Monday, March 30, 2009

Spaceship Earth: we're all in this together

"The Comprehensivist: Buckminster Fuller and Contemporary Artists" by Elizabeth A.T. Smith, is a short essay about the profound influence Fuller has had on contemporary artists, particularly artists concerned with a cross-disciplinary investigation.  Smith names many artists who have been motivated by Fuller's ideas and creations, such as Olafur Eliasson, whose Model Room installation of 2003 presents an enclosed space filled with geometric objects upon specially designed shelves and tables.  This installation references and builds on Fuller's experiments with geometric form and uses mathematical patterns and symmetries.
Olafur Eliasson, Model Room, 2003

This project led to his large-scale architectural installation called Blind Pavilion based upon ideas of geometry, non-Euclidean space, and perception.  

Olafur Eliasson, The Blind Pavilion, 2003

The list goes on and Smith describes several other artists who have, to a greater or lesser extent, been influenced by Buckminster Fuller, whether by his conceptualism or his literal designs.  I was thinking about other ways I have encountered a "Buckminster Fuller design" in my life without knowing it, and sure enough there are some memorable ones.  For example, when I was 6 years old my family and I went on a vacation to Florida and visited Epcot Center with their giant iconic "golf ball," also known as Spaceship Earth.  Although the credit for the design is given to sci fi author Ray Bradbury, both the structure and the name was inspired by Buckminster Fuller.
Spaceship Earth at Epcot

Another example (that I can't resist mentioning) is in the 1990 sci fi movie "Total Recall" where Arnold Schwarzenegger's character travels to an airtight city on Mars only to discover that the poor workers in the city's slums have been turned into mutants from living within cheaply-produced domes with bad air quality.  This idea of a domed city can easily be traced back to Fuller's 1960 concept Dome over Manhattan, a geodesic dome spanning part of Manhattan that would regulate weather and, as opposed to Total Recall's domes, would reduce air pollution.
Buckminster Fuller, Dome over Manhattan, 1960

I can see how Fuller's ideas and creations were motivated to improve the world by getting the most out of a design while using the least amount of resources possible, and I am interested in how Fuller has influenced not only artists and sci fi culture but environmentalists as well.  There is certainly something to be said for his visionary and groundbreaking mindset that "less is more," and I am excited to see not only some this in the MCA show tomorrow, but I also hope to someday see his environmental designs implemented into real solutions, ideally in the very near future.  Perhaps these museum shows will influence some a group of visionary architects or engineers to build upon some of Fuller's abandoned concepts.

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