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The Chicago Project: Fold-out Futures

Edited – Irene Barberis

RMIT University Press (2007)

ISBN – 978-1-921166-63-1

ISBN – 978-1-921166-64-8

ISBN – 978-1-921166-66-2





The two volumes of The Chicago Project: Fold-out Futures, divide the visual and the textual contents. The first volume records the images, ideas, processes and development of new works by the students/artists who were involved in this project. Also included are short introductory texts by each participant, describing the specific bodies of work emanating from the residency at the ECA studio in the John David Mooney foundation, Chicago. The textual component of the set traces the extended body of artworks and their conceptual developments through an interview format, and outlines, in a series of chapters, responses of the artists and guest contributors to Notions of Utopia in Art and Architecture. Attentions is given to the philosophical and pedagogical approaches to the project – and the nuances observed through the housing of it within the new satellite research model, Global Metasenta: Metasenta Projects.




We are forty floors up in the Mori Towers in Tokyo, over looking the metropolis. It’s 5.30pm and after the Metronome Think Tank Tokyo symposium. A large group of people, mainly artists, academics, curators and ‘cognoscenti; from many parts of the globe are locked into discussion. The conversation centres upon documenta 12, especially documenta Magazines, and this is the intended forum to which this gathering’s findings will lead. The Star Bar is on the fifty-first floor’ cocktails and good finger food are at hand and Mrs. Mori is making a final speech. Then for all it is down to the rush in the basement of a nearby bar, shoulder-to-shoulder and cramped but all elegant still. It is here that Karen Forbes speaks to me about the possibility of a project in Chicago. Edinburgh College of art has a great studio in the John David Mooney Foundation, Kinzie Street – would I be interested in collaborating on a joint work with her and some postgraduates? It was already September 2006 and the projected time for this project was March 2007

As there was good support from both institutions it was agreed that we would go ahead and see what would happen with such a tight timeline and a vast distance.



Notions of Utopia in Art and Architecture was the lens through which we group began to investigate the city of Chicago as a primary source for art making. Through the earlier production of a reader and bibliography, everyone was able to formulate their initial responses to the urban mass, utopian ideas and possible directions for interventions within the metropolis. The direct experiencing of the city its buildings, character and history then impacted conceptually and practically on the artwork.


ECA Studio

The John David Mooney Foundation is in the heart of down town Chicago. It is a chunky five story building containing studios, galleries and living quarters, with the EDA studios on the third floor, and the main John David Mooney Gallery on the second, As there were eight of us, the six postgraduate students resided in the ECA space and two, the project leaders, shared the second floor, happily there was continual movement between the spaces,, as the key issue of the project was collaboration.


Time Three weeks of communal living, working, sharing, interacting and discourse around the aforementioned theme, brought about distinct outcomes. Whereas Karen and I had thought that the students would most likely link into pairs or maybe the team split in half, everybody began working around things together, working independently as time passes.

The exhibition held in the final week revealed intersecting ideas transitions, and a strong focus on the original utopian premise, opening up possibilities and potentials for the future: Fold-out Futures has proven to be a most apt title for the exhibition.


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