For the Time Being
The Manhattan West Digital Canvas, presented by Arts Brookfield, features new or adapted digital artworks by renowned artists from around the globe on a massive, custom-made media screen located on the outdoor plaza at Manhattan West. Measuring over 100 feet wide and 17 feet tall, artworks presented on this unique media platform will offer a moment of captivation and contemplation to all.
The 202-23 Digital Canvas will feature For the Time Being, curated by Superblue, which brings together the works of four artists who examine the natural rhythms of life – the fundamental exchange of energy between organisms and their environments. Whether one is simply passing by, or finding a place to pause; this rhythm, complex yet often unnoticed, is brought forth here to imbue a new sense for slowness.
The exhibition calls for moments that invite visitors to heighten their senses in observing the world around them. The cathartic, quiet pace of the artworks explores how one breathes amidst the complexities of their livelihoods, how forests can flourish undisturbed, how water sways to the mildest gusts of wind, and how life, be it artificial or natural, evolves. The artists in For the Time Being offer truths about our world to not only accentuate its sublimities, but also to recognize the challenges hidden behind every moment of growth and beauty.
Using innovative technologies and creative storytelling, these works welcome visitors to be immersed in feelings of wonder and introspection. Instinctively, we create narratives from the complex behaviors we observe around us – everything from simple gestures to familiar patterns seen in nature. This common human attribute enables us to feel connections between different forms of beings and shows hope for a remediation of the natural order of life.
As we continue to collectively experience the turbulence of this world, the works presented in For the Time Being recognize and share a reverence towards the need to connect with the rhythms of life by bringing together a sense of nowness, all before it is time for us to carry on to our next destinations.
The 2022-23 Digital Canvas series is curated by Superblue, and will feature works including Windscreen by Simon Heijdens, Drawing Breath by Risa Puno, Life in a Day (repeat) by Random International, and Catharsis by Jakob Kudsk Steensen.
Simon Heijdens: Windscreen
Created specifically for the Digital Canvas at Manhattan West, Simon Heijden’s video work, Windscreen, approaches the screen as an urban element rather than a large version of a screen as we know it. The work reveals the hidden natural character of Manhattan West Plaza, through a living, breathing, entity composed of twenty-thousand points of light that form a cloud of illumination, based on wind flow patterns on a custom-made water surface scanner. A living light pattern that is naturally evolving throughout the days and seasons. The work softens the hardness of the surrounding architecture and reveals the inherent natural character of the location.
The drawing method is based on individually activating the 200.000 pixels in monochrome tints, using light in its purest form to create a glowing organic entity embedded in the Plaza. A subtly moving, breathing presence of dappled light that gently narrates and reveals the natural rhythms of the space. The work does not require constant full attention, but lives in the corner of the eye, becoming part of the fabric of the site on the whole.
Risa Puno: Drawing Breath
Commissioned by Arts Brookfield for the Digital Canvas at Manhattan West, Risa Puno’s new large-scale public video installation emerged from a meditation on breath. The artist explains, “Moving air through our lungs is a personal and individual action that uses (and changes) a universally shared resource. In a pandemic, the ability to breathe freely is both precious and dangerous. And for many Black Americans, the right to breathe is not inalienable.”
How one breathes is also influenced by how one feels. As an Asian American, Puno experienced an increase in xenophobic harassment and racism-based trauma during the pandemic, which shook her sense of self, and left her with feelings of anger, fear, and anxiety. In many ways, it felt as though she was not allowed to exhale. Feeling like she didn’t have agency over where, when, or how she performed this fundamental action changed how she moved and carried herself in public spaces.
Drawing Breath developed from Puno’s exploration of how emotions manifest physically in the body—how frustration starts with a furrow of the brow, how fear shows up in the tension of our necks, or how our shoulders drop when we are relieved. How we feel can also be externalized through the act of exhalation—like a short, shallow snort of incredulity or a protracted expulsion of air during a moment of catharsis.
Puno’s video installation features people of color expressing a range of complicated emotions through their faces, bodies, and breath. By centering the inherent value and importance of the lives and experiences of racialized people—without having to assimilate, code switch, or prove our utility—I intend to make it clear that, no matter what we are feeling, we have a right to breathe.
Random International: Life in a Day (repeat)
In Life in a Day (repeat), post digital art group Random International experiments with an emergent organism that is born, lives, and perishes over the course of one day only to be reborn again and again. This new, public installation contains the materialization of an apparent lifeform, distributed across numerous individual objects that move and behave collectively. The flocking organism moves across the screen with an awareness of the spatial configurations of its own habitat. Over time, onlookers can witness the evolution of this digital species, from genesis to extinction. Through this body of work, Random International aims to generate further understanding of what it might feel like to share the world with other forms of intelligence, and what human beings read as sentient, aware, or intelligent purely by instinct, regardless of whether that entity is actually alive.
Life in a Day (repeat) continues the artist’s exploration of the human tendency to ascribe character, intent, and narrative to the complex behaviors of simple moving forms, and the subconscious instincts and emotional triggers that cause us to do so. For Random International, the capacity to do this underscores what it is to be human; the automatic instincts and emotional reactions that cause us to feel a sense of connection, regardless of its veracity.
Jakob Kudsk Steensen: Catharsis
Jakob Kudsk Steensen’s large-scale, immersive installation, Catharsis, pulls audiences into a digital simulation of a re-imagined old-growth forest. What they experience is an imaginary forest that has existed undisturbed for hundreds of years, free from human intervention. It was developed through fieldwork conducted by the artist and his primary collaborator, Matt McCorkle. Its virtual ecosystem was built from 3D textures collected in a number of North American forests.
Set up as a continuous shot that moves between submerged underground roots to the forest’s canopy, Catharsis draws on Kudsk Steensen’s concept of “slow media.” As a philosophy and practice, “slow media” uses digital technologies to draw attention to the natural world and create new narratives around our ecological futures. Collapsing various ecological timelines, the work operates as a digital portal, taking viewers on a meditative journey through a holistic new world that gives an overwhelming sense of communion and harmony.
Catharsis was exhibited at the Serpentine Galleries, London, in January 2020 for Connect BTS 2020, the global public art project initiated by South Korean supergroup BTS. The original version of Catharsis was commissioned by the PinchukArtCentre, Kieve, Ukraine. The work continues Kudsk Steensen and his studio Erratic Animist’s focus on emerging ecological realities, and the ways that digital technologies can be used to engage with past and present natural environments.
Born in Denmark, New York-based Jakob Kudsk Steensen is an artist working with environmental storytelling through 3D animation, sound, and immersive installations. He creates poetic interpretations examining overlooked natural phenomena, through extensive fieldwork and collaborations with biologists, composers, and writers.
Recent major solo exhibitions include Berl-Berl at Halle am Berghain, Berlin, commissioned by LAS; and Liminal Lands, part of the Prélude exhibition, LUMA, Arles. Kudsk Steensen was a finalist for the Future Generation Art Prize at the 2019 Venice Biennale. He received the Serpentine Augmented Architecture commission in 2019 to create his work, The Deep Listener, with Google Arts and Culture. He is the recipient of the best VR graphics for RE-ANIMATED at the Cinequest Festival for Technology and Cinema, the Prix du Jury at Les Rencontres Arles, the Webby Award – People’s Choice VR, and the Games for Change Award – Most Innovative, among others.
Established in 2005, Random International is composed of a group of artists exploring the impact of technological development on the human condition. Best known for their large-scale interactive installations, the group works across an array of media including sculpture, light, kinetics, video, print, and sound. Led by founders Hannes Koch and Florian Ortkrass—both originally from Germany—the group has a studio in London and comprises a global team of complimentary talent. Experimental by nature, Random International’s practice is fueled by research and scientific discovery. Works from the Life in the Day series have recently been shown at The Store and 180 The Strand, both in London; and The ZKM | Center for Art and Media, Karlsruhe, Germany; with a forthcoming exhibition at the MIT Museum, Cambridge, MA later this year. In 2021, Random International and Superblue presented Body / Light I at Manhattan West as part of Arts Brookfield’s inaugural year of programming at the property.
Risa Puno is a New York-based sculpture and installation artist who uses interactivity and play to understand how we relate to one another. She has exhibited with national and international organizations, including: the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation, Socrates Sculpture Park, El Museo del Barrio, NURTUREart, and The Bronx Museum of the Arts, all in New York; The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Ridgefield, CT; the Rose Kennedy Greenway, Boston, MA; SPACES, Cleveland, OH; MMX Open Art Venue, Berlin, Germany; and Science Gallery, Dublin, Ireland, among others. Puno is the recipient of multiple awards and residencies, including the John Michael Kohler Arts Center’s Arts/Industry Residency and FIGMENT’s first ever Interactive Artist of the Year. In 2019, she was selected by Creative Time for their inaugural Open Call award. She currently serves on the NYC DOT Art Advisory Committee. Puno grew up in Louisville, Kentucky, received her BA from Brown University, Providence, RI and her MFA from New York University.
Born and raised in The Netherlands and now London-based, artist Simon Heijdens reinterprets natural processes with unique technologies, embedding them in man-made surroundings to create mechanisms that reveal the hidden essence of a place. Meteorological conditions including sunlight and wind, as well as custom algorithms and human interactions transform the artist’s responsive artworks in real time, creating ever-changing forms. While technically complex, his installations are understated and poetic in appearance, seamlessly integrated into their environment. They evolve almost organically into a new kind of nature within urban settings, questioning the importance of nature and coincidence in an increasingly planned world, and offering moments of inquiry, wonder, and contemplation.
Heijdens’ work is included in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Art Institute of Chicago; the Victoria and Albert Museum, London; the Hong Kong City Council Collection; and the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam and the Centraal Museum, Utrecht, both in The Netherlands. Notable commissions include Shade at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London and The Art Institute of Chicago; Silent Room at SXSW in Texas; and Lightweeds for the State Visit of Their Majesties King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima of the Netherlands to the United States and the UK.