In early 2016, Chamber, an art and design gallery in Chelsea, Manhattan, asked me to curate a year long program of exhibitions on a topic of my choosing. I wanted to explore the human relationship to nature through art, design, and antiquities. The first exhibition focused on our primordial origins; the second explored the cube by three architects; the third showcased encapsulated nature by Azuma Makoto; and the final show, Progressland, concentrated on technology and nature.
— Paula Kupfer, Surface Magazine issue 123
The thematic and material directions of the collection posit questions about the appropriation of elements from the natural world and their commodification. But a quick reconsideration reveals how these objects, many of them made by hand, indeed propose an alternative to the fast-paced exploitation of natural resources for mass production and industry.
— Margaret Rhodes, WIRED MAGAZINE 05/31/16
"The exhibit answers questions using artifacts of human achievement and artistic metaphors, an approach that mirrors Zuckerman’s career."
‘UNUSUAL’ DOESN”T EVEN BEGIN TO DESCRIBE THIS EXHIBITION
Margaret Rhodes, WIRED MAGAZINE 05/31/16
Progressland, the latest exhibit at the small and unusual New York gallery Chamber, draws its name from Walt Disney. For the New York World’s Fair in 1964, Disney created Progressland– a domed, three-story pavilion designed to show off all the ways electricity would advance society. General Electric sponsored it, but it kept Disney’s vision of a technological utopia. He planned to Progressland at Disney World.
That never happened, but you can see the architectural model for it at Chamber until August. It’s one of many odd objects, which include a model of Soviet-era spacecraft, a flint dagger that dates between 2,400-1700 BC, and a colorful modern-day ceramic urn. Exhibit curator Andrew Zuckerman calls the objects “the genesis of exploration and the human desire to look beyond what we know.” Last year, Zuckerman, a photographer, curated Human/Nature, an exhibit that examined what he calls humanity’s primordial origins- where we came from, as it were. Progressland addresses where we’re going.
The exhibit answers questions using artifacts of human achievement and artistic metaphors, an approach that mirrors Zuckerman’s career. He spent five years working with top-tier design executives at Apple, whose devices, many believe, are and will be considered artifacts of human achievement. Zuckerman has since dedicated himself to his eponymous photography and filmmaking studio, focusing on metaphorical explorations of humanity’s relationship to the natural world. His main body of work consists of portraits of exotic animals. “We’re trying to get rid of the ‘us’ and ‘them’ relationship,” he says. Zuckerman’s approach is to render animals against bright white backdrops instead of their natural habitats. It’s a neutral setting, rather than an exotic one.
Progressland pays particular attention to space exploration. There’s a packet of tomato seeds that spent most of the 1980s on a space shuttle, a NASA thermal blanket, and a vintage Russian spacesuit glove. Each is classified as an artifact of human achievement. Zuckerman found these items scouring “weird auctions” in Texas and Florida, where astronauts’ families often unload space paraphernalia, including a canister of film from an Apollo 17 lunar mapping project. Zuckerman stitched the images together to create a tableau of the moon that doesn’t look quite right. “It’s not a powdery gray,” he says. It’s an astrological feel, like stars. It elicits wonder.”
That sense of wonder permeates the show. Many artists created works specifically for Progressland. Ceramicist Peter Pincus made a white vase with rainbow-hued stripes, suggesting that an urn should celebrate life, not mourn it. Lighting designer Satoshi Itasaka built a huge hanging lamp, its copper wires snaking around the glass orb to connect with the bulbs within- something Zuckerman says brings to mind sperm meeting an egg. It’s a neatly packaged metaphor for the beginning of life. Designer Mimi Jung offers a modern adaptation of the traditional Japanese tea house, a piece designed to encourage contemplative thinking. Visitors are welcome to step inside for a moment of meditation.
Progressland offers much to see and ponder, but few hard facts or clear propositions. “It’s not exactly about the next material we’ll use,” Zuckerman says, “but the spirit of where we’re going, and the impulse to try new things and do things that haven’t been done before.” That could be anything from exploring a new frontier to stepping into a tea house and thinking quietly.
— Natalia Torija Nieto, Pinup Magazine
Zuckerman’s photographic aesthetic remains immediate and minimalistic in his art and his curatorial practice, and is one to note in this exhibition.
In early 2014 the studio was approached by Barney’s to help create the Madison Avenue windows in celebration of Dries Van Noten’s 25 years. He had had seen my photography of the natural world and requested that I create a series in conversation with his archive. We chose to make a film and environment for each window on Madison Avenue. The four films play with the compression and expansion of time and motion — a dozen species of flowers bloom and decay, the two week emergence of butterfly from chrysalis unfolds in minutes, flight patterns of birds slow to 1/600th of their speed, a taxonomical collection of butterfly species from around the world becomes animate. The films were then exhibited at the Nevada Museum of Art and in Dries Van Noten Inspirations in Antwerp the following year.
Surface Magazine invited me to collaborate with them on their cover subjects for 2018. We created a series of videos unique to each issue as a supplement to the cover shoot.
In 2015 the studio was approached by the philanthropic organization (RED) to create a limited edition book as well as a series of films to accompany the (RED) Sotheby’s design auction. Led by Bono and curated by Sir Jonathan Ive, KBE, and Marc Newson, CBE, the collection celebrates the very best of design and innovation, with disciplines as diverse as space travel and lighting design to contemporary art and rare automobiles. All proceeds from the 26 million dollars raised benefited the The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria.