For decades, a particular brand of urban explorer has felt compelled to delve into the unseen and underground layers of city infrastructure. Guided by a sense of adventure and a desire for a broader understanding of the systems that support contemporary urban life, these explorations often reveal as much about the explorer as the territory explored. What is it about these unseen structures that so captures the imagination? Does this obscured geography map an unknown within us as well? What can the exploration teach us, a self-identified evolving species of surface dweller, about the various systems that make up our built and “natural” world? Can we hope to improve or recontextualize the interwoven social and ecological fabrics that make up our environment?
Urbanauts is a speculative exploration of urban infrastructure and its relationship to the everyday experience of the contemporary city. Through a series of interwoven conversations, urban expeditions, design charettes, and conjectural artworks based at the de Young, BRAF Civic Arts artist Sean Orlando and BRAF grantee Rebar consider the ways urban inhabitants related (or don’t) to the largely unseen mechanical systems, societal constructs, and cultural imperatives that mediate and structure life in the built environment.
Urbanauts began by mapping a range of sites, from small to large-scale, providing a glimpse into unseen infrastructures, including the de Young Museum, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, and the broader Bay Area. Over the course of the fellowship, these sites are explored, examined, documented, and discussed, and will inform the design of a sculpture series that is based on the aesthetics of urban infrastructure.
Throughout 2013, the artists will continue exploring, presenting new ideas and works of art at the de Young in June and October 2013, as well as on upcoming dates at sites around the Bay Area.