single-celled organism’s stream of thought

Special effects makeup by Nina Carreli.
Blue Screen Videography by Steven Harwick.
Sound design by Ziúr

We consume, digest, metabolize, and pass language through our bodies. Bodies are sites, and sites are bodies. Language is an activation of information, and information is an activation of language. Body, site, language and information are all interrelated and continuous. nonorien(table) studies this cycle through a science fictional realm: video fragments, audio loops, and text act parasitically as interventions in space. Dissonant soundscapes provide a backdrop for a single-celled organism’s stream of thought, and a pop diva sings: “So we pour it back and forth, back and forth, back and forth…” In the bathroom, a looped meditation is narrated by the sentient microorganism. The basement of the ICA becomes the belly for this symbiotic web in parts. —Egbert Vongmalaithong.

The installation maps itself on to the architecture of the museum, designed by Steven Hall, creating a procession through the circulatory system of the building, avoiding galleries and instead occupying the spaces used to move visitors through the building. Upon entering the museum lobby, the subtitles for the videos appear on the floor at the scale of the building in lines of text up to 40ft long. The narrative is deconstructed and formed into distinct linguistic parts, enabling language to inscribe itself onto the architecture of the building; creating the opportunity for a text-only experience, an image only experience, or an experience where text and image are combined. The act of reading moves visitors through the building in a loop that connects the lobby to the basement corridor.

Each circular node contains a looping chorus of sorts, repeated throughout the narrative “The best thing about being human is having a body—The worst thing about being human is having a body.” The circular orientation allows the text to be read from multiple vantage points, revealing contradictory meanings from different angles. The typograhy is set in a digitization of the proprietary typeface created for the legendary, now defunct science fiction and culture magazine OMNI.

The text continues across the planar architecture of the procession downward, into the bowels of the museum, moving from the floor, up and around the elevator. An inscription containing references to a blend of the physical world and influences beyond sight frames the passage through the portal to the basement in both a literal and symbolic sense. 

Upon arriving to the lower level, weather by elevator or staircase, the viewer is met with a drastic shift in the lighting condition, leaving the corridor bathed in the same bluish hues used throughout the videos which are immediately visible, spanning the length of the longest stretch of wall.

Another inscription frames the lower elevator, this time speaking directly to the reader, placing them within the narrative.

Another instance of the cirular chorus appears outside the evelvator, in the exact position of the one directly above it in the museum lobby, mimetic of a column.

The text continues down the corridor at a different angle from the video wall, disrupting the parallel lines of the architecture—a slight feeling of disorientation is present while the act of reading moves the viewer through the passage.

Behind the video wall is a bathroom, marked by blue light. Inside the bathroom, immursed in blue light, an audio cleanse of sorts plays on loop. An otherworldly soundscape backs a voice, pitched beyond gender, or age. The voice says “push it all out, let it all go” while guiding the listener through an exercise to empty your mind of the images you consumed that day. 

Beyond the bathroom, the text continues to a juncture with another circular node of text leading either to more bathrooms, or back up the stairs to revisist the text after having seen the videos.

︎ contact  ︎ stalk