Ben Schumacher – New York City Farm Tower

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Bortolami is pleased to announce our second solo exhibition with Ben Schumacher, on view from 22 January through 21 February. Schumacher will transform the gallery into a staging ground for a submission to the New York City Farm Tower architectural competition, the outcome of which could potentially be realized on 19th street and 10th Avenue, one block away from Bortolami and adjacent to the High Line. Sponsored by the Architecture Workshop in Rome, the competition solicits proposals for a vertical farm incorporating residential dwellings. As the official brief explains: “urban vertical farming means the cultivation of agriculture products and livestock in vertical, in multi-story structures energy self-sufficient inserted within the metropolitan areas.”


The New York City Farm Tower embodies a movement of production from the periphery to the center of consumption. Proposal element: the active chemical lifespan of fermenting grains echoing the farm tower’s tendency towards self-absorbed sustainability. Metastasization of self-absorption: as the echo reverberates through the gallery it feeds narcissistically on itself, incremental self-amplification tending towards magnitudinal shifts in register. Responsibly nutritive grain capable of indefinitely extending consumption is pharmaceutically converted by microbes into the effulgence of waste. Reuptake inhibition of the interiorizing tendency towards self-sustainability suddenly overflows into microbial decay and dissipation.

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Perforated aluminum sheeting, as a proposed facade for the NYC Farm Tower, dwindles under observation to a vanishing point of total invisibility. The blank uniformity of pure surface resists observational purchase, its ubiquity as facade inducing a vertiginous optical slippage: down, away, elsewhere. Photographs interrupt the aluminum’s frictionless surface only to augment its exteriorizing momentum; images from the neighboring High Line and of other more remote territories smuggle the real surrounds and their axes of permutation under and into the enclosure of the gallery, in parallel to the channels opened by the transformation of the space into architectural proposal.

The hum and chatter of a mid-range radio transmitter manifests similar breakages: a “talent farm” of broadcasters, artists and collaborators — those named in the title of the exhibition (e.g. Peter Friel, Rochelle Goldberg, Jason Matthew Lee…) — operating outside of the gallery and transmitted into the space at various intervals, an audible component to the competition proposal. The first lesson of the Sun Cult is that the supposedly discrete star is never stable at its edges, where to look is to initiate a morphology of protrusion and occlusion; returning blinded ninety-nine days after wandering into the desert, Iannis Xenakis designs the Philips Pavilion. A disjunctive architectural parametricism catalyzes eruptions along a trajectory moving through and beyond the gallery and delineates an invisible, amorphous flow-structure that courses, hidden, through the regimented stratifications of the city.

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Ovens as plinths — their heating elements capable of nutritional release and incendiary destruction — operate as embryonic models for the Farm Tower. Conceptual and schematic materials are displayed in proximity to the potential of their realization and destruction. Consumption and production relate in tension amid and through the appliances, and the dialogue that is initiated invests itself in the form of the spiral. The carbonized patterns appearing throughout the gallery trace histories of energy expenditure and modulate the register of the legibility of the heating element from the practical and material to the grammatically and symbolically charged; networks of modern electrical consumption are juxtaposed by the spiral-as-trace to cyclical, sun-gazing longevities operating on scales removed by orders of magnitude from those of commodity time.

With performances by Peter Friel, Rochelle Goldberg, Jason Matthew Lee, Michael Pollard, Jared Madere, Andy Schumacher, Lillian Paige Walton, Jonathan Gean, Eric Schmid, Jonas Asher, Rachelle Rahme, Lauren Burns-Coady, Elaine Cameron Weir, Jenny Cheng, and Heinrike Klinger.

22 January – 21 February 2015 at BORTOLAMI, NEW YORK

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