New Clips from The Laboratory for the Development of Substitute Materials

January 13, 2010

posted by Caroline Picard

As you probably know, LDSM came to The Parlor last week in order to perform an abbreviated version of their larger collaborative work, Theoretical Isolation: A Post-Atomic Experiment. You can listen to the whole performance by going to The Parlor’s website, (which also features a great Q&A, might I add). However, I also managed to video these shorter clips which you might also enjoy.

I’m always interested in how different people collage material together. Obviously this is a great example of that kind of process–

LDSM ambitiously sets out to relate a variety of utopian quests, focusing three instances in which a man has withdrawn from human society in order to develop humanity in some way. In the first instance, Prospero leaves the world behind to pursue his magic on an island. In the second, Paolo Soleri withdraws to an Arizona mesa to construct what is to this day an on-going alternative society, Arcosanti. In the final instance, LDSM explores the research and development of the atomic bomb through the process of divining scientists in Los Alamos. While every instance underscores the necessary disconnect involved in each project, the gravitas of J. Robert Oppenheimer is a terrifying and delicate subject; one that is most directly dealt with in the clumsy address of “scientists” who, clad in white doctor coats, make awkward apologies for the bombs victims. I found this piece particularly disquieting in the way that it shows Oppenheim as a pathetic figure at the end of his life and wondered if perhaps the piece offered him too much redemption? Yet with that question, I was additionally moved by the implicit suggestion that perhaps humanity’s greatest strengths: ingenuity, imagination, curiosity, hunger, are capable of accomplishing its greatest atrocities.


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