Session #6: A Seedless Grape – Conditions for Air
Rib is pleased to present a talk by artist James Beckett, A Seedless Grape – Conditions for Air. This talk is part of Haseeb Ahmed’s Taming the Horror Vacui, a long-term project (January 2020–June 2021).
The notion of the Horror Vacui tells us that “nature abhors a vacuum” and explains that air moves to fill voids wherever they may exist. This may be so in open atmosphere but at ground-level many factors shape the movement of wind. Rib and Haseeb Ahmed invite artist James Beckett to walk us through his current research on the history and broader cultural implications of air conditioning. This research was sparked by the fact that his current studio is the first building to be truly air conditioned, when it was a printing house back in 1902.
In Session 3 Emiel Arendts showed us how the wind shapes and is shaped by the architecture of the city. For Session 6, Beckett will address air-conditioning as “artefactual event”—an ephemeral entity, which is manufactured, distributed then dispersed. Beckett’s practice explores such histories concerned with industrial development and the built environment. In the amassing of his own collections, and working with those of museums, Beckett activates objects in order to unpack their abstract and metaphysical potential, often employing the absurd and uncanny to form new perspectives on formative events.
This talk is site-specific to Haseeb Ahmed’s Taming the Horror Vacui program at Rib. Ahmed often works with the wind, and over the last few months, he and Beckett have collaborated on a wind tunnel test of a failed invention from 1934, namely the ‘Coolrest’—“an air-conditioned tent that you can erect over your bed, in your own bed-room!” (brought to light by Salvatore Basile, in his book Cool: How Air Conditioning Changed Everything). The wind tunnel has been created by Ahmed at Rib as an experimental setup to study how objects interact with the wind and how practitioners of various disciplines interact with one another.
James Beckett’s talk will be the subject of Issue #6 of the Taming the Horror Vacui publication edited by Piero Bisello.
by James Beckett
Born in 1977 in Harare, Zimbabwe, James Beckett lives and works in Amsterdam and New York. Beckett’s research-based practice explores overlooked histories concerned with industrial development and the built environment. His resulting installations and works for public space deal with cultural signs that shape our experience in the modern era. Key in Beckett’s work is the focus on the physicality of historically laden objects. Through anecdotal accounts of little-known artists, inventors and workers, he shapes a romantic reading of peripheral historical eves. His approach considers proximity—how close is one able to come to a given subject through tertiary bodies, and what are the implications of their given traces? In the amassing of his own collections, and working with those of museums, Beckett activates objects in order to unpack their abstract and metaphysical potential, often employing the absurd and uncanny to form new perspectives on formative events. Beckett is in residency at the ISCP, NYC, 2020/21 and has exhibited at the Belgian Pavilion of the Venice Biennale; MAAT, Lisbon; MCAD Manila, The Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, amongst others. He is tutor at Base for Experiment Art and Research, Arnhem; guest tutor at Fine Art and Studio for Immediate Spaces at the Sandberg Instituut, Amsterdam; and mentor for the Mondriaan Foundation. His work is represented by galleries: T293, Rome; Wilfried Lentz, Rotterdam and Markus Lüttgen, Dusseldorf.