What if artists were in charge of how we learn—of how we ask questions and do research; how we teach and gather to share
knowledge? Imagine a symposium run by artists. What could this symposium be? More important: what could it do? Who would
need to be there, and why?
We are inspired by an art project from 50 years ago: the “First National Symposium on Habitability of Environments” by
the Californian artist Robert Irwin. Habitability is the field of knowledge that asks: What does it take to have a
habitable environment for humans, on Earth and in outer space? Scientist Ed Wortz worked on habitability in NASA's
Apollo Program. Artist Robert Irwin was Wortz’s close friend and a collaborator who grew increasingly frustrated with
NASA’s approach to habitability as a technical challenge: e.g., provide this much air, water and food, the human lives,
and that’s enough. Irwin also felt that just pointing out the problem was insufficient: rather, he argued, the very way
we learn and discuss habitability needs to be reconsidered. And so, when Wortz asked him to help organize a symposium on
habitability, Irwin hosted the gathering in his own studio, transforming the space into an unstable, dynamic environment
that challenged everyone involved to think, feel, and talk habitability.
Half a century later, our team took Irwin’s symposium as inspiration and asked: If we, a group of artists and designers,
were to create a “Symposium on Habitability” today, what would it look and feel like? We’ve been thinking and
experimenting with that idea for the past two years...
and then — the COVID-19 pandemic came and changed the ways all of us inhabit everything.
For many of us, this time of “social isolation” is challenging. We see this website as a collectively created social
network for the pandemic. We hope that by sharing pictures and poetic reflections, what we see and how we feel, we will
all learn about things we care about in places we live: things to be gained in this new world and things we stand to
lose. Ultimately, we just want to hold a shared space. Thank you for convening here with us.
We are: Boris Oicherman, the Interesting Tactics collective (Mary Dahlman
Isaac Hase, Drew Smith, Austin
Watanabe), Peng Wu, Neal White, and Max Hoaglund. We are grateful
for your sharing your space with us, and promise to be
as humanly sensitive and responsible as we can with what you share. We might use the images and texts you submit in
future exhibitions and publications. If you don’t want that, please get in touch.
This is a project by the Weisman Art Museum. For more about the project check out the WAM Website, read this
with Robert Irwin, or write to us.
Designed and hand-drawn by Peng. Programmed by Max. Curated by Boris.
Weisman Art Museum (University of Minnesota - Twin Cities), where Boris curates the Target Studio for Creative
University of Westminster, London, where Neal works as the Director of CREAM
The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, that gave Boris the Curatorial Research grant that funded the first two
years of this project.