Closed Circuit Habitat

The Pando, a clonal colony of aspen trees estimated to be 80,000 years of age, has resiliently surpassed the age of agriculture and the irreversible transformations of land masses by human interactions. The Pando has 40,000 trunks, weighs 6 million tons and spreads across 106 acres. Every tree is identical in DNA and connected to a single root system. As an organism, the Pando is a slowly moving creature capable of expanding our concepts of the natural, from vast open landscapes to the covert enormity of this individual living entity that is partly obscured underground. What we, as humans, perceive as being a forest, is in fact, a single organism.

Tasked with replicating a Midwest American forest for an artist collective, Jakob Kudst Steensen developed the virtual PANDO ENDO after rambling extensively through the forest. In the humid air, the artist came across a wet strong aspen tree, stretching from beneath the wooden floor towards the skies, looking like an alien creature from another planet with its wet bark and stark moss-covered colors. Steensen explored the clonal colony, which stretched across the entire mountain area. During its lifetime, the Pando has spans the entirety of human history. To substantiate an organism so enduringly resilient to the modern history of our own species, the Pando Endo’s intersection with the mountain-based artist collective seemed to be a mere blink of the eye. Could future human or ecological infrastructures evolve like the connected organization of the aspen trees and exist outside of current centralized systems?

To conclude his residency with Artists Alliance Inc, Steensen will exhibit at Cuchifritos Gallery his virtual organism, the Pando Endo, a real-time computer simulation. “Pando” (Latin for “I spread”), borrowed from the name of the clonal colony, and “endo” referring to infrastructure, Pando Endo was developed from phone photographs of aspen tree bark, moss, and roots. These photographs were converted into digital textures and programmed to morph together with a procedural system that functions as a root system.

Four drones, fitted with spotlights, circulate the virtually simulated organism, examining it, zooming in on its movements. The organism has been tasked with breaching virtual glass cabinets and taught to gauge and mobilize towards light sources. Textures crawl across its surface area and liquids trickle along its tentacles like clustered organic entities. Based on this programming, the root system has found its own navigation. It resists stationery exhibition to spread and traverse the vast emptiness in the empty warehouse and exhibition space.

Jakob Kudsk Steensen is a Danish artist and art director based in New York, specialized in VR and real-time virtual simulations of ecosystems. Through his practice, Steensen is concerned with how imagination, technology and ecology intertwine by developing futuristic virtual simulations of existing real-world landscapes. His work is at the forefront of real-time rendered virtual environments, and he develops projects through collaborations with technology and natural science institutions.

Jakob Kudsk has recently exhibited at Time Square for the Midnight Moment, at Carnegie Museum of Art, The Moving Image Fair, NYC, MAXXI, Museum of Modern Art, WIRED annual conference, FRIEZE in London, Podium in Oslo, Ok Corral in Copenhagen, 86 Project Space, Brooklyn, Sleep Center, China Town and at London Science Museum. As an art director on the VR project TREE VR, made with The Rainforest Alliance and NEW REALITY CO, Steensen’s has shown at Sundance and TriBeCa film festival. His work has been featured in MOUSSE Magazine, on Artnet, The Art Newspaper, Hyperallergic, Spike Art Quaterly, ARTREPORT, Politiken, Information, Worm, NEO2, VICE, NY Times, WIRED and TSOEG. He has received awards from the Danish Arts Foundation, The Augustinus Foundation, and Lumen Arts Price. He has been artist in residence at Bemis Center for Contemporary Art, AADK, Centra Negra, MASS MoCA, BRIC and Mana Contemporary.

Cuchifritos is FREE to the public and handicap accessible. Located inside Essex Street Market at the south end nearest Delancey.

Cuchifritos Gallery + Project Space is a program of Artists Alliance Inc., a 501c3 not for profit organization located on the Lower East Side of New York City within the Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural and Educational Center. Cuchifritos is supported in part by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council. This program is made possible by public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts. We thank the following for their generous support: Foundation for Contemporary Arts, New York City Economic Development Corporation and individual supporters of Artists Alliance Inc. Special thanks go to our team of dedicated volunteers, without whom this program would not be possible.