And so… a film designer, furniture maker, writer, reader, dancer...I should explain:
A Westerner, lost in an Easterner’s lecture on utopia, catches a reference to Max Weber: the "Iron Cage." Weber had described it as the last stage of a cultural development, where there would be specialists without spirit, and sensualists without heart. The Westerner interrupts the Easterner saying, “Ah, finally, we have coeval beliefs, my friend! That the future culture (now) is that of sterility and dispassion!”
The Easterner, skeptical, then asks, “But do you know how the iron cage is constructed?” The Westerner never learned to weld, was more of a woodworker, so listened:
"The base of the cage is knowledge, and its bars are power. At their sangam (the welding point of bar and base), theory ceases to be theory and becomes common sense. All the Professionals in our lives accrue to this joint’s strength. They enforce it with more prestige than its practical successes warrant. And once this joint has reached the peak of its success, the cage can create knowledge and the very reality it encases. This knowledge-power-bred reality produces traditions and discourse, who material presence and weight, not the originality of the maker, become the only thing responsible for what comes in and out of that cage."
After a lengthy debate, the Westerner finally proclaims, “Well, I did it! I’ve built this cage. It’s indestructible, it’s heavy, and it’s a damn beautiful piece of work. What do you think?”
The Easterner replies, “Not quite right."
"Are you sure?"
"I promise, I’ve been to utopia, and it’s greater than what we’ve built.”
The Westerner feels discouraged. The Easterner devices a plan:
We will work together. We will build more. But instead of more cages like this, we’ll build an unrealistic, nonsensical amount of fire escapes. The fire escapes will be designed, built by hand, drawn, directed, written, read, danced. Probably more. One fire escape will lead into another. They’ll break, their joints won’t be strong. They’ll last, and the cage will transform. This will be our route to utopia. Never to be specialized without spirit, or sensualized without heart.
In agreement, they begin.
FILM – TV – STAGE
TIGERTAIL, (ART DIRECTOR) NETFLIX, DIRECTED BY ALAN YANG
CHARM CITY KINGS, (GRAPHICS) DIRECTED BY ANGEL MANUEL SOTO
THE FLIGHT ATTENDANT, (ASSISTANT ART DIRECTOR) HBO MAX
MRS. AMERICA, (ART DIRECTOR) FX, DIRECTED BY ANA BODEN AND RYAN FLECK
HBO'S 'THE DEUCE'
GRAPHICS - ART DIRECTOR
AARON SORKIN'S 'TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO 7'
BEFORE YOU KNOW IT
MONSTERS AND MEN
SOLANGE AT THE SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE
SERPENT WITH FEET
KAFKA’S THE TRIAL
F U R N I T U R E
Badlands Unlimited was a New York-based independent publisher founded by the artist Paul Chan (artist) in 2010, publishing e-books, paper books, and artist works in digital and print forms. BU published and produced works by artists and writers that embodied the spirit of this emerging dissolution.
BU once consisted of Ian Cheng, Michael Durand, Parker Bruce, Ambika Subramaniam, and Maddy Verner. During this time, the press published texts by and with other artists in the form of paperbacks, ebooks, digital group exhibitions, a stone book, and other various media. The press also consulted on projects related to digital publishing for art institutions.
Some artifacts from the ﬁre escape at Badlands Unlimited…
INTO WORDS: SELECTED WRITINGS OF CARROLL DUNHAM: Carroll Dunham showcases his writing talents, engaging with a wide variety of artists in the form of reviews, catalog essays, and interviews. Intro by Scott Rothkop. Edited by Paul Chan and Ambika Subramaniam.
EROTICA: NEW LOVERS – Inspired by Maurice Girodias’ legendary Olympia Press, New Lovers features the raw and uncut writings of authors new to the erotica genre. Each novella has its own unique take on relationships, intimacy, and sex, as well as the complexities that bedevil contemporary life, culture, and art today.
Badlands Unlimited also took part in various proposals and endeavors like writing a play, proposing the production of said play at Schaulager, designing a lubricant for Acne Studios, partnering with a 99¢ store in Chinatown, rebuilding that store inside of Moma PS1, and building an AI Erotica bot.
New No’s is a poem by Badlands Unlimited written after the election of Donald J. Trump and acts as a declaration against the drift of American society toward what is most un-American. Since its publication in December 2016, New No’s has entered into collections and has been exhibited throughout the world, including the Whitney Museum of American Art's exhibition, An Incomplete History of Protest. It was listed as one of the best works of art in 2016 by Holland Cotter in the New York Times and featured as one of the responses to the current political situation in Artforum. Part of the proceeds from sales will go towards Planned Parenthood and the ACLU.
DANCES WITH RHIZOME PIXELS
A collaboration between Alex Zandi and Ambika Subramaniam.
DWRP explores how the contemporary context of computerization affects the horizon of our everyday
behavior and can relate to the traditional notion of gestus within the dance form of Bharatanatyam. The
classical dance, in which movement once described the cultural notions of the body, becomes a cyber-dance,
simulating gestus through technobiology and written hypertext. Consciousness within movement is derailed
by the interactive behavior with technology, transforming the coordination between natural body rhythms and
surroundings into a technologically mediated hyperactivity and hyperrealism with movement and image. The
hypertext, which is superimposed on the dance, dictates the individual movements, space, color, and other
elements of the frame and movement. The impossible composition of Bharatanatyam and hypertext becomes
a mechanism that undermines the alleged transparency of the interface, personifying the illusion of
our collective insight into how cyber technology functions and exposing the innate opacity of the medium.
The study of diagrams and of diagrammatic thinking is currently enjoying a revival in several different disciplines. On the one hand, there are historians of technology who emphasize visual knowledge and the role that it has played in the development of the engineering sciences (Ferguson). On the other hand, cognitive scientists and Artificial Intelligence researchers have used representational modes to give their models (or their robots) problem-solving abilities. Here, too, it is the specifically visual aspect of diagrams that is emphasized, for example, the ability of geometric representations rapidly to convey to a problem-solver some of the crucial aspects defining a particular problem, and hence, to suggest possible solutions. But representational modes are descriptive and finite, closing the loop of development. Diagrams are to have no intrinsic connection with visual representation in order to enter the phase of "diagramming" as an active state of morphogenesis. Diagrams are, essentially, maps of energetic systems and abstract machines. See Deleuze, Diagrams, and the Genesis of Form, Manuel De Landa
Splitting such material into one gest after another, the actor masters his character by first mastering the "story". It is only after walking all round the entire episode that he can, as it were by a single leap, seize and fix his character, complete with all its individual features. Once he has done his best to let himself be amazed by the inconsistencies in its various attitudes, knowing that he will in turn have to make them amaze the audience, then the story as a whole gives him a change to pull the inconsistencies together; for the story, being a limited episode, has a specific sense, i.e. only gratifies a specific fraction of all the interests that could arise.
Bertolt Brecht, Brecht On Theatre: 1947-1948
The trickster as the rope-dancers buffoon. A rope, signifying man, is drawn between two towers - the material and the absolute. As the rope dancer crosses, the trickster jumps over him and knocks the dancer of the rope, sending him into the abyss below. The trickster does not play the role of the devil in myths. In fact, a strict division into benevolent God and malevolent devil is more characteristic of the Christian tradition. Instead, the traditional trickster is perceived as an ambivalent creature: he is "at one and the same time creator and destroyer, giver and negator...He knows neither good nor evil yet he is responsible for both...he embodies and enacts that large portion of our experience where good and evil are hopelessly intertwined." Paul Radin, The Trickster 1956
Marx conceived the structure of every society as constituted by, primarily, the infrastructure, or economic base (productive forces), and the superstructure, which itself constants two levels: Law and State; and ideology (religious, ethical, legal, political, etc). This representation has the crucial theoretical advantage of inscribing in the theoretical apparatus its essential concepts of respective effectivity. When the structure of a society is that of an edifice of base/superstructure, a spatial metaphor, it poses that the effectiveness is reliant upon mutual dependency - the upper structure could not stay up in the air alone, and the base must exist to create the upper structure. Most important, the top is perpetually measured against or in relation to the base.
The greatest disadvantage in this is that it remains descriptive and metaphorical. It becomes a diagram that is descriptive in its form, and thus unwavering. One must consider this as a transitional period, a vague inclination of movement in order to proceed to its theoretical development. See Louis Althusser, On the Reproduction of Capitalism, and Manuel De Landa's Diagrams and the Genesis of Form
The basis of critique of Europe's narrative of modernity can be its simplistic view of human history as an ongoing process in constant progression towards perfection of the human ideal: a view based on its underlying belief in history as a unilinear process. For those who subscribe to this narrative of modernity, The West's privileged status as 'developed' is necessarily reliant on its antithesis - 'underdevelopment'. In other words, the West would not be modern if it had no touchstone 'other' against which it could measure its own progress. The West relies on definitions of what it considers not modern, or 'primitive,' in order to define itself as modern. 'De-centering the west' is the process in which the intimate relationship between modernity and the West becomes untangled through a dissolution of all grand narratives (particularly those which claim a universal end). See, Corinna Mullin, Deconstructing the IR Meta-Narrative
So… a designer, furniture maker, writer, reader, dancer? I should explain: A Westerner, lost in an Easterner’s lesson on utopia, catches a reference to Max Weber. In particular, Weber’s discussion of an Iron Cage in the last stage of a cultural development: Specialists without spirit, sensualists without heart. It’s here that the Westerner wakes up and says, “Ah, we have coeval beliefs, my friend! That the future culture (now)) is on of the sterility and dispassion!” The Easterner nods, sure, then asks “Do you know how our iron cage is constructed?” The Westerner never learned to weld, was more of a woodworker, so listened:
The base of the cage is knowledge, and its bars are power. At their sangam )the welding point of bar and base), theory ceases to be theory and becomes common sense. All the Professionals in our lives accrue to this joint’s strength. They enforce it with more prestige than its practical successes warrant. And once this joint has reached the peak of its success, the cage can create knowledge and the very reality it encases. This knowledge-power-bred reality produces traditions and discourse, who material presence and weight, not the originality of the maker, become the only thing responsible for what comes in and out of that cage.
After a lengthy debate, the Westerner finally proclaims, “I did it! I’ve built this cage. It’s indestructible, it’s heavy, and it’s a damn beautiful piece of work. What do you thing?” The Easterner replies, “I promise, I’ve been to utopia, and it’s greater than what we’ve built.”
The Westerner feels discouraged. The Easterner devices a plan:
We will build more. But instead of more cages, we’ll build an unrealistic, nonsensical amount of fire escapes. The fire escapes will be designed, built by hand, drawn, directed, written, read, danced. Probably more. One fire escape will lead into another. They’ll break, their joints won’t be strong. They’ll last, and the cage will transform. This will be our route to utopia. Never to be specialized without spirit, or sensualized without heart.
Good luck, they tell one another. In agreement, I begin.
b: 1992; New York, NY
IATSE 829 – Scenic Design
M.A. Fine Art, Chelsea College of Art and Design, London, UK, with Honors
B.F.A. Film Theory and Sculpture, summa cum laude, Washington University in St. Louis
Santa Reparata International School of Art, Italy
Adobe Creative Suite: Illustrator, Photoshop, InDesign; Sketchup 3D, Vectorworks3D, Rhino 5 (Windows), AutoCAD (Windows), Grasshopper (Windows); TextWrangler, CSS, HTML; Microsoft Office; Final Cut Pro
Mrs. America, FX Networks, New York, NY
Directed by Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden; Production Designer: Mara Pere LeSchloop
The Flight Attendant, HBO Max, New York, NY
Assistant Art Director
Directed by Susanna Fogel; Production Designer: Sara K. White
The Trial of the Chicago 7, Feature Film, New York, NY
Assistant Art Director
Directed by Aaron Sorkin; Production Designer: Shane Valentino
The Wilds, TV, Auckland, New Zealand
Assistant Art Director
Directed by Susanna Fogel; Production Designer: Amy Williams
The Deuce, TV, New York, NY
Created by David Simon and George Pelecanos; Production Designer: Scott Dougan
City Morgue, “Lamborghini Getaway” and “Caligula”, Music Videos, New York, NY
Twelve, Feature Film, Baltimore, MD
Directed by Angel Soto; Production Designer: Scott Dougan
Tigertail, Feature Film, New York, NY
Directed by Alan Yang; Production Designer: Amy Williams
Before You Know It, Feature Film, New York, NY
Directed by Hannah Utt; Production Designer: Katie Hickman
Red Bull Music Festival
Graphic Artist + Draftsman
Designer: Julia Heymans
Aloe Blacc, “Brooklyn in the Summer”, Music Video, New York, NY
Solange Knowles, Sydney Opera House, Australia
Stage Design: Julia Heymans
The Sunlit Night, Feature Film, New York, NY
Directed by David Wnendt; Production Designer: Katie Hickman
Feral, Feature Film, New York, NY
Scenic Artist / Actressr
Directed by Andrew Wonder; Production Designer: Colleen Dodge
Monsters and Men, Feature Film, New York, NY
Assistant Art Director
Directed by Ronaldo Marcus Green; Production Designer: Scott Dougan
American Animals, Feature Film, New York, NY
Directed by Bart Layton; Production Designer: Scott Dougan
Badlands Unlimited, New York, NY
CFO, Head of R&D
New York-based independent publisher founded by the artist Paul Chan, consists of artists Ian Cheng, Micaela
Durand, and Ambika Subramaniam. Badlands’ work has been shown at The Whitney Museum of American Art,
MoMA PS1, and the Guggenheim Museum.
Selected Writings of Carroll Dunham, by Carroll Dunham; Edited by Paul Chan, Assistant Edited by Ambika Subramaniam; Published by Badlands Unlimited, 2017
Permanent Collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art, “New No’s” By Badlands Unlimited
Book Works Semina Series 2016-2017 (manuscript shortlisted)
Clifford Chance Exhibition Design Award, University of the Arts, London (nomination)
The Unstitute, Spatio-Mnemonic Residency, London, UK
John T. Milliken Residency Grant, from Cite Internationale des Arts in Paris, France
Caroline Risque Janis Prize in Sculpture
Sam Fox Award in Sculpture, Washington University in St. Louis
Articles and Reviews
Badlands Unlimited, Publisher’s Weekly, Review of “Into Words: The Selected Writings of Carroll Dunham”
Badlands Unlimited, ArtReview, March 2017, “What kind of art is being spawned in the place that spawned Trump?”
Badlands Unlimited, Mousse Magazine, Issue 57, “What do we know?”
Badlands Unlimited, Dazed Digital, "Facebook bans controversial anti-Trump protest posters"
Badlands Unlimited, NYTimes "Best Art of 2016" for the work "New No's"
London Journal of Critical Thought, "Digital Ontologies for Contemporary Art"
It's Nice That, "Furniture Design: Intricate woven chair designs by Ambika Subramaniam"
Temporary Art Review, "Of Zebrafication: A Review of Cousins Presents "Faceless"