University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive Present MATRIX 236 Futurefarmers

University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive presents MATRIX 236 Futurefarmers: A Variation on the Powers of Ten on view February 6 – April 17, 2011.

What are the limits of knowledge? Where is there still mystery, and how are researchers moving towards these “unknown” territories? From February through April 2011, Futurefarmers, the San Francisco-based collective (artists Amy Franceschini and Michael Swaine), is asking these and other questions as part of a multifaceted research residency inspired by Charles and Ray Eames’s film, Powers of Ten (1977).

Futurefarmers: Study for “Powers of Ten,” 2010. Digital photograph. Courtesy of the artists. Photo by Jeff Warrin.

Powers of Ten is a short documentary film that depicts the relative scale of the universe in factors of ten. It illustrates the universe as an arena of both continuity and change, of everyday picnics and cosmic mystery. The film opens with an iconic image depicting a couple picnicking on a blanket, serving as a human-scale grounding for the macro- and micro-explorations in the film. Futurefarmers is using the film as a conceptual and aesthetic framework for exploring related ideas—the production of knowledge; how its limits are understood, measured, represented, and transgressed; and the relationship between diverse fields of inquiry—while they are embedded in the University.

The research framework includes a series of picnics with invited scholars, recasting the picnic blanket as a space where the everyday and the cosmic comingle, as a simple picnic serves as the setting for folding scientific, theoretical, and philosophical conversation into everyday ritual. These picnics will be documented and made available through the project website, related publication, and installation in Gallery B, and will also serve as fodder for a dynamic series of public programs (see schedule below).

A Variation takes the museum’s context inside a major research institution as both a conceptual and practical opportunity. Unlike exhibitions where the final products of thought, inquiry, and production are presented as static objects, this project foregrounds the process of thought and inquiry as its own production. It engages in forms that are fluid, contingent, and mutable—the picnic, the conversation, the workshop—as a means to extend the metaphor of research and discovery into the arena of public presentation. This project is fueled by an interest in bringing this research, which is often cloistered behind closed doors, into the public eye and ear and in inviting the discourse of academic research into an art context and vice versa. 

Futurefarmers: A Variation on the Powers of Ten is curated by Phyllis Wattis MATRIX Curator Elizabeth Thomas.

Public Programs
Excursions into Domains of Familiarity and Surprise
Sunday, February 6, 3 p.m. @ BAM/PFA (Museum Theater)

Free admission
This first event frames the research process, starting from the known and reaching forward to the unknown. The program includes a screening of Powers of Ten and other special shorts (some drawn from BAM/PFA’s collection), alongside sound experimentation with special guest Marijke Jorritsma (Eats Tapes).

Tool Raising in Collaboration with the Exploratorium
Saturday, March 5, 4 p.m. @ Exploratorium (McBean Theater, Palace of Fine Arts, San Francisco)
This event is free for BAM/PFA members and UC Berkeley staff, faculty, and students.
A demonstration of and discussion about tools that allow us to see beyond our biological perceptions and that affect our understanding of the world. The evening includes a show-and-tell of the results of a DIY tool workshop held earlier in the day with Futurefarmers and a cadre of artists and makers, as well as a demonstration of related sensory phenomena.

Think Lodge
Sunday, April 17, 3 p.m. @ BAM/PFA (Sculpture Garden)
Free admission
An afternoon think lodge, including a participatory exercise led by Josh On, exploring the methods used by artists and scientists to alleviate, amplify, condense, explode, illustrate, and understand the world around them. Bring your blanket.


Futurefarmers is hosted on campus by Berkeley Center for New Media. The MATRIX Program at the UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive is made possible by a generous endowment gift from Phyllis C. Wattis; The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts; and the continued support of the BAM/PFA Trustees.

University of California,
Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAM/PFA)
2626 Bancroft Way
Berkeley, CA 94720

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