Sunday, May 21, 2006

Redefining the world

The Institute of Infinitely Small Things is the dream-come-true of any daydreaming student. It is "a research organization whose mission is to invent and distribute new practices of political engagement in everyday life" (associated with Boston-based iKatun). In practice, that means a group of people doing wonderfuly wonder-filled things. Regardless of definitions (performance art, contemporary art, theater, etc), it is one of those things I wish were much closer (it seems to be located in Harvard), much more frequent, and much... bigger. Mediatically, that is.
Some of their most charming projects have been 57 Things To Do For Free in Harvard Square (I didn't manage to see the videos...), 100 (11+1) Instruction Works, and several other witty, adorable ones.
Their last project is the Renaming of Names in Cambridge, Massachussets. What's the use?
There are a rich set of economic, political and cultural interests at work in
the production of names.
The Institute for Infinitely Small Things is
interested in researching these interests in Cambridge, MA, by inviting the
public to circumvent them.
The Institute is also interested in the social
uses and perceived economic value of existing places in Cambridge. Our questions
are simple:
What will people rename?
What kinds of relationships will
prompt people to rename certain places (antagonistic, personal, habitual,
What will not be renamed?
Which places will be renamed the
most (i.e. acquire the most economic value)?
Once again, the collective shows a wonderful lightness in their approach to reality, treating it as a delicate canvas, playing with it as on a playground. As usual, I find this a great relief in the often pompous and inhumanly formal world of stuffy stiffy artists and social analysts.
There is one thing, though, that raises my doubts. The more popular names (of main streets and squares etc.) will be auctioned. As in, sold to whoever pays more. And although they claim that "The money need only be a small sum that exceeds the amount the previous person paid by at least $0.01", the very concept seems somewhat... heavy, pompous and formal. And above all, it enters the very system that the Institute apparently criticizes in several other works.
All in all, I'll be on the watchout for the Institute's future works. Actually, there should be an entire network of Very Important Institutes created throughout the world, shouldn't there?


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