Artists in residence MELT look at different approaches to time
Monday 14 June 16:49
MELT (Loren Britton & Isabel Paehr) are arts-design researchers who work together on games, technology and critical pedagogy. Investigating the political and material conditions of technological infrastructures, they re-distribute agency through methods of queer play, unlearning and leaking. They are one of six artists and researchers resident in OVEREXPOSED, a residency programme from Sonic Acts that aims to create awareness about pollution both in local surroundings and on a planetary scale.
Isabel and Loren fittingly met at the TBD (to be determined) reading group in Kassel and began to collaborate and think together from there. Their interest in melting first started through a fascination with the qualities of 'mess making' and its unequal distribution. Their thinking about melting as another type of 'mess making' expanded after reading Denise Ferreira da Silva's article 'On Heat', in which she talks about how melting is a reality that brings together colonialism, climate change and capitalism. Following her lead, they started to think with, and through, melting processes and their relationship to different computational materialities. As Loren explains, 'Although meshes or networks appear to be seamless or "clean", they are actually made so through the processes of coercion.' Exploring the relation between 3D meshes and messes opens up questions about how certain interfaces create the appearance of cleanliness – of being untouched – and are also often constructed as immaterial.
A portrait of artist duo MELT. Loren on the left and Isabel on the right, both smiling.
The bottom of a white wooden door with clouded glass with a brass panel with a handle attached to it is kept open by a coarsely cut lump of cloudy ice, resting on a linoleum floor with a doormat to its right. Courtesy of MELT.
From their duo's name to the 'Meltionary', which they created with many individual 'meltries', it is evident that Loren and Isabel are aware of the impact of language. (And, of course, that they really love puns.) In acknowledging the construction of language – how it is always embedded within and carries histories of meaning – creating new words, creating an(other) language, has become part of their daily practice. As Loren describes it, when you talk about 'form, momentum, phases of transformation or even melting and climate change, there's hardly any language available to describe that is happening at the material level or even what is to come.' most of the linguistic categories they found were only capable of describing something fixed and not something in flux.
Consequently, their project took on a much more playful approach by looking into the material basis of words as a way 'to misunderstand on purpose', as Isabel nicely puts it. Their previous works, such as Warming up for the Unknown, created in collaboration with contemporary dancer David Scarantino, could exist in a state of flux. But how do we choose formats to work with that enable us to slip past the closure or finality that is often imposed on an exhibition, a project or a residency period? The answer might lie in MELT's focus on the importance of leakiness and permeability. Whether it's data leaks or cosmic rays that transgress Earth's atmosphere, leakiness opens up space to question existing normative frameworks. Leaks are connected to this flow, or, as Loren and Isabel call it, 'liquified boundary transgressing'.
During their residency, material processes also influence what and how they make things in time. Directly working with materials – that come with their own timelines, or 'timewiggles', and material processes – is often their starting point.
In the same way that we are born into language, we are also born into a very specific understanding of time. During their 'residency time', MELT look at climate change and pollution in relation to different approaches to time. The notion of 'too late' underpins the relationship between climate change and time. Oftentimes, media outlets portray 'us' as running out of time, when actually, as Loren says, 'many people of the global majority are already living with the effects of climate change, and what they mean is that it is too late for white Western modernity.' Concerning this notion of 'too late, MELT focuses on trans*, crip and kinship time, which inform their relation to materials in timelines that are cyclical, open, slow and indeterminate. Here, MELT is amplifying the work of people that are working from the margins in this context, such as Reece Simpkins with queer/trans* time, Mel Chen and Ellen Samuels with crip time and Kyle Powys Whyte with kinship time. As Loten notes, 'this project is about going through different experiences of time in order to return to and intervene in the normative framework of time.' Isabel concludes that their work will also focus on a personal level 'between these conceptions of time or between people who, sometimes for different reasons, fall out of normative notions of time.' A residency or project that results in a one-off event or moment doesn't really fit with the Disability Justice, trans* rights and accessibility frameworks that Loren and Isabel work within. MELT think through non-linearity, fragmented publishing and embracing different timewaves. 'We've been thinking about these different kinds of chrono-normative time' Loren imparts. 'We pose questions about troubling the finish or the beginning of something, of thinking through notions of "too late".' Isabel highlighted that this is a critical question for their research. 'Not only how accessibility can be applied so that people can watch a video or have a screen reader grab the captions, but also how thoughts about access can shape the research from the beginning on.'
Read about MELT and the other OVEREXPOSED residents in the first issue of our Ecoes magazine, available at the Sonic Acts webshop.