MOCAD, Detroit, Michigan

In Fall 2014, we participated in a residency in conjunction with DesignInquiry at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD)

in their Department of Education and Public Engagement (DEPE) Space. We created a 40 by 15 ft layered wall composition and three-dimensional digital environments as ways of presenting a view of the city through multiple paradigms. We mapped various narratives of the city, layering data gathered from diverse sources: open datasets, historical maps, field collections of visual and GIS data, and data generated through studio-based experiments. Outcomes included visualizations of city parcels designated as ‘unknown,’ large collections of typographic typologies from the urban landscape and imaginary structures that delineate hidden pasts, and a mapping of the highest water debt in the city. Rather than examining discrete and specific issues, we used various datasets to make irreverent connections among them, revealing other realities of the city.

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Installation/working view at Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, Fall 2014. With Patricio Davila, Daniel McCafferty, Rachele Riley, and Joshua Singer./

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Video still, ‘Post-it Dérive,’ Joshua Singer and Rachele Riley, 2014./

The project involves making the work in a public open setting and, as such, has a distinct performative quality whereby our process is made visible and is open to all. This approach turns the process of design into an exposition of itself. It demonstrates that giving data form—by deciding what is used or discarded, and how it is experienced—is a creative, experimental, and subjective process. It challenges the authority of data and the process by which it is made meaningful.

The ultimate goal is not to create a single ‘seamless’ artifact (Manovich, Image Future, 2006, p. 25–44), but rather to express the ‘complex and fragmented realities of today’s systems’ (Weiser). ‘We should pay attention instead,’ as Mark Weiser puts it, ‘…to the seams and necessary disruptions: aiming at cities that maintain “seamful systems, with beautiful seams.”‘ (Lynch, Wasting Away—An Exploration of Waste: What It Is, How It Happens, Why We Fear It, How To Do It Well, 1991)

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