February 14, 2018 - The Renaissance Society at The University of Chicago - Unthought Environments
February 14, 2018

The Renaissance Society at The University of Chicago

Revital Cohen & Tuur Van Balen, Avant Tout, Discipline, 2017. Photo: Boudewijn Bollmann. Courtesy of the artists.

Unthought Environments
February 17–April 8, 2018

Opening: February 17, 5–8pm, with talk by John Durham Peters at 6pm

The Renaissance Society at The University of Chicago
Cobb Hall, 4th Floor
5811 S. Ellis Ave
Chicago, Illinois 60637
Hours: Tuesday–Friday 10am–5pm,
Thursday 10am–8pm,
Saturday–Sunday 12–5pm

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Daniel G. Baird, Marissa Lee Benedict, Nina Canell & Robin Watkins, Revital Cohen & Tuur Van Balen, Cécile B. Evans, Peter Fend, Florian Germann, Jochen Lempert, Nicholas Mangan, Miljohn Ruperto, Xaviera Simmons

Start with the ancient elements—earth, water, fire, air—and then broaden your view of the elemental world. Think about sunlight, weather systems, rare earth minerals, and electromagnetic fields, to name only a few other natural phenomena. These things can be elusive, easily forgotten, or kept out of sight, even as they become the foundations of our virtual worlds, driving factors in geopolitics, or longer, deeper influences on human cultures.

The elemental world can seemingly be there to be used or overlooked, but it continues to shape us, too. Sometimes it veers into the foreground, leaving profound changes in its wake. Unthought Environments features new and recent works that offer different focal points in the elemental sphere as it intersects with our more human-made domains. The artists' sculptures, photographs, videos, digital images, and installations delve into subjects such as the control of water; the effects of the sun; the mining operations that feed our computers; electric currents made visible; California dust storms; and other environmental forces.

From the growing effects of climate change to the extractive demands of global capital, among other realities of our age, the elements shadow much of what we do. Perhaps fittingly, Unthought Environments is informed by emerging discussions in a number of fields, including media studies, ecology, anthropology, and philosophy—some of which are presented in a series of public programs that run in parallel to the exhibition, and in a publication to follow. As recent work in these many areas suggests, the elements can offer a compelling frame of reference, perhaps a means to think differently about our environments, technologies, and infrastructure. One might ask, what are our unthought environments today?

Unthought Environments is curated by Karsten Lund and supported by VIA Art Fund, the Goethe-Institut, and Pro Helvetia. Related talks are supported by the Art, Science + Culture Initiative at the University of Chicago.


Public Programs
Saturday, February 17, 5-8pm 
Unthought Environments opening reception
Talk: John Durham Peters, 6pm

This event marking the exhibition’s opening features a lecture by media theorist and historian John Durham Peters, whose work considers where the immersive environments of media end and where nature begins.

Saturday, March 3, 3pm
Talk: Keller Easterling
University of Chicago, Classics Building, Room 110, 1010 E 59th St, Chicago, IL 60637
Writer and architect Keller Easterling describes infrastructure not only as the pipes and cables underneath our cities or the roads across the surface, but also as the hidden rules that structure the spaces all around us.

Wednesday, March 28, 6pm
Talk: David Macauley
University of Chicago, Classics Building, Room 110, 1010 E 59th St, Chicago, IL 60637
Working in the fields of both philosophy and environmental studies, David Macauley has tracked the concept of “the four elements” from early philosophical sources to the 21st century.

Saturday, April 7, 8pm
Performance: Jana Winderen
University of Chicago, Reynolds Club, First Floor, 5706 S. University Ave., Chicago, IL 60637
Norwegian artist Jana Winderen’s live performances and immersive sound installations utilize sounds from hidden sources, frequencies that aren’t usually possible for us to perceive, or places that are hard to access.

The Renaissance Society at The University of Chicago
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