ITP Winter Show: Meditations on the end of the world

For me, two clear highlights of ITP‘s recent Winter Show were Anh Nguyen’s Meditation Chamber and Demetrie Tyler’s Hypothetical Drawings About The End Of The World.

That these two very different projects, with their utterly different aims, ambitions, scales and strategies, could both emerge from one program – and both reach such a relatively high level of clarity in execution – says something very encouraging about both students and instructors.

The fundamental conceit of Tyler’s Hypothetical Drawings is that text resembling conversation has been scraped from the Web and algorithmically grouped into clusters of relatedness, which are then represented as delicate drawings of a spidery cityscape whose apartment-bound residents connect – or more often, fail to connect. I liked just about everything about this project, from the sensitive type, color and line-weight choices, to the convincing sense of mutual alienation they all add up to produce (and which is justified to a great degree by the actual content of the text). It works on a few different levels, and generally just strikes me as very well-resolved for a student work.

Meanwhile, like I say, Nguyen’s intervention is so different in so many different registers, and yet equally pleasing. It’s a self-inflating, minimally-articulated space with a surprisingly effective calming quality, given its utter punkrockness of material execution. (Whether that space is one of solitude or intimacy is up to the user/s.) Once inside, there’s nothing to do but sit and breathe and enjoy the sense of being in a place apart, even if that place is separated from everything else by a membrane of a millimeter’s thickness. As a further wrinkle, a warmly tactile biometric sensor measures your heartrate and causes a band of LEDs to flash on and off in (slowed) synchrony.

What was particularly surprising to me was how fresh and restorative the air felt, given that I was basically inside a plastic trashbag. I have a few quibbles about Nguyen’s settings of attack and decay on the LED lighting, but they’re just that – quibbles. I could very easily see a just slightly more elaborate version of his Chamber doing very well as a collapsible space of shelter, contemplation and consolidation for frazzled urbanites with tiny apartments – maybe the very urbanites depicted in Tyler’s drawings.

Top marks to both Nguyen and Tyler. Their efforts leave me with a redoubled enthusiasm to see what our own students come up with next semester.

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