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EXHIBITIONS

Sam Lewitt “DREAMBOAT DIRTBLOCK” at Miguel Abreu Gallery, New York

Why do [those] in the middle of the boat move the boat the most? Is it because the oar is a lever?

– Archytas of Tarentum

Cover the champagne glasses. They’ll swell to shattering. A toast – to a streamlined luxury liner that will never exist.
Dirt block is your hard cure for lack of supply.
The lever is a stick plus will. No bubbles here. Pressure expels excess air.
Brick fits your hand.
Disappointment follows relief. The portal cracked to soft focus lenses. It’s all stagecraft.
You know this.
Pleasure follows disappointment. Unfulfilled projects look better in the pictures. It’s never enough.

DREAMBOAT DIRTBLOCK is made between a lever and lens. Compressed blocks of soil extracted from NYC building foundation pits, curing to maximum hardness throughout the duration of the exhibition sit next to fragmented images of a boat, itself a toppled skyscraper.

This unrealized design for a streamlined cruise ship from the early 20th century is the result of an office exercise commissioned by Norman Bel Geddes design associates. The boat was shaped to optimally reduce friction with external environmental conditions. In this exhibition it appears through the effluence of its internal combustion. The drift of multiple fires has been simulated in a digital model of its hull using software designed to test fluid dynamics.

LENS crystallizes snapshots of this ‘smoke test’ into light shaping surfaces. Milled shards of a shattered Plexiglas sheet filter the light from a single LED: gathering it into an image through sheer surface variation. These projections are physically identical to rippled patterns refracted onto surfaces adjacent to water on a sunny day. The computational reconstruction and control of this phenomenon is being developed as a method of optical watermarking. While the movement of water and light are technically the guiding principle, in optics this phenomenon is referred to as a “caustic” projection, a word whose original meaning is “to burn.”

LEVER produces more terrestrial projectiles: interlocking blocks of compacted subsoil dug up for the project of stabilizing air rights over terra firma. These compressed earth blocks are made with a manual earth-ramming machine, whose mobility within resource scarce contexts enables the direct use of local soil for shelter and road construction.

This press is a descendent of the so-called CINVA-RAM designed in the 1950s by Chilean engineer Paul Ramirez. It is historically associated as much with the ambiguous history of “self-help” housing in the developing world throughout the 20th century as it is with practitioners of small-scale ecological self-sufficiency. It is portable, yet totally bound to a simple metabolism of production with the ground on which it sits. Dreams of frictionless transport are grounded in relations negotiated on site.

DREAMBOAT (Model Views) presents further fragments of the boat model rotating through various perspectives. These views result from the resistance of oil, acid and water to one another. The craft’s shell is etched by these clashing fluids on the surface of copper-clad plastic, a material support that is engineered to control friction and passage in the circulation of information.

At Miguel Abreu Gallery, New York
until 23 February 2020

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