Gambiologists: makeshifts in a digital era

Nule die sine linea.
Exhibition’s catalog cover / Graphic design by: Fred Paulino & Xande Perocco

The future is precarious, no doubt. Among the pessimistic forecasts of Blade Runner and the comicoptimistic ones of The Jetsons, science fiction almost hit it. But instead of flying vehicles, we have lascivious information on social networks and in place of floating cities, we have unfulfilled environmental treaties. There are no domestic robots, only ourselves.

We reached 2010 and there is nothing more natural than Gambiologia** — the science of improvisation combined with electronic-digital techniques. It is the celebration of gambiarra* (makeshift) through critical attitude, lack of resources or simply, as an aesthetic option. And also technology — as fuel or addiction — and because there is no turning back. Kludging is a form of hacking and also a political attitude.

This exhibition presents a selection of works in which the functional shift, recycling, revival of the obsolete, the use of alternative materials and another way of thinking about technology have materialized themselves into mutant, plural and provocative forms. Here, there is a breakdown of boundaries between the industrial and the handcrafted, the art and the design, the creator and the curator. Art forms that feed on their own remains, digest them and throw them back to us.

Makeshifts from various degrees of improvisation and with decreasing levels of technology. From Vogel’s aesthetic refinement to Gambiociclo’s excesses. From Eyewriter’s high/low tech functionalism to illuminated prisms. From the subtlety of crystal goblets and projected water drops to a giant in (out-of) tune octopus. A surveillance camera that loses focus and function. Household appliances that come to life, that swing: Arduino creations. Sounds coming from cardboard, wood, light. The irreverence of a meeting between powerdrills and a weird but brilliant watch. Liquid iron amplifying noises of a fluid society. The future will be infinitely high tech or simply a celebration of obsolescence?

“We were Xiphopagus. We were Cannibals. Now we are gambiologists”.

(This text was published as curatorial statement for the Gambiologos exhibition in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, 2010)

* Gambiarra is a Brazilian — but not only — cultural practice which refers to ‘solving problems in alternative ways’ or ‘giving unusual functions to objects.’ There is no exact translation in English so we use ‘kludge’ as the most appropriate one: ‘a workaround, a quick-and-dirty solution, a makeshift, a clumsy or inelegant, yet effective, solution to a problem, typically using parts that are cobbled together’ (from Wikipedia).

** Gambiologia is a neologism which refers to a mix between makeshifts and technology. It can also be understood as ‘the science of makeshift’.