The KLI
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Artist in Residence Kendall Baker
2023-05-11
Vernissage: Measuring Life at the Threshold of Unknowing

On 24. April, the KLI hosted the vernissage of an exhibition by Artist in Residence Kendall Baker. His interdisciplinary art-science project “Measuring Life at the Threshold of Unknowing” sought to gain insight and pose questions about (un)knowing by bringing together both artistic and scientific practices.

The artist explored the space between direct knowledge and the limits of knowing- the threshold of unknowing. For Baker it is this space where questions emerge, inspiring the creative work of artists as well as scientists. Underpinned by this rich conceptual framework, which emphasises the importance of the unknown as a creative moment of knowing, Baker chose shape and measurement as epistemological tools to reveal different kinds of relationships. To explore this threshold, he used the old and new parts of the building as a starting point for interacting with the space.

The KLI residence, with its impressive history and architecture, proved to be a nurturing space for his artistic practice. Baker responded to the multivarious thresholds he found in the building’s history, materials, and architecture, as well as the spirit of inquiry and openness at the KLI. He connected these with epistemological thresholds he encountered through measuring and mapping the space. The result was a transformation of the connecting space between historic and new parts of the building by measurement, paper, and object studies.

The artist was embedded in the institute over a period of four months which allowed for a special collaboration with the KLI fellows. Baker related his artistic practice to the fellow’s scientific research by conducting interviews with the fellows to learn about their backgrounds, orientations, and what nurtures their creativity in research. The conversations about how the fellows encounter the territory of unknowing and how they contend with the space between knowing and unknowing developed into a hands-on collaboration in which the fellows were invited by Baker to create certain parts of his site-specific installation. The fellows took part in measuring the doorway that connects the building’s 14th-century foundation to the newly build open space. The doorway was covered with sheets of wet paper, that, when dried, retained the shape and contours of the doorway. The result was an intricate three-dimensional paper sculpture suspended from the atrium at the heart of the KLI, a threshold in itself, that emphasises and articulates the open environment of the KLI, bringing the visitors into an awareness of the space.

Baker’s thought-provoking exhibition highlighted the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration in pushing forward our understanding of the world and the value of artistic and scientific approaches in mediating observations and measurements. The project was an affirmation of the institute’s mission and proved to be an enriching experience for the KLI fellows, both as people and as researchers, that will have a lasting impact.

Kendall Baker gave a guided tour of his exhibition, starting in his studio, which was his workplace during his four-month residency at the KLI. 

Baker’s exhibition displays his broad artistic practice, consisting of drawings, mixed-media sculpture and video, with measurement and negative space as central themes.

Inspiration for exploring measurement and thresholds of knowing was also found outside the KLI premises, like this vine entangled with a measuring band brought by the nearby Danube.

Kendall Baker recollected his first time entering the KLI building through the brick foundation build in the 14th century.

The extraordinary architecture of the KLI, bridging the historic brick foundation with the light and open spaces built in 2014, became a source of inspiration for the artist. 

The low, dark brick vaults build above Neolithic dwelling sites, which parallel the new sky-lit clerestory atrium, felt to Baker like a symbolic juncture: A place to imagine a threshold of unknowing.

For Kendall Baker the ‘how to life questions’ stood out, a central mission of the KLI as a vital space of creative inquiry. The ambiguity of measurement intervals and the understanding of the unknowable as a generative complement to what is knowledgeable was a recurring constituent of his work.

A special moment of the vernissage was the passage through the installation sculpture suspended from the atrium.

The doorway to the adjacent vaulted space was covered with wet paper to record and measure its shape and contours in collaboration with the KLI fellows. The boundary outlines of the mapping papers are marked with tape.

The result of the doorway mapping was a stunning installation sculpture, symbolizing the threshold of unknowing.

The guided tour ended with a conversation about Baker’s work and his stay at the KLI. The cross-disciplinary art-science project proved to be an enlightening experience for all involved and an affirmation of the KLI as a space that cultivates openness and enables creative collaboration.

Visitors got to see an inspiring exhibition that raised many questions and discovered relationships between the history and architecture of the space as well as between knowing and unknowing.

At the end of the vernissage, refreshments were served in the cafeteria to celebrate.

 

Read more about Kendall Baker’s project:

Measuring Life at the Threshold of Unknowing