Object of Interest 700 e presents us an opportunity to interrogate the role exoplanets play in the cultural imaginary. Although the first confirmed detection of a planet existing outside our solar system came only in 1992, exoplanets have quickly emerged as neocolonialist objects of interest.
Spheroids, the research project at the origin of Object of Interest 700 e, takes the thread of Joel Kuennen’s practice of land interventions, bringing together the artist’s material interests while expanding in the conceptual field of extraterrestrial “hyperobjects,” to use the term coined by philosopher Timothy Morton. Through unorthodox laboratory experiments conducted at the EPFL Crystal Growth Facility, Kuennen experimented with the growth of single crystals from natural olivine to test a non-pure form, a process that defies the protocols of scientific laboratories.
Hybrid materialism and material intelligence emerge in Object of Interest 700 e. Consolidating as an architectonic sculpture, it consists of a porcelain sphere enveloped in a biofilm made from the symbiotic bacteria and fungi found in our digestive systems, a magnetic levitation array, and silicon carbide ceramic stilts on a base of stoneware glazed with rare earth elements and olivine. In its technologically augmented materiality and its reference to a symbology both sacred and profane, the work manifests, concretizes, and makes tangible an ancient yet futuristic theoretical imprint, adding another layer of techno-scientific, material, and theoretical implications to Kuennen's practice.
- Joel Kuennen
Joel Kuennen (b. 1984) is an art critic, curator, editor, and artist. They received an MA in visual and critical studies from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (2010). Their art practice investigates human relationships to the earth as a means of understanding social constructs that can interrupt the extractive and exploitative ways in which we engage with this planet. Their site-specific land art interventions, use autochthonous clay to create anthromes to help visitors consider their place in deep time — the complex matrix of past, present, and future. Working with the earth, with clay, means working with and through time. Considering deep time has allowed Kuennen to expand out and up to include celestial frames into their work with a special interest in habitable exoplanets. They have completed permanent installations in the US, Germany, and Switzerland.
Kuennen has been publishing criticism on emerging artists for nearly ten years. Their written work focuses on the intersection of technology, identity, and society. Kuennen participated in the Arts Writers Grant, AICA/USA Arts Writing Workshop in 2011, mentored by Artnet editor Walter Robinson. They were a contributing editor for Theorizing Visual Studies (Routledge, 2012) and served as city editor, senior editor, and chief operating officer at ArtSlant (2012–18). Their work has been published in Art in America, ArtSlant, Brooklyn Rail, Elephant, Frieze, Mutual Art, THE SEEN, and others. Kuennen was inaugural critic-in-residence at Bemis Center for Contemporary Art in April 2019. They are a curatorial research assistant for Del Vaz Projects, Los Angeles, and an adjunct professor at Valparaiso University.
- Enter the Hyper-Scientific
Initiated by the EPFL College of Humanities (CDH), amplified by EPFL Pavilions, and now inaugurating a partnership with the City of Lausanne, the EPFL-CDH Artist-in-Residence (AiR) Program Enter the Hyper-Scientific reflects the CDH mission of fostering transdisciplinary encounters and collaborations between artists and EPFL’s scientific community. The program invites professional Swiss and international artists for three-month residencies to realize innovative and visionary projects at the intersection of art, science, and advanced technologies.