FoAM digest - Winter 02015

Posted Feb. 23, 2015 by Maja Kuzmanović, Nik Gaffney, and Alkan Chipperfield

[NL] Buiten is het nog kil, maar bij FoAM wordt al opgewarmd voor maart feestmaand: FoAM wordt vijftien jaar! Een overgangsritueel dat wordt opgeluisterd met verschillende publicaties zoals een bloemlezing van mensen, hersenspinsels en initiatieven die FoAM's geschiedenis mee hebben geschreven. Een handleiding ook vol ideeën en technieken om de Grote Toekomst van haar voetstuk te halen en het leven van alledag hier en nu in het leven te roepen. Tegelijkertijd banen we ons een weg door het antropoceen waar we de wisselwerking verkennen tussen technosociale en milieufenomenen. Via langlopende 'macrotransiency'-residentieprogramma's wordt onderzocht hoe betekenisvol te leven met onzekerheid van planetaire tot menselijke schaal. Als lab gaan we door met maken, groeien, hacken en koken via een reeks publieke evenementen en workshops in Europa. Tegelijk wordt onze zoektocht naar wijzen om de waarde van het Nietsdoen nieuw leven in te blazen uitgedrukt via Bib Salons. Centraal hierin staan een reeks fotoboeken die een ode zijn aan traagheid, verstilling en de ervaring van tijdloosheid. Hopelijk brengen FoAM's winterkiemen hieronder alvast wat tijdloosheid terwijl je achterover leunt met je favoriete (warme) drank.

[EN] Greetings from FoAM’s wintry studios. The weather is still chilly outside, but the atmosphere at FoAM is warming up and increasingly festive: in March FoAM will be 15 years old and there is much to celebrate. We’ll be commemorating this rite of passage with several publications, including an anthology of the people, ideas and initiatives that have been entangled with FoAM at various points along the way, and a compendium of thoughts and techniques on taking the Big Future off its pedestal and closer to everyday life. Concurrently, we’re navigating the anthropocene to explore the interaction between techno-social and environmental phenomena. From the planetary to the human scale, we’re looking at how to meaningfully live with uncertainty through our long-form residency programme of macrotransiencies. Quintessentially a lab, we continue making, growing, hacking and cooking in a range of public events and workshops across Europe, while our quest to revitalise the value of Doing Nothing finds expression in Library Salons and a series of photobooks that celebrate slowness, stillness and timeless experience. We hope you enjoy an inkling of this timelessness by sitting back in your favorite climate simulation to read all about what's been germinating in the FoAM Petri dish during the winter.

Celebration, commemoration, contemplation

The whole year of 2015 will be one long harvest fest at FoAM in Brussels. We are dusting off our archives and committing FoAM’s legacy to paper in a magnum opus with the working title Grow Your Own Worlds and a series of atmospheric photobooks on Stillness. For those of you on the lookout for an opportunity to dress up in the latest anarcho-dandyist party attire, we’re delighted to invite you to FO[am]tones, a synaesthetic feast that we’re currently designing with our old friends from Foton. We’re opening our rich repositories of materials and media to create a reminiscing and mesmerising ambience, inhabited by an impressive lineup including Filastine, Lowdjo, Angel and other masters of meditative and dance-floor electronica. We already began celebrating at the Beursschouwburg in February at the 50-hour kick-off of their 50th birthday. Amidst performances, concerts and screenings, FoAM provided four hours of rest, dreaming, breathing and nourishment, grounded in our experience collective experience and exploration of the benefits of Doing Nothing. The odyssey into the realms of idleness will continue in FoAM’s newly furnished library in Brussels. Our next Library Salon is dedicated to experiential time (in contrast to measured clock time). We’ll observe the cosmic phenomena of the spring equinox and the (partial) solar eclipse, whilst enjoying a session of performative reading and writing by Lies Declerck.

Transiencies and transitions

One of the aims of our research in Doing Nothing is to increase (self-)awareness of one’s life in the long now – the present moment that includes hindsight, insight and foresight. The macrotransiency programme illustrates what we’re trying to achieve. Macrotransiencies are long-form residencies for people undergoing a major transition in their lives – from a drastic career change to recovery after an illness or dwelling in existential doubt. Michka Melo completed his transiency in November with his astute research gathering, Time to Ferment. He is now in transit between Brussels and Lausanne, conducting biohacking experiments for space and earth-bound expeditions. Our two current transients Barbara Raes and Stevie Wishart have found a home at FoAM in Brussels, which they use as a hub to set off on their divergent yet complementary explorations of contemporary rituals and compositions. In her transiency, Barbara is looking at mental and physical spaces for funeral ceremonies and other (secular and syncretic) rites of passage, as she emerges from and eloquently reflects on her own experience of burnout. Stevie transitions between Belgium and the UK, arts and academia, mediaeval and contemporary sound. At the moment she is composing a double bass concerto and testing her work in progress during FoAM’s apéros. Her next public appearances will be in London: The Sound of Gesture at NESTA’s FutureFest and the world premiere of her concerto with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment.

Navigating the Anthropocene’s past, present and future

Looking back and looking forward is a recurrent theme this year. We ended 2014 with the Future Fictions exhibition at Z33 in Hasselt, where we designed and hosted the Futures Lab, a programme of workshops and talks about the practice of everyday futures. The programme included several Food Futures receptions and aperos, as well as our Futures of Doing Nothing workshop that continues to reverberate in the lives of its participants through a series of pre-enactments and instruction cards. We’re currently collecting our thoughts and experiences from the lab and other Future Fabulators activities in a two-volume publication: Futurish, a booklet to encourage thinking out loud about futures, and the Futurist Fieldguide, a workbook including future-probing aptitudes, techniques and methods.

Our work with speculative culture has been taking us out into the wild, from the arctic to the tropics, exploring the effects of the anthropocene in different environments. Angelo Vermeulen is rethinking the future of human habitation and survival in the community art project Seeker, where starship sculptures evolve over time. Nik Gaffney and Cocky Eek travelled to Norway and Russia to experience the Dark Ecology of the arctic industrialisation. Maja Kuzmanovic and Nik Gaffney facilitated a workshop on the Futures of Laurisilva, the ancient laurel forest of Madeira. More recently, Nik joined Martin Howse in exploring Earth Coding and contemporary geomancy at the Sonic Acts festival in The Netherlands. Across the Channel, Maja, Nik and Vali Lalioti have been invited by the Gulbenkian Foundation to design the Marine CoLab, where participants from environmental organisations experiment with re-valuing the oceans. Also in the UK, Dave and Amber Griffiths are Live Coding with environmental UAVs and travelling to the Chhattisgarh state in India to field-test Symbai, a solar-powered data collection system examining evolution of sociality and culture.

Making, growing, hacking, cooking

For the past 15 years FoAM has operated predominantly as a lab, exploring complex topics and cultural tendencies by connecting disparate fields of knowledge and experience. The majority of our work revolves around public experiments – in workshops, exhibitions and events with makers and thinkers alike. Currently, FoAM Kernow is hosting a range of tangible programming, experimental weaving and (bio)hacking workshops. Anna Maria Orru of FoAM Nordica is curating the programme at the next AHA festival on the theme of ‘numbers’. Connecting coding with food, Francesca Sargent is our new collaborator, designing the Open Sauces website with generative recipe visualisations, which we hope to launch later this year. FoAM’s family of chefs and mixologists – Rasa Alksnyte together with Pieter, Jura and Faust De Wel – were involved in Deep Sweet, an evening blending taste and sensuality with PostX in Gent; while Bartaku presented his Aronia Ouverture -the essence of the almighty aronia berry- at Q-O2 and in Latvia. Rasa is currently in the thick of schoolkids exploring arts in the kitchen, culminating in a meeting day at FoAM in April.

Further food-related explorations at FoAM Kernow see Dave and Amber looking at both ends of the food chain – from eggs to waste. The camouflage evolution game Egglab was picked up by the Guardian and the Economist, resulting in over 40,000 players contributing to citizen science research, along with an ‘Eggshibition’ at the Poly, a historical location for art-science crossovers in Cornwall. On the waste end, the Farm Crap App recently won the Soil Association Award. Theun Karelse of FoAM Amsterdam has opened a new garden: the Midwest Experimental Station, inspired by historic proeftuinen (experimental gardens), where agricultural tests were conducted by scientists and farmers and the knowledge shared. They recently launched an open call for people keen to get involved this new urban agricultural lab. When not in the garden, Cocky Eek and Theun have been travelling with the acclaimed Sphaerae inflatable pavilion to electronic arts festivals such as AXS in Los Angeles and Gogbot in Enschede.

For an up-to-date overview of our upcoming experiments, be sure to regularly check our events page at

We hope to see you at one of our feasts, workshops, salons or aperos soon! Until then, we wish you a wonderful lunar new year and may the Goat/Sheep bring much auspiciousness and prosperity!

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