and the objects they produce – it is an archive of iventive persons and personalities which have translated themselves into these digitized guides. Perhaps it is this translation which most fascinates me; the movement from physical object/activity to digital record, with the implied intention of sharing and re-translating the information into personal knowledge to be enacted in another domestic space. I hope this project will act as an evolving and expanding record of what we, as a culture of producers and consumers, consider essential for our well being.


Share Published on Sep 20, 2011 at 1:08 am.
Filled under: 31 century museum in Chicago
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