The multifaceted practice of Jutta Friedrichs engages with people, public space, and the built environment. As a curator she works with architects, designers, sculptors and other artists in a range of media to encourage dialog between new artworks and the broader context of the existing physical environment. In her writings and multichannel audio-visual installations she explores cultural and phenomenological interrelations between body and the built environment, as in her recent investigation The Inconspicuous Life of Walls and her video piece Dream, Echoes, Debris. As an arts producer she has brought about a series of multi-sensory dining events designed to investigate the interdependencies of the food supply chain.
Friedrichs earned her BA from Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, London, with additional studies at UDK in Berlin, before obtaining her Master’s Degree in Art, Design and the Public Domain with Krzysztof Wodiczko at the Harvard Graduate School of Design.
She is currently a mentor at the Harvard Innovation Lab where she advises students in the Cultural Entrepreneurship track and has served as an art and design critic at Harvard and MIT.
From 2005 to 2010, she lived in Shanghai, China, where she founded Mü Furniture as an outlet for her award-winning designs.
She is the cofounder of Changing Environments, a company developing smart urban furniture, whose first product, Soofa, has been well received in publications such as The Washington Post, Mashable and Fastcompany.
For more information, visit www.juttafriedrichs.com.
When the Illuminus visitor turns from Brookline Avenue into Lansdowne Street she is greeted by the Green Monster, an industrial construction braced with massive beams, bolts, mesh and metal stairs, all coated in a homogenous layer of opaque green. An architecture like no other, the 37-foot tall facade evokes something between an oversized factory interior and a giant sheltering forest.
Beneath its thick industrial wrapper, protected against fire and decay, snoozes a 103-year-old wooden skeleton covered in layers of 1940’s advertisements. The monster is as real as the industrial and economic transformation it has witnessed. Slowly it has lined its den with asphalt and concrete, pushing aside a landscape of dirt roads, weeds and brush, leaving the sky as its only connection to nature.
Turning left and walking up the ramp toward the upper deck of the parking garage, itself a historic structure, the smell of horse dung once carried by wooden carriages has long been supplanted by a patina of oil droppings and tire smears.
A mystic glow draws the visitor into the bare concrete shell to experience a synthesis of nature, technology, and industrial structure. The Lime Light installation by David Kennedy, Benjamin Peek and Jacob Mans invites one to wander through a florescent green and purple glowing structure of suspended wooden panels, a hybrid between forest and scaffolding. Upon closer inspection the visitor is struck by a wondrous illumination: where planed smooth the wood itself glows green, as though reflecting the color of the Green Monster across the street. The wood boards are cut from the black locust tree which is classified as an invasive species. Its poisonous dark side shines through its intrinsic biochemical properties, glowing under exposure to black light. The installation suggests a landscape that Alice would stumble upon in Wonderland or the radioactive fields of Chernobyl glowing at night. Although black locust has excellent building materials properties, it cannot be specified as a commercial construction material because of its vicious tendency towards domination in nature. Lime Light exposes the skeletal framework, usually hidden inside architecture, and constructs an unexpectedly mystical experience of tamed and fabricated nature. At the center, the visitor arrives at a kind of garden shed, the interior walls planed smooth and glowing, radiating outward through gaps in the construction like a magical treasure chest.
To the left, this fantastic naturescape gives way to another absurd outgrowth: a 40-foot diagonal row of suspended plants, the Cyborg Garden by Zenovia Toloudi. As one walks closer to the plants, one by one they subtly light up. Like signals transmitted from underneath the pavement, feeding a constant stream of information into homes and workspaces, each plant is fed with light via an individual fiber optic cable welling up from an artificial source. The glowing tips illuminate unnoticed details of the plants and their roots, normally hidden. The sterile rows of cylindrical water vessels reminds one of a laboratory setting or specimen jars displayed in a natural history museum, preserving extinct or endangered organisms. The plants seem in danger; detached from their natural environment, they have become dependent on human care. The visitor’s proximity activates the life support mechanism, and light travels through the cables like nutrients through an IV drip, feeding the plants their essentials for survival. All twenty-five plants are connected to a central light and sensor network weaving together nature, technology and human spectators into one interdependent system.
Across from the Cyborg Garden other strange denizens are creeping along the end of the lifeline. Pat Falco’s Untitled (1995 - 2007) discarded, flickering television sets signal the last breaths of a once ubiquitous communication technology. Recalling the Nam June Paik’s 1970’s TV Garden, but with no trace of vegetation, the TV’s have turned into tombstones. The arrangement evokes the image of discarded TVs on the sidewalk, inviting visitors to wander through the technology graveyard and explore final transmissions of a soon to be forgotten era.
These three technological landscapes are enveloped in a rich, undulating soundscape that guides and propels the visitor along the length of the garage. Long before the concrete of the Massachusetts Turnpike, just outside the window, was poured, even before the Green Monster settled in, the Boston and Albany Railroad line ran parallel to Landsdowne Street, separated only by this parking garage, and its tracks are still in use today. Ben Houge’s Night Signals is an extension of and a response to this speeding horizontality. Designed to blend with the ever-present sounds of passing traffic that articulate and define the city’s circulatory system, this generative sound installation that lines the north wall of the garage records, processes, and subtly shades these sounds in real-time, reframing and re-presenting them alongside their acoustic source. Taking a tip from his experience in video game audio, Houge imagines sounds of varying velocities and sizes hurtling through virtual space, made fleetingly audible at the speakers, which serve as portals onto a parallel reality. As a direct response to the architecture of the garage and its urban context, the speakers are positioned at the equally spaced support columns, framing windows long boarded over with billboards, providing a unique opportunity to experience space as sound antiphonally echoing the full length of the garage.
Leaving the parking deck down the stairs and onto the street the visitor encounters a crowd of people observing a glowing freestanding pentagonal room. Inside Wendy W. Fok’s Projective Dualism 2.0 they are watching other visitors glimpse reflections of themselves multiplied in the crystal texture of five one-way mirrored walls. Upon entering this confined space, the observer becomes the object. Captivated by the intimate reflections of herself, she may well be inclined towards another kind of reflection: the selfie, projecting her image into a larger virtual space shared with an audience of millions, as the small 10’ x 10’ space expands into infinity. Wendy W. Fok explores questions of governance and property of our own images, as we share and consume in digital space that reaches far beyond our sight and control.
Traveling along the street (and above the city’s subterranean data infrastructure) the visitor encounters metaLAB’s A Bit in the Abyss, an installation that exposes the vast expanse of digital space in sound and vision. Entering a shipping container--another confined space with similar dimensions to Fok's work--the visitor’s vantage point suddenly shifts as she steps through the 3-foot wide aperture into an unexpectedly boundless space. The mirror-lined interior presents the blinking lights of a centrally installed computer server, reflected infinitely deep in all directions. A synchronized soundscape, sonifying real-time data transmissions, interpolates a bed of cosmic noise as the visitor floats through data space. As the first spacewalkers propelled our understanding of interplanetary space, this installation interrogates the outer limits of digital space, storage, and memory. The container, a physical volume for storage and transportation, serves as a portal to experience the storage and transmission of digital information. Both the container and the web represent a type of anti-architecture, aesthetically non-designed mobile infrastructure, or quasi-objects, of terminals, connectors and networks.
A different kind of webbing explains one of the quirkier features of our Green Monster (still reclining just across the road, waiting for the visitor to emerge). A tall ladder apparently leads to nowhere; formerly it was used to retrieve fly baseballs that landed in a large net draped above the seats. That net has been replaced by a digital kind: one of the most-powerful wifi networks of Boston feeds the tweets and selfies of thirty-five thousand fans into the expansive ether above this holy ground. So now the ladder leads only to the sky, and while the roads around Fenway Park--Landsdowne St., the Mass Pike--all have changed dramatically in the past 103 years, the view upwards remains much the way it looked when the Monster first stretched towards the stars.
All of these installations, created by a diverse community of artists, architects and designers, reference nature and the physical changes to the environment as a result of urbanization in the period since the Green Monster’s construction. As artworks that exist in three physical dimensions, while also defining the parameters of altered, aesthetic space, they invite the visitor to travel beyond the environments they delineate to explore the abstracted and intangible spaces of our ecological, socio-economical, and virtual relationships.