Urbanauts Phase 3/3: Artifice – October 2013

1943Sean Orlando and Matthew Passmore (Rebar) are back at the deYoung Museum for the final phase of the Urbanauts Project: Artifice

Hidden in plain sight or buried just beneath our feet is a complex system of pipes, valves, drains and pumps. Contemporary society relies on this expansive engineered network in fundamental ways that we sometimes take for granted. But to the careful observer, there is evidence of a more complex system just below and beyond perception — the “tip of the iceberg” of a massive network of infrastructure, just out of mind as it is just out of sight. What does it mean to live in an urban habitat so relatively removed from the everyday experience of this infrastructure? How does hidden infrastructure affect our choices about resource consumption and waste production?

To explore these questions and others, the Urbanauts cast themselves in a narrative about urban exploration, the mysteries of the unseen urban structures and the hidden systems down below. Over the past 18-months, Urbanauts have explored, mapped and cataloged their explorations and generated a series of sculptural works based upon the form and materials of urban infrastructural systems. The map and images of explorations were displayed in the Kimball Gallery in October 2012; the sculptures were presented for the month of June 2013.

In October 2013, Urbanauts created the final phase of this exploration: Artifice, in collaboration with the Black Rock Arts Foundation, the official supporting organization of the fellowship.

Urbanauts Phase 2/3: Systemic – June 2013

urbanauts-poster2013-03Sean Orlando and Rebar are back at the deYoung Museum for Phase 2 of the Urbanauts Project with Systemic.

Hidden in plain sight or buried just beneath our feet is a complex system of pipes, valves, drains and pumps. Society relies on this expansive engineered network of steel, brass, cast iron and PVC in profound ways that we sometimes take for granted. Drainage, running water, steam, storm run-off, sewage treatment, pumping stations, fire suppression systems, back flow protection valves and emergency backup water supplies.

Many of these systems exist behind closed doors, in basements or just underneath that manhole cover that we’ve walked across countless times. If you look close enough, you can occasionally observe (in the sidewalk, behind some hedge or protruding off the side of a building), camouflaged evidence of a more complex system just below and out of sight… the “tip of the iceberg”.

For the entire month of June, Urbanauts created a systemic installation within the Kimball Gallery that multiplied, morphed, expanded and evolved over time. An entangled network of pipes and valves completely took over the Kimball Gallery from wall to ceiling, challenging Museum visitors to reflect on the space in which they inhabit and inviting them to rethink how they move through their urban environment.

Urbanauts Phase 1/3: Mapping – October 2012

For the entire month of October 2012, Urbanauts converted the de Young Museum’s Kimball Gallery into a large-scale analog map of the San Francisco Bay Area. Part exhibition and part workshop, the map was continually updated with site photographs, notes and other project ephemera. Over the course of the month, visitors to the gallery were invited to participate in the project by locating their home on the map and suggesting potential sites of infrastructure that may be suitable for exploration.

The Urbanauts

Sean Orlando and Matthew Passmore (Rebar and MoreLab)

Obscure patterns inscribed in concrete and brick; odd constellations of pipes and valves protrude from the sidewalk; anonymous buildings enclose power stations and waterfalls: the city is filled with obscure artifacts of infrastructure that puncture the urban surface or loom behind closed doors, tracing a leviathan system that undergirds modern life. Guided by imperatives of functionality and efficiency, the rational design of this system has – through accidents of history and innovations in technology – generated odd niches and vacuoles, rifts in the fabric of the city that beg explanation. What if these rifts are just the tip of the iceberg? What exotic terrain, underground and out of sight, do these artifacts map?

The core structures of the city also take another form: the soft structure of social codes and customary behaviors that guide our public behavior. Invisible and ubiquitous, these codes regulate how we inhabit the public realm: how we feel, how we act and how we evaluate the behavior of others. Like its physical counterpart, this “infrastructure” creates moments of ambiguity and possibility where the explicit and the hidden intersect.

To explore these fundamental physical and social structures of the city, deYoung Artist Fellows Sean Orlando and Rebar embark as Urbanauts. Through a series of urban expeditions, artifact collections, design reconstructions, artworks and interwoven conversations, Urbanauts maps an outline of the unseen mechanical and cultural systems that structure life in the built environment.

Urbanauts begins with an exploration of a range of potential sites that provide glimpses into hidden infrastructure at a variety of scales, including the de Young Museum, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco and the broader Bay Area region. Over the course of the 18-month fellowship, these sites will be explored, examined, documented and discussed to inform a series of fabricated objects based on the aesthetics and function of hidden infrastructure.

About Sean Orlando

Sean Orlando is an installation artist and community organizer with an interest in collaborative and immersive large-scale sculptural installation projects. He is a co-founder of the Five Ton Crane Arts Group and principle artist at Engineered Artworks. Sean’s most recent collaborative group projects include the Steampunk Tree House, Raygun Gothic Rocketship and The Nautilus submarine art car.

About Matthew Passmore

Matthew Passmore is an artist, teacher, curator and founder/principal of Rebar, an art and design studio based in San Francisco. Best known as the inventors or PARK(ing) Day, Rebar creates projects that explore, innovate and improve the public realm. Recent exhibitions include the 2012 Venice Architecture Biennale, the Istanbul Design Biennial and Make it Louder 2012 Beijing. Matthew currently teaches at the San Francisco Art Institute.

About the de Young Artist Fellows Program

In this program, the de Young invites multidisciplinary artists, to work onsite at the de Young and offsite, sharing their ideas, works in progress, collaborative projects, finished artworks and final productions with museum visitors and community members over the span of one year. This program is organized in partnership with highly regarded community arts organizations.

This project has been generously funded by the James Irvine Foundation’s Innovation Fund and the Institute of Museum and Library Services/Museums for America.